This starts as follows:
Congressional Republicans are baldly
enticing donors with the promise of meetings with senior legislative
staff, effectively placing access to congressional employees up
for sale to professional influence peddlers and other well-heeled
Documents obtained by The Intercept and
the Center for Media and Democracy show that the National Republican
Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional
Committee are both telling donors that in exchange for campaign
contributions, they will receive invitations to special events to meet
with congressional staff including chiefs of staff, leadership
staffers, and committee staffers.
In fact, this seems to be one of the essences of systematic corruption: Selling congressional employees to professional influence peddlers: "You pay, and we invite you to the places you may use further money to get what you desire."
In fact, this happened before, but not on this scale:
While selling donors access to senators
and representatives and their campaign staff is nothing new, the
open effort to sell access to their legislative staff — the
taxpayer-funded government employees who work behind the scenes to
write legislation, handle investigations, and organize committee
hearings — appears to be in violation of ethics rules that prohibit
campaigns from using House and Senate resources in any way.
Yes, for otherwise you just as well can leave lawmaking to those who will profit from it - which in fact seems to be what the Trumpian government wants.
There is also this:
It’s arguably the last fig leaf left
when it comes to giving the appearance that campaign contributions are
not directly linked to official acts.
“You can’t use resources that are paid
for by the taxpayer to service campaign donors. That’s blatantly
illegal,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the former chief of staff to Sen.
Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Precisely. And there is this:
“This takes money buying access to a new
level,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor and ethics expert at
Loyola Law School. “This means that people with money can buy, in
a very concrete sense, a meeting with important staffers.”
Again precisely (and these staffers they then know and can try to buy). There's a lot more in the article, which is recommended.
2. Glenn Greenwald Says
Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press Freedom for All
article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn
Greenwald responds to reports that the Trump administration has
prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the report at a news
conference Thursday. Last week, CIA chief
Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service," in a
stark reversal from his previous praise for the group. Pompeo made the
remarks last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in his first public address as CIA director.
Pompeo went on to accuse WikiLeaks of instructing Army whistleblower
Chelsea Manning to steal information. He also likened Julian Assange to
a "demon" and suggested Assange is not protected under the First
Amendment. It’s been nearly five years since Julian Assange entered the
Ecuadorean Embassy in London seeking political asylum, fearing a
Swedish arrest warrant could lead to his extradition to the United
States. Greenwald’s story for The Intercept is "Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks,
Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms."
I checked but did not review that article from Greenwald. Here is some more on Pompeo:
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, CIA
chief Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a, quote, "hostile intelligence
service," in a stark reversal from his previous praise for the group.
Pompeo made the remarks last week at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in his first public address as CIA
POMPEO: It’s time to
call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile
intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. ... In
reality, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency
is clickbait, their moral compass nonexistent. Their mission, personal
self-aggrandizement through destruction of Western values.
I say. Why does this remind me so much of Trump?
I'd say because Trump champions nothing but his own celebrity and
profits; because his currency is clickbait; because his moral compass
is non-existent, and because his mission seems to be personal self-
aggrandizement through destruction of the Western values that protect
the non-rich from being mercilessly exploited by the rich.
Anyway... Here is Glenn Greenwald:
AMY GOODMAN: (..) Glenn, welcome back to Democracy
Now! Your response to this latest news that the U.S. government,
that the Justice Department, is preparing an arrest warrant for Julian
GLENN GREENWALD: What’s interesting is, the
Justice Department under President Obama experimented with this idea
for a long time. They impaneled a grand jury to criminally investigate
WikiLeaks and Assange. They wanted to prosecute them for publishing the
trove of documents back in 2011 relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars, as well as the U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. And what
they found, the Obama Justice Department found, was that it is
impossible to prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing secret documents,
without also prosecuting media organizations that regularly do the same
thing. The New York Times, The Guardian, many other
news organizations also published huge troves of the documents provided
by Chelsea Manning. So it was too much of a threat to press freedom,
even for the Obama administration, to try and create a theory under
which WikiLeaks could be prosecuted.
And the Trump administration obviously believes that they can now
safely, politically, prosecute WikiLeaks. And the danger, of course, is
that this is an administration that has already said, the President
himself has said, the U.S. media is the enemy of the American people.
