November 19, 2018

Crisis: On Julian Assange, New Leaders, Trump's Powers, On Not Playing Nice, "Cultural Marxism"


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 19, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Monday, November 19, 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 November 19, 2018:
1. The Dangerous Rush to Judgment Against Julian Assange
2. 'We Need New Leaders, Period'
3. Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage
4. Playing nice is not an option, Democrats: It never works.
5. The Alt-Right’s Favorite Meme Is 100 Years Old
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. The Dangerous Rush to Judgment Against Julian Assange

This article is by Bill Blum on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

After years of speculation, we now know that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been accused by the Justice Department of committing crimes against the United States. We know this because an assistant U.S. attorney named Kellen S. Dwyer screwed up and inadvertently disclosed in a motion filed on Aug. 22 in an unrelated case that Assange has been secretly charged in an accusation that has been placed under seal.
What we don’t know about the prosecution of Assange is virtually everything else.

Yes indeed. Incidentally, while I understand that not everything that "the law" does can be public: Why are these charges secret? (I merely ask, but I do think they should be public.)

Here is more:

More important, we don’t know the nature of Assange’s alleged offenses, when they allegedly were committed, or when the charges against him were filed.

Has he been charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publishing classified material? Has he been accused of hacking in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in connection with the publication of emails taken from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election campaign, or for receiving and publishing intelligence documents related to the CIA last year? Does he stand accused as a principal (primary actor), or is he viewed as an aider and abettor or a co-conspirator, either of Chelsea Manning, who leaked national-defense material to WikiLeaks in 2010, or the 12 Russian military officers who were indicted this July by special counsel Robert Mueller for stealing the Democratic National Committee’s emails?

We also don’t know whether Mueller’s office is responsible for going after Assange, or whether former Attorney General Jeff Sessions can claim the credit.
In brief, "the public" does not know anything about the charges, other than that it was inadvertently leaked that they exist.

Here is more:
Writing in The Intercept last week, Glenn Greenwald decried the intensifying support for Assange’s extradition, not only on the right, but also among liberal Democrats who feel stung by Trump’s election and incensed by the help he may have received from Russian intelligence in scoring his improbable victory at the polls.
It’s important not to get swept up in the anti-Assange mania afoot today, not only because the mania undercuts the presumption of innocence, but because of the significant dangers posed to the First Amendment. As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted in a 34-page analysis published in 2017:

“While courts have held that the Espionage Act and other relevant statutes allow for convictions for leaks to the press, the government has never prosecuted a traditional news organization for its receipt [and publication] of classified or other protected information.”

In the trial of Assange, the government no doubt will contend that WikiLeaks is not a legitimate news organization. It is unlikely, however, the Trump Justice Department will be able to draw a principled line between publishers that merit First Amendment protection and those who do not.

Well... as to "Russian intelligence": I have been following the story as it developed since the end of 2016, and I do not think there is much - real - support for it. Also, very much rather than unspecified "Russian intelligence", there are far more dangerous candidates: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

And as to drawing "a principled line between publishers that merit First Amendment protection and those who do not": I agree this may be quite difficult, but I also think that Trump's government is out for a conviction of Assange, and intends to use that conviction later for more.

I am not a fan of Assange. Like many, I fear that he has gone over to the dark side in the global battle against regressive nationalism. But I am not willing to sacrifice or bend the First Amendment—not even a little—in an effort to silence him or rush him to some kind of American justice.

This is at least honest. I agree with the conclusion, but I don't agree with the premiss and will briefly explain why:

I like Wikileaks, simply because it does publish all manner of things that I think are important for "the public" to know, and in which I think it also is nearly always correct. Wikileaks is a lot more than just Assange. Assange is one person who is in serious trouble because he works for Wikileaks. I have been following Assange since 2010 (more or less, since what I do follow in fact is the crisis of 2008 and its consequences) and all I have learned about him as a person is very little indeed.

The basic point is that while Assange is attacked as a person, in fact Wikileaks and free publishing are under attack. I think you have to defend all three, and besides, I think few persons have sufficient information about Assange to have a rational foundation for liking or disliking him as a person. I don't, for one example. And this is a recommended article.

