January 13, 2018

Crisis: Spying Powers, Nuclear Threats, Trump's Interview, Six Euphemisms, Goldwater Rule


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 13, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 13, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five 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 will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 13, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. The Democrats Just Voted to Give Trump Vast Warrantless Spying

2. Trump's Nuclear Threat Warrants Removal From Office
3. The 17 Most Insane Moments from Trump's Unedited Wall Street
     Journal Interview

4. Describing Trump: 6 Euphemisms for Conduct Unbecoming a President
5. Rethinking the ‘Goldwater Rule’ in the Trump Era
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. The Democrats Just Voted to Give Trump Vast Warrantless Spying Powers

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept. It starts as follows (and I abbreviated the very long title):

Leading congressional Democrats have spent the last year relentlessly accusing Donald Trump of being controlled by or treasonously loyal to a hostile foreign power. Over the last several months, they have added to those disloyalty charges a new set of alleged crimes: abusing the powers of the executive branch — including the Justice Department and FBI — to vindictively punish political opponents while corruptly protecting the serious crimes of his allies, including his own family members and possibly himself.

The inescapable conclusion from all of this, they have relentlessly insisted, is that Trump is a lawless authoritarian of the type the U.S. has not seen in the Oval Office for decades, if ever: a leader who has no regard for constitutional values or legal limits and thus, poses a grave, unique, and existential threat to the institutions of American democracy.
One would hope, and expect, that those who genuinely view Trump as a menace of this magnitude and view themselves as #Resistance fighters would do everything within their ability to impose as many limits and safeguards as possible on the powers he is able to wield. If “resistance” means anything, at a minimum it should entail a refusal to trust a dangerous authoritarian to wield vast power with little checks or oversight.
Yes indeed. As to the meaning(s) of "resistance" and "#Resistance" I have this clarification:

The Germans attacked Holland on May 10, 1940 and defeated it within four days, in which they were much helped by their bombardment of Rotterdam. On May 14, the Dutch Communist Party, of which my father and grandfather were members, since resp. 1935 and 1937, went into the resistance, as a party. The party had around 10,000 members, on a population of nearly 10 million. During five years of war, it lost over 2,000 members. Many of them were arrested, tortured and shot. After the war, none of the communists was ever knighted (before the 1990ies, for what they did and dared to do in WW II), and since 1948-49 most of the communists were discriminated as "traitors" because they were said
- completely falsely - to prefer the Soviet Union over Holland.

There was no other political party that went into the resistance. There were very few existing groups who went into the resistance: in fact the only ones were a small number of radical Protestant Christians of some tens of persons. And there was some individual resistance of persons, notably by students, that also got a little organized.

But that was it, so far as The Dutch Resistance Against The Nazis was concerned: Somewhere between 1 in a 100 to 1 in a 1000 resisted; nearly everyone else did nothing or extremely little, and effectively collaborated, some with negative emotions about the Nazis, others with positive emotions. (And around 10-15% of the Dutch were active Nazis in WW II.)

I do not know how many collaborated, which is to say that they did virtually nothing against the Nazis, but the above numbers indicate that it must have been at least around 90% of the Dutch these 5 years between 1940 and 1945. (And indeed being in the resistance was very dangerous.)

At the same time, the Nazis persecuted the Jews, of which there were some 120,000 in Holland in 1940. In 1945 it became clear that around 116,000 of these had been arrested and murdered in various German concentration camps.

There was some help, again often by the communists, but that was the result. My grandfather was arrested in August of 1941, convicted as a "political terrorist" (in his sixties) and sent to a concentration camp. He was murdered. My father was arrested in August of 1941, tortured, convicted as a "political terrorist", and sent to a concentration camp. He survived more than 3 years and 9 months of four German concentration camp, mostly thanks to assistance by other communists in the camps. My mother joined the Communist Party in the war and joined the resistance and was never arrested.

That is my summary of
The Dutch Resistance Against The Nazis: Between 1 in a 100 and 1 in a 1000 of all Dutchmen resisted, and most were communists; of those who were communists - 2000 killed in WW II - after the war none was knighted, very few praised, and most, like my parents, discriminated as "traitors to Holland".

