December 10, 2018

Crisis: Criminal Presidency, Impeachment(?), On Psychology, Trump As Traitor, ¨Yellow Vests¨


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 10, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 10, 2018.

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

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

A. Selections from December 10, 2018:
1. Surviving a Criminal Presidency
2. Democrats Raise Prospect of Impeachment, Jail for Trump

3. The psychology of disinformation and how to protect yourself
4. Donald Trump could go down in history as a worse traitor than Benedict

5. More Than a Thousand Arrested as Yellow Vests Across France
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. Surviving a Criminal Presidency

This article is by Charles M. Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It is very possible that the president of the United States is a criminal. And it is very possible that his criminality aided and abetted his assumption of the position. Let that sink in. It is a profound revelation.

Last week, prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo for Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump himself had directed Cohen to break campaign finance laws.

Stop there.

Well... this indeed is the beginning of the article, but I do not think this is impressive, ¨a profound revelation¨ or indeed worth stopping.

But I do so because I am asked to, and so I insist that (i) I think these or very similar things for nearly three years now - here is the beginning - and that (ii) I think everyone who has been following this as well or halfly as well as I have done must have similar notions, provided he
or she is more or less rational and not full of prejudice.

Anyway. Here is more:

Trump likes to say on the issue of immigration that if we don’t have a border, we don’t have a country. I say that if we don’t have justice, we also don’t have a country.

America is a country of laws, and if we are to believe that, and not allow that to become a perversion, no man or woman can be above the law.

As Thomas Paine wrote in his 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense”:

“In America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

Again I have to say well... simply because all of the above is strongly idealized, and the above says nothing about the large differences between the rich and the poor, nor about the large differences between the whites and the blacks.

Then again, here is more, and this is factual:

According to prosecutors, Trump directed Cohen to commit a felony. Then he lied about it and either allowed or instructed others to lie about it on his behalf. He misled the American people through a conspiracy of lies, and he did so to help attain, and then maintain, his presidency.

As The New York Times pointed out on Saturday, prosecutors have “effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.”

I think this is correct. Then there is this:

Now, I am under no illusion that Trump will be indicted as a sitting president or that any efforts to impeach him will prove successful.

But at some point his term will end, and at that point the statute of limitations may not have expired. As The Times put it, “The prosecutors in New York have examined the statute of limitations on the campaign finance violations and believe charges could be brought against Mr. Trump if he is not re-elected, according to a person briefed on the matter.”

This is also correct, although this does not seem very strong to me. Indeed here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The statute of limitations for campaign finance violations is five years. Re-election may well be Trump’s only hope of evading justice.

But that also gives voters enormous power in 2020. They won’t just be selecting the next president and determining the direction of the country. They may also be deciding whether or not a president will be tried, convicted and imprisoned for the first time in the country’s history.

Alternatively put, if Trump is re-elected, then the statue of limitations will stop his prosecution for the above possible felonies. Anyway... this is recommended, and here is more:

2. Democrats Raise Prospect of Impeachment, Jail for Trump

This article is by Hope Yen on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Top House Democrats on Sunday raised the prospect of impeachment or almost-certain prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the details in prosecutors’ filings Friday in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as evidence that Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud.”

“They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler said.

Yes, and in fact I think the above is considerably clearer than the previous article. Here is more:

Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was too early to say whether Congress would pursue impeachment proceedings based on the illegal payments alone because lawmakers would need to weigh the gravity of the offense to justify “overturning” the 2016 election. Nadler and other lawmakers said Sunday they would await additional details from Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign to determine the extent of Trump’s misconduct.

Regarding the illegal payments, “whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question, but certainly they’d be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office,” Nadler said.

Yes again, but one problem Nadler and the Democrats have is that the Senate is both necessary to convict Trump and is Republican and - so far at least - strongly pro-Trump (in spite of the evidence against him).

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

Nadler indicated that Democrats, who will control the House in January, will step up their own investigations. He said Congress, the Justice Department and the special counsel need to dig deeper into the allegations, which include questions about whether Trump lied about his business arrangements with Russians and about possible obstruction of justice.

“The new Congress will not try to shield the president,” he said. “We will try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to stop this massive conspiracy — this massive fraud on the American people.”

Yes, I guess that is correct and this is a recommended article.

3. The psychology of disinformation and how to protect yourself

This article is by Valerie Tarco on AlterNet. This starts as follows:
Most people genuinely care about truth. I don’t mean that we tell the truth all of the time—though most of us mostly do—but that we very much want to know what is real. Reality can knock you flat if you don’t see it coming.
In fact, this is by a psychologist. I am one as well, and I don´t think the above is correct, and my main reason is that it is all very vague:

¨Most people¨ - yes, probably so, but how much is ¨most¨? And ¨truth¨ - well, yes but ¨most people¨ are not scientists and are not theologians yet have strong beliefs about some scientific topics and about religion. Besides, the vast majority of persons seem to protect their families and friends, also if they know they have somehow failed.

