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Nederlog

April 18, 2018

Crisis: Killing The Left, Trump & Cohen, Comey, Climate Crisis, Big Pharma´s Impunities


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 18, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 18, 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, 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 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 April 18, 2018
1. The Cult of Violence Always Kills the Left
2. Trump’s Legal Worries Grow as Judge Rejects Effort for President to
     Review Docs Seized in FBI Raid
3. Comey’s PR Tour Has Almost No News Value — But It’s Driving Trump
     Nuts

4. Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature 'Out of
     Synch'

5. Taking Aim at Corporate Impunity, Sanders' Bill Would Send Big Pharma
     Execs Behind Opioid Crisis to Jail

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 Cult of Violence Always Kills the Left

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows (and see April 16 for another article by Chris Hedges):
The Weather Underground, a clandestine revolutionary organization that advocated violence, was seen by my father and other clergy members who were involved in Vietnam anti-war protests as one of the most self-destructive forces on the left. These members of the clergy, many of whom, including my father, were World War II veterans, had often became ministers because of their experiences in the war. They understood the poison of violence.
     (..)
The young radicals of the Vietnam era, including Mark Rudd—who in 1968 as a leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led the occupation of five buildings at Columbia University and later helped form the Weather Underground—did not turn to those on the religious left whose personal experiences with violence might have saved SDS, the Weather Underground and the student anti-war movement from self-immolation. Blinded by hubris and infected with moral purity, the members of the Weather Underground saw themselves as the only real revolutionaries. And they embarked, as have those in today’s black bloc and antifa, on a campaign that was counterproductive to the social justice goals they said they advocated.
Yes, I think Hedges is (mostly) right - and in fact I thought quite similarly to what Hedges is saying now back in the late 1960ies and the early 1970ies. And I do not owe this (I think) to myself, but to the fact that both my father and my grandfather were in the resistance against the Nazis in WW II, as communists also, and they were arrested in August of 1941. Both were convicted, by collaborating Dutch judges, as ¨political terrorists¨, to concentration camp punishments, which my father´s father did not survive.

So I quite agree with Hedges on the Weather Underground and on antifa. And my ¨(mostly)¨ above was motivated by my not knowing enough of black bloc to judge them.

Here is some more on
Mark Rudd:
Rudd, 50 years later, plays the role once played by the priests Phil and Daniel Berrigan and Rabbi Abraham Heschel. His book “Underground: My Life With SDS and the Weathermen” is a brutally honest deconstruction of the dangerous myths that captivated him as a young man. I suspect that many of those in the black bloc and antifa will no more listen to his wisdom than did the young radicals five decades ago who dismissed the warnings from those on the religious left for whom violence was not an abstraction.
I have not read any of Rudd´s book, but I do know some about the - 2009 - convictions of Rudd´s fellow Weathermen of the early 1970ies: None of them felt guilty.

Here is some on a distinction that (I think) should have been presented in other terms:
“The anarchist Andy Cornell makes a distinction between activism and organizing,” he said. “Activism is about self-expression. It often is a substitute for strategy. Strategic organizing is about results. These acts of self-expression, which is what antifa does and what we did in the Weather Underground, are exactly what the cops want.”
That is: I would have put the distinction in terms or organizing vs. self-expression, simply because this is more correct, and because ¨activism¨ itself is a somewhat overloaded term.

Then there is this on red diaper babies:
“The means of transmission were red diaper babies,’ he said, referring to the sons and daughters of members of the United States Communist Party. “The red diaper babies at Columbia SDS kept saying, ‘Build the base. Build the base. Build the base.’ It became a mantra for years. It was all we could think about. This meant education, confrontation and talking, talking, talking. It meant building relationships and alliances. It meant don’t get too far out in front.
Well, I definitely was ¨a red diaper baby¨, for both of my parents were - real, intelligent, but not well-educated - communists for 45 years each; my father´s father was a communist and was murdered by the Nazis because of it; and both of my mother´s parents were anarchists most of their lives: There are not many, in fact, who were more of a red diaper baby than myself.

But my development was quite different from all other red diaper babies I knew in Holland: Being very intelligent I did read Marx and Engels and quite a few other leftist thinkers from 1965 till 1970, and by the end of 1970 I decided I did not believe in historical materialism, dialectical materialism, nor in
Marx´s economics. (See the last link for a very brief version of my criticisms.)

