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Nederlog

February 28, 2019

Crisis: Michael Cohen vs. Trump, Cohen's Testimony, Climate Change, A Conman & Liar, Brzezinski


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 28, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, February 28, 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:

. Selections from February 28, 2019:
1. Michael Cohen Accuses Trump of Expansive Pattern of Lies and
     Criminality

2. Read Michael Cohen's Prepared Testimony in Its Entirety

3. Our Five Biggest Delusions About Climate Change

4. A Conman, a Liar, and a Rigged System

5. Counter-histories of the Internet
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. Michael Cohen Accuses Trump of Expansive Pattern of Lies and Criminality

This article is by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer accused him on Wednesday of an expansive pattern of lies and criminality, offering a damning portrayal of life inside the president’s orbit where he said advisers sacrificed integrity for proximity to power.

Michael D. Cohen, who represented Mr. Trump for a decade, laid out for Congress for the first time a series of deceptions by the president. He charged that Mr. Trump lied to the public about business interests in Russia, lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails and told Mr. Cohen to lie about hush payments to cover up sexual misconduct.

The accusations, aired at a daylong hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, exposed a dark underside of Mr. Trump’s business and political worlds in the voice of one of the ultimate insiders. Perhaps no close associate has turned on a president in front of Congress in such dramatic fashion and with such high stakes since John Dean testified against President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

“He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat,” Mr. Cohen said of the president. Mr. Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying under oath to Congress, among other crimes, said he did so to protect Mr. Trump. “I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore,” he said.

I say, which I do because the above evidence is given by someome who was for ten years very close to Trump, and because the evidence is rather sensational. This is also the reason that in today's Nederlog there are three articles about Cohen's evidence.

Here is some more:

While the details have been different, his portrait of the president broadly resembles those provided by others who have split with Mr. Trump, including former aides, business associates and even his onetime ghostwriter, who likewise have described a president who bullies, dissembles and cheats to serve his own interests.
    (..)
But it remained unclear whether Mr. Cohen’s testimony would change the political dynamics of a series of scandals that have already polarized Washington and the country and that could lead to an impeachment battle this year.

Well... in fact I am unclear what a phrase like "it remained unclear whether Mr. Cohen’s testimony would change the political dynamics of a series of scandals" is supposed to mean.
For me, it is pretty meaningless ("
would change", "the political dynamics", "a series of scandals").

What does seem a fact, at least in my conception, is that Michael Cohen was for ten years very close to Trump.

Here is some more on Cohen and his sincerity:

As with so many other moments of the Trump era, the hearing seemed to be as much about partisan theater as fact-finding. Democrats and Republicans set forth their conflicting narratives about the man who once served Mr. Trump, either as a duplicitous disgruntled former employee or a fallen sinner trying to redeem himself by coming clean.

Through it all sat Mr. Cohen, 52, with dark circles under his puffy eyes, already tired from eight hours of testimony behind closed doors the day before and awaiting a three-year prison term that begins this spring. Apologizing repeatedly to his family, Mr. Cohen portrayed himself as a broken man brought down by hubris, at one point choking up and wiping tears from his eyes at the mention of the effect on his daughter.

Through some five hours of nationally televised testimony, Mr. Cohen described his years working for Mr. Trump as a trip into a world of deceit in which the now-disbarred lawyer ignored his own conscience to get close to a magnetic person of power.

I certainly do not know when and where Cohen is sincere, but I do think his present evidence seems a lot more credible than when he was still Trump's personal lawyer. Besides, while some of Cohen's evidence (5 hours) was nationally televised, there is more evidence (8 hours) that was not released to the public.

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

Mr. Cohen offered some tantalizing hints of more to come. Asked about his last conversation with Mr. Trump, he said he could not answer because it is “being investigated right now” by federal prosecutors in New York. Asked if he knew of other wrongdoing or crimes by Mr. Trump, he said: “Yes. And again, those are part of the investigation.”

More generally, Mr. Cohen compared Mr. Trump to a mobster who inflated his net worth to the public while understating it to tax authorities, rigged an art auction using his charitable foundation and threatened those who got in his way.

Mr. Cohen estimated that Mr. Trump had asked him to threaten someone perhaps 500 times over 10 years, from berating a “nasty reporter” to warning of lawsuits. He provided letters he wrote during the campaign at Mr. Trump’s direction to the president’s high school, colleges and the College Board threatening civil and criminal action if they released his grades or SAT scores.

