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Nederlog

March 1, 2019

Crisis: Trump & North-Korea, On Michael Cohen (I & II), On Nethanyahu, On Victor Serge


“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 March 1, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 1, 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 March 1, 2019:
1. What Trump Got Wrong, and Right, on North Korea
2. Michael Cohen Accuses Trump of Lying, Racism & Illegal Activity

3. The Most Harrowing Revelation of the Cohen Hearing

4. Benjamin Netanyahu to Be Indicted on Corruption Charges

5. Victor Serge: Indispensable Critic of Leftist Illusion
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. What Trump Got Wrong, and Right, on North Korea

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

There’s no sugarcoating the failure of President Trump’s second summit meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Despite the buildup — Mr. Trump’s fawning over the love notes they exchanged, the “beautiful” relationship they share and the predictions of great success — the “Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony” the White House had planned was canceled, and the scheduled news conference with Mr. Kim went forward as a solo act by Mr. Trump.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” he told reporters in Hanoi as two days of talks intended to put curbs on North Korea’s nuclear program came to an end.

It was a restrained, sensible reaction from a president who seemed to be in a headlong rush for any deal that would give him at least the appearance of a foreign policy victory.

Yes, this seems all correct - and one reason to review this article is that I am myself not at all sure "what Trump got wrong and right on North Korea".

Then again, my position seems to be widely shared:

What made the meeting collapse isn’t yet certain. If the American explanation is correct — that North Korea wanted all economic sanctions lifted in return only for dismantling its nuclear complex at Yongbyon — then Mr. Trump made the right call in walking away.

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, holding a rare news conference, said his government made a “realistic” proposal for a partial removal of sanctions. But when the Americans “insisted that we should take one more step beyond the dismantlement of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon,” he said, it became clear the United States “was not ready to accept our proposal.”

Yes, but this presumes that "the American explanation is correct." I don't know. It may well be but two additional difficulties are that the talks were mostly private, while indeed my trust in North Korea is on a similar level as my trust in Donald Trump.

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

It was a good sign that the president discussed the outcome in calm and measured tones. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who leads the negotiating effort, spoke of making “real progress,” without defining it, and expressed hope that the two sides “will get back together in the days and weeks ahead and continue to work out what’s a very complex problem.”

That suggests a willingness on the American side, at least, to continue working-level negotiations, which are the only way to achieve an agreement on complex issues. For that to have a chance, North Korea must concur and continue its 400-plus-day self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. Mr. Trump said Mr. Kim planned to do that. Even if he does, the situation is far from stable, since the North continues to produce nuclear fuel and missiles.

I more or less agree and this is a recommended article.

2. Michael Cohen Accuses Trump of Lying, Racism & Illegal Activity

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

In an explosive 5-hour hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen accused his old boss of committing multiple criminal acts before and during his presidency. Cohen provided evidence that Trump had violated campaign finance laws by paying hush money to women, accused the Trump Foundation of committing fraud by using the tax-exempt organization for personal purposes, and said Trump lied when he said he couldn’t release his tax returns because they were being audited. He also claimed that Trump had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks was preparing to publish a trove of emails to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the run-up to the 2016 election. Cohen confirmed the president repeatedly checked in about the status of a proposed Trump Tower Moscow project well into the 2016 campaign, despite public claims to the contrary. But he said he had seen no direct evidence that Trump had colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign. The testimony came two months before Cohen is scheduled to begin a 3-year prison sentence for lying to Congress, a series of financial crimes and campaign violations. We speak with Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net.

I think this is an excellent summary, but it misses one thing: The 5-hour hearing was only a minor part of other evidence Cohen gave, that was not public.

And in fact this is a fairly long article of which I will only quote two more parts. Then again, the next article is also about the Cohen hearing.

Here is something by Cohen:

Cohen told Congress he was ashamed of his own failings.

MICHAEL COHEN: Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for the presidency, to launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actively win. I regret the day I said yes to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.

I am ashamed of my own failings and publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York. I am ashamed of my weakness and my misplaced loyalty, of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him. I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.

I am ashamed, because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop on Democratic National Committee emails.

I say, for this is fairly strong. Then again, Cohen has already been convicted to three years of jail, and may get more, and I suppose - but do not know - that he is mostly telling the truth about himself, indeed mostly (I think) because he does not expect any more help from Trump.

And I do not think that he is telling the truth about Stone and Assange, for both deny Cohen's story. That is far from conclusive either.

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

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Marcy, welcome to Democracy Now! Overall, respond—as you tweeted up a storm yesterday, following every line—what you thought was most important about this explosive five hours before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

MARCY WHEELER: Well, it was kind of overwhelming, because, you know, there are additional details of financial fraud that you weren’t even able to hit on because there was so much there. I think what was most surprising is that Cohen came off more credibly than, certainly, the Republicans who were trying to damage his credibility. Yeah, is he still, you know, a thuggish liar? Yeah. Do we all know what a creep he was during 2016? Absolutely. Yeah, was yesterday a performance? Absolutely. But did he come off at least credibly enough to make what he was saying about Trump generally seem true? And I think he did.

