April 3, 2016

Crisis: Islamic Extremism, Sarandon, Torture, China, Secret Rights
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Islamic Extremism Is a Product of Western Imperialism
2. Susan Sarandon, Defender of Those Who’ll Vote for
     Bernie Sanders Only

A Shocking 63 Percent of Americans Support Torture
     —Do They Understand the Social Consequences?

4. Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse
5. A New Right to Secrecy for Companies Must Be Rejected


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, April 3, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about islamic extremism, but I found it boring; item 2 is about a rather strange difference of opinion in some voters for Sanders; item 3 is about the fact that no less than 63 procent of all Americans now support torture; item 4 is about developments in China: it is growing considerably more totalitarian; and item 5 is about a new attack on democracy and national rights and the freedoms of the press in Europe.

And today it is a sunday, which may explain the length of the present Nederlog (although it still is well over 30 Kb). Also, I did not finish the Nederlog I am writing about fascism, that will come later. (And this afternoon I may go cycling, since it will be "springlike", according to the radio, which is the first time this year, in Holland.)

1. Islamic Extremism Is a Product of Western Imperialism 

The first item is by Gary Leech on Truthdig and originally on Counterpunch:

This starts as follows:
As we struggle to come to terms with the latest terrorist attacks in Brussels, it is important that we understand the causes of such extremism. After all, Islamic extremism was virtually unknown fifty years ago and suicide bombings were inconceivable. And yet today it seems that we are confronted with both on a daily basis. So what happened to bring Islamic fundamentalism to the forefront of global politics? While there are many factors involved, undoubtedly one of the primary causes is Western imperialism. Western intervention in the Middle East over the past century to secure access to the region’s oil reserves established a perfect environment in which Islamic fundamentalists could exploit growing anti-Western sentiment throughout the Islamic world, with some establishing violent extremist groups. The most recent consequence of this process is the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, which emerged out of the chaos caused by the US invasion of Iraq.
Actually, there is considerably more in the article, but I admit I didn't like it because it remains at the above level of generalized platitudes, not only at the start but all through the article.

It probably is well intended, but I did not get anything from it. You can try if there is anything in it for you, but since I found it not interesting I will skip quoting or discussing the rest.

2. Susan Sarandon, Defender of Those Who’ll Vote for Bernie Sanders Only

The second item is
by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Left-wing voters of principle have endured insults and abuse in this presidential nominating season. A large number of Bernie Sanders supporters—one-third, by some counts—have warned that they will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election if she is the Democratic nominee. This prospect has many Democrats terrified, as it would seem to ensure at least four years of rule by Donald Trump or one of his equally repugnant rivals for the Republican nomination, and these Democrats have made no secret of their contempt for such spoilers.

But these voters have a renowned defender in Academy Award-winning actress and activist Susan Sarandon.

Really now? This sounds pretty exaggerated to me, starting also as it does with "Left-wing voters of principle have endured insults and abuse".

For one thing, what is a "left-wing voter of principle"? I have little idea beyond people who have voted left consistently. For another, this looks at least a bit as
if voting in the USA is a heroic act, which it isn't. And for a third thing, all this
principled heroism seems now to have resulted in voters who want to vote for Sanders but who refuse to vote for Clinton if she gets the presidential candidacy.

Here is Susan Sarandon (<- Wikipedia):

On Mar. 28, MSNBC host Chris Hayes told Sarandon on his show, “All In With Chris Hayes”: “In certain quarters there is growing concern that the folks that are into Bernie Sanders have come to despise Hillary Clinton or reject Hillary Clinton, and that should she be the nominee … they will walk away.”

Sarandon did not dismiss these people. “That’s a legitimate concern,” she said, “because they’re very passionate and very principled.”

Hayes showed less restraint. “But isn’t that crazy? If you believe in what he believes in?”

Sarandon continued: “Yeah, but she doesn’t. She’s accepted money from all those people. She doesn’t even want to fight for a $15 minimum wage. So these are people that have not come out before, so why would we think they’re going to come out now for her?”

I say. This seems confused on several levels:

First, to speak of mere voters as if they are "very passionate and very principled" seems to give them too much weight: You are not "very principled" because you vote, nor are you "very principled" because you can get quite hysteric for your candidate, nor are you "very principled" because you voted left consistently. That is: You may be very principled indeed, but not for
these reasons - and besides, being "very principled" ought to be at least a bit rare. [1]

And second, this is a classic fallacy: The point is emphatically not whether Hillary Clinton is much like Bernie Sanders. (I agree she isn't.) The point is whether Clinton - supposing she gets the presidential candidacy - will be a better choice (or for that matter: a less bad choice) than her Republican opponent.

I think she is a less bad choice than Trump or Cruz (or Ryan, for that matter).

And I also think that this issue is mostly an issue that will play between people who anyway do not do much except voting.