And my own reaction then (in the beginning of 1971) was to withdraw from political actions and politics, to turn instead to science, and to redefine myself as a kind of philosophical anarchist, though that last things was not very important for me, simply because I was much more interested in real science and real philosophy than in ideologies, which was a distinction I made in the same time (and the vast majority of those interested in politics were mostly interested in ideologies, and not in more serious matters).

In fact, I do not know of anyone else with my kind of - very leftist, very radical - family background who thought as I did, and in fact most of my former political friends gave me up as friend within a year or two.

Here is some about leftist thinkers that were popular in the late 1960ies:
The SDS radicals came under the spell of revolutionary theories propagated by those supporting armed liberation movements in the developing world. They wanted to transplant Frantz Fanon’s call for revolutionary violence, Lin Biao’s idea of “people’s war” and Ernesto “Che” Guevara foco, or insurrectionary center, to the struggle in the United States. The radicals would go underground and carry out acts of violence that would ignite a national war of liberation.
I did read Frantz Fanon in the later 1960ies, but strongly disagreed; I never thought much of Mao or Lin Biao and avoided Maoists who seemed fanatics to me; and I was briefly captured by Guevara´s mythology when I was 17, but not anymore since 1970 (at the latest).

Here is more about
Mark Rudd:
“I was 18,” Rudd said. “I saw heroic SNCC people advocating for black power. The liberals betrayed them. Which side would you be on? Black power rejected the nonviolence of Martin Luther King. It rejected integration. Malcolm X used the slogan ‘By any means necessary.’ This was seized upon to justify revolutionary violence. It was the same fantasy of revolution. Black power was no more embraced by the black masses than the violence and rhetoric of the Weather Underground were embraced by the white masses. (...)
Black power made no sense to most black people. It was suicidal. Huey P. Newton’s autobiography, “Revolutionary Suicide,” captured it. What kind of a strategy is that? The black power movement was a cultural uprising. But it was not strategic. We fell for this bullshit.”
I think this is mostly correct (and I never liked Huey Newton). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
“Antifa claims to be anarchist,” he said. “But is not the same anarchism as, say, the Wobblies. Antifa’s version of anarchism is you can’t tell me what to do. It’s self-expression. I fell into the trap of self-expression. Self-expression is narcissistic. It’s saying my feelings are so important that I can do anything I want. It’s saying once other people see how important my feelings are they will join me. It never works.
My parents were real anti-fascists (and my communist father was even knighted very briefly before he died, because he had made and designed, together with others, an exhibition about fascism, nazism, and resistance), but I don´t take ¨antifa¨ seriously at all: Even the abbreviation of ¨fascist¨ to ¨fa¨ is quite ridiculous in my eyes.

I think Hedges is right about them, and in fact what he says about them strongly reminds me of one of the two main mistakes that the Diggers made in 1967: They were all much hung up on personal freedom, and besides, many of them went into hard drugs, and I considered both, also in the 1960ies, serious mistakes.

And this is again a strongly recommended article.

2.  Trump’s Legal Worries Grow as Judge Rejects Effort for President to Review Docs Seized in FBI Raid

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
In a potentially major setback for President Trump, a federal judge has rejected efforts from the president to be given first access to documents seized by the FBI last week during raids on the properties of Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, who is being investigated for possible bank and wire fraud. Monday’s court hearing pitted the president against his own Justice Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay urged the judge to reject the president’s request. McKay said, “Just because he has a powerful client doesn’t mean he should get special treatment.” The FBI seized 10 boxes of documents and as many as a dozen electronic devices from Cohen. According to press accounts, the Trump administration now views the probe into Cohen as a more serious threat to the president than special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Meanwhile, on Monday, Cohen’s attorneys were forced to reveal Fox News host Sean Hannity was also one of Cohen’s other legal clients. Just last week, Hannity slammed the FBI for raiding Cohen’s office and home, but he never disclosed his ties to Cohen. We speak to Marcy Wheeler, independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net.
I say, simply because I did not know quite a few of the things summarized above. Here is first some more by Amy Goodman:
AMY GOODMAN:  (...) Monday’s courtroom hearing was filled with surprises. Michael Cohen’s attorneys were forced to reveal Fox News host Sean Hannity was also one of Cohen’s three legal clients, the other one being the president. Just last week, Hannity slammed the FBI for raiding Cohen’s office and home, but he never disclosed his ties to Cohen. On Monday, Hannity acknowledged having brief legal discussions with Cohen, but said Cohen had never represented him in any matter. Michael Cohen’s third legal client is Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who recently resigned as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee over revelations he paid $1.6 million to a former Playboy model to keep quiet about their affair, which resulted in her having an abortion. Meanwhile, in another surprise on Monday, adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, attended Cohen’s hearing. Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep quiet after her affair with Donald Trump. These developments all come as former FBI Director James Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty, hits bookstores today, less than a year after he was fired by Donald Trump.
All of the above is correct to the best of my knowledge. And here is Marcy Wheeler:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Marcy Wheeler, I want to thank you for being with us. There are some, like in The New Yorker, who were talking about this being the end game. Do you agree?

