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Nederlog

January 13, 2019

Crisis: The FBI & Trump, Trump & the FBI, The Green New Deal, On Fact-Checking, British Spies



Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 13, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, January 13, 2019. 

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 January 13, 2019:
1. F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on
     Behalf of Russia
2. Trump Tweets Lengthy Attack on F.B.I.

3. Report Finds Little Media Interest in 'Green New Deal'

4. Why 'Fact-Checking' Gives Liars a Free Pass

5. British think-tanks call for “US leadership” in Europe
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. F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia

This article is by Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Well... this seems to be more or less correct, though Comey´s dismissal is meanwhile over one and a half year ago.

Here is some more:
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.
I take it this is correct as well. Here is some more:
No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office both declined to comment.
    (...)
The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over Mr. Trump since even before he took office, though he has long vigorously denied any illicit connection to Moscow. The obstruction inquiry, revealed by The Washington Post a few weeks after Mr. Mueller was appointed, represented a direct threat that he was unable to simply brush off as an overzealous examination of a handful of advisers. But few details have been made public about the counterintelligence aspect of the investigation.
This means - if I understood the foregoing correctly - that in 1 1/2 year there has not been given any public (!!) evidence ¨that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials¨.

The main problem I see is in the (bolding added) ¨public evidence¨: Either there is no evidence, or whatever evidence there is, is being kept a secret, and either alternative does not seem very democratic (to choose for that term), for if after 1 1/2 year of investigations there is no evidence, Trump (whom I strongly dislike) should have been cleared in some fashion, and if there is evidence, the public should have heard at least some of it. Neither was the case.

Then there is this:
“In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals,” Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times.
I do not know of what bureau Ms Page was a lawyer, but Wikipedia told me that some Lisa Page worked for Mueller at some point, and was investigated because she had a personal relation with former FBI agent Peter Strzok.

And in any case, I think she is bullshitting in the above quote, and seems to have little or no idea that Russia ceased being communistic or socialistic in 1991, while I also must say that ¨the West´s¨ ¨
democratic ideals¨ seem to me pure propaganda (and also quite false).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Many [FBI officials - MM] involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

“With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
As I said, I think Ms. Page (whoever she is) is again bullshitting. As to the rest: I dislike both the FBI and Trump, and decided not to believe anything said by them unless I know myself that it is true or else I get some decent evidence. Both are lacking in this article.

2. Trump Tweets Lengthy Attack on F.B.I.

This article is by Michael Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
President Trump on Saturday unleashed an extended assault on the F.B.I. and the special counsel’s investigation, knitting together a comprehensive alternative story in which he had been framed by disgraced “losers” at the bureau’s highest levels.

In a two-hour span starting at 7 a.m., the president made a series of false claims on Twitter about his adversaries and the events surrounding the inquiry. He was responding to a report in The New York Times that, after he fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director in 2017, the bureau began investigating whether the president had acted on behalf of Russia.

In his tweets, the president accused Hillary Clinton, without evidence, of breaking the law by lying to the F.B.I. He claimed that Mr. Comey was corrupt and best friends with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. He said Mr. Mueller was employing a team of Democrats — another misleading assertion — bent on taking him down.
To start with, I take it my readers noticed these are two of the three journalists that wrote the previous article I reviewed.

And as to these first quoted paragraphs, this is totally new to me. Here is some more:
Hours later, Mr. Trump continued his broadside on a friendly television venue, Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News. Asked “are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?” Mr. Trump did not directly answer the question.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said by telephone. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written.”

He also denied a report in The Washington Post that he had taken extensive steps to conceal from other high-ranking officials his conversations with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over the past two years.
I take it these assertions are true (mostly because they were on TV, although I did not see them).

Here is some more:
The Times article, published Friday evening, reported that law enforcement officials became so alarmed by Mr. Trump’s behavior surrounding his firing of Mr. Comey that they took the explosive step of opening a counterintelligence investigation against him.

Naming several of the bureau’s now-departed top officials, including Mr. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, Mr. Trump said the F.B.I. had “tried to do a number on your President,” accusing the “losers” of essentially fabricating a case. “Part of the Witch Hunt,” he wrote — referring dismissively to the investigation now being overseen by Mr. Mueller.
I say. In fact, I also could have said so when reviewing the first bit of this article, but I will now say that I do think these are important accusations by Trump.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Mr. Trump indicated on Saturday that he had not known of the existence of the counterintelligence investigation before the Times article, and he did not dispute the newspaper’s reporting.

But he made clear that he viewed any such inquiry as illegitimate from the start. He presented it, without evidence, as part of a vast, yearslong conspiracy to undo his presidency.

In the tweets, Mr. Trump defended his decision to fire Mr. Comey — “a total sleaze!” — at length, accusing the former director of overseeing a “rigged & botched” investigation of Mrs. Clinton, and leading the agency into “complete turmoil.” Democrats and Republicans alike wanted Mr. Comey removed, he said.

