September 23, 2018

Crisis: Kavanaugh, Fahrenheit 11/9, On The New York Times, On Germany, Orwell and the ILP


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 23, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, September 23, 2018.

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 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from September 23, 2018:
1. Kavanaugh Accuser Accepts Senate's Request to Tell Her Side
2. Lessons from Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9: Establishment
     Democrats Sold Out the Voters

3. The New York Times as Judge and Jury
4. How the Alternative for Germany Has Transformed the Country
5. Why I join the ILP
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. Kavanaugh Accuser Accepts Senate's Request to Tell Her Side

This article is by Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual assault has accepted a Senate committee’s request to tell her side next week but Christine Blasey Ford wants to resume negotiations over the exact terms of her appearance, her lawyers said Saturday.

It was not immediately clear whether the Republican-run Senate Judiciary Committee would agree to more talks with Ford’s team. Also unclear was when she might come to Capitol Hill and whether she was offering to speak in a public session or a private one. The committee wanted her to appear Wednesday, but she prefers her earlier request for Thursday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

I say, for this is far from clear, other than that Christine Blasey Ford has "accepted a Senate committee’s request to tell her side next week".

Here is some more:

The lawyers wrote that Ford “accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week.”

Attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said many aspects of Grassley’s latest offer were “fundamentally inconsistent” with the committee’s promise of a “fair, impartial investigation.” They said they remained disappointed by the “bullying” that “tainted the process.” Yet they remained “hopeful that we can reach agreement on details.”

I take that as given, but add the last bit of this article for clarity's sake:
Ford’s request for security comes after her lawyers said she has relocated her family due to death threats.
For Christine Blasey Ford has received death threats. And this is a recommended article.
2. Lessons from Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9: Establishment Democrats Sold Out the Voters

This article is by Sophie McClennen on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

Michael Moore’s new film “Fahrenheit 11/9” opened nationwide this week in 1,719 theaters —  a record for a non-fiction film that isn’t about a pop icon or wild animals.  Billed as the film that would tell us how the f*&k we got here and how the f*&k we can get out, “Fahrenheit 11/9” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6 to wide acclaim.

As with all Moore films, “Fahrenheit 11/9” goes well beyond a moving, aesthetic experience. In my Salon review of the film I called it a call to action, one that asks viewers to be the ones to make history rather than complain about it.  This call to action, though, comes wrapped in a hard-hitting exposé of the flaws in our democracy. Refusing to simplify a complex crisis, Moore’s new film is filled with surprises.
Well... I like Michael Moore (without agreeing with him) and that is one reason for reviewing this, but I should say that I dislike expressions like "how the f*&k we got here and how the f*&k we can get out": I think either you should spell "fuck", which anyone reading this article will understand you mean by "f*&k", or else you leave the whole term out.

And there is a whole lot more in the article under six headings that I will leave to your interests, for I shall merely copy the headings and leave out the texts:
1. Trump is just the tip of the iceberg; but it’s a tip that can sink us.
2. The mainstream media is a misogynistic, corporatist oligarchy that
     Trump played to his benefit.

3. The crimes in Flint are worse than we thought.
4. The Democrats share a lot of blame for the rise of Trump.
5. The left is the majority — but doesn't act like it.
6. Michael Moore is the most important non-fiction filmmaker of our time.
I think that is mostly correct and this is a recommended article.

3. The New York Times as Judge and Jury

This article is by Joe Lauria (the new editor of Consortium News) and starts with a subtitle:
Seeking to maintain its credibility, The New York Times dispenses with the criminal justice system and basic principles of journalism to weigh in again on Russia-gate, reports Joe Lauria.
Yes, I think that is wholly correct - but then I also have been following "Russia-gate" since 2016 (then under the title "Russian hacking") and I wrote rather a lot about it (and know how to program, which many journalists seem not to know).

Here is more:
We’ve seen it before: a newspaper and individual reporters get a story horribly wrong but instead of correcting it they double down to protect their reputations and credibility—which is all journalists have to go on—and the public suffers.

Sometimes this maneuver can contribute to a massive loss of life. The most egregious example was the reporting in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Like nearly all Establishment media, The New York Times got the story of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction—the major casus belli for the invasion—dead wrong. But the Times, like the others, continued publishing stories without challenging their sources in authority, mostly unnamed, who were pushing for war.

The result was a disastrous intervention that led to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and continued instability in Iraq, including the formation of the Islamic State.

In a massive Times‘ article published on Thursday, entitled, “‘A Plot to Subvert an Election: Unravelling the Russia Story So Far,” it seems that reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti have succumbed to the same thinking that doubled down on Iraq.
I think all of this is again correct, and indeed while I saw Shane and Mazzetti's article, I quickly gave up reading it for reasons Lauria makes clear:
With the mid-terms looming and Special Counsel Robert Mueller unable to so far come up with any proof of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steal the 2016 election—the central Russia-gate charge—the Times does it for him, regurgitating a Russia-gate Round-Up of every unsubstantiated allegation that has been made—deceptively presented as though it’s all been proven.