2. 'We Need New Leaders, Period'

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
In a national strategy call with progressives nationwide on Saturday evening, a newly-elected member of Congress—and some of the top organizers who led her successful campaign and others—committed to a strategy of holding the Democratic Party's feet to the fire in order to "save the country" by rejecting the corporate-friendly politics and submission to right-wing talking points that have shackled the ability to forge bold solutions to the most pressing crises.

"All Americans know money in politics is a huge problem, but unfortunately the way that we fix it is by demanding that our incumbents give it up or by running fierce campaigns ourselves," said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the representative- elect from New York, on the call organized by Justice Democrats.  "I don't think people who are taking money from pharmaceutical companies should be drafting health care legislation. I don't think people who are taking money from oil and gas companies should be drafting climate legislation."
Yes, I agree with Ocasio-Cortez.

Then again, this also points to a serious difficulty with using the term "the Democratic Party" or "the Democrats" for the simple reason that there are, at the very least, three distinct groups of "Democrats":

First, the ordinary members who are not voted in on some Democratic ticket, but who merely supply the votes. Second, the members who are voted in on some Democratic ticket. There are quite a few of them, and for the next distinction I will concentrate on the Democrats elected to the House or the Senate: Third, elected Democrats who get subsidized by the rich, which seem to be the great majority, and the elected Democrats who do not get subsidized by the rich, which seems to be a small minority.

I spelled it out (to an extent) because I can agree on most things only with the small minority of elected Democrats who do not get subsidized by the rich.

Here is more:

According to Politico's report of the strategy session,

The group said they want Democratic members of Congress to be representative of their diverse communities and support liberal policies like Medicare for all, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department, implementing a "Green New Deal," and rejecting corporate PAC donations. On the campaign trail, Ocasio-Cortez talked about forming a "corporate-free caucus" as a means to push for reform. That type of group, if it forms, could turn out to be the left's counterpart to the Freedom Caucus, which pushed Republican leadership to the right.

During his remarks, Saikat Chakrabarti, a Justice Democrats co-founder and now Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, told the more than 500 people on the national call that the heart of their new  campaign will be this: if they feel their elected leaders in Congress are not getting the job done, or going far enough, people should get behind someone who will.

"We need new leaders, period," Chakrabarti said. "We gotta primary folks."

I agree with Chakrabarti: The Democrats need new leaders - and these new leaders need to  get their money from the people, and not from the rich.

Then again, this may be more difficult than it seems, for the simple reason that all Democrats may be corrupted by the rich, and it seems that most have been.

I think the last bit that I will quote from this article is a bit too optimistic:

According to Claire Sandberg, another key progressive campaign strategist and veteran of Sanders' insurgent 2016 run, "Every Democratic politician who has prioritized bank deregulation over responding to the threat of catastrophic climate change deserves to worry that they might be next to face a primary challenge from the left."

At this point in history, added Sandberg, if "Democratic leaders won't advance policies to create a safe future for all, they should expect a new generation of candidates to stand up and take their places."

The wave of new progressive candidates like Ocasio-Cortez, Bond added, "has been a breath of fresh air for the entire country. We can demand so much more of the Democratic Party, especially through primary challengers."

I more or less agree, but as I said this is too optimistic in my opinion. And this is a recommended article.

3. Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage

This article is by Jeffrey D. Sachs on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

The drama of Donald Trump’s presidency has centered around whether an extremist president would be able to carry out an extremist policy agenda against the will of the majority of Americans. So far the answer has been no, and the midterm elections make it far less likely. Yet Trump’s rising frustrations could push him over the edge psychologically, with potentially harrowing consequences for American democracy and the world.

None of Trump’s extremist policy ideas has received public support. The public opposed last year’s Republican-backed corporate tax cut, Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), his proposed border wall with Mexico, the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, and the imposition of tariff increases on China, Europe, and others. At the same time, contrary to Trump’s relentless promotion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), the public favors investments in renewable energy and remaining in the Paris climate agreement.

Yes, I agree with the above. Also (and see below), I am a psychologist, and I have been convinced in the beginning of 2016 that Trump has a narcissist personality disorder, which is psychiatrese for saying he is a madman who suffers from megalomania.

I will turn to that below, and continue here with the article:

In the midterm elections, which Trump himself described as a referendum on his presidency, the Democratic candidates for both the House and Senate vastly outpolled their Republican opponents. In the House races, Democrats received 53,314,159 votes nationally, compared with 48,439,810 for Republicans. In the Senate races, Democrats outpolled Republicans by 47,537,699 votes to 34,280,990.

