Sunday, August 13, 2017

Crisis: Nuclear War, North Korea, Venezuela, Lee Fang, Imploding Presidency?

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from August 13, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 13, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection (usually) from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 13, 2017

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 War of Words that Could Go Nuclear

This article is by five journalists (too many to mention here) on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

It's always the same ritual in August in South Korea. Not far from the shared border on the 38th parallel, artillery fires at targets supposed to represent North Korean tanks. Helicopters fly at low altitudes, fighter jets thunder through the air and tanks roll across beaches as around 80,000 South Korean soldiers and American troops conduct joint exercises simulating a defense against an attack from the north. The maneuver has already triggered serious crises in the past.

But this year, the nervousness peaked two weeks before the maneuvers. No tanks or troop deployments were required, all it took was these words: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Donald Trump fired off these words on Tuesday night, slightly hunched forward, with his arms crossed and chandeliers and golfing plaques in the background, terrifying the rest of the world. It was the sharpest warning yet to the regime in Pyongyang, bordering a declaration of war. By doing so, Trump ignored the unwritten doctrine that a U.S. president doesn't boast of his nuclear arsenal like a teenager. He doesn't seem to care that the weapons are intended as a deterrent and that they do not exist to be used. Had he gone one step further, by threatening to lay Pyongyang to waste, it would have been difficult to distinguish him from Dictator Kim Jong Un.

Even the North Koreans, who do not shy away from making their own abrasive threats, criticized his "nuclear war hysteria" and described the statement as "extremely reckless."

Here is another bit:

A war would likely mean the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the destruction of the South Korean capital city of Seoul, possible attacks on U.S. military bases in East Asia and maybe even on American cities. North Korea would be laid to ruins and it would create a shock to the entire global economy.

Given its grave potential consequences, nobody is interested in this war, not even Donald Trump -- at least that's the hope.
There is a lot more, with a second installment at the end of the first. I do not know whether the analysis is correct, but it is done more or less decently. This is a recommended article [2], but it should be contrasted with the next article, that starts from somewhat different premises:

2. North Korea: Headlines full of “Fire and Fury” Signifying Nothing

This article is by Kit on the Off-Guardian. It starts as follows, and from a rather different premise than the previous article, as gets illustrated by the first quotation:

In truly perverse fashion, the newspapers have all suddenly remembered that Nuclear war is possible, and that it’s probably not a good idea. This is all built on the developing war of words between Trump’s administration and North Korea.

North Korea. Who haven’t successfully launched a missile further than their own backyard. Who have no money and no resources and no international pull. North Korea who are surrounded by larger, more powerful countries easily capable of applying pressure to resolve any situation (in fact just two days ago China, South Korea, Russia and North Korea held joint diplomatic talks. The US was not invited).

North Korea who have been, until very recently, an international punchline.

This whole scenario is simply the next step in evolution in news as theatre, which is to say, theatre as news. These are non-existent worries, concerning a non-problem in a false reality.

I think this is the more or less rational argument as far as North Korea is concerned: It really cannot blow up much before it gets blown up itself.

But I also think that this fact gets confused here with the - I agree - generally horrible  quality of "the news" as brought by the mainstream media, while it also seems to forget that neither of the two main players - Kim and Trump - is known for their rationality, their sanity or their carefulness.

More specifically, it seems that one of the premises the Off-Guardian assumes here is the following:

So why all the big screamy headlines?

It’s important to realise, if you’re to understand the modern world, that news coverage has virtually nothing to do with reality. Modern news agencies have literally no regard for true or false. They simply exist to serve the agenda. “Facts” are reported and dropped as convenient. Truth is inconsequential. Any resemblance to reality purely coincidental.

This seems too strong: Either you cannot rely at all anymore on "news" reported in the mainstream media, as absolutely everything may have been made up to suit the propagandistic ends of its editors or else there still is some factuality in "news reports". And I think the second alternative is considerably more plausible than the first.

And this article ends as follows:

IF a nuclear war comes, it will be with a cornered Russia or a threatened China, not North Korea. It will far more likely be the accidental result of arrogance, stupidity and ambition than any malicious tin-pot dictator.

There are no scary headlines about any of that. No headlines at all.

Only non-stories about a puppet-idiot using weapons he doesn’t control to threaten an impotent lunatic with weapons that don’t work. A non story, full of fire and fury and signifying nothing.

I think this is also too strong, and it seems to rely too much on the rationality of political leaders other than Trump or Kim.

So on the whole I disagree more than I agree with the present article, but it still is recommended.

3. The Battle for Venezuela and Its Oil

This article is by Jeremy Scahill (<- Wikipedia) on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Despite the public battles between the New York Times and President Donald Trump, the two seem to be on a similar page about the unfolding crisis in Venezuela. Last week, the administration announced it had “designated” President Nicolas Maduro and other Venezuelan officials, freezing their U.S. assets and barring Americans from doing business with them. The Times called that the best way to confront the Venezuelan government. The Times, though, went a step further calling on European and other nations to join what it called a “quarantine” of Maduro. It was an interesting word choice. That was also the term used for the early days of the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba. Interestingly, none of these players — Trump or the New York Times — are calling for a boycott on Venezuelan oil, which is heavily consumed by Americans.

