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Nederlog

June 20, 2015
Crisis: On "Terrorism", Sanders, Jay & Scheer, Papal Encyclical, Economy
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1.
Refusal to Call Charleston Shootings “Terrorism” Again
     Shows It’s a Meaningless Propaganda Term

2. Inside the mind of Bernie Sanders: unbowed, unchanged,
     and unafraid of a good fight

3. Robert Scheer: Plundering Our Freedom With Abandon
     (Part 3 of 10)

4.
US Catholics ready to follow Pope's 'marching orders' on
     climate change

5. Making the Economy Work for The Many and Not the Few
     #10: End Mass Incarceration, Now.



This is a Nederlog of Saturday June 20, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a very good and quite important article by Glenn Greenwald about (mostly) the term "terrorism"; item 2 is a long read from The Guardian on Bernie Sanders, that I
think is not quite fair; item 3 is about a video by Jay&Scheer, which is here because I like Scheer (and also The Real News); item 4 is about the Catholic
reaction (in the U.S.) to the pope's encyclical about global warming, which may
become important, simply because the pope leads more than a billion Catholics;
and item 5 is about Robert Reich on improving the economy: He is against incarcerating as this is nowadays practiced by the U.S. and I quite agree.

There also are two videos included. This got uploaded a bit later than usual.
1. Refusal to Call Charleston Shootings “Terrorism” Again Shows It’s a Meaningless Propaganda Term

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

In February 2010, a man named Joseph Stack deliberately flew his small airplane into the side of a building that housed a regional IRS office in Austin, Texas, just as 200 agency employees were starting their workday. Along with himself, Stack killed an IRS manager and injured 13 others.

Stack was an anti-tax, anti-government fanatic, and chose his target for exclusively political reasons. He left behind a lengthy manifesto cogently setting forth his largely libertarian political views (along with, as I wrote at the time, some anti-capitalist grievances shared by the left, such as “rage over bailouts, the suffering of America’s poor, and the pilfering of the middle class by a corrupt economic elite and their government-servants”; Stack’s long note ended: “the communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed”). About Stack’s political grievances, his manifesto declared that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.”

That sounds rather familiar to me, first as regards the Sixties: RAF, Weathermen,
Black Panther Party, among others, and second as regards around 1900, withTff violent anarchists, in France, England and the U.S.

Stack differed a bit: Libertarian, using a plane, but that is it, it seems. The common part to all is this: they were leftists (of various kinds, but all of small groups) and they approved their own use of armored violence against their enemies (the state and the capitalists) and also engaged in armed violence, as indeed did Lenin and Stalin, long before the October Revolution. And this is what generally made them "freedom fighters" in their own eyes, and "terrorists" in the eyes of their opponents - as indeed pointed out by me in the Philosophical Dictionary and also in my "On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"".

And my own general point is that the assumption of the right to use armed violence oneself, also granted the realistic possibility that the state against which one agitates falsely assumes and improperly exercises that right,
(1) is generally mistaken, insufficiently and badly motivated; and that therefore, besides the large violent powers of the states one opposes, (2) armed attempt at revolutions have practically nearly always failed.

But this is a good and important article by Glenn Greenwald. I will leave the actual cases he presents to your interests, and only select the general point, that follows first, and his general arguments.

The general point may be indicated by one quote:

The New York Times’s report on the incident stated that while the attack “initially inspired fears of a terrorist attack” — before the identity of the pilot was known — now “in place of the typical portrait of a terrorist driven by ideology, Mr. Stack was described as generally easygoing, a talented amateur musician with marital troubles and a maddening grudge against the tax authorities.”

As a result, said the Paper of Record, “officials ruled out any connection to terrorist groups or causes.”
That poor talented Mr. Stack! He killed eight black people, but he cannot possibly be "a terrorist"! For he was white and not a Muslim (and they were black).

In brief: We - our group's leaders and spokesmen - decide - by groupthinking - who is "a terrorist" and who is "a freedomfighter", and Our Group always is right
and good and fights for freedom, while They, everyone we oppose, are wrong and bad and fight for dictatorships, and are "terrorists".

What one thinks, how one evaluates, what one believes, what one disregards, what one presupposes, generally and for most, almost completely depend on the group one belongs to (Us or Them), and is mostly determined by that, through membership of the group and sharing in its culture and propaganda, and coincides mostly with what the significant people in the group - spokespersons, leaders - say the world is, and what one should do in it and believe about it.

This is simply true for the vast majorities.