This is a reaffirmation of the faith, a recitation of what the Russia-gate faithful want to believe is true. But mere repetition will not make it so.
And this is again - to the best of my knowledge and abilities - quite correct.

Then again, the following bit is not, and that is simply a matter of logic:
The Times also adds: “There is a plausible case that Mr. Putin succeeded in delivering the presidency to his admirer, Mr. Trump, though it cannot be proved or disproved.”

This is an extraordinary statement. If it cannot be “proved or disproved” what is the point of this entire exercise: of the Mueller probe, the House and Senate investigations and even of this very New York Times article?

Attempting to prove this constructed story without proof is the very point of this piece.
This is mistaken because there is a whole lot that one can - quite rationally - consider as "plausible given the evidence" while it is not either "proved or disproved".

Then again, Lauria is correct in saying that The New York Times does seem to attempt "to
prove this constructed story without proof" - which indeed also is a contradiction.

There is a whole lot more in the article that I leave to your interests, but this is its ending:

Establishment reporters insulate themselves from criticism by retreating into the exclusive Establishment club they think they inhabit. It is from there that they vicariously draw their strength from powerful people they cover, which they should instead be scrutinizing. Validated by being close to power, Establishment reporters don’t take seriously anyone outside of the club, such as a website like Consortium News.

But on rare occasions they are forced to take note of what outsiders are saying. Because of the role The New York Times played in the catastrophe of Iraq its editors took the highly unusual move of apologizing to its readers. Will we one day read a similar apology about the paper’s coverage of Russia-gate?
In fact, I don't think an apology matters much, for the simple reason that all apologies in the press seem to be made quite long after the false reporting ceased to be relevant to politics.

4. How the Alternative for Germany Has Transformed the Country

This article is by Der Spiegel Staff on Spiegel International. This is from near its beginning:
Being ever-present, talking -- and not to mention listening -- was also part of the AfD strategy during federal elections last September. And it worked. The party scored 22.1 percent of the vote here in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, putting it only slightly behind Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). It's possible that Alexander Gauland, the candidate for the Oder-Spree electoral district, was responsible for some of that success. But what has been decisive is the proximity to ordinary voters that the AfD has cultivated. And it's not only here that the far-right populists are firmly rooted, but in many other places around the country as well.
In fact, this is quoted from two long articles - the second the sequel of the first - on Spiegel International. I am trying to excerpt a few of the more general parts, which I am doing because I am a European, but I should immediately admit that there is a whole lot more in the two articles than I quote or summarize (and quite a bit requires more knowledge of Germany than most non-Germans will have).

With that understanding, here is some more:
Who would have thought that a retired senior government official, a conservative newspaper columnist and a numbers-loving economics professor would changed the face of German politics?
And who would have thought that the AfD of Alexander Gauland, Konrad Adam and Bernd Lucke would become a big-tent party of its own -- at least in parts of eastern Germany -- within just a few years? Or that it would win almost a hundred seats in the federal parliament with its pledge to "hunt down" Chancellor Angela Merkel? Or that its party leaders would one day march through the streets of Chemnitz alongside far-right extremists, like they did on Sept. 1, 2018?
Well... in general terms, I wouldn't, but then again no one can foresee most of the concrete events that make one's days, so I do not consider this very special.

What I do want to comment on is an aspect that is missing from the article:

Brandenburg (mentioned in the previous quoted paragraph) and Chemnitz both were part of the GDR, that collapsed in 1990; that was ruled by the communists since 1949; and that was - I have been there in 1964 for five weeks, and was only not thrown out (at age 14, because of my protests) because I had to go to the hospital - quite totalitarian.

And while I do not know how relevant this background is, I think it should have been mentioned, if only because East Germany (the former GDR) was totalitarian for forty more years than Western Germany.

Here is more (skipping a lot about Germany, that you can read in the original):

In January, Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt published a book titled, "How Democracies Die." In it, they write that in the decades since the end of the Cold War, liberal systems haven't been overthrown through force and military coups alone. More than anything else, democracy has been undermined non-violently through the election of anti-democratic politicians.

The book was written in light of Donald Trump's victory in the U.S., but Germany, too, seems to be on the verge of a turning point.
I think Levitsky and Ziblatt are right in their claim that "democracy has been undermined non-violently through the election of anti-democratic politicians" and they would have been right if they also claimed that in the USA, at least, that anti-democratic process has been much strengthened by the corruption of most American politicians (as shown very prominently by Hillary Clinton, though she is not by far the only one).

Here is more on the AfD:
One could say the AfD is a colorful party, but with a brown streak. It attracts classical conservatives and neoliberals as well as ethnonationalist "völkisch" ideologists, extremists and conspiracy theorists. A majority of party members may still dream of a more moderate-conservative Alternative for Germany, but at the fringe, especially in the east, the party is increasingly melding with extremist elements, and this process is in part being tolerated -- and at times promoted -- at the highest levels of the party.
In fact - in case you did not know - "the AfD" = the "Alternative for Germany", and I also have pointed out above that "especially in the east" the East-Germans were totalitarian for forty more years than the West-Germans. (I take it this makes some difference, but I do not have the relevant knowledge to be more specific.)