I do not think the Dutch are worse or different from other people, and having a father, a mother and a grandfather in the resistance, I know that - factually, really - few people resist the most awful of horrors, and the numbers which do really resist - 1% to 0.1% of the total population - are small and probably concern somewhat special persons. (Thus - for example - both of my parents were proletarians, but both had IQs over 130.)

So when I knew that Keith Olbermann headed "The Resistance with Keith Olbermann" (from the end of 2016 till the end of 2017) I tuned out, and I have been mostly tuned out from considering - quite a few - Americans who claimed to be In The Resistance.

My family tradition during WW II makes it quite incredible, at least as The Resistance. They oppose Trump, but few of them have been resisting, and indeed none of those who opposed or resisted Trump have been - so far, at least - been tortured when arrested or locked up in concentration camps (where the average survival time was 3 months).

I go back to Glenn Greenwald:
Yesterday in Washington, congressional Democrats were presented with a critical opportunity to do exactly that. A proposed new amendment was scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives that would have imposed meaningful limits and new safeguards on Trump’s ability to exercise one of the most dangerous, invasive, and historically abused presidential powers: spying on the communications of American citizens without warrants. Yesterday’s amendment was designed to limit the powers first enacted during the Bush years to legalize the Bush/Cheney domestic warrantless eavesdropping program
Precisely. Of course, there were strong proponent of spying on everyone, notably the neofascist Dick Cheney:
In demanding rejection of the warrant requirement safeguard, Schiff channeled Dick Cheney — and the Trump White House — in warning that any warrant requirements would constitute “a crippling requirement in national security and terrorism cases.”

Standing with Schiff in opposing these safeguards was his fellow California Democrat Eric Swalwell, who has devoted his entire congressional term almost exclusively to accusing Trump of being a puppet of the Kremlin, in the process becoming a media darling among the MSNBC set and online #Resistance movement. Yet after spending a full year warning that Trump’s real loyalty was to Moscow rather than America, Swalwell echoed Schiff in demanding that no warrant safeguards were needed on the spying power of Trump’s FBI.

I think this shows that Democrats like Swalwell are liars and comedians, as is the sick and degenerate Nancy Pelosi, who incidentally doubled her income while being a politician. This is from Wikipedia:

In 2014, CRP reported Pelosi's average net worth in 2014 was $101,273,023 having ranked 8th out of 25 wealthiest members of Congress. In 2009, CRP. reported Pelosi's average net worth was $58,436,537 having ranked 13th among 25 wealthiest members of Congress

There are other numbers, but Pelosi does belong to the 0.1% of the richest Americans - which I think is the basic distinction: It is the riches one has that - in the end, and usually, though indeed not always - determine one's political and moral choices:

Joining the pro-surveillance coalition led by Trump, Paul Ryan, Devin Nunes, Schiff, and Swalwell was the House’s liberal icon and senior Democrat, Nancy Pelosi. The San Francisco Democrat also stood on the House floor and offered a vigorous defense of the Trump-endorsed bill that would extend to Trump’s FBI the power to spy on Americans without warrants, in the process denouncing the minimal warrant safeguards favored by many in her own party.

Precisely. Here is more:

For anyone who believes in the basic value of individual privacy and the dangers of mass surveillance, Pelosi deserved all the criticism she received back then for singlehandedly saving the NSA’s mass surveillance powers from reform. But at least then, her partisan defenders had a justification they could invoke: At the time, the NSA was under the command of Barack Obama, a president they believed could be trusted to administer these powers responsibly and lawfully.

Now, four years later, Pelosi has reprised her role as key protecter of domestic warrantless eavesdropping — but this time with the benevolent, magnanimous, noble Democratic president long gone, and with those agencies instead under the leadership of a president who Pelosi and her supporters have long been maligning as an enemy of democracy, a criminal, a despot, and a racist cretin. For anyone (including Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell) who genuinely believes anything they’ve been saying about Trump over the last year, what conceivable justification can be offered now for Pelosi and her key allies blocking reasonable safeguards and limits on Trump’s warrantless domestic spying powers?