MARCY WHEELER: I think that Trump—I mean, on Friday, when the White House sent out a picture of the White House deliberating before the Syria strikes Friday night, they sent out a picture from Thursday. And I find that significant, because it suggests to me there was no picture to be taken Friday. We know Friday Trump was panicked, on the phone with Michael Cohen. And there’s more and more indication that Trump is not there for the job, for even what minimal presidential stuff that he is supposed to be doing. He’s instead spending more and more time trying to try and find some way out of these investigations. And to that extent, yeah, I absolutely agree that he stopped being president and started being somebody trying to beat a criminal rap.

I do not know whether Wheeler and the The New Yorker are right, but I hope they are and this is a recommended article.

3. Comey’s PR Tour Has Almost No News Value — But It’s Driving Trump Nuts

This article is by Matthew Sheffield on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

After failing to mount any real defense against Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” Donald Trump and his allies are trying to push back hard against the release of James Comey’s memoir “A Higher Loyalty.” They really ought not to bother, since the fired FBI director’s book offers very little that has not been heard before.

It’s notable in some sense that one of America’s former top law enforcement officials is willing to compare the sitting president to a mafia boss, something Comey also did during his interview broadcast Sunday night by ABC.
Well... I agree that Comey has said ¨very little that has not been heard before¨, but I think it is quite important that the dismissed head of the FBI makes these complaints, for even if they are not new, it is new that a man of Comey´s (former) stature repeats them.

Here is some more on Comey:
(...) Comey is far from an original wit. He described Trump as "orange," and remarking on the size of the president's hands, the length of his ties and his the obvious willingness to lie about anything. Only the latter accusation actually matters, of course, but it is so evident that hearing yet another person say it is meaningless. Trump is a lout with no respect for the rule of law, which is why the man he unjustly fired should be above such pettiness.
I don´t agree. First, Comey does not have to be ¨an original wit¨. Second, with a president who indeed has ¨the obvious willingness to lie about anything¨, and who used the (small) size of somebody else´s hands as an indication to the (small) size of that man´s penis, I think everything matters. Third, Comey is not just ¨another person¨ who makes these criticisms: He is the former head of the FBI, and knows Trump personally (a bit). And fourth, I also see no reason why Comey - whom I do not regard highly myself - ¨should be above such pettiness¨. And indeed: What pettiness?

Here is the last bit that I quote, this time about Comey and Trump:
Comey seems remarkably unperturbed about his past actions, which is strange considering how dangerous he claims to believe that Trump is to the republic.

While Comey’s book and his publicity tour thus far have offered relatively little value on their own terms, they are likely to produce news in another way. Trump is notoriously thin-skinned, and seeing Comey’s name and image splashed all over the cable news channels he so obsessively watches obviously angers him. From a public relations standpoint, the best thing Trump could do would be to ignore “A Higher Loyalty,” but to do that would be completely out of character.
I think this is true (but this is not enough to make me recommend this article).
4. Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature 'Out of Synch'

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

The warming of the Earth over the past several decades is throwing Mother Nature's food chain out of whack and leaving many species struggling to survive, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study offers the latest evidence that the climate crisis that human activity has contributed to has had far-reaching effects throughout the planet.

A paper by ecologists at the University of Ottawa examined 88 species on four continents, and more than 50 relationships between predator and pr[e]y as well as herbivores and the plants they eat, and found that food chain events are taking place earlier in the year than they have in the past, because of the warming climate.