Here is Glenn Greenwald's first general terminological point:
And what I especially don’t want is to have this glaring, damaging mythology persist that the term “terrorism” is some sort of objectively discernible, consistently applied designation of a particularly hideous kind of violence. I’m eager to have the term recognized for what it is: a completely malleable, manipulated, vapid term of propaganda that has no consistent application whatsoever. Recognition of that reality is vital to draining the term of its potency.
As I have explained, I quite agree. One major problem is that only small minorities have the wherewithall - the time, the knowledge, and the brains - to think beyond the common ideology that most mostly blindly share, and that are,
as I indicated, mostly determined by their actual memberships in groups.


Here is a further conclusion by Greenwald on the term "terrorism"
Ample scholarship proves that the term “terrorism” is empty, definition-free and invariably manipulated. Harvard’s Lisa Stampnitzky has documented “the inability of researchers to establish a suitable definition of the concept of ‘terrorism’ itself.” The concept of “terrorism” is fundamentally plagued by ideological agendas and self-interested manipulation (..)
Again I quite agree, and indeed maintain that I gave the general reasons for these findings: Groups, Groupthinking, Ideology, and Propaganda rule what are the opinions, values and ends of most ordinary average people everywhere. (And note the alternatives: Individualism, Scientifc Methods, Science and Truth. Which simply are not open and hardly known nor practised by the vast majority.)

Here is the third and last general conclusion of Glenn Greenwald about the term "terrorism":

What is most amazing about all of this is that “terrorism” — a term that is so easily and frequently manipulated and devoid of fixed meaning — has now become central to our political culture and legal framework, a staple of how we are taught to think about the world. It is constantly invoked, as though it is some sort of term of scientific precision, to justify an endless array of radical policies and powers. Everything from the attack on Iraq to torture to endless drone killings to mass surveillance and beyond are justified in its name.

In fact, it is, as I have often argued, a term that justifies everything yet means nothing.
I agree with the first paragraph, except that I find the fact that most people think in terms of Groups, Groupthinking, Ideology, and Propaganda probably less amazing than Glenn Greenwald (and indeed these are my own explanations),
while I explain the fact that "terrorism" is so frequently invoked by the combination of the stupidity and ignorance that hold for most, alas, whuch makes the enormous terminological abuses possible, together with the importance that the propaganda is believed for the ruling elites, who these days blatantly deceive and mislead the populations they lead, generally in the interests of the rich few.

I disagree with the second paragraph, because I think that the term "terrorist"
means a lot: Those to whom it is applied are evil persons with
evil ends who use
evil methods, but I agree with Greenwald in so far as what is "evil" again depends
for most almost wholly on the group one happens to belong to.

But as I said: This is an important article, and it is strongly recommended you read all of it.

2. Inside the mind of Bernie Sanders: unbowed, unchanged, and unafraid of a good fight

The next item is an article by Paul Lewis on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The diplomatic overture was dispatched to Hu Yaobang, chairman of the Chinese Communist party, on 29 October 1981. A near-identical letter was sent to the Kremlin, for the attention of Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union.

“Like an unconscious and uncontrollable force, our planet appears to be drifting toward self-destruction,” the newly installed socialist leader of somewhere called Burlington wrote. He urged them “in the strongest possible way” to disarm militarily and begin immediate negotiations with other world leaders.

Bernie Sanders, the ardently leftwing mayor of Vermont’s largest city, dispatched similar missives to Downing Street, the Élysée palace and the White House, before releasing a statement declaring: “Burlingtonians cannot calmly sit back and watch our planet be destroyed – with hundreds of millions of people incinerated.”

The correspondence, unearthed by the Guardian, confirms what has long been said of America’s longest-serving independent member of Congress who, at the age of 73, recently launched a bid for the Democratic nomination for president. Bernie Sanders is unafraid of punching above his weight.

I say. I think this sets the tone of this long read, that I have read all: "Bernie Sanders is a noble fool; he means well, but really, you and I - well thinking ordinary Britishers - we know that he won't make it".

Here is a bit about what "The Guardian" or Paul Lewis did:

The Guardian has spoken to close to a dozen of Sanders’ closest friends, family, confidants and operatives. They paint a picture of a politician who has spent a lifetime obsessed with the same issues that still drive him today, and is now wrestling with the demands of a 2016 presidential race.

For his part, Sanders suggested in an interview with the Guardian that some of his policies remain a work in progress, but rejected the notion that his surge in popularity should come as a surprise. “I am a United States senator, I did win my last election with 71% of the vote,” he said last week. “So it’s not just like someone just walked in off the street and suddenly they’re Hillary Clinton’s main challenger. We’ve been doing this for a few years.”
And here is a bit about a speech he recently made:

Sanders spoke for an hour, railing against growing economic inequality, the corporate media, millionaires and billionaires, global warming, Barack Obama’s Pacific trade deal and the Iraq war. The Vermont senator promised equal pay for women, tuition-free colleges and universities, an equitable tax system, the right to healthcare for all, an expansion of social security for the elderly, and tough action against Wall Street banks.