As I said: Pelosi is not in any #Resistance, although she pretends to be. She belongs to the very top of the richest Americans, who predominantly vote so as to keep their own riches. The same is true of most other leading Democrats - and indeed the leading Democrats are nearly all paid by the banks or by lobbyists, of which they each have at least 10.

And this is from Greenwald's ending:

But the most important point here is what this says about how Democrats really view Donald Trump. How can anyone rational possibly take seriously all the righteous denunciations from people like Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell about how Trump is a lawless, authoritarian tyrant existentially threatening American democracy when those very same people just yesterday voted in favor of vesting him the virtually limitless power to spy on Americans with no warrants or safeguards? If someone really believed those accusations about Trump — as opposed to just pretending to believe them for cynical political manipulation of their followers — how could they possibly have done what they did yesterday?

I totally agree: The Democrats are, by their Own Leader's words, supporting "a lawless, authoritarian tyrant existentially threatening American democracy", I take it because he supports and maintains the enormous privileges of the rich, in which they also, being extremely rich, share and hope to continue to share.

My own conclusion is that both the leading Democrats (in large majority) and the leading Republicans (in large majority) support their own class of people, who are the corrupt and fraudulent very rich, who want to maintain their aristocracy for ever, and do not mind at all that to do so they have to destroy all the privacies of anyone who does not belong to the 0.1%

Money has triumphed over politics in the USA (as indeed it usually does). And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Trump's Nuclear Threat Warrants Removal From Office

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Donald Trump’s veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against North Korea is not only horrifying, but also illegal. It warrants his removal from office.
I think Marjorie Cohn is quite right, although I do not believe it is probable that Trump will be removed in 2018.

Here is more:
The president’s cavalier threat to start a nuclear holocaust cannot be dismissed as the rant of an immature bully. Trump controls a powerful nuclear arsenal. In fact, a few days after Trump’s nuclear button tweet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it would sponsor a public meeting to cover “planning and preparation efforts” in the event of a nuclear attack.
Well... it was a "rant of an immature bully", though indeed I do not dismiss it for that reason: Immature bullies should not be presidents of the USA.

Here is more:
Trump’s tweet violates several laws. Threatening to use nuclear weapons runs afoul of the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of or threat to use military force except in self-defense or when approved by the Security Council. North Korea has not mounted an armed attack on the United States nor is such an attack imminent. And the UN Security Council has not given the US its blessing to attack North Korea. Trump’s tweet also constitutes a threat to commit genocide and a crime against humanity.
I think that is correct, but it also should be pointed out that Trump's threats indeed were "veiled" by his very metaphorical language (in terms of Buttons and their Sizes, and Trump of course has the Biggest, in his own opinion).

Here is more on the means by which an American president can be removed:

A president can be constitutionally removed from office — either by using the 25th Amendment or impeachment — even without actually committing a crime.

The 25th Amendment provides for the vice president to assume the presidency when he and a majority of the president’s cabinet declare in writing that the president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If the president challenges that determination, two-thirds of both houses of Congress are required to affirm that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

Yes, but there is a major problem with trying to follow the 25th Amendment:

But we cannot expect the Republican-controlled Congress will either impeach Trump or affirm a decision to remove him under the 25th Amendment. They are thrilled that Trump spearheaded their tax cuts for the rich and is appointing radical right-wing judges who will eliminate reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

Precisely. So the net effect is probably that Trump deserves to be removed from office as soon as possible, but he will not be because he serves the financial and political interests of the Republicans so well, and the Republicans have the majorities in the House and the Senate.

3. The 17 Most Insane Moments from Trump's Unedited Wall Street Journal

This article is by Mark Summer on AlterNet and originally on Daily Kos. It starts as follows:

You’ve heard of a stream of consciousness? This isn’t one of those. Donald Trump’s unabridged interview with the Wall Street Journal is a piece of surrealistic, wibbly, wobbly … word stuff. Like a conversation as imagined by Hieronymus Bosch; every little nook and cranny is filled with another disconnected phrase, an out of the blue flash of narcissism, a jaw-dropping expression of paranoia. It’s a conversation from which it’s almost impossible to draw reasonable excerpts, because it only really comes alive when you can see it in the terrifying whole. This is The Iliad of self-delusion. A primal scream of egotism. The Bayeux Tapestry of What. The. Hell.