And this is a prosecution that would enable them not only to prosecute
and imprison Julian Assange, but a whole variety of other journalists
and media outlets that also routinely publish classified information
from the U.S. government.
I think all of that is correct. And here is Julian Assange:
Pompeo said explicitly that he was going to redefine the legal
parameters of the First Amendment to define publishers like WikiLeaks
in such a manner that the First Amendment would not apply to them. What
the hell is going on? This is the head of the largest intelligence
service in the world, the intelligence service of the United States. He
doesn’t get to make proclamations on interpretation of the law. That’s
a responsibility for the courts, it’s a responsibility for Congress,
and perhaps it’s a responsibility for the attorney general. It’s way
out of line to usurp the roles of those entities that are formally
engaged in defining the interpretations of the First Amendment. For
any—frankly, any other group to pronounce themselves, but for the head
of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries
are of reporting and not reporting is a very disturbing precedent. This
is not how the First Amendment works. It’s just—it’s just legally wrong.
Actually, I don't know. First, here is the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Second, while I think Assange is mostly correct about interpreting the First Amendment, there is a related question he doesn't ask: To what extent does this American law apply to an Australian (like Assange), or a Dutchman, or a German or a Norwegian?
I am asking because I meanwhile learned that the protections the Fourth Amendment does offer for mail, e-mails and privacy (as I read it), do not apply to me, because I
am not an American: The American secret services can simply steal from me (and every non-American) what they like.
And I'd say the First Amendment does not apply to an Australian or a Dutchman, although the fact that Wikileaks also is involved does probably make some legal difference (for "the freedom of the press" is mentioned in the First Amendment).
Here is some more by Glenn Greenwald on the freedom of speech:
I think the key point here to understand is the way in which
governments typically try and abridge core freedoms, because what they
know is that if they target a group that is popular or a particular
idea that people agree with, there will be an uprising against the
attempt to abridge freedom. So what they always do, for example, when
governments try and abridge freedom of speech, is they pick somebody
who they know is hated in society or who expresses an idea that most
people find repellent, and they try and abridge freedom of speech in
that case, so that most people will let their hatred for the person
being targeted override the principle involved, and they will sanction
or at least acquiesce to the attack on freedom because they hate the
person being attacked.
And so, what Jeff Sessions is hoping, and probably with a good amount
of validity, is that Democrats, who should be the resistance to these
sorts of attacks, will actually cheer for the Trump administration
while they prosecute WikiLeaks, because they hate WikiLeaks so much,
and that U.S. media outlets, which also hate WikiLeaks, won’t raise
much of a fuss. And that way, this very dangerous precedent of allowing
the CIA and the Trump Justice Department to
decide who is and who is not a journalist, what types of journalism are
protected by the First Amendment and what types aren’t, will be
entrenched as precedent.
I think that is correct again, and this is a recommended article in which there is considerably more than I quoted.
Is the Deep State Our Only Control Over Trump?
The third article is by Robert Kuttner (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet, and originally on
The American Prospect:
This has the following:
Steve Bannon was basically right about
the deep state—otherwise known as the U.S. Constitution and the
Once Michael Flynn self-destructed,
leaders like National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense
Secretary James Mattis also began injecting an overdue dose of reality
into the Trump presidency.
The defense establishment is part of the
Deep State. So are the courts. So is the reality of separation of
Likewise the fact that the FBI and the
CIA, whatever their other missteps, are not about to become Trump’s
private secret police. They are part of the deep state, too.
I say. If you check out Robert Kuttner (<- Wikipedia), you'll find he is a 74-year old journalist and writer with a liberal background. I do not know anything he wrote about the deep state, but he seems to be very much informed about it.
Then again, I am also a bit doubtful.
First, I don't believe that "the deep state" is "otherwise known as the U.S. Constitution and the
permanent establishment". I don't think it has much to do with the Constitution, and indeed many policies of the deep state (in my understanding, which - I think - is fairly good since I first started reading about it 1 1/2 years ago) are in contradiction with any fair reading of the Constitution.
And second, I am a bit amazed by the certainty with which Kuttner asserts that
"The defense establishment is part of the
Deep State. So are the courts. So is the reality of separation of
powers. Likewise (..) the FBI and the CIA (..)"
Note I am not saying "Yes" or "No": In fact, I am asking for evidence, that is wholly absent in this article.