And ¨most of us mostly¨: possibly, but if both ¨mosts¨ are slightly above average this is a very weak claim. Finally, ¨most¨ are interested to know ¨what is real¨: well... yes, but ¨most¨ do not know science, and indeed seem to care little about its pronouncements, and besides ¨most¨ do not know ¨most¨ of reality and are interested only in parts of what we believe we know.

So this introduction is much too vague. Here is more:
Truth-seeking, in other words, was written into our genetic code long before it was written into our moral and legal codes. Why, then, is it so easy for social media flurries, conspiracy theories, religions, viral ideologies, or political disinformation campaigns to get us believing utter bullshit?
Well, first of all ¨our genetic code¨ is part of nature, while ¨our moral and legal codes¨ are part of human civilization, and quite different from our genes. And second - and this is new in history, which also seems to be a fact Tarco misses - especially ¨social media¨ are written by the ignorant and the stupid and the prejudiced, who never had that manner of voice before, and I see no reason whatsoever why especially these people would be rational, or factual, or informed, or honest, or fair, or indeed would write under their own name.

Besides, there are at least two billions of this type on Facebook alone. Also - I am sorry - I detest Facebook; I hardly ever visited it; I have two excellent academic degrees and a very high IQ, and I much dislike to be thrown in with ¨us¨ who write on Facebook: I don´t, never did, and never will.

Here is more:
(..) [W]hen we see other people embrace and spread ideas or “facts” that seem obviously false to us, we often assume they either don’t care about truth or are flat-out liars. But that is lazy thinking, and more than a little arrogant. Yes, people on the other side are less than fully truthful. So are you. And yes, some people are habitual liars or even sociopaths. And yes, people who aren’t sociopathic sometimes decide for one reason or another that the end justifies the means. But when people spread falsehoods—even stuff that seems like transparent hooey from the outside, they mostly believe what they say.  A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,said Mark Twain. But lies travel only when people believe them. That is why most propaganda uses partial or decontextualized truths to create misconceptions or distorted priorities.
No, I am not ¨we¨ and no, I strongly dislike to be thrown automatically on the big heap - and besides, if Tarco does believe about herself what she tells me I should believe about myself, what reason would I or anyone have to believe her?!

And besides: I doubt that - provided ¨people¨ are not quite stupid and very ignorant to start with - that if ¨
people spread falsehoods¨ then ¨they mostly believe what they say¨. But then again, I admit I made the fairly strong proviso that ¨people¨ are not quite stupid and not very ignorant to start with, but Tarco does not mention stupidity or ignorance even once.

Here is more:
Social media provide fertile ground in which insider knowledge takes root, and—as we all know—falsehoods (especially partial truths masquerading as whole truths) spread like invasive weeds. Some of these falsehoods are deliberately seeded by ideologues, propagandists, disinformation specialists; others spring up naturally from the constant shift and flow and recombination of information in the human ideosphere. Once seeded, all viral bullshit exploits weaknesses in how the human mind determines what’s real. These include:
Once again, ¨social media¨ are currently the main source of information of more than 2 billion persons who never had any way to express themselves with any hope to be heard by more than a few of those they know.

Now each of the more than
2 billion persons who never had any way to express themselves with any hope to be heard can - often anonymously - say what they please, also while very few have any idea about their knowledge, their rationality, their education, their degrees, their veracity, their religion, their political ideals and indeed very often their real name and address.

This is wholly new, but it seems Tarco doesn´t realize this. Then again, she does list twelve weaknesses. I list them all, but remove all or most of the explanatory texts:

Tribal Boundaries—Social networks largely determine what information flows past us.  

Identity Filters—Who we are, meaning our genetics and lived experience, our interests and values, our cognitive strengths and weakness, and our emotional makeup all play roles in determining what gets our attention.

Delightful Surprises (...)

Thinking Fast (...) 

Groupthink—Whenever possible, again for the sake of efficiency in information processing, we let other members of our tribe do the analysis for us and consider the task done. (...)

Yes, these are all important (but they are quite different for an IQ of 85 with very little real knowledge or understanding, and for a physicist with an IQ of 150 and six years of university).

Here are seven more:

Authority Hierarchies—We bypass thinking altogether by looking to trusted authorities which can be individuals, institutions, or sacred texts—not necessarily relevant experts—and accept as fact what they say.

The Consensus Shortcut (...)

Saturation Seduction (...)

Motivated Reasoning (...)

Confirmation Bias (...)

Pleasures of Superiority (...)

Panic (...)

In fact, I distinguish quite a few more (and also different ones), but I did so in Dutch, namely here: Over Geestelijke Gezondheid En Gestoordheid. I think that is much better but indeed it also is in Dutch and much longer, namely 300 Kb.

4. Donald Trump could go down in history as a worse traitor than Benedict Arnold

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Donald Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election marches onward. Trump and his alleged co-conspirators, defenders and allies appear to be encircled.