3. A Shocking 63 Percent of Americans Support Torture—Do They Understand the Social Consequences?

The third item is b
y Richard Brouilette on AlterNet:

This starts as follows - and Richard Brouilette is a psychoanalyst with a private practice in New York, who in 2005 worked in Iraq with a NGO team, and taught
"Iraqi mental health professionals [..] the basics of treating PTSD resulting from torture and war trauma

Of course, 10 years ago American officials felt obliged to be defensive about the word “torture,” and used all sorts of euphemisms. In the States, there was a years-long debate on the definition of torture and how it differed from enhanced interrogation. Outside the States, the spectacle of our internal semantics debate was cause for stunned ridicule.

But with the Reuters poll just released on March 30, apparently Americans are now fine with the word “torture”:

The poll asked respondents if torture can be justified “against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism.” About 25 percent said it is “often” justified while another 38 percent it is “sometimes” justified. Only 15 percent said torture should never be justified.

So for the American public, things have changed since the time of Abu Ghraib. My problem is that I can’t go back to 2005 and revise our treatment curriculum to say that torture, while sadistic and dehumanizing at an interpersonal level for both perpetrator and victim, is “often” or even “sometimes” justified. What I’m left with is the conclusion that, for a large percentage of Americans, being sadistic and dehumanizing is completely justified “often” or “sometimes.”

Yes and no, but mostly no: Yes, I think this is fairly shocking, but no, I cannot believe that most of the people questioned have a good understanding of what torture really involves nor a good understanding of what PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - is. [2]

And while I think the article is more or less OK, and while I agree it is fairly shocking that most Americans seem to know very little about torture, indeed including the fact that torture is legally forbidden in all Western states, I also
think - as I said - that Richard Brouilette seems to confuse his own understand- ings of torture and PTSD with the general understanding of the same subjects,
which is far more superficial, and not adequate to the facts.

4. Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse

The fourth item i
by Orville Schell (<- Wikipedia) on The New York Review of Books:

This starts as follows:
“As a liberal, I no longer feel I have a future in China,” a prominent Chinese think tank head in the process of moving abroad recently lamented in private. Such refrains are all too familiar these days as educated Chinese professionals express growing alarm over their country’s future. Indeed, not since the 1970s when Mao still reigned and the Cultural Revolution still raged has the Chinese leadership been so possessed by Maoist nostalgia and Leninist-style leadership.
First, I have to admit that while I am interested in China, I did not know who is Orville Schell, who seems an interesting man from the Wikipedia lemma on him.

And second, this is a good and serious article, that - in case you are interested in China - I recommend you read all of.

Here is part of the reason (together with the facts that I do take Orville Schell serious, who has been writing about China since 1970):
China has long been a one-party Leninist state with extensive censorship and perhaps the largest secret police establishment in the world. But what has been happening lately in Beijing under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping is no such simple fluctuation. It is a fundamental shift in ideological and organizational direction that is beginning to influence both China’s reform agenda and its foreign relations.
And this also seems to me a fairly direct consequence from the totalitarian way in which China is organized since Mao: With an all-powerful communist party, that holds all powers there are in China, and is itself again organized in a totalitarian way.

What China's history since the death of Mao shows is that the degree of totalitarianism may vary rather a lot with the personality of the supreme leader, the present supreme leader Xi Jinping seems considerably more inclined towards totalitarianism (and personal power) than most of his predecessors since Mao.

As usual, the present growth of totalitarianism has a two-fold base, one quite possibly reasonable, and the other totalitarian:
At the center of this retrograde trend is Xi’s enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls “tigers and flies,” namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low. Since it began in 2012, the campaign has already netted more than 160 “tigers” whose rank is above or equivalent to that of the deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level, and more than 1,400 “flies,” all lower-level officials. But it has also morphed from an anticorruption drive into a broader neo-Maoist-style mass purge aimed at political rivals and others with differing ideological or political views.
In case you doubt the totalitarian side of these efforts, there is this (which is new since the 1990ies):
But what has been perhaps most unexpected about this trend is the way that Beijing has begun to extend its claim to control people and organizations beyond its borders. Despite its stubborn defense of the sanctity of sovereignty, its agents have begun reaching overseas to manipulate the foreign dialogue by setting up hundreds of Confucius Institutes, newspapers, magazines, and even TV networks that answer to the Central Propaganda Department and the CCP.

The Chinese government is also denying visas to “unfriendly” (buyouhao) foreign journalists and scholars; blocking foreign websites with which it disagrees; demanding that public figures like the Dalai Lama, Hong Kong activists, or Chinese dissidents be refused foreign platforms; threatening the advertising bases of overseas media outlets that challenge its positions; and now even abducting foreign nationals abroad and “renditioning” them back to China where it forces them into making televised confessions. It is hardly surprising that Chinese have started whispering about a new “climate of fear” (kongbude qifen), what Eva Pils of King’s College London School of Law calls “rule by fear.”

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended. Also, this is a serious development, since China has more than a billion inhabitants, and is the second most powerful nation, after the USA.