And note please that the whole concept of "the deep state" is still rejected by many, while others ask what it does consist of. And I think there very probably is a deep state, but indeed would like to know what it consists of, besides some of the leading military and some of the leading industrialists, that were already there in Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex", (<-Wikipedia) that seems to be the best known forerunner of the concept of "the deep state" (<-Wikipedia) - and as you will see in the last link, the concept of the deep state (still) gets "translated" by Wikipedia to "state within a state".
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
So, the good news/bad news net-net looks
something like this:
Good news: Reality and
the deep state stop Trump well short of fascism.
Bad news: We have,
instead, a conventional, far-right Republican presidency, led by a
stunningly incompetent sociopath.
Good news: The
Republican Party keeps fragmenting—into Tea Party and Main Street
factions on domestic policy, Putin-apologist and Putin-abhoring
factions on foreign policy, and white nationalist factions and Wall
Street globalist factions on economics. That can only weaken Trump.
Bad news: Despite
Trump’s faux populism, the Wall Street lock on the political economy
has never been stronger. One face of fascism is political dictatorship;
the other is a corporate state.
Good news and bad news:
Nothing that Trump is likely to do will change the economic situation
of the downtrodden middle- and working-class Americans who voted for
Trump out of disgust with the status quo.
Quite possibly so, but (i) I would like so see evidence and (ii) at least the initial statement quoted above, namely "Reality and
the deep state stop Trump well short of fascism" is extremely vague: "the deep state" is wholly undefined; while I agree with Kuttner that reality exists, there are very many different versions of what this involves; and "fascism" does also not seem to be quite the correct term to describe Trump, and anyway has at least 21 different definitions (outlined and criticized in my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions).
4. In Latest Populist
Betrayal, Trump Executive Order Unchains Wall Street Greed
The fourth article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In yet another Wall Street
giveaway, President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon took
executive action to chip away at Dodd-Frank financial regulations
and roll back rules aimed at reducing corporate tax avoidance.Yes, I think Lisa Gilbert is quite right. Here is some more:
Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative
affairs for watchdog group Public Citizen, described
the orders signed Friday at the Treasury Department as "nothing more
than special favors for the same Wall Street banks that crashed our
economy in 2008 and put millions of Americans out of work."
As I said, I agree with Gilbert, though I admit to a considerable bi-valence here,
"Republican Treasury Secretary Hank
Paulson conceived the Financial Stability Oversight Council as a forum
for catching financial risks that fall through the cracks between the
various regulatory agencies," said Public Citizen financial policy
advocate Bartlett Naylor on Friday. "The biggest bailout in the
financial crash went to insurance firm AIG, which fell through one such
crack. An executive order that questions this oversight can signal to
firms intent on high-risk financial ventures that playtime is back."
Trump previously signed
an order directing a roll-back of Dodd-Frank overall.
that again is mostly fed by - what seems to me - the corruption of many members
of the Senate and the House:
If the Senate and the House are not capable of creating a decent economy for all,
but instead go on with creating a corrupt economy for the rich, all I can hope for is that the American economy gets blown up again, as in 2008 or worse, and indeed Trump's decision also considerably increased the likelihood of that.
But Gilbert is right that until that moment arises, Trump's decision will put "put millions of Americans out of work".
5. Group of
Mental Health Professionals Warn Trump's State 'Putting Country in
The fifth article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
A group of mental health professionals
gathered at Yale University Thursday to discuss what they believe is
their duty to warn the public of the "danger" posed by President Donald
The "Duty to Warn" event was attended by
roughly two dozen people and was organized Dr. Bandy Lee, assistant
clinical professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, the CTPost
Lee called the mental health of the president "the elephant in the
room," and said:
"Colleagues are concerned about the repercussions of speaking."
Hm. I think this is rather ambiguous between (i) protesting against the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and (ii) warning the public of the danger posed by president Donald Trump.
Clearly, quite a few psychologist and psychiatrists have felt it their duty to warn against the danger posed by president Donald Trump, and so have I (who is a Dutch
psychologist). Indeed some did so, publicly, and here is a link.
But then - if they are American psychiatrists, if also they are members of the APA - there may be repercussions of speaking. Here is the explanation of Andrea Germanos:
Yale did not sponsor the event, and said
that conference-goers were expected to follow the Goldwater Rule.