Beginning last week, there have been a series of events which could spell doom for Donald Trump. His attorney, personal fixer and consigliere Michael Cohen has agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller's investigation. Court documents reveal that Cohen has admitted to lying about Trump's real estate dealings in Russia and other business matters. Cohen has also admitted that Donald Trump was fully briefed and involved in these real estate and other dealings (including, perhaps a cover-up), despite Trump's repeated denials that he had any connections to Russia and that he would not profit from them while a candidate or president.
Yes, this is mostly correct, and here are some questions one may ask (at this point of time):

What comes next in the Russia scandal and Mueller's investigation into Donald Trump and the president's inner circle? When will Mueller's investigation end, and with what outcome? How do Trump's denials, lies and evasions about his relationship to Russia and Vladimir Putin fit a broader behavior of criminal behavior and a compulsive criminal personality? Why does Donald Trump behave like a mafia boss? What does this indicate about his ability to corrupt those around him while demanding their loyalty to them? Is Donald Trump a traitor to the United States? What strategy are Trump's lawyers using to protect him from the consequences of his actions? Will Donald Trump ever actually face consequences of any kind for his alleged and potential crimes?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Seth Abramson. For nine years he served as a criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator.
I think all these questions are sensible, and here is a link with information about Seth Abramson, whom I did not know anything about.

Here are some questions + answers:

With all of the recent developments in Mueller's investigation, where are we in the timeline of the Russia-Trump scandal?

It is unlikely, even if things proceed pretty expeditiously, that we could reach the terminus of this story before the very beginning of 2020.
I believe this is probably correct (although I don´t know). Here is more:

Donald Trump and his allies are acting like he is guilty. Trump's public behavior and that of his inner circle seems to be enough to indict him for obstruction of justice and likely other crimes as well.

Legal professionals -- whether they’ve done criminal investigative work or criminal trial advocacy -- would likely see this as high comedy if it were not a national tragedy. Every single fact that emerges fits a pattern where they are inculpatory, meaning indicative of guilt.

There is virtually no sign anywhere of exculpatory evidence.
I believe this is also probably correct. And here is more:

Trump's presidency is making it even more obvious that there is a criminal class in the United States, one comprised of rich people who have one standard of law for themselves and another for everybody else. 

That’s always been my approach. I do not think that this is a national emergency primarily from a policy standpoint. Let me be clear: I personally object to basically every policy position Donald Trump pretends to hold. The real emergency here is whether the rule of law will stand or whether America's democracy will be permanently weakened by a single man and his cronies.

As you said, it is a corruption question. I would not be writing the things that I'm writing about Trump if, for example, Mike Pence were president. Now, I might then oppose Pence's entire policy agenda, but I wouldn’t be saying that Mike Pence is a threat to the rule of law, a threat to our democracy and possibly a national security and even global security threat because he has been compromised by the Russians and has his finger on the nuclear button.

I agree, indeed both with the question and the answer. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

To me, from what I see as a legal professional -- not a medical professional -- Donald Trump is in fact someone who is pathological. He is apparently, to me, a malignant narcissist, a pathological liar and someone whose instincts are effectively criminal instincts. Donald Trump will always act for his own personal gain. Usually, it’s something venal, sometimes it's for women, but almost all the time it’s money. There’s actually no consideration whatsoever for the country or the well-being of anyone outside his immediate family. And sometimes I even question whether he cares about most of the people in his family.

That’s what scares me the most about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a deeply broken, antisocial individual whose finger is daily on the nuclear button. That’s why this is a national emergency (...)
Yes indeed: I completely agree. There is considerably more in the article, that is strongly recommended.

5. More Than a Thousand Arrested as Yellow Vests Across France

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Some 1,220 people were arrested in France on Saturday as more than a hundred thousand took to the streets—leading to a lockdown and armored vehicles pouring into Paris—as part of the "Yellow Vests" or "Gilets Jaunes" movement that initially came as a response to French President Emmanuel Macron's attempt to raise taxes on gasoline and diesel, which critics warn would primarily impact the working- and middle-class.

The movement's name comes from many supporters wearing the yellow high-visibility vests that all drivers in France are required to keep in their vehicles. Although Macron's centrist administration announced last week that it was suspending fuel and electricity hikes for six months, outrage over growing inequality across the country has continued to produce massive protests.

In fact, I chose the present article because I am European and think that the events in France are quite important. I also think that the above is basically correct, but then I also admit that I do not know much about the French events nor about the ¨Yellow Vests¨.

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

Since the demonstrations kicked off four weeks ago, BBC News noted, "protests have also erupted over other issues, including calls for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions, and easier university entry requirements." While it began as backlash to Macron's climate policy, "the movement's core aim, to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, still has widespread support."

Outlining the movement, its supporters, and their demands, the Guardian reported Friday:

Protesters have largely come from peripheral towns, cities, and rural areas across France and include many women and single mothers. Most of the protesters have jobs, including as secretaries, IT workers, factory workers, delivery workers, and care workers. All say their low incomes mean they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month.

The movement is predominantly against a tax system perceived as unfair and unjust (...)

I think the above is also correct, and this is a 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 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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