Mr. Trump did not run for president to make the country great, according to Mr. Cohen, instead calling his campaign the “greatest infomercial in political history” for his business. “He never expected to win the primary,” he said. “He never expected to win the general election. The campaign, for him, was always a marketing opportunity.” But now, Mr. Cohen said, he fears that if Mr. Trump loses re-election next year, “there will never be a peaceful transition of power.

Incidentally, note that "Mr. Trump had asked [Cohen] to threaten someone" happened for ten years on average (almost) each and every week. And I do believe Cohen's "[Trump] never expected to win the primary” and his "He never expected to win the general election", which incidentally also suggests that one important factor in Trump's winning both was the nearly endless free time that was given to him on the corporatist (mainstream) media.

Anyway, this is a recommended article. Here is more on Cohen:


2. Read Michael Cohen's Prepared Testimony in Its Entirety

This article is by The Associated Press and Truthdig Staff. It starts as follows:

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer is preparing to tell a House committee Wednesday that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and that he is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”

Michael Cohen suggests in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press that Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow real estate project. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project, which he says Trump knew about as Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the election.

Cohen says Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but that “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing.”

Cohen said that “in his way, he was telling me to lie.”

In the testimony, Cohen apologizes for his actions and says “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.”

I think I believe Cohen's evidence in the first four quoted paragraphs, and I like his explanation of how Trump made Cohen lie: By denying what are now presumed painful facts to the public, which means that Cohen had to follow him or else was forced to explicitly deny Trump.

Then there is this on Trump's racism:

Cohen also says that Trump made racist comments about African-Americans, saying at one point that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid. Cohen says that he and Trump once drove through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago and that Trump remarked that only black people could live that way.

He also says Trump once asked him to name a country run by a black person that wasn’t falling apart, though he says Trump used a vulgarism. At the time Barack Obama was America’s president.

I think I also believe the above statements. Then there is this in the article:

He met with the Senate intelligence committee for more than nine hours behind closed doors on Tuesday. Cohen said he appreciated the opportunity to “clear the record and tell the truth” after acknowledging he lied to the committee in 2017.

It was the first of three consecutive days of congressional appearances for Cohen. After the public hearing Wednesday, he will appear before the House intelligence panel Thursday, again speaking in private.

Note that Cohen said quite a lot more behind closed doors (measured in terms of hours) than was made public, and this may be quite important later.

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

Read the statement in its entirety here.

This is here only to given those who want to read all that Cohen publicly said, a chance to read all he said. (I will not be one of them, but then I am ill and have more to do.) And this is a recommended article. 

3. Our Five Biggest Delusions About Climate Change

This article is by David Wallace-Wells on Common Dreams and originally on Los Angeles Times. This is from near its beginning:

[C]limate change isn’t binary, and this is one of the five major misapprehensions even engaged liberals have about warming. It’s not a question of whether it will happen or not, or whether it will be like the 2018 wildfire season or 64 times worse. Climate change is a function that will get worse over time as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gas.

No matter how bad it gets, it will always be the case that the following decade could bring more suffering — or less. And believe it or not, the amount will always be up to us. Climate change may seem intimidatingly large, but the responsibility is entirely ours.

I have no idea about who Wallace-Wells is, but I learned that an earlier article of his about climate change was accused by "scientists" of exaggeraring. And while I also do not know whether that is probable or true, I reject his statement that "the responsibility" for climate change "is entirely ours":

I am reading about the environment (let's say) since 1972, and one of the things that became absolutely clear is that a man like myself, who is poor and ill, has no responsibility for the environment, simply because I lack wealth and power, and do not control any corporation or any politician or any political party.

But Wallace-Wells absolutely wants to accuse me and everyone else (much rather than the extremely wealthy and very powerful persons who did make the decisions):

We tend to think of global warming as a legacy of the Industrial Revolution. In fact, according to my research, more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has come in the last 30 years. That is, since Al Gore published his first book on climate, and since the premiere of “Seinfeld.”
 
The United Nations established its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988, signaling to all the world a scientific consensus about the problem. Since then, we have done more damage, knowingly, than we did over preceding centuries, in ignorance.

No, I do not "think of global warming as a legacy of the Industrial Revolution", and no I have not "done more damage, knowingly" than I or "we did over preceding centuries".