5. A New Right to Secrecy for Companies Must Be Rejected

The fifth item is by Staff at Truthout and originally at Corporate Europe Observatory:

This starts as follows:

The proposed EU legislation on "Trade Secrets Protection," which the European Parliament will vote next April 14, creates excessive rights to secrecy for businesses: it is a direct threat to the work of journalists and their sources, whistleblowers, employees' freedom of expression, and rights to access public interest information (on medicines, pesticides, car emissions, etc.).

I am not at all amazed, I must say, if only because by now I have written a lot about the TTP, the TTIP, the TiSA, the CETA and am now writing about this coming horror, for that is what it promises to be.

Here is part of the explanation:

What is the problem?

Trade secrets are everything companies keep secret to stay ahead of competitors. A secret recipe or manufacturing process, plans of a new product, a list of clients, prototypes... The theft of trade secrets can be a real problem for companies, and is already punished in all EU Member States. But there was no uniform legislation on the matter at the EU level.

A small group of lobbyists working for large multinational companies (Dupont, General Electric, Intel, Nestlé, Michelin, Safran, Alstom…) convinced the European Commission to draft such a legislation, and helped it all along the way. The problem is that they were too successful in their lobbying: they transformed a legislation which should have regulated fair competition between companies into something resembling a blanket right to corporate secrecy, which now threatens anyone in society who sometimes needs access to companies' internal information without their consent: consumers, employees, journalists, scientists...

I guess these "lobbyists working for large multinational companies" were in fact mostly their lawyers out to become the judges of the world, like their lawyerly comrades who did the same when they created the fascistic "courts" [3] that are meant to destroy all national powers:

National governments, national parliaments, and national judiciaries will all get destroyed or made wholly irrelevant, for any of their actions that threatens to lessen the expected profits of the multi-national corpo- rations will be punished by fines of hundreds of millions or several billions of dollars, to be paid by the inhabitants of these nations from their taxes.

That is fascism plain and simple, by definition [3]. Then there is this:

The European Parliament is expected to vote on 14 April 2016 on the "Directive on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure." The text can no longer be changed. The directive initially drafted by the European Commission favored companies' economic rights at the expense of citizens' political rights. Unfortunately, despite some improvements, the compromise text still does the same. We think it is essential that MEPs reject it and ask the Commission to come up with a better one, but they are under heavy pressure from multinational corporations to adopt it.

I agree that this new proposal ought to be rejected, but I fear it will not, indeed in part because the European Union is corrupt. Besides, I am a firm opponent of
passing unread or unmodifiable laws - but I also think most members of the European parliament are careerists (and certainly the Dutch are).

This is a recommended article with considerably more text, but I fear the proposed "law" is too late to be stopped. I hope I am mistaken, and will
know by April 15.

[1] In fact, I guess an underlying difficulty may be that if I say "very intelligent", "very stupid" or "very principled" I do mean a relatively small group in the considerably larger groups of the intelligent, the stupid or the principled, while many others on the left don't mean this, because they tend
to believe (or plainly believe) that "everyone is of equal value" (and especially in Holland).

I am not sure, but the quoted opinion definitely was very popular in the University of Amsterdam from 1971-1995, and it was very popular there because it was "a leftist" opinion. (It also made Marx the equal in value of Hitler, but who on "the left" cares for logic?! (Well, a few, but these tend to be real leftists, not mock "leftists".))

And no, I know "leftism" is not leftism, and that most on the current "left" indeed seem to be "leftists" rather than leftists.

This is another difficulty that may be at the basis of the problem of the article (we are in fact dealing with "leftists" rather than leftists), but I will leave my explanation of the - considerable - differences between the two groups to a later date.

[2] I think I have, at least compared with most. My reasons come in three parts: (1) my parents were communists who were in the resistance in WW II, in which my father and his father (also a communist) were arrested in 1941 and convicted - by collaborating Dutch judges, who never were punished - to concentration camp punishments as "political terrorists", which my grandfather did not survive. (2) My father survived over 3 years and 9 months as a "political terrorist" in four German concentration camps, and did get PTSD from ca. 1960.
(3) I have studied philosophy and psychology, and got an - excellent - M.A. in psychology. There may be - indeed, there certainly are - some who know more about concentration camps, Nazism, and PTSD than I do, but I never met them.

[3] Here is the definition of "fascism" I use (from the American Heritage Dictionary):
1. often Fascism a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government. 2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.
The proposals of the lawyers who want special "courts" to judge inhabitants of nations that had the impertinence to adopt laws or regulations that might lessen the profits of multi-national corporations involve a totally new type of government in which the multi-national corporations have all powers, that will have the abilities to control far more in a society or its economy than previously, and that will also suppress nearly all opposition (namely by showing that opposition risks the achievement of the profits that the CEOs of the multi-national corporations "expected", and therefore is forbidden: Profits Are Holy).

You don't even need a dictator if you have these supra-national courts, that soon may reduce all of Europe to a Texas or Kansas level of "civilization". But yes, I do not doubt that the profits for the CEOs will be maximal.

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