Those lucky enough to have a seat spent much of the hour on their feet, in wave after wave of standing ovation, as Sanders laid out his platform in his trademark Brooklyn twang; sober, exasperated, always impassioned.

“The best president in the history of the world – somebody courageous, smart, bold – that person will not be able to address the major crises that we face unless there is a mass political movement, unless there’s a political revolution in this country,” Sanders told his approving audience of more than 700 people.
I must say I agree with all that, though I suppose the "political revolution", somewhat cleverly joined to "700 people", may seem to many a bit too much (once again, by this noble fool).

Well... Sanders is right, but
the "political revolution" may be no more and no less than his election as president, which shows simultaneously that this is not likely, though quite possible, and it would be by peacefull means and through the ballott-box.

Here is the last bit I will quote:

The central thrust of Sanders’ message – about economic inequality and the corruption of political power – has never really changed
OK - I agree to that. And I still like Sanders.
3. Robert Scheer: Plundering Our Freedom With Abandon (Part 3 of 10)
 
The next item was posted by Jenna Berbeo on Truthdig:

To start with, the previous item in this series I reviewed here. And this is the video of the third part:



I'll be following this as well, because I like Robert Scheer, and indeed to an extent share some things, and start with this bit:
SCHEER:  … If you look at Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court, the ruling a year ago in June on why the police can’t crack into your smart phone and use that data —unanimous decision of a Supreme Court that many of us don’t like, you know, but it included the liberals and the conservatives—unanimous. Scalia, everybody, said no, the cops can’t get that data, ‘cause that’s a general warrant. That’s not specific. It’s a violation of due process. They can’t crack the code and convict you on some crime that they were not looking for. It goes back to English common law of the humblest peasant. This goes against your rich guys argument. The humblest peasant is off-limits to an agent of the king, cannot come in and rummage about.
That is true, but the NSA is still spying on everybody, and still storing everyone's private information, for whatever use whatever later government may find for it. (Scheer agrees, I suppose, for these also are facts.)

There is also tjis on the Fourth Amendment:
SCHEER: The reason the Fourth Amendment is so important, as Justice Roberts said, the American Revolution was sparked by that demand. Okay? And when the agents of the king came in looking for your tax violation or are you selling rum or are you doing this or are you paying your taxes, blah blah blah, okay, they said that is what sparked the revolution.
I agree - but (1) this is a historical example (2) the NSA collects incomparably more, and on anyone and (3) these days there seems not by far to be as strong as a felt commitment to privacy as there was in the 18th Century, for whatever
reasons, but one of which follows next:

JAY: And this is why people that say we’re already living in fascism I don’t agree with, ‘cause we’re really not quite there yet. And—.

SCHEER: Those who say we’re already living in fascism have not been in—

JAY: Lived in fascism.

SCHEER:—have not been in a totalitarian country.

JAY: I agree.

Well...yes and no. I have four arguments.

First, I have been to one totalitarian socialist state: The GDR, when I was 14, and my reaction was so strong - "This is fascist bullshit!" literally, though iGerman - that I would have been thrown out of the country had I not fallen ill and had to be hospitalized. Also, I left the CP age 20, of which my father and mother than were 30 or more years a member, in considerable part because I was against totalitarianism.

Second, I agree Holland and the U.S.A. are not fascistic and not totalitarian in quite a number of points, and notably in that I and Scheer (and very many others) may publish and think what we want (but all our ideas are recorded and
stored no doubt, albeit in secret and without our consent, for the benefit of any future government).

But third, there is the quite classical
definition of the American Heritage Dictionary:
fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
which at least applies to "the merging of state and business leadership" - though I agree there is no real terror against most, and no forced thinking, even though there is a lot of propaganda, and there is also this point:

Fourth, Sheldon Wolin feared a kind of fascism is arising in the U.S.A. but in part because there is no real terror against most and no forced thinking and consenting, he defined the attitudes people do have as "inverted totalitarianism" - and for more see my On The Crisis: A. The interviews of Sheldon Wolin by Chris Hedges 1-8

I"ll leave that further for your considerations, and turn to this, that I like, because my communist parents were similarly inspired, and indeed also knew and liked Pete Seeger (who was an American communist):
SCHEER: And, also, anything I tell you in this show, I may be full of it, or I wouldn’t be a journalist. I may have it wrong. Okay? I’m not a big ideologue in that way. I don’t think I’ve got it all, a handle on everything. I really mean that.

But I think—so let me get a little bit autobiographical here, which you wanted to do. I told you about finding those volumes by the garbage can. Now let me go back to my own childhood here, ‘cause it really is important. My father was a part of—there were waves of German immigrants who came to this country, sparked by turmoil in Germany, of different kinds, but usually "Die Gedanken sind frei" [German: Thoughts are free], you know, the desire for freedom. It’s even in Beethoven’s Ninth, you know, the whole idea that, you know, thoughts matter. No tyrant shall—I forget the way it went, Die Gedanken sind frei, but no tyrant shall shape the—no one—no man can deny Die Gedanken sind frei, thought is free.

