March 11, 2018

Crisis: Criticism in China, Michael Cohen, Arms Talks, Shkreli Problem, Trump´s (In)capacities


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 11, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 11, 2018.

1. Summary

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

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 two 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from March 11, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. In China, Critics Silenced on Move to End Term Limits 
2. Donald Trump's Relentless Fixer: The Many Mysterious Doings of Michael

3. Gang of Four: Senators Call for Tillerson to Enter into Arms Control Talks
     with the Kremlin

4. America’s Shkreli Problem
5. Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Are We Pushing Him Toward War?
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. In China, Critics Silenced on Move to End Term Limits

This article is by Gerry Shih and Yanan Wang on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
The day China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled a proposal to allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely as Mao Zedong did a generation ago, Ma Bo was so shaken he couldn’t sleep.

So Ma, a renowned writer, wrote a social media post urging the party to remember the history of unchecked one-man rule that ended in catastrophe.

“History is regressing badly,” Ma thundered in his post. “As a Chinese of conscience, I cannot stay silent!”

Censors silenced him anyway, swiftly wiping his post from the internet.

As China’s rubber-stamp legislature prepares to approve constitutional changes abolishing term limits for the president on Sunday, signs of dissent and biting satire have been all but snuffed out. The stifling censorship leaves intellectuals, young white-collar workers and retired veterans of past political campaigns using roundabout ways to voice their concerns. For many, it’s a foreshadowing of greater political repression ahead.

I quite agree with Ma Bo and I admire his courage, but I should add that Xi Jinping has very much more power than Mao Zedong ever had, and that he owes this to the invention of the internet, that seems to have been sponsored and planned by men like Zbigniew Brzezinski since 1967 and which is the purest gift to spies, sadists, neofascists and each and every dictator anywhere: A few hundreds of thousands of anonymous and secret spies now finally can fully control tens of millions by implicitly knowing all they want, believe, desire, and do.

So yes, I believe Ma Bo. Here is more on the consciences of very many Chinese:

“There’s a lot of fear,” said Ma, who writes under the pen name Old Ghost. “People know that Xi’s about to become the emperor, so they don’t dare cross his path. Most people are just watching, observing.”

Once passed, the constitutional amendment would upend a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

As I said, I agree with Ma. Then again, I have to supplement Shih and Wang, and do so on the basis of a recent rereading of Simon Leys´s (originally: Pierre Ryckmans) ¨The New Clothes of Chairman Mao¨, which was first printed in 1971. According to Ryckmans - whom I trust, and who was one of the few Westerners who wrote the truth about China, based on a solid understanding of Chinese, and to the best of his abilities, since the late 1960ies.

And my supplement is simply this: Mao´s efforts to become or remain a dictator started already in 1956-57, with the Hundred Flowers Campaign, and lasted until 1976, when Mao died. I think that is correct, and for more see the last link and the books by Simon Leys.

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

However, a 35-year old IT industry worker surnamed Huang said her friends were concerned about China returning to the Mao era.

“I saw on (state broadcaster) CCTV’s evening news that they were saying everyone fully supports the constitutional amendments, but no one asked us for our opinion. Our opinion is quickly censored,” she said. “This is China. What can we do about it?”

Neither would give their full names as is common among Chinese when commenting on politics.

Even some of the government’s most outspoken critics have been reluctant to loudly criticize the constitutional amendment.

Well... since with the help of internet the Chinese government can read all or the very large majority of any critical writing that is done in China or that reaches China from the outside, the Chinese government can probably shut up virtually all Chinese who live in China.

And that is the main and quite frightening difference between Mao´s China and Xi´s China: In Xi´s China any critic can be very quickly found; his or her criticisms can be very quickly be disappeared; and indeed the same may happen to the person who wrote or published the criticism. This is a recommended article.

2. Donald Trump's Relentless Fixer: The Many Mysterious Doings of Michael Cohen

This article is by Heather Digby Parton on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

If there is one person lurking around the shadows of every Trump scandal, it would be his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, known as the Tom Hagen of the Trump family, only with much less class and dignity than the original consigliere of "Godfather" fame. Back in 2011 ABC News described him as "the man behind Donald Trump's possible 2012 presidential campaign," and asked him about the Hagen reference. He replied: 

[I]f somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit. If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished.

Presumably that does not include putting horse's heads in people's beds, but you never know. He certainly likes to make people believe he would stop at nothing to protect "Mr. Trump."
Yes indeed. The reference to ¨putting horse's heads in people's beds¨ is in fact to ¨The Godfather¨ (which is from 1972). And I did not know who Mr. Cohen is, but after having seen his words quoted, I have no hesitation to say - as a psychologist - that he strikes me as a typical sadist. And sadists are briefly defined as follows (in my Philosophical Dictionary):
Sadism: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others or from causing others pain or misery.

The term 'sadism' is derived from the Marquis de Sade, who much exulted in sexual pleasure derived from the infliction of pain and of cruelty to others, and who wrote many books in praise of sadism, especially in the defined sexual sense.