U.S. hostile posturing toward Venezuela is nothing new. Washington, under both Democrats and Republicans, loathed the late President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution. Chavez enjoyed sticking it to Washington and viewed each attack against him as a badge of honor in his struggle against Yankee imperialism. But Chavez’s successor, Maduro, does not have nearly the charisma or credibility among Venezuelans and progressive forces in Latin America enjoyed by Chavez. And Maduro’s recent actions have been disturbing even to some of Chavez’s close allies.

In fact, I do not know much about Venezuela. The above is a very brief summary of the last twenty years or so. It introduces a fairly long interview with Eva Gollinger, who has been much involved with Chavez and Maduro:

To discuss this complex unfolding situation, I interviewed attorney Eva Gollinger this week on Intercepted. She was one of Hugo Chavez’s most prominent supporters, was very close to the late president and knows many of the players in Venezuela personally, including Maduro. She is the author of several books, including The Chavez Code which is based on documents she obtained detailing U.S. interference in Venezuela, including the brief coup against Chavez in 2002.

I think the interview that follows is fair and balanced, but I may be mistaken, simply because I do not know much about Venezuela. But I did learn various things from it that I did not know, and this article is recommended.

4. Lee Fang on How a Little-Known U.S. Libertarian Think Tank Is Remaking Latin American Politics

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

A new investigation published by The Intercept exposes how a libertarian think tank called the Atlas Network is remaking Latin American politics with the help of powerful conservative institutions and funders in the United States, some of whom you may recognize, such as the Koch brothers. The Intercept reports the Atlas Network is behind dozens of prominent groups that have supported right-wing forces in the antigovernment movement in Venezuela, as well as those who ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. We are joined by The Intercept’s Lee Fang, who covers the intersection of money and politics. His new piece is tilted Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians Are Remaking Latin American Politics.

The interview with Lee Fang starts as follows:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. A new investigation published by The Intercept exposes how a libertarian think tank called the Atlas Network is remaking Latin American politics with the help of powerful conservative institutions and funders in the United States, some of whom you may recognize, like the Koch brothers. This is part of a promotional video released by the Atlas Network.

ATLAS NETWORK VIDEO: Welcome to the Atlas Network. We’re your connection to a network of freedom champions across the United States and around the world in more than 80 countries. Atlas freedom champions are knocking down barriers to wealth creation, fighting corruption and fostering free enterprise by reducing the role of government and protecting individual liberty. While politicians operate within the confines of what they consider politically possible, Atlas and our global partners think it’s more cost-effective in the long term to change what is considered politically possible.

AMY GOODMAN: The Intercept reports the Atlas Network is behind dozens of prominent groups that have supported right-wing forces in the antigovernment movement in Venezuela, as well as those that ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Here is one point from the interview:

Lee Fang: (..) And one of the other revelations in our piece today is basically that, you know, the Atlas Network talks about how any government funding is illegitimate, that foreign aid is basically a bribe, and they’re against foreign aid. At the same time, Atlas Network think tanks all over the world, including in Brazil, including in Venezuela, and in other countries, have relied on U.S. government money. The State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy, which is a government-funded think tank that’s funded by taxpayer dollars, has quietly financed think tanks and Atlas affiliates in Venezuela and many of these other countries. And I think the simple reason is they hope that the Atlas Network helps to push American-friendly governments, that they help transform the politics of the developing world to be more friendly to American foreign policy aims. But it is kind of an interesting irony or hypocrisy that this libertarian think tank network has relied for a very long time on U.S. government money.

There is a lot more in the interview, which I thought fairly interesting.

5. 5 Escape Hatches Republicans May End Up Using to Avoid an Imploding Presidency

This article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

While the downfall of President Donald Trump is far from assured, the signs are multiplying that the Republicans are preparing for a world in which Trump is no longer commander-in-chief. This is not the dreaming of the liberal resistance or the conservative #NeverTrump crowd; we’re talking about the actions of the Republican leadership, rank and file and Vice President Mike Pence himself.

No, the Republicans are not going to impeach Trump, demand his resignation or invoke the 25th Amendment to say he is incapacitated. But they are preparing escape routes from the fallout from his dismal poll numbers, stalled legislative agenda and mounting legal problems.

I say. I do not know whether this is correct, but I tend to agree that one has to be interpreting various signs (that also may be false) to understand the courses and plans of the Republican Party, for these tend to be quite secret.

Morley discusses five possible escape routes that various Republicans may be contemplating, that I leave to your interests.

The article ends as follows:

Rep. Charles Dent, a senior Republican from Pennsylvania and a relative moderate, said many in the party would welcome Trump’s exit.

“For some, it is for ideological reasons, and for others it is for stylistic reasons,” Dent said, complaining about the “exhausting” amount of “instability, chaos and dysfunction” surrounding Trump.

Six months ago, the Republicans gave Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt. Now they doubt he will benefit them, and they are acting accordingly.


[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 1 1/2 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.

[2] I remind you (again) that when I say "an article is recommended" I mean that I recommend you to read it all (which you can do by clicking its title).

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