“My firing of James Comey was a great day for America,” Mr. Trump wrote. “He was a Crooked Cop.”
I say, again. And as I´ve said many times before, I believe, as a psychologist and together with many other psychologists and psychiatrists, that Trump is insane, and the facts reported in this article seem to support that diagnosis. There will be more on this, undoubtedly, and this is a recommended article.

3. Report Finds Little Media Interest in 'Green New Deal'

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

A new analysis by one of the nation’s top public interest advocacy groups shows that even as the planet and humanity face an existential threat due to the climate crisis, most corporate media outlets in the U.S. have largely ignored the urgent need  for a Green New Deal and the growing political movement demanding it.

Following the midterm elections in November, the youth-led Sunrise Movement
flooded congressional offices and demanded that representatives back a Green New Deal and the creation of a House select committee that would be tasked with drafting legislation to create one, successfully convincing 45 members of Congress to support the proposal. 

But despite the energy behind the plan, 82 percent of Americans in a Yale/George Mason poll  said they had never heard of the Green New Deal, and researchers behind the new Public Citizen study are blaming corporate news networks for failing to educate the public about the proposal.

I say, and I do so because meanwhile I have both read and reviewed quite a few articles on the Green New Deal, but I also do grand that about the only two sites that I daily consult (from thirtyfive in all) that belong to the mainstream press are The Guardian and The New York Times.

Then again, if this is the case (and I see little reason to doubt it), I think it is good evidence for the two theses that (i) the mainstream press is no longer informing its readers (in many cases) but propagandizing them, and (ii) this means that American democracy is thereby slowly but certainly killed (for there is no real democracy if the majority of the voters is simply not told what they ought to know to make rational decisions on their own).

Here are some more facts:

ABC News ran just one segment on the plan, while MSNBC ran three. CNN never mentioned the Green New Deal in its November and December coverage, according to Public Citizen.

“The surge of interest in a Green New Deal was one of the most significant climate change stories of 2018, and many media outlets gave it little or no attention,” said David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program.

In the digital news world, Politico published 33 stories about the Green New Deal, but the conservative Daily Caller was right behind them with 32, with headlines calling the plan “indirect taxation” and warning that the name is “another way of saying new taxes.” 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of the plan’s biggest supporters, has suggested that the Green New Deal should be funded with far higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans—not for middle-class families.

Americans who have managed to get information about the proposal have overwhelmingly expressed approval, with 81 percent of registered voters reporting in the Yale/George Mason poll that they support the plan.

I say again, for this supports what I said above. Then again, while over 80% of the voters who have heard of the Green New Deal support it, this does not mean very much if in fact over 80% of the American voters has not heard of it. Anyway, this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Why 'Fact-Checking' Gives Liars a Free Pass

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Look, let’s face it, the press has been enabling Trump in particular and the conservatives in general by the way it has been addressing the blatant lying, deception, misdirection, and other forms of lying.

For the most part, the press reports the disagreement between parties as legitimate differences in opinion, long after it’s become obvious that one side is lying. For example, for decades, now, Republicans have been justifying giant tax giveaways to the rich and corporations under the guise of trickle-down, supply-side, job-creators or some other claim that what’s good for the rich is good for all of us. But it’s literally never been demonstrated. In fact, the data shows that there is no correlation whatsoever between the top marginal tax rate and economic growth. None. Zero. Nada, Zilch. The same is true for job creation.

Yes indeed, I agree to all of this. Here is more:

To the extent mainstream media does attempt to divine the truth, they’ll do it in the context of “fact-checking.” Now, the implication of fact-checking is that one side or the other simply got their facts wrong. And maybe the first time out of the gate, that’s the approach we should take. Maybe it was OK, to give Reagan a pass in his first two years when he pushed “supply-side,” even though we knew then that, historically, lower taxes on the rich and less regulation of the financial sector had led to the two biggest economic dislocations in U.S. history. But, hey, maybe Ronnie didn’t know that. But when it happened again after Bush’s tax cuts and deregulation led to the second worst recession in U.S. history in 2008 and 2009, the MSM should have caught on.

When the “mistakes and misstatements” happen over and over again even after they’ve been show to be false, folks aren’t getting their facts wrong, they’re lying. Intentionally. Blatantly. And because the press largely refuses to call them what they are—liars—they can do it again and again with impunity.

Yes, I agree with all of this as well.

Trump, the press, and the Republicans have known these assertions are lies. They’ve been called on it numerous times, although the mainstream corporate media does so in the context of “fact-checks” or in opinion pieces, leaving the hard news stories to report merely what both “sides” say, as if reality didn’t exist. This balance, or both-sidism, approach to reporting enables liars and the lying liars who tell them to escape the consequences of their lies.

I take it this is true as well, and I guess it is true, as Acheson says, that the mainstream media are ¨leaving the hard news stories to report merely what both “sides” say, as if reality didn’t exist¨. (Then again, I admit I do not read much of the mainstream media, indeed precisely because I think their main articles are often composed of a mixture of propaganda, lies, and intentional ommissions.)