When sadism is defined without necessary involvement of sexual pleasure, but in effect as the human-all-too-human joys derived from malice, it may be seen that sadism, thus defined, accounts for many human acts, especially against those whom the perpetrators dislike, consider as enemies, or believe to be inferior.

Indeed, there is much more sadism in human beings than  most are willing to admit: Very many people derive much pleasure from being in positions of power and by hurting, denigrating, demeaning or displeasing others. It probably does not arouse most of them sexually, but they wouldn't do it if it did not please them. And this kind of pleasure seems to be one of the strongest motivators of those who desire to be boss: To let others feel they are inferior.

"We never hurt each other but by error or by malice." 
   (Sir Robert Chambers, possibly inspired by Dr. Johnson)

In case you doubt this, here is some more:

At the beginning of the campaign CNN's Don Lemon questioned Trump about his declaration that undocumented immigrants were criminals and rapists and Trump responded, "Well, somebody's doing the raping." This prompted Brandy Zadrozny and Tim Mak of the Daily Beast to inquire into claims by Trump's first wife, Ivana, during their divorce that Trump had blamed her for his botched scalp reduction surgery and violently raped her in retaliation. Cohen responded to the reporters by saying that a spouse cannot legally be held liable for rape (which is not true) and threatened them in true "Godfather" style:

I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me? You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it.

I say. There is more in the article, that is recommended.

3. Gang of Four: Senators Call for Tillerson to Enter into Arms Control Talks with the Kremlin

This article is by Gilbert Doctorow and Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
In a sad commentary on the parlous state of the U.S. media, a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from four United States Senators dated March 8 calling for opening arms control talks with the Kremlin ASAP is nowhere to be found in mainstream newspapers a day after its release on the Senate home page of one of the authors, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Nothing in the New York Times.  Nothing in the Washington Post.  And so, it is left to alternative media to bring to the attention of its readership a major development in domestic politics, a significant change in what its own senior politicians are saying should be done about Russia that was brought to our attention by …..the Russian mainstream media including the agency RIA Novosti, RBK, Tass within hours of initial posting.
I say, which I do because Doctorow and McGovern are certainly quite right in saying that this is the first time that I hear of this ¨major development in domestic politics¨, which I agree with them is - let´s say - somewhat extra-ordinary, though I also agree with them (I think) that the American mainstream media tend to be filled wit various kinds of propaganda.

Here is some more on Feinstein and Sanders:
What we have is, first, a genuine man bites dog story.  Two of the senators who penned the letter, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), have in recent months been among the most vociferous promoters of the unproven allegations of Trump collusion with the Russians. Now they are putting aside for the moment their attacks on Trump and members of his entourage who dared shake hands or share a joke with a Russian ambassador. They are openly calling upon the Secretary of State to send U.S. personnel to negotiate with Putin’s minions over our survival on this planet.
Well... first of all, I admit that I strongly dislike Dianne Feinstein, while I like Bernie Sanders. And I add that since I am convinced that ¨Russia-gate¨ is very probably a false story, I do not understand Sanders´ position with regards to Russia. But then I can like a man for his character and much of his politics, without agreeing on all he says, and that it my position about Sanders.

Also, I grant that I cannot possibly read all or most of the ¨Russia-gate¨ ¨news¨, but I think that the paragraph I just quoted may be a little strong.

Anyway. Here is some more:
Not to be ruled out is the possibility that the four senators may also be motivated by a new appreciation of the dangers of blaming everything on Russia, with the possible result of U.S.-Russia relations falling into a state of complete disrepair. The key question is whether President Putin can be de-demonized. That will depend on the mainstream media, which, alas, is not accustomed to reassessing and silencing the bellicose drums — even in the face of new realities like the petering out of Russiagate and Putin’s entirely credible declaration of strategic parity.
Quite possibly so, although I also think that ¨de-demonizing¨ Putin for the purpose of the relations between the USA and Russia does less depend ¨on the mainstream media¨ than it does
on the ideas and values within the CIA, the NSA and the leaders in Trump´s government.

4. America’s Shkreli Problem

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
On Friday, Martin Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison. What, if anything, does Shkreli’s downfall tell us about modern America?

In 2015, Shkreli founded and became CEO Turing Pharmaceuticals. Under his direction Turing spent $55 million for the U.S. rights to sell a drug called Daraprim. Developed in 1953, Daraprim is the only approved treatment for toxoplasmosis, a rare parasitic disease that can cause birth defects in unborn babies, and lead to seizures, blindness, and death in cancer patients and people with AIDS. Daraprim is on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines.

Months after he bought the drug, Schkreli raised its price by over 5,000 percent, from $13.50 a pill to $750.00.

Shkreli was roundly criticized, but he was defiant: “No one wants to say it, no one’s proud of it, but this is a capitalist society, a capitalist system and capitalist rules.” He said he wished he had raised the price even higher, and would buy another essential drug and raise its price, too.

I should start by admitting that I am not interested in Shkreli as a person, but I am interested in him as a type. And in fact I guess the same is true of Robert Reich, although I think I should add that Reich - who is a ¨progressive¨ and a ¨liberal¨, as these terms are used in the USA - has been and probably still is considerably more pro-capitalism than I am.