It’s the kind of speech a Ritalin-soaked ferret might deliver … if he fell into a heap of uncut cocaine. And though any effort to extract anything that seems like a coherent bit of dialog is doomed to failure … Here. Just …. Look.

And this was just the introduction of a considerably longer piece, that does treat and spell out
17 indeed fairly crazy to fairly stupid remarks of Donald Trump in just a single interview.

I leave the rest to your interests.

4. Describing Trump: 6 Euphemisms for Conduct Unbecoming a President

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
Now that Trump has been president for almost a year, it’s time the media called his behavior for what it is rather than try to normalize it. Here are the six most misleading media euphemisms for conduct unbecoming a president: 
In fact, I do not know whether Reich is quite correct, but I shall follow his list, give the titles and some comments, but I will also leave most of the text to your interests.

Here are the first three "
media euphemisms":
1. Calling Trump’s tweets “presidential “statements” or “press releases.”
2. Referring to Mar-A-Lago as “the Winter White House.
3. Calling his lies “false claims or “comments that have proved to be inaccurate.” Baloney. They’re lies, plain and simple.

Early last year the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief insisted that the Journal wouldn’t label Trump’s false statements as “lies.” Lying, said the editor, requires a deliberate intention to mislead, which couldn’t be proven in Trump’s case.
Wrong. Normal presidents may exaggerate; some occasionally lie. But Trump has taken lying to an entirely new level. He lies like other people breath. Almost nothing that comes out of his mouth can assumed to be true.

For Trump, lying is part of his overall strategy, his MO, and his pathology. Not to call them lies, or to deem him a liar, is itself misleading. 

I do agree with the third point, and indeed reject "false claims", "inaccurate claims" and also "fake knowledge" as misleading euphemisms for what were and are in fact straight lies.

Here is more:

4. Referring to Trump’s and his aide’s possible “cooperation” or “coordination” with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign.
5. Calling Trump’s and Paul Ryan’s next move “welfare reform,” as in “Trump has suggested more than once that welfare reform might be the next big legislative item on his agenda.

Rubbish. They’re not going after “welfare.” Welfare – federal public assistance to the poor – was gutted in 1996. Trump and Ryan are aiming at Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Nor are they seeking to “reform” these programs. They want to cut them in order to pay for the huge tax cut they’ve given corporations and the wealthy.
Yes indeed. And I have two additions: (i) welfare was in fact destroyed by Bill Clinton, who also deregulated the banks (and who was rewarded by the banks, together with his wife, for something between 50 and 100 million dollars, or so it seems), and also (ii) it does not seem to me to be farfetched to suggest that the Republicans in fact - a bit later - want to kill those they also do notwant to give welfare, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, simply because they plan to take all money from people that they haven't earned themselves. (This can be seen as The Republican Contribution To The Population Problem: Kill the poor by taking all their money.)

Here is more:
6. Describing Trump’s comments as “racially charged.”
“Racially charged” sounds like Trump doesn’t intend them to be racist but some people hear them that way. Rubbish.

Trump’s recent harangue against immigrants from “shitholes” in Latin America and Africa comes only weeks after The New York Times reported that at another Oval Office meeting Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians who visit the US would never “go back to their huts.”
Stop using terms like “racially charged” to describe his statements. Face it. Trump is a racist, and his comments are racist.

Words matter. It’s important to describe Trump accurately. Every American must understand who we have as president.
I think that is correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. Rethinking the ‘Goldwater Rule’ in the Trump Era

This article is by Jill Richardson on Common Dreams, and originally on OtherWords. It starts as follows:

Maybe it’s time America’s psychiatrists reconsider their Goldwater Rule.