Then there is this:

The third misunderstanding is about scope. So much of what we know to fear about global warming concerns sea level rise; if we don’t live right on the coast, we tend to think, we should be OK. In fact, if warming continues unabated, by the end of even this century, no life will remain untouched.
 
Agricultural yields could fall by half. Warfare could double, since every half-degree of warming is likely to bring 10% to 20% more armed conflict. Global GDP could fall by as much as a third; the impact would be twice as deep as the Great Depression, and permanent. Overall, according to my calculations, the damage could reach $600 trillion, or more wealth than exists in the world today.

No, I don't fear "sea level rise" especially, though Amsterdam (where I live) is at present a bit over 2 meters below sea level, while all the rest of the above quoted paragraphs might become
true but are at present the speculations of Wallace-Wells.

Here is more:

The fourth delusion is about severity. For decades, scientists have defined two degrees as the threshold of climate catastrophe, and many of us have treated that level of warming as a worst-case scenario. In fact, it is a best-case scenario that, at this point, will be almost impossible to achieve.
 
With an increase of two degrees, many cities in India and the Middle East would become literally unlivable because of heat, and several ice sheets would begin an irreversible collapse. If we lost all Arctic and Antarctic ice, sea levels could, over centuries, rise by 200 feet. Or more.

No, I have never believed that two degrees of warming was the "worse-case scenario" (not since 1972). Also, while it might be true that "sea levels could (..) rise by 200 feet. Or more." this also is the case "over centuries", and one thing I have learned from the (former) science of futurology is that all predictions of what is supposed to happen in several hundreds of years is essentially boloney.

Here is the fifth "major misapprehension" I suppose Wallace-Wells supposes me to be "deluded" (his term) about:

[T]he fifth major misapprehension is that science is even capable of containing and describing the sum total of the assaults. In fact, the indirect effects may be even more profound: on our psychology, our culture, our sense of place in nature and history, our relationship to technology and to capitalism. Not to mention our geopolitics.

So "science is" not "capable of containing and describing the sum total of the assaults" (from the climate)? I am sorry, but who should we then ask if not scientists? Psychics, perhaps?

I am sorry, but I think this is an exaggerated story with hardly or no independent evidence, and if you want to read a similar appraisal by Michael Mann, a climatologist who does believe - like almost all climatologists - in climate change, you should look here.

Here is one bit of Mann:

"The article argues that climate change will render the Earth uninhabitable by the end of this century," Mann wrote. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The article fails to produce it."

I agree.

4. A Conman, a Liar, and a Rigged System

This article is by Peter Bloom on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Present Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is testifying in front of congress today. On the surface, this is an attempt to get to the truth of Trump’s misdeeds as a candidate. Cohen has intimate knowledge of his actions and character, and give a first hand account of hush money payments, WikiLeak conspiracies, and even potentially possible Russian collusion. Republicans, not surprisingly, have been quick to paint Cohen as a quite literally unbelievable. Yet the picture, Cohen provides of Trump is both credible and shocking.

The testimony will most probably be best remembered for Cohen referring to the President as a “conman” and a “racist”. These are not new claims to be sure. However, hearing them backed up with such rich ancedotes as Trump getting pleasure out of underpaying or not paying for services or questioning whether black people could successfully lead countries in private conversation, reinforces an image of him as morally corrupt and ethically despicable.

This is the third article on Cohen's evidence in Congress, and it is the best of those that I have read about it, and the above appreciation seems correct to me.

Here is some more:

If there is one thing that everyone from all sides can agree upon, in this regard, it is that Cohen’s testimony is certainly salacious. He is recounting tales of sex, money, and power. Of Trump using charity money to secretly have someone buy a portrait of himself for huge amounts of money at an auction. Of him bragging that the government was so stupid for giving him 10 million dollars in tax refunds. It is also political theater at its finest.

Yes, I agree. Here is more:

It is undeniably disturbing that an entity such as WikiLeaks could use its subversive powers to hurt Clinton for Trump’s advantage. However, it is also worrying that everything it released about Clinton was in fact true. And even more so, that the mainstream media has failed for so long to critically uncover the systematic corruption of elites and the status quo. It is the absence of an independent media that gives birth to such rogue and unregulated viral leakers.