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

Harvard professors Levitsky and Ziblatt have developed a set of indicators they use to identify parties that will run for election, but then seek to disband the democratic order. One indicator is when a party "denies the legitimacy of opponents," which is a clear feature of the AfD. No other party in parliament demonizes its opponents as aggressively as the AfD. Members of the party seem to have few inhibitions when it comes to their outrageous statements: Angela Merkel is a "dictator" who belongs in a "straitjacket" and wants to "swap out" the ethnic German population with foreigners.

Many examples can also be found in the AfD for the second criterion set by the Harvard researchers: A "readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media." AfD chair Gauland's interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is only the most recent example here. AfD people are also notorious for their admonitions that journalists must behave "fairly" or risk being "dragged out into the streets" as has happened in other "revolutions we have known."

But open incitement of violence, the third criterion set by the Harvard researchers, is absent.
It seems rather clear that the AfD mirrored Trump's GOP in denying "the legitimacy of opponents" and in their "readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media", both of which are quite anti-democratic. Then again, I do not know whether the AfD was inspired by Trump or the GOP.

As to the so far absent "
open incitement of violence", this will probably come when the AfD gets bigger (but buying weapons, or wallking around with weapons, is far more difficult in Europe than in the USA).

And these two articles are recommended, and there is a whole lot more in them than I have quoted.

5. Why I join the ILP

This article is by George Orwell on The Off-Guardian, and originally in the New Leader in 1938, and later - among other places - on the Marxists Internet Archive. It starts as follows:
Perhaps it will be frankest to approach it first of all from the personal angle.

I am a writer. The impulse of every writer is to ‘keep out of politics’. What he wants is to be left alone so that he can go on writing books in peace. But unfortunately it is becoming obvious that this ideal is no more practicable than that of the petty shop-keeper who hopes to preserve his independence in the teeth of the chain-stores.

I am a fan of George Orwell since 50 years, and I think it was a good idea of the Off-Guardian to reproduce it, but it needs some backgrounds that I will supply, and I start with the ILP or I.L.P. as Orwell wrote:

The ILP was a party to the left of the Labour Party, that existed from 1893 till 1975, when it rejoined the Labour Party. There is a lot more under the last link.

Here is more from Orwell on "the freedom of the Press":

To begin with, the era of free speech is closing down. The freedom of the Press in Britain was always something of a fake, because in the last resort, money controls opinion; still, so long as the legal right to say what you like exists, there are always loopholes for an unorthodox writer. For some years past I have managed to make the Capitalist class pay me several pounds a week for writing books against Capitalism. But I do not delude myself that this state of affairs is going to last forever. We have seen what happened to the freedom of the Press in Italy and Germany, and it will happen here sooner or later. The time is coming – not next year, perhaps not for ten or twenty years, but it is coming – when every writer will have the choice of being silenced or of producing the dope that a privileged minority demands.

I believe that Orwell was quite justified to worry about "free speech" and the "freedom of the Press", but it is also correct that he was quite mistaken in his predictions that these freedoms would probably end by 1948 or 1958.

Then again, the Off-Guardian is correct to quote Orwell from 1938, for the simple reason that at present at least the "freedom of the Press" seems to be ending, and indeed considerably more than it seems to have done in 1938 (when no one had a personal computer, let alone a personal computer that is tracked by the secret services and by big advertisers).

Here is more by Orwell:

If Fascism triumphs I am finished as a writer – that is to say, finished in my only effective capacity. That in itself would be a sufficient reason for joining a Socialist party.

I have put the personal aspect first, but obviously it is not the only one.

I think this was quite correct, but it should be pointed out that for Orwell this situation got quite clear only when he had been to Spain in 1937, to fight on the government's side.

Here is more on the ILP (of 1938):

Why the I.L.P. more than another?

Because the I.L.P. is the only British party – at any rate the only one large enough to be worth considering – which aims at anything I should regard as Socialism.

Yes, this certainly was Orwell's opinion, but as this point I should point out another article that Orwell wrote, namely about what he meant by "Socialism": See Crisis: On Socialism (in which there is more on socialism than Orwell, though Orwell's contribution is the largest).

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

I believe the I.L.P. is the only party which, as a party, is likely to take the right line either against Imperialist war or against Fascism when this appears in its British form. And meanwhile the I.L.P. is not backed by any monied interest, and is systematically libelled from several quarters. Obviously it needs all the help it can get, including any help I can give it myself.

Finally, I was with the I.L.P. contingent in Spain. I never pretended, then or since, to agree in every detail with the policy the P.O.U.M. put forward and the I.L.P. supported, but the general course of events has borne it out.

Yes, that was quite true in 1938, and indeed Orwell got wounded in Spain, also barely escaped with his wife in 1937 from Spain, while he also got finally and firmly convinced that Socialism was possible in Spain in 1937 (as he wrote his friend Conolly).


[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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