I think I agree with Wheeler, and this is a recommended article (with considerably more than I quoted). Also, the next article is also about Cohen's testimony:

3. The Most Harrowing Revelation of the Cohen Hearing

This article is by Paul Jay on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

Well, Michael Cohen finally made his long-awaited appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. And while there’s a ton to dig into in terms of his accusations against Donald Trump, who–I guess everyone has heard by now–he said he is a racist, a conman, and a cheat. But perhaps the most explosive thing that Cohen said came at the very end, when he said about a man, Trump, that he’s worked with for over 10 years, in a statement that was vetted by his lawyers, he said–at some point he was asked about that. He says that if Donald Trump loses the election in 2020–Well, here’s what he said.

MICHAEL COHEN: Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will not be a peaceful transition of power.

PAUL JAY: That’s essentially saying that if he loses the election there will be a coup. There will be another declaration of national emergency.

Perhaps, and it certainly is a possibility. Also, this is a rather long interview with five people that is too long to properly excerpt in Nederlog. In fact, I found Jay's opinions and statements the most interesting, for which reason I have suppressed the opinions and statements of the other five
(which you can read by going here).

Anyway, here is some more by Jay:

PAUL JAY: I mean, one of the things that Cohen said today is that Trump never expected to win. This was all a marketing ploy to build up the Trump brand. As he started get moving–once he wins the nomination, takes on Pence, which gives him a deal with the Koch brothers, who in the beginning wanted nothing to do with him. But Pence is a Koch brother guy, and now he’s got Pompeo, which is a completely Koch brother creation. But once he becomes president, he becomes a vehicle for so many different political forces. Evangelicals see him as a vessel. The neocons now see him as a vessel. And everything feeds into his megalomania. And so it is a convergence of this guy’s personal, as I say, megalomania, and some much more sophisticated political interests, in the context of a very degenerating, overall, political system, so that–you know, this corruption of Trump is just a tip of the iceberg of pervasive systemic corruption throughout the whole system.

Yes, I think that is correct. Also, I am glad that Jay agrees with me (and many other psychologists and psychiatrists) that Trump is a megalomaniac. Besides, I like it that Jay
uses the term "megalomania" because that has been removed from Wikipedia, in spite of the fact that it is a proper English term since 1895, in preference for the much longer psychiatrese "narcissistic personality disorder" (and this is one of the - quite many - reasons why I do not trust Wikipedia, but that us an aside).

Here is some more by Jay:

PAUL JAY: And I think it’s something specific about the overtness of the Republican Party and Trump, and the GOP has really degenerated. Any voices–certainly in the Republican primary there were many who were very critical of Trump, but the elected, both in the House and the Senate, Republican Party has actually realized that this overt, naked, reactionary, fascistic message works for enough people to get elected.

Yes, I mostly agree with this. Here is a bit by a member of the House:

RO KHANNA: I just want the American public to understand the explosive nature of your testimony in this document. Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the President directed transactions in conspiracy with Allen Weisselberg, and his son Donald Trump Jr, as part of a criminal–part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud. Is that your testimony today?

MICHAEL COHEN: Yes.

Well, that is at least clear and simple. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

PAUL JAY: (..) You know, it’s not enough just to look at campaign financing. It’s not enough to look at corruption at the level of politicians. The big picture is the state of the militarization of the U.S. economy, and the state of the financialization of the U.S. economy. And between Wall Street and the military industrial–and many people add congressional–complex, the level and depth of systemic corruption. I mean, how many big bankers go to jail after outright fraud in the ’07-’08 crash?

Yes indeed: quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article, with a lot more text than I quoted.

4. Benjamin Netanyahu to Be Indicted on Corruption Charges

This article is by Aron Heller on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Israel’s attorney general on Thursday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery and breach of trust in a series of corruption cases, a momentous move that shook up Israel’s election campaign and could spell the end of the prime minister’s illustrious political career.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his decision after more than two years of intense investigations and deliberations.

Police had recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases that ranged from accepting expensive gifts from wealthy allies to allegedly trading influence for more favorable press coverage.

“The attorney general has reached his decision after thoroughly examining the evidence,” his statement said.

I say! Well... I dislike Nethanyahu since a long time, so this news is quite welcome to me.

Here is some more:

An indictment would mark the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged with a crime. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert served time in prison for corruption, but had already resigned by the time he was charged.

Netanyahu doesn’t look to go that quietly. He denies any wrongdoing and calls the various allegations a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office. He has vowed to carry on and is deadlocked in the polls, 40 days before Israelis go to vote.