PETE SEEGER SINGING "DIE GEDANKEN SIND FREI": My thoughts will not cater to duke or dictator / No man can deny, Die Gedanken Sind Frei / No man can deny, Die Gedanken Sind Frei

Then there is this:

SCHEER: But the thing, the reason I am here, the reason that I am an independent person: my father said to me, okay, when you earn your own money, you’re going to be a man, and I’m not going to tell you what to do or anything to think. My father and mother, despite that they were leftists, they never tried to shape my thinking in any kind of overt way.

Yes and no: My parents said the same, but it is also true they influenced me a lot simply because they worked a great lot for the Dutch CP, almost always totally for free, driven by high moral ideals, that were sincerely held, and quite uncommon, and this must have influenced me a lot. Then again, I was left mostly completely free when I started working, age 17.

Finally - and I skipped a lot of biographical information - there is this on Scheer's father:

And I remember—he had a pretty strong temper, my father, although he never hit me, but he would break every dish in the—you know, he had a real temper. And my father took a knife, put it into this wooden table, and said, looked at me and he said, he said, it’s interesting what you’re doing, you do what you want, you know more about this than I do, but if you ever become a Nazi, I’ll kill you. That’s the limits—for his part, that was his threshold. I’ll never forget it. I mean, that was it.

My father never needed to say anything like it and never did, but then he had survived 3 years and 9 months of concentration camp, where his father was murdered, and I knew all that, and had read many books, and seen the exhibition he made for which he was knighted, so this was sort of self-evident for me.

4. US Catholics ready to follow Pope's 'marching orders' on climate change

The next item is by Suzanne Goldernberg on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Leaders of the Catholic church in America took their “marching orders” from the pope’s encyclical on Thursday, fanning out to Congress and the White House to push for action on climate change.

The high-level meetings offered a first glimpse of a vast and highly organised effort by the leadership of America’s nearly 80 million Catholics to turn the pope’s moral call for action into reality.

“It is our marching orders for advocacy,” Joseph Kurtz, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Louisville, said. “It really brings about a new urgency for us.”

Representatives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said they would hold two briefings for members of Congress on Thursday and visit the White House on Friday to promote and explain the pope’s environmental message.

Those efforts will get a new injection of urgency, when the pope delivers a much-anticipated address to Congress during his visit to the US in September, church leaders said.

Church leaders rejected the accusations from some conservatives – including the Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush – that the pope had trespassed into the political realm.

This is here simply because (1) the pope has published an encyclical, in which he took stance against climate change and global warming, and called for action and (2) because he leads over a billion persons, which makes this stance rather important, and possibly relevant.

There is a considerable amount more in the article.

5. Making the Economy Work for The Many and Not the Few #10: End Mass Incarceration, Now.

The last item for today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows, and is the last of 10 videos + texts by Robert Reich, that I also like. Here is the video


This takes a mere 3 minutes, and is quite well done. The text starts as follows:

Imprisoning a staggering number of our people is wrong.
The way our nation does it is even worse. We must end mass
incarceration, now.

If I'm walking down the street with a Black or Latino friend,
my friend is way more likely to be stopped by the police, questioned, and even arrested. Even if we're doing the exact same thing—he or she is more likely to be convicted and sent to jail.

Unless we recognize the racism and abuse of our criminal justice system and tackle the dehumanizing stereotypes that underlie it, our nation – and our economy – will never be as strong as it could be.

I quite agree. (Unfortunately, Reich's text has some formatting problems.)

Here are Reich's general recommendations (bolding in the original):

So what do we do?

First, enact smarter sentencing laws that end mandatory minimums and transform the way we treat people who enter the criminal justice system. Instead of prisons and jails, we need well-paying jobs, and to invest in proven and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration, like job training and mental health and drug treatment programs

Second, stop the militarized policing and end discriminatory policing practices such as "stop and frisk" and "broken windows" that disproportionately target communities of color.

Third, stop building new jails, start closing some existing ones, and begin to invest in schools, public transit, and housing assistance or local jobs programs. States are spending more and more on prisons, while cutting funding for schools. That’s crazy.

Finally, “ban the box” – the box on job applications that asks whether you have ever been convicted of a felony on a job application. Already, dozens of states cities, and counties have passed bills requiring that employers consider what you can do in the future, not what you might have done in the past.

Instead of locking people up unjustly, and then locking them out of the economy for the rest of their lives, we need to stop wasting human talent and start opening doors of opportunity – to everyone.

I quite agree.
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