Summing up votes by party for the three recent election cycles (2014, 2016, and 2018), Democratic Senate candidates outpolled Republican candidates by roughly 120 million to 100 million. Nonetheless, the Republicans hold a slight majority in the Senate (...)
The reason that the Republicans still hold a slight majority in the Senate is mostly due to the fact that large states with many votes, such as California, vote in as many Congress people as small states with few votes, like Wyoming, and is besides due to the fact that the strongest party in effect gets all votes. (Incidentally, both facts do not hold for Holland, which in these senses is considerably more democratic than the USA.)

Here is the main point why the fact that the Democrats won the House is quite important:
Without control of the House, however, Trump will no longer be able to enact any unpopular legislation. Only policies with bipartisan support will have a chance of passing both chambers.
Actually, yes and no: "bipartisan support" is quite important and will stop quite a few bits of "unpopular legislation", but many of the Democrats have been bought by the rich, which means that there may be some bits of "unpopular legislation" that still will pass - or so I expect.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Nonetheless, there are three further reasons to believe that Trump’s hold on power will weaken significantly in the coming months. First, Special Counsel Robert Mueller may very well document serious malfeasance by Trump, his family members, and/or his close advisers.
Second, the House Democrats will begin to investigate Trump’s taxes and personal business dealings, including through congressional subpoenas. There are strong reasons to believe that Trump has committed serious tax evasion (as the New York Times recently outlined) and has illegally enriched his family as president
Third, and most important, Trump is not merely an extremist politician. He suffers from what author Ian Hughes has recently called “a disordered mind,” filled with hate, paranoia, and narcissism. According to two close observers of Trump, the president’s grip on reality “will likely continue to diminish” in the face of growing political obstacles, investigations into his taxes and business dealings, Mueller’s findings, and an energized political opposition.

Yes, I completely agree with these points.

I also specifically agree that Trump has “a disordered mind” because I think that he has megalomania (which totally disappeared from the Wikipedia): He is insane; he has a narcissistic personality disorder; and he is quite dangerous for these reasons alone.

Then again, I admit that persons who are not psychologists or psychiatrists are probably as little convinced by them as I am - who is a psychologist, among other things - with much of the bullshit that - for example - economists spout. Anyway... this is a recommended article.

4. Playing nice is not an option, Democrats: It never works.

This article is by Paul Rosenberg on Salon. It starts as follows:
In the wake of the midterm elections, there's tremendous pressure from all directions for Democrats to play nice with Donald Trump and the Republicans. That would be a huge mistake — for one thing, because Trump will attack them with outrageous lies whatever they do. There’s no cheese down the "playing nice" tunnel. No point going there. The only way to “play nice” on Trump’s terms would be to roll over and play dead, to let Trump be Putin, as he’s always yearned to be. Only a total sacrifice of American democracy — checks and balances, rule of law, consent of the governed, all of it — would be sufficiently nice in his eyes.
Yes, I mostly agree. Here is more:

I'm not saying that Democrats should prioritize oversight of this administration's sins and crimes above legislation: They need to do both. I see a lot to like in Ronald Klain's post-election Washington Post op-ed, "The first five things the Democrats should do with their House majority" — raising the minimum wage to $15, strengthening the Affordable Care Act, restoring the Voting Rights Act, passing a “non-porked-up” infrastructure bill, and granting legal status to the Dreamers. Klain argues that House Democrats should leave the investigations to Robert Mueller at first, and devote the first 100 days to passing those five pieces of legislation, and “then dare the Senate and the Trump White House to follow suit or be called out for their refusal to act.”

Great. But then what? What’s the big-picture for Democrats moving forward, knowing that Trump will always be Trump -- and that no one will stop him if they don’t?

Yes, I think I mostly agree again. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

To fully grasp the foolishness of the “play nice” imperative, there are four points to consider:

  1. The past history of how Democrats' "play nice" strategies have failed in the past.
  2. The asymmetry between Republicans' hardline ideological approach to politics and Democrat’s consensus-seeking pragmatism, and why Democrats can't keep doing that. 
  3. The role of the press, punditry and political class more broadly in empowering GOP destructiveness, even as they convince themselves they're saviors of democracy.
  4. What Democrats can and should do instead of "playing nice" — pushing broadly popular proposals, and taking fearless principled stands, to define their own inclusive vision of what America can and will be.
I mostly agree but I must qualify especially the second point somewhat - and see item 2 - for most Democrats seem to have been bought by the rich. And this is a recommended article.