Enacted in 1973, it bars psychiatrists from giving their professional
opinion on the mental health of a person they have not met. The
American Psychiatric Association (APA) last month reaffirmed
its support for the rule. In fact, the Duty to Warn group "has drawn
considerable criticism from the psychiatric establishment" for flouting
the rule, the Associated Press writes.
"Basically, one cannot speak of public
figures under any circumstance," Lee said, according
to NPR member station WSHU. "And to do that
under this current climate of grave concern is, in my mind, is actually
a political statement.”
I agree with Lee, but I also understand the point of view of the American Psychiatric Association: They believe it is far better that Trump should blow up the world, than that anyone who is a member of their association should be allowed to say that a person like Trump appreciably increases that risk.
It so happens that I am a psychologist (and a philosopher) who thinks that psychiatry is not a real science, and indeed I also did not study it. My advice to American psychiatrists is simple (but I do not know how much this would lessen or improve their personal chances of employment): Leave the APA.
Here indeed is the voice of an American psychologist:
"We do believe that Donald Trump's
mental illness is putting the entire country, and indeed the entire
world, in danger," argued Dr. John Gartner, a psychologist who used to
teach at Johns Hopkins University, local WTNH writes.
"As health professionals we have an ethical duty to warn the public
about that danger," he said.
"Worse than just being a liar or a
narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose
thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was
President. If Donald Trump really believes he had the largest crowd
size in history, that's delusional," Gartner added.
Yes, I think that is correct. And I agree with the following:
Gartner founded Duty to Warn and also
started a Change.org petition
which states that "Trump manifests a serious mental illness that
renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the
duties of President of the United States" and should therefore be
removed from office. As of this writing, the petition has gathered over
In a letter
to the editors of the New York Times earlier this year,
a separate group of over 30 mental health professionals also warned of
Trump's "grave emotional instability" and said of the Goldwater Rule:
"this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to
worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We
fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer."
"Mr. Trump's speech and actions
demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own,
leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound
inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality
to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey
them (journalists, scientists)," they wrote.
Indeed. But meanwhile the American Psychiatric Association believes it is far better that Trump should blow up the world, than that anyone who is a member of their association should be allowed to say that a person like Trump appreciably increases that risk.
I'd say: And that is modern psychiatry for you (and be assured that meanwhile, until Trump does blow up the world, psychiatrists will continue to make a lot of money for themselves).
6. A New Study Confirms
What You've Long Suspected: Facebook Is Making People Crazy
The sixth and last article today is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:
First of all, who is Matt Yglesias?
(I didn't know.) The last link is to Wikipedia, that explains he is a
35 year old "liberal" (between quotes because the American meaning of
"liberal" is rather different from the English and the European
meanings of the same term).
Matt Yglesias says Mark Zuckerberg could
do the world a favor by deep-sixing Facebook:
He bases his call to action on research like this:
Overall, our results showed that,
while real-world social networks were positively associated with
overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with
overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental
health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a
decrease in mental health in a later year. We found
consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links
significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported
physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.
Second, I was interested in "research like this" and quote one bit of it:
Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison. Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others.
Hm. I am a psychologist, and this sounds too much
like psychology to me ("may", "can", "it is possible") for me to take
it very seriously, but I do agree that - self- evidently - engaging in
Facebook does detract "from face-to-face relationships"
while I also think this does not mention at all the one feature of the "social media"
that I dislike a lot, namely their anonymity.
Then again, I dislike Facebook so much that I have no fair idea whatsoever about how many are anonymous on it (for I totally avoid it).
And here is Kevin Drum:
I agree with the first paragraph and have no idea about the second paragraph. My advice to intelligent people is to avoid it completely, and not so much because it
But I'm totally willing to believe that
Facebook is evil even without hard evidence. The casually brutal
insults almost certainly outweigh the praise for a lot of people. It
instills a sense of always needing to keep up with things every minute
of the day. It interferes with real-life relationships. It takes time
away from more concentrated activities that are probably more rewarding
in the long run.
This doesn't apply to all Facebook
users. In fact, I'd guess that it applies to only 10-15 percent of
them. But that's enough.
might upset you, but because Facebook makes its profit by stealing (or "stealing":
I also do not know what they make you sign) much of the privacy of their users,
whom they "reward" by sending them "personal advertisements". I say!
If you want that, you must be very stupid (in my metrics) but it seems many are.