I strongly hope he looses the elections, but these are only my own values.

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

While Israeli prime ministers are not required by law to resign if charged, the prospect of a prime minister standing trial while simultaneously running the country would be unchartered territory.

Mandelblit’s decision could either galvanize Netanyahu’s hard-line supporters who see him as a victim of an overzealous prosecution or turn more moderate backers against him who have tired of his lengthy rule tainted by long-standing accusations of corruption and hedonism.

I only note that Mandelblit is the attorney general of Israel and that he has "thoroughly examin[ed] the evidence". And this is a recommended article.

5. Victor Serge: Indispensable Critic of Leftist Illusion

This article is by Mitchell Abidor on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

When Victor Serge died of a heart attack in the back of a Mexico City cab on November 17, 1947, there were said to be holes in the soles of his shoes. They spoke of the poverty of his last six years in Mexico, but they also symbolized the peripatetic life of this perpetual exile.

I selected this article mostly because I know at least 50 years about Serge, whom I think was an interesting and intelligent man, who also was a good writer. In case you are interested about Serge, I think it makes sense to read the Wikipedia about him (see Victor Serge) for that article seems quite decent.

Also, I doubt many know who he was, since he died more than 70 years ago, but I guess some may remember reading about him in George Orwell's "Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters" for Orwell liked him as well, and wrote several times about him.

Here is some more about Serge:

Serge sided with Trotsky against Stalin after Lenin’s death, which resulted in his internment in a camp in the Urals and his expulsion to the West in 1936, thanks to a protest campaign of intellectual and political activists. He then abandoned Trotskyism, which had by then hardened into a dogma, and adopted an independent revolutionary socialist line. This was exemplified by his backing in the Spanish Civil War of the anti-Stalinist POUM, the opposition Communist group George Orwell fought for.

Yes, I believe that is correct.

Here is the main reason for this article: A reprint of Serge's "Notebooks 1936-1947" that were discovered in 2010, and are available in French, but this is an English translation. I think that was a very good idea, and here is some more:

The Notebooks 1936–1947 offer the clearest account of this shift and of just how radical it was; read along with his correspondence and articles of the period, they provide us with a complex picture.

In his final years, hatred of the Communists, who attacked him mercilessly and who he believed blocked publication of his novels, and who he feared wanted to assassinate him, became one of his central tenets. But Serge never wavered in his belief that socialism was necessary. Unlike many on the left, both Stalinist and anti-Stalinist, Serge insisted that the nature of socialism had to be rethought.
    (..)
The Serge of the Notebooks saw that freedom and democracy were not mere bourgeois tricks: they were the essence of the radical project, the preconditions without which no permanent, positive change could occur. As early as October 1941, Serge was contemplating such heretical notions.

Yes, I agree with that - and in case you wonder that in the 1940ies "freedom and democracy" were not seen as essential parts in a real socialism, you should realize (and also see Orwell, in the books mentioned above) that especially in England there were then many communist intellectuals, who were often basically totalitarian, and who thought that socialism could (and may be should) do without "freedom and democracy".

Here is more on Serge:

The old schemas were out of date and, later that same month, Serge admitted to feeling an “astonishment tinted with discouragement” at the “linear and mechanically traditional understanding” of revolution on the part of his comrades. Classical Marxism needed revision: “The schematism of two essential classes is largely outmoded,” he believed, and if “we must expect powerful awakenings of the European masses, it must also be admitted that their deep-rooted moderation, their immediate practical sense opposed to combative ideology, and their traditional ideologies will remain important political-psychological factors.”

Yes indeed - and I agree with Serge on the above. (In fact, "the schematism of two essential classes" was already outmoded by World War I, for that was fought on the basis of nationalism and not on the basis of socialism, communism, or radicalism, although real workers who were  convinced of socialism should have refused a capitalist war that in fact was to be fought by German and English workers.)

Here is more on Serge:

His heresies grew more serious as he said that “socialism must renounce the ideas of dictatorship and worker hegemony and become the representative of the large numbers of people in whom a socialist-leaning consciousness is germinating, one obscure and without a doctrinal terminology.” And to crown it all, “That in the immediate coming period the essential thing would be obtaining the reestablishment of traditional democratic freedoms,” which alone can create the conditions for the rebirth of socialist and working-class movements.

I agree with this as well. Here is the last bit on Serge that I quote from this article:

The former Bolshevik was categorical about the enemy: “Stalinism… constitutes the worst danger, the mortal danger which we would be mad to pretend to confront on our own.” Not capitalism, not the Western democracies, Stalin and his agents were the enemy of a new Europe. Serge considered the defeat of Stalinist Communism a precondition for the formation of socialist movements (..)

I think Serge also saw this (more or less) correctly. And this is a strongly recommended article (in which there is much more than I quoted).


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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