Then again, I think he is mostly right about Martin Shkreli. Here is some more about Shkreli:

In anticipation of his criminal trial, Shkreli boasted to the New Yorker magazine, “I think they’ll return a not-guilty verdict in two hours. There are going to be jurors who will be fans of mine. I walk down the streets of New York and people shake my hand. They say, ‘I want to be just like you.’”

During his trial, Shkreli strolled into a room filled with reporters and made light of a particular witness, for which the trial judge rebuked him. On his Facebook page he mocked the prosecutors, and told news outlets they were a “junior varsity” team.

He retaliated against journalists who criticized him by purchasing internet domains associated with their names and ridiculing them on the sites. “I wouldn’t call these people ‘journalists,’” he wrote in an email to Business Insider. He said on Facebook that if he were acquitted he’d be able to have sex with a female journalist he often posted about online.

Well... in brief, Shkreli is another sadist (see the link for my sense), but this time of a more neofascist type than some others, and without - it seems - any norm other than his personal greed and his personal profits that, in his eyes, justify anything whatsoever:

Shkreli’s story is tragic and pathetic, but I ask you: How different is Martin Shkreli from other figures who dominate American life today, even at the highest rungs?

Shkreli will do whatever it takes to win, regardless of the consequences for anyone else. He believes that the norms other people live by don’t apply to him. His attitude toward the law is that anything he wants to do is okay unless it is clearly illegal – and even if illegal, it’s okay if he can get away with it.

He’s contemptuous of anyone who gets in his way – whether judges, prosecutors, members of Congress, or journalists. He remains unapologetic for what he did. He is utterly shameless.

Sound familiar? The Shkreli personality disorder can be found on Wall Street, in the executive suites of some of America’s largest corporations, in Hollywood, in Silicon Valley, in some of our most prestigious universities, and in Washington. If you look hard enough, you might even find it in Trump’s White House. 

Face it: America has a Shkreli problem.

I disagree with Reich that ¨Shkreli’s story is tragic and pathetic¨: I think the legal outcome was quite deserved, but I agree with Reich that quite a few of the ¨figures who dominate American life today, even at the highest rungs¨ are sadists, psychopaths (not ¨sociopaths¨), or moral degenerates, who also usually happen to be neofascists, for the simple reason that for them there are precisely two rules that count: personal greed and personal profits.

It is possible (and somewhat probable) that not all are explicit and self-conscious sadists, but then again it is quite difficult to say objectively where personal greed ends and where personal sadism starts, especially if the personal greed gave them millions which were effectively stolen from the poorest Americans there are. And this is a recommended article.

5. Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Are We Pushing Him Toward War?

This article is by Matt Taibbi on Common Dreams and originally on Rolling Stone. This is from near its beginning:

Speakers like Madeline Albright, Senator Chris Murphy, New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger, U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and a host of other CNN panelist types are getting together to discuss how to solve that whole "The people are revolting!" problem Beltway pols have been stumbling over for years now.

The Alliance is part of the German Marshall Fund, which in turn is the group that built Hamilton 68, whose "digital dashboard" blacklist site exists to remind us daily that Russians are lurking behind basically all unorthodox opinions here in the U.S. Such opinions apparently include any desire to not get into a nuclear war.

For instance, according to Hamilton 68, five of the Russian bots' current six "top trending topics" are "South Korea," "Kim Jong Un," "Kim," "Jong" and "Un."
I say, which I do this time quite simply because none of the above ever reached me, and I also have no ideas about it, except that I disbelieve the ridiculous names Hamilton 68 assigns to what it disqualifies as ¨Russian bots¨: These names simply sound too stupid.

Here is more by Matt Taibbi:
I stupidly thought it was good news that Trump had been convinced to sit down with Kim Jong Un to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff, as opposed to letting him continue to egg Kim on to launch via Freudian name-calling sessions and late-night tweets.

Obviously, whenever Donald Trump is involved in any meeting of import, and particularly a peace negotiation, it would be preferable to have him gagged, perhaps with the straitjacket-and-mask setup they used to allow Hannibal Lecter to speak with Senator Ruth Martin in Silence of the Lambs. Certainly you don't want him making any sudden movements toward the nuclear football in a meeting with Kim.
Well... I think I understand Matt Taibbi, but I don´t quite agree with him. And the problem I see with Taibbi´s position - ¨it would be preferable to have him gagged, perhaps with the straitjacket-and-mask setup¨ - is quite simply that Trump is president of the USA, and these measures are completely irrealistic for any such man, however bad and rotten he may be (and is, in Trump´s case, for as I said: I think I understand Matt Taibbi).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
We have the dumbest, least competent White House in history. Whatever else anyone in America has as a goal for Trump's remaining time in office, the single most important priority must to be keeping this guy away from the nuclear button. Almost anything else would be survivable.
My point is that while I probably agree far more than not with Taibbi´s judgements about Trump, I also cannot deny he is president of the USA and that he may start a nuclear war whenever he pleases in any case, whether or not he talks personally with Kim Jong-Un.

Anyway... while I disagree with Taibbi´s present judgement, I like him enough to recommend his present article.


[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 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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