I do not agree to the first quoted statement above, especially not as the next statement says that "everything it released about Clinton was in fact true", but the rest is correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. Counter-histories of the Internet

This article is by Marta Figlerowicz on Public Books. This is from near its beginning:

Two recent books address similar speculative scenarios in the course of offering alternative histories of the internet: David Clark’s Designing an Internet and Joy Lisi Rankin’s A People’s History of Computing in the United States. Clark’s book introduces its readers to scientists who designed our networks, many of whom still dream of redesigning them. Rankin writes about groups of students and researchers who used early computers with uncommon egalitarianism. Both authors wonder why versions of the internet that they personally favor have not prevailed. They also hope that recalling such forgotten projects could inspire their readers to fight for a better digital future. In fact, this article is a review of the two books mentioned above. I did not like it much, but this may not be the fault of Figlerowicz. Also, I have my own theory of the rise of the internet, that I will expound - briefly, again - at the end of the present review.

Here is some more by Figlerowicz:

Extant histories of the internet favor either heroic or deterministic narratives. (...)
With some variations, these narratives portray the digital revolution as born from the improbable marriage of countercultural hippie experiments and the military-industrial complex. The blame for their unfortunate offspring—namely, rampant self-expression monetized by savvy entrepreneurs and embraced by a generally ignorant populace—is laid at the feet of now one, now the other of its putative parents.

I think that a portrayal of "the digital revolution as born from the improbable marriage of countercultural hippie experiments and the military-industrial complex" is partially correct, but is definitely too vague in blaiming "the military-industrial complex", for the simple reason that it was very clearly DARPA - i.e. the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - that funded the arisal of the internet and much else.

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

In fact, both books attempt two wholly different and new tasks. First, they show how much of early computing was done amid multigenerational, partly aimless academic communities working collectively, more motivated by curiosity and pedagogy than by ego, power, or profit. Second, they contest the evolutionary logic that would accept the current version of the internet as the most optimal possible outcome. The internet, as they see it, emerged out of a multiplicity of divergent trajectories and models of development.

I think that is correct. I said above that "I have my own theory of the rise of the internet" that I would expound below, and here it is once again.

It is taken from my Crisis: propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968 that I wrote in October of 2012 (much hindered then by very bad eyes, that meanwhile are a lot better but not healed), and I will simply quote what I wrote then:

The best book I've read about the French student revolt of May 1968, that I have seen myself in Paris, is by Stephen Spender: "The Year of The Young Rebels". MY copy is from May 1969, in Vintage Books., Library of Congtress Card Nr. 78-78801.

It is interesting for many reasons, and one is the following  rather amazing quotation, especially in view of what has been happening lately with civil liberties.

Note that the following was published in 1969 - and I copy with line breaks and all:

----------------------------------------------------------
p. 153

The idea of the technotronic society seems to be under the
auspices of Zbigniev Brezezinski, until recently a member of
the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department, and now
Director of the Research Institute of Communist Affairs at
Columbia University. The 'technotronic society' seems to be the
exact opposite of the society of 'spontaneity' demanded by
revolutionary students, who Mr Brezezinskin evidently regards
as pathetic throw-backs, survivors of Romantic days, forlornly
playing out anachronistic roles: (1)

Our society is leaving the phase of spontaneity and is entering a
more
self-conscious state; ceasing to be an industrial society, its is being shaped to an ever-increasing extent by technology and electronics,
       
        (1) New Republic, 13 December 1967

p.154

and thus becoming the first technotronic society. This is at least in part
the cause for much of the current tensions and violence, and largely the reason why events in America today do not fit established categories of analysis.

Mr Brzezinski realises that the technotronic society fills some
people with uneasiness (in this respect the reactionaries and the
revolutionaries are as one).
(...)
   However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite
lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new
order. For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost
continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-
date, complete files, containing even personal information
about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be
possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
-----------------------------------------------------------
See e.g. my Crisis:  Big Brother is watching you written 44 years later. And note that Mr Brezezinski is still alive, and may still be advising the powers that be. The Wikipedia article on him is quite interesting and long, and also contains this quote:
"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities." – Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970

I could quote some more, such as the fact that Brzezinski was the head of national security under Carter, but Brzezinski recently died; almost all references to Spender's book have disappeared, as have most painful details about Brzezinski on Wikipedia (as quoted above); and I am also getting rather tired from repeating this over and again - and note that the last quote gives what was realized on the internet by the 1990ies - without ever getting any reaction.

In any case, I find the enormous power that the surveillance state has given to the secret services one of the most frightening bits there is about the future - which I am very glad that I mostly will miss because of my age (nearly 69).

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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