Thursday, July 27, 2017

Crisis: On Steve Bannon, "National Security", Mueller, "Cognitive Science", Ralph Nader

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from July 27, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, July 27, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 27, 2017

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. Joshua Green on the "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump & the Storming of the Presidency"

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction (and is the first of three connected interviews with Joshua Green):
We turn now to look at the man many credit with helping Donald Trump become president: Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News. During the early days of the Trump presidency, many suggested Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, was pulling many of the strings in the Oval Office. We speak to journalist Joshua Green about how Bannon took his hard-right nationalist politics from the fringes of the Republican Party all the way to the White House. Green has been closely following Bannon’s career for years. In October 2015—before Bannon joined Trump’s campaign—Green dubbed Bannon the "Most Dangerous Political Operative in America." His new book is "Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency."
So in fact this is about Seve Bannon. Here is a little more on him:

So, Josh, talk about the rise of Donald Trump and why you think Steve Bannon was so key. Perhaps if there hadn’t been a Steve Bannon, there wouldn’t be a President Donald Trump.

JOSHUA GREEN: That’s my contention in the book. And I think that the best way to understand this election, to understand what happened and how a guy like Trump wound up in the White House, and really to understand the forces that are roiling our politics and producing such extreme and unusual things, as we see literally every day now in the Trump administration—to understand that, you have to understand Steve Bannon. To me, he is the narrative thread that runs through not just the rise of Trump, but the rise of this whole right-wing populist, nationalist politics that he has been espousing ever since I first met him in 2011.

There is considerably more in the interview(s) that is/are recommended.

2.  The Trillion-Dollar ‘National Security’ Budget

This article is by William D. Hartung on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians, and the president, but these are the best of times for the Pentagon.  Spending on the Department of Defense alone is already well in excess of half a trillion dollars a year and counting.  Adjusted for inflation, that means it’s higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak.  And yet that’s barely half the story.  There are hundreds of billions of dollars in “defense” spending that aren’t even counted in the Pentagon budget.

Under the circumstances, laying all this out in grisly detail—and believe me, when you dive into the figures, they couldn’t be grislier—is the only way to offer a better sense of the true costs of our wars past, present, and future, and of the funding that is the lifeblood of the national security state.  When you do that, you end up with no less than 10 categories of national security spending (only one of which is the Pentagon budget).  So steel yourself for a tour of our nation’s trillion-dollar-plus “national security” budget.
Yes indeed, and this review is quite well done. Here is one bit of it, that I mostly list to have a survey of names of the American spies:

7) Intelligence: The United States government has 16 separate intelligence agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the National Security Agency (NSA); the Defense Intelligence Agency; the FBI; the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence Analysis; the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of National Security Intelligence; the Treasury Department Office of Intelligence and Analysis; the Department of Energy Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; the National Reconnaissance Office; the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Army Military Intelligence; the Office of Naval Intelligence; Marine Corps Intelligence; and Coast Guard Intelligence. Add to these the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is supposed to coordinate this far-flung intelligence network, and you have a grand total of 17 agencies. 

The U.S. will spend more than $70 billion on intelligence this year, spread across all these agencies.  The bulk of this funding is contained in the Pentagon budget—including the budgets of the CIA and the NSA (believed to be hidden under obscure line items there).
There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

3. As Trump Prepares to Fire Mueller, the Rule of Law Has Never Been Weaker in Washington

This article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

As President Trump drops increasingly broad hints that he believes he is above the law, Congress and the public face an impending crisis that will test whether the Republican Party is more loyal to Trump or to the rule of law. The crisis is all but certain, and the outcome is very much in doubt.

In talking up his "complete power" of pardon, humiliating Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and denigrating special prosecutor Robert Mueller, Trump has made clear that he doesn’t believe any investigation of his campaign’s contacts with the Russian government is legitimate. “A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case,” Trump told the New York Times.

With investigators closing in on his friends and family, time is not on Trump’s side. But the weakness of the rule of law is.
Trump understands that Mueller’s investigation is a mortal threat to his presidency, which is why he is looking for the earliest opportunity to fire him. And the obstacles he faces are not insurmountable, at least from the White House's point of view.

Quite possibly so. And indeed I do believe that a megalomaniac like Trump does believe he is beyond all law, while I also think that the vast mjority of the Republicans will keep supporting him.

We will see what happens.

4. Researchers: Trump Tweets Reveal 'Neurotic' and 'Unstable' Leader

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. This is part of the article, and shows why I tend not to like "psychological" or "cognitive science" types of "research":
[The 'researchers" - MM] also compared Trump's tweets with those of over 100 CEOs and entrepreneurs including Google's Eric Schmidt, HP's Meg Whitman, Tesla's Elon Musk, and Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

"We looked at Twitter tweets and employed a new method that uses machine learning and other computer science methods to analyze characteristic language styles, contents, and patterns that together can reveal remarkably valid information on a person’s personality profile," Obschonka explained in a press statement.

Trump's online personality, they found, stood apart from those in the other group, as it has characteristics that more strongly match the personality traits economist Joseph Schumpeter laid out in the 1930s as being markers of a successful entrepreneurs—they're competitive and creative, and also change-oriented rule-breakers.

"We also found Trump scored relatively high in neuroticism. Being high in this trait means being emotionally unstable and having trouble controlling urges," Fisch noted.

"So in the end," added Obschonka, "it seems that we could identify a personality pattern in Trump that makes him so distinct from the superstar entrepreneurs and CEOs in that he really seems to resemble a type of an emotionally unstable innovator."

I am sorry, but 40 years of studying "psychology" and "cognitive science" have taught me that his manner of pretentious bullshit - investigating 100 Tweets?!?! - is utter baloney. This is not science but pseudoscience.

5. Can the World Defend Itself from Omnicide?

This article is by Ralph Nader, on his site. This starts as follows:

Notice how more frequently we hear scientists tell us that we’re “wholly unprepared” for this peril or for that rising fatality toll? Turning away from such warnings may reduce immediate tension or anxiety, but only weakens the public awareness and distracts us from addressing the great challenges of our time, such as calamitous climate change, pandemics, and the rise of a host of other self-inflicted disasters.

Yes indeed, and these are some of the reasons - there are many more - why I am quite pessimistic. And here are some warnings about rising and looming risks:

  1. The opioid epidemic is here now, and poised to become further exacerbated. It is the US’s deadliest drug overdose crisis ever, taking over 1000 lives a week. Even that figure is underestimated, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These fatalities, many of them affecting people in the prime of their life, stem from legally prescribed drugs taken to relieve chronic pain. Tragically ironic!
Note "legally prescribed" and "the US’s deadliest drug overdose crisis ever". Incidentally, this also shows how very bad most psychiatrists are for those trusting their  health to them.

Here is Ted Koppel quoted on another major risk:
“Imagine a blackout lasting not days but weeks or months. There would be no running water, no sewage, no electric heat, refrigeration, or light. Food and medical supplies would dwindle. Banks would not function. The devices we rely on would go dark. The fact is, one well-placed attack on the electrical grid could cripple much of our infrastructure. Leaders across government, industry and the military know this…yet there is no national plan for the aftermath.”
Indeed. And this is from the end of this article:
Our present educational systems – from Harvard Law School, MIT to K-12 – are not rising to these occasions for survival. Our mass media, wallowing in trivia, entertainment, advertisements and political insults, is not holding the politicians accountable to serious levels of public trust and societal safety.
Quite so.  And this is not an optimistic view, but it seems to me quite realistic.

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