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

Isn’t the fact that one entire party—the one that controls most of government —has been systematically lying to the American people for decades now more important than a temporary government shutdown? Probably the only Democrat to take on the lies and the moral bankruptcy of Trump and his Republican enablers with passion, and with facts was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.).  

But if you were to read the corporatized mainstream media, you could come away with the idea that Trump and his cronies got a few of their facts wrong, and that the Democrats were equally at fault for the shutdown.

The fact that the controlling party in our country consistently lies to the American people, and that it rejects science, facts, and reality?  Oh, can’t say that. Wouldn’t be balanced, you know.   

And so they consign the most important issue facing the country to side columns on fact-checking, full of false equivalence.  

Liberal media?  What a joke. It, like both political parties, is neither liberal nor conservative; it’s corporatized, plain and simple—answerable to the amoral forces of the market, not the normative forces of institutions operating for the common good.

I more or less agree, but not quite.

First, I mostly agree that ¨one entire party—the one that controls most of government —has been systematically lying to the American people for decades¨, for that seems to me simply the case, with a few twists that are not very relevant.

Second, I think Atcheson is correct when he says that ¨if you were to read the corporatized mainstream media, you could come away with the idea that Trump and his cronies got a few of their facts wrong, and that the Democrats were equally at fault for the shutdown.¨

Third, I totally agree with Atcheson that it is a fact ¨that the controlling party in our country consistently lies to the American people, and that it rejects science, facts, and reality¨ for the simple reason that this is correct.

Fourth, I think I mostly disagree with Atcheson on the title, which is ¨Why 'Fact-Checking' Gives Liars a Free Pass¨ (but I do not know whether the title is his), because it is not so much the fact-checking that is mistaken, as the lack of reporting on the falsities Trump´s government states in main articles.

Then again, fifth and last, I agree the mainstream press these days is ¨corporatized, plain and simple—answerable to the amoral forces of the market, not the normative forces of institutions operating for the common good¨. (Besides, I agree this probably will remain the case as long as the papers do not - somehow - get an independent income to make up for loosing most of their advertisements to the internet.) And this is a strongly recommended article.


5. British think-tanks call for “US leadership” in Europe

This article is by Jeremy McCoy on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:

January 4, Anonymous hackers released the new batch of documents from the Integrity Initiative – a government-funded program run by the London based Institute for Statecraft. The Institute for Statecraft describes itself as “an independent body dedicated to refreshing the practice of statecraft, to improving governance and to enhancing national security”. The Integrity Initiative: Defending Democracy against Disinformation is one of the Institute’s projects aimed at countering Russian propaganda as well as all kinds of “attempts to influence the policies and undermine the societies of the West”.

I say, for I do not recall these kinds of documents 25 and more years ago, for this is (i) the Integrity Iniative (itself probably a lie) that (ii) is ¨a government-funded program¨, which nevertheless insists that it is ¨independent¨, while it also insists that (iii) it is ¨enhancing national security¨.

Well... I conclude it probably is a part of English national security. Here is some more:

The experts believe a reassertion of the US political and military domination in Europe is the only way for the West to counter Russia, China and Daesh/IS.

“The West is badly in need of a reassertion of US leadership. The EU has been unable to generate any strategic thinking or to exercise convincing leadership. Russia (& China) are successfully driving wedges between EU Member States and between Allies within NATO. Brexit has added to the confusion.

The US also needs to rebuild its understanding of Russia and how to deal with it, so as to (a) improve its own governance at a time of transition, and (b) rebuild its leading role in Europe via NATO and via encouragement to the EU, to enable them to deal more effectively with the new challenge to our democratic structures and processes posed by Russia (and China, and Daesh/IS) today,” the documents recently leaked by the Anonymous state.

I take it this part of English national security in fact insists England is no longer a country nor important (which is, at least, what I heard several prominent Dutch politicians say about Holland in 2002, when Holland became part of the EU), and they have also found out that the EU ¨has been unable to generate any strategic thinking or to exercise convincing leadership¨ (goodbye ordinary people living in the EU), while they insist that they are dealing ¨with the new challenge to our democratic structures and processes posed by Russia (and China, and Daesh/IS) today¨.

To me it seems all complete nonsense and pure propaganda from some British anonymous spies.

In fact, here is McCoy´s inference from the above:

In other words British security experts welcome American military bases on European soil and supremacy of American national interests over the interests of European nations. They believe that American military power will save the Europeans from “Russian hybrid warfare”, Chinese expansion and jihadists. This approach looks more than flimsy.

Yes indeed - and as I said, I agree that ¨[t]his approach looks more than flimsy¨, for the simple reason that it looks quite crazy in my eyes.

Here is the ending of this article:

The new political realities show imprudence of the approach to European security developed by the think-tankers from the Institute for Statecraft. American military facilities are the last things necessary for the Europeans to feel safe. What the Europeans really need to do is to stay away from the up-coming missile duel between Trump and Putin.

I completely agree and this is a 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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