5. The Alt-Right’s Favorite Meme Is 100 Years Old

This article is by Samuel Moyn on The New York Times. This is from near its beginning:

What is “cultural Marxism”? (..)

Nothing of the kind actually exists. But it is increasingly popular to indict cultural Marxism’s baleful effects on society — and to dream of its violent extermination. With a spate of recent violence in the United States and elsewhere, calling out the runaway alt-right imagination is more urgent than ever.

Originally an American contribution to the phantasmagoria of the alt-right, the fear of “cultural Marxism” has been percolating for years through global sewers of hatred. Increasingly, it has burst into the mainstream. Before President Trump’s aide Rich Higgins was fired last year, he invoked the threat of “cultural Marxism” in proposing a new national security strategy. In June, Ron Paul tweeted out a racist meme that employed the phrase. On Twitter, the son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s newly elected strongman, boasted of meeting Steve Bannon and joining forces to defeat “cultural Marxism.” Jordan Peterson, the self-help guru and best-selling author, has railed against it too in his YouTube ruminations.

I say - and my reason for doing so is that I know about Marxism and communism for at least 60 years now, mostly because both of my parents were - real, intelligent, but not highly educated  - Marxists for 45 years of their lives, while I am not since I was 20, but that was because I disagreed with Marx's theories, which I did know quite well, but far less with my parents, whose moral outlook I still share.

And what does amaze me, a little at least, is that while I still know a lot about Marxism and Marx, this is the first time I read about “cultural Marxism” - which means that Samuel Moyn is quite right.

Here is Moyn's explanation of what "cultural Marxism" means:

According to their delirious foes, “cultural Marxists” are an unholy alliance of abortionists, feminists, globalists, homosexuals, intellectuals and socialists who have translated the far left’s old campaign to take away people’s privileges from “class struggle” into “identity politics” and multiculturalism.

This indeed explains it to a considerable extent, and also suggests an explanation for it:

In fact, Marxism and communism (including communist parties) mostly collapsed in 1991-1992 quite quickly after the Soviet Union collapsed - but until then it was indeed in several important ways the main opponent of capitalism, mostly because the existence of the Soviet Union did seem to show an alternative to capitalism.

This also justified the opposition of pro-capitalists not only to the Soviet Union but to its - purported - ideology.

And my explanation for the arisal of (as Moyn says) "the phantasmagoria of the alt-right" is that they wish to criticize the left, and have created "cultural Marxism" to accuse all of the left of still being in some sense Marxists (which seems mostly false from my - quite informed, but European - view), and they do so because they hate Marx and the left.

I think my explanation is mostly correct, but once again: Today is the first time I heard about the supposed existence of "cultural Marxism".

Here is a bit more:

A number of the conspiracy theorists tracing the origins of “cultural Marxism” assign outsize significance to the Frankfurt School, an interwar German — and mostly Jewish — intellectual collective of left-wing social theorists and philosophers. Many members of the Frankfurt School fled Nazism and came to the United States, which is where they supposedly uploaded the virus of cultural Marxism to America.

I say again, this time because I have read quite a bit of quite a few members of "the Frankfurt School", and I can assure anyone that most of that reading was - literally - quite difficult: Whatever you think about the Frankfurt School, it certainly is and was for intellectuals only, which also means I quite agree to Moyn's speaking of assigning an "outsize significance" to it.

Here is Moyn's ending of his article:

That “cultural Marxism” is a crude slander, referring to something that does not exist, unfortunately does not mean actual people are not being set up to pay the price, as scapegoats to appease a rising sense of anger and anxiety. And for that reason, “cultural Marxism” is not only a sad diversion from framing legitimate grievances but also a dangerous lure in an increasingly unhinged moment.

Yes, I think I agree, indeed especially because a man like myself, who is both a philosopher and a psychologist, should have heard about "cultural Marxism" if it were any more than an ideological creation of the alt right. Today was the first time, and this is a recommended 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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