I say, which I do because I was alerted to ¨the environment¨ (let´s say) in 1970 by Paul Ehrlich, and especially in 1971/1972 by ¨The Limits to Growth¨. And especially the latter caused considerable worries in me about feedback cycles - and the present outcome (almost 50 years later, I admit) shows that I was rightly worried then.

Here is some more:

The scientists looked at research going back to 1951, which showed that in previous decades, birds would migrate, animals would mate and give birth, and plants would bloom later in the year, allowing the animals to find the food they needed at specific times.

These events have been occurring about four days earlier per decade since the 1980s, according to the National Observer. On average, the timing is now off by a full 21 days for the 88 species the researchers examined.

And note that what is mistaken here (and will kill many young animals for lack of food) is the mismatch between giving birth to young and having many animals of prey (insects mostly, in the case of birds).

Indeed here is more:

"It leads to a mismatch," Kharouba said. "These events are out of synch."

The "mismatch" could begin contributing to the endangerment of species that are unable to find food they've relied on, the researchers said.

Quite so. I think this is quite worrying, but - alas, alas - I also think that (in spite of quite a few who were interested in ¨the environment¨ the last fifty years) most of the findings of biologists and ecologists still get far too little attention and almost no follow-up.

And this is a recommended article.


5. Taking Aim at Corporate Impunity, Sanders' Bill Would Send Big Pharma Execs Behind Opioid Crisis to Jail

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While President Donald Trump attempts to place blame for the enduring opioid addiction crisis on immigrants, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Tuesday that he would introduce legislation to take aim at those who drug policy experts agree are truly behind the epidemic that kills tens of thousands of Americans per year—pharmaceutical companies and executives.

"At a time when local, state and federal governments are spending many billions of dollars a year dealing with the impact of the opioid epidemic, we must hold the pharmaceutical companies and executives that created the crisis accountable," said Sanders in a statement.

The bill (pdf) would threaten Big Pharma executives with at least 10 years in prison should their companies be found guilty of contributing to the opioid crisis through manipulative marketing practices. Executives would also face fines equal to their total compensation packages, while companies would be fined $7.8 billion—one-tenth of the annual cost of the public health epidemic, according to government estimates.

I say! And I do so because this is completely new to me, and it also seems (i) a good plan, and (ii) the only way of attacking the solidly criminal Big Pharma executives: Legally, and with strong prison sentences and serious financial consequences.

Of course, I grant that many of Sanders´ ideas, plans and proposals do not work out because he is often in the minority in the Senate, but in the present case there may be a chance he succeeds, and the reason is that every year more Americans die from the drugs they get from Big Pharma than Americans died in Vietnam.

Here is some on the background:

Under the legislation, companies would be required to clearly state that opioids are addictive in any marketing materials for the drugs, which include popular brands including OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet.

The roots of the opioid crisis are traced back to the 1990s, when Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, began marketing the drug as safe for long-term use for chronic pain, denying that prescription opioids—which are chemically similar to heroin—had highly addictive properties.

After opioid painkiller prescriptions skyrocketed as a result, the rate of overdose began to rise as well, with opioid overdoses killing at least 63,000 Americans in 2016.

Quite so. And yes, I think Sanders is right and e.g. Purdue Pharma are simply big dealers of very strongly addictive hard drugs, that Purdue Pharma now has claimed for over 20 years (!!!) are not or hardly addictive, while they are strongly addictive.

And here is the last bit that I quote from this fine articlle:

But Sanders noted that no company has truly been held liable for the epidemic, which Purdue alone has make tens of billions of dollars off of in recent years:

In 2007, Purdue Pharma...pled guilty and agreed to pay more than $600 million in fines for misleading the public about the risks of the drug. But the company still made $22 billion off of the drug in the past decade.

"We know that pharmaceutical companies lied about the addictive impacts of opioids they manufactured," said Sanders. "They knew how dangerous these products were but refused to tell doctors and patients. Yet, while some of these companies have made billions each year in profits, not one of them has been held fully accountable for its role in an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year."

Again, precisely so. Besides, having read considerably more about this, I insist that quite a few doctors also lied themselves blue in the face, and namely because a bit of the profits on Oxycontin etc. were shifted back to them.

And Sanders is also right about how Big Pharma dealt with the losses and gains: They were (and are) quite willing to return (as above) about 1/40th of their annual profits in fines, as long as the profits continue and no Big Pharma executive has faced a judge.

This is a strongly recommended article.


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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