The Goldwater Rule simply states that psychiatrists shouldn’t diagnose the mental health of a public figure unless they’ve personally examined the person. Naturally, if any public figures have sought mental health treatment, their doctors would be bound by confidentiality agreements.

In short, at present, if a public figure doesn’t wish to be diagnosed with a mental illness, or if they don’t want the diagnosis made public, then it will remain a secret.

In most cases, this is a good rule. After all, mental illness is still stigmatized.

Well... I am a psychologist, and by now I have found it fairly odd to have to read article after article by journalists without any psychological or psychiatric qualification about the pretty crazy
decisions of what is in fact - also - the private American Psychiatric Association.

Ms Richardson is no exception, for she seems to specialize in food rather than in psychology or psychiatry.

So here are three comments at the start:

First, in fact something like this rule also holds for non-public figures (the vast majority) and also for psychologists and medical doctors, and the main reason in each case seems to be (i) the protection of the privacies of patients and (ii) the protection of - in fact - the financial interests of those diagnosing or not, in fact by trying to insist all diagnosing should remain a private affair between someone (professionally) diagnosing, and someone (professionally) diagnosed.

Second, the main problem is with persons who have very much more power than most: Even if they are - fairly evidently also, and for non-specialists as well - rather or quite crazy, the Goldwater Rule also prevents diagnosing these people, who as a rule will also refuse to be diagnosed.

Third, the rule as it stands is as follows:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

But that is nonsense, for the following reason:

Psychologists, psychiatrists and medical doctors do have duties to warn the police in case their patients are dangerous to others, e.g. when they declare they want to murder someone, and are not in control of themselves. These duties are also not very well described, but are more or less
reasonable. And these matters also normally remain private, between the patient, the diagnoser
and the representatives of the law.

It is different with very powerful persons: Calling the police has no effect on them, while they may kill in their madness not one or a few persons, but hundreds of thousands or millions. But psychologists and psychiatrists are now denied the right of saying what they professionally think about such persons.

I think myself that is unethical, and indeed an opinion, also if it is a professional opinion, is always a personal opinion, that may be contradicted by other professional or non-professional opinions, while it seems to me very difficult to combine with the right on free speech: If I know or think I know that such-and-such a person is very dangerous to very many, I should have the right to say so. (And indeed I do, if I am a psychologist and the person is my patient. And is not very powerful.)

There is more to say, but I move to the following quotation:

But there’s a circumstance in which I believe the Goldwater Rule is harmful.

There are some mental illnesses that are incurable and rarely treatable that would also make a person unqualified to be president. Imagine a sociopath, or someone with narcissistic personality disorder, for example.

People with narcissistic personality disorder rarely seek treatment, according to University of Kentucky psychologists Cristina Crego and Thomas Widiger.

Well... who is "I"? Not a psychologist, psychiatrist or medically qualified person, it seems. Also, she does not say that quite a few psychiatrists and psychologists have diagnosed Trump, correctly in my psychologist's opinion, as suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder.

Here is more, that sounds fairly stupid in my psychologist's ears:

Narcissistic personality disorder is seriously debilitating, but often the person suffering from it believes that they’re fine and everyone else around them has the problem.

Imagine someone in the Oval Office whose biggest need every day is to feel important and loved by everyone around them, and who responds with rage when they perceive any sort of criticism.

This is a person who cannot do the business of the country or put the needs of the country first because his or her personal needs due to the disorder will rule their lives.

It is fairly stupid, because it are all personal opinions, from an unqualified person, about merely hypothetical - "Imagine someone" - issues.

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

If the Goldwater Rule were rescinded, there’s certainly a danger that psychiatrists would publicly misdiagnose a public figure, or public figures with treatable mental illness would face unfair scrutiny.

Yet we must find a way to close the current loophole, which may protect someone mentally unfit for office from expert scrutiny.

As to the first paragraph: If people may talk about a politicians health and fitness after he or she has been diagnosed with cancer, people should be free to talk about a politicians' health and fitness after he or she has been diagnosed with some for of madnes.

And as to the second paragraph: I agree with the conclusion, but who are "we"? In any case, I think that the Wikipedia article on the Goldwater rule is clearer than this 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 2 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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