Jul 6, 2016

Crisis: Hillary Clinton *2, "Liberalism", Exit Direct Democacy (?!), Martin & Jay
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Washington Has Been Obsessed With Punishing
     Secrecy Violations — until Hillary Clinton

2. Comments of the Week: Know Your History  

Is Hillary Clinton Too Big to Indict?
4. Perilous Plebiscites: Brexit Vote Underscores Limits of
     Direct Democracy

5. Abby Martin and Paul Jay - Should Sanders Run for a
     Third Party?

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a Glenn Greenwald article on Hillary Clinton (I mostly agree); item 2 is about the many meanings of "Liberal" (etc.) and is OK (there is more to distinguish, but at least four different meanings got identified); item 3 is about another article about Clinton's e-mails (it isn't very good); item 4 is about a somewhat amazing article in Spiegel (with which I totally disagree); and item 5 is about a discussion between Paul Jay and Abby Martin, that I watched yesterday. It is not very good, but I put it up because there are deep differences between American leftists about what to do and who to vote for.

Washington Has Been Obsessed With Punishing Secrecy Violations — until Hillary Clinton

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Secrecy is a virtual religion in Washington. Those who violate its dogma have been punished in the harshest and most excessive manner – at least when they possess little political power or influence. As has been widely noted, the Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined. Secrecy in DC is so revered that even the most banal documents are reflexively marked classified, making their disclosure or mishandling a felony. As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said back in 2000, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”
This is all quite correct, but it should be stressed why "[s]ecrecy is a virtual religion in Washington": Because a government that cannot be controlled by
the people can do whatever it pleases, and is in practice the same thing as a tyranny, simply because "the people" have no knowledge of what is happening or why it is happening or who supports what is happening or why they support
it: Everything is secret, from 'Merry Christmas' cards to everything about the
TTP, TTIP, TISA, CETA or anything else.

'Trust and obey, or else you'll be prosecuted' seems to be the value that the present extremely secret government indulges in (for whoever is not called Clinton, to be sure).

Here is some good evidence:

People who leak to media outlets for the selfless purpose of informing the public – Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Drake, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden – face decades in prison. Those who leak for more ignoble and self-serving ends – such as enabling hagiography (Leon Panetta, David Petreaus) or ingratiating oneself to one’s mistress (Petraeus) – face career destruction, though they are usually spared if they are sufficiently Important-in-DC. For low-level, powerless Nobodies-in-DC, even the mere mishandling of classified informationwithout any intent to leak but merely to, say, work from home – has resulted in criminal prosecution, career destruction and the permanent loss of security clearance.
And this is good evidence about how having big power at present makes a big difference:
This extreme, unforgiving, unreasonable, excessive posture toward classified information came to an instant halt in Washington today – just in time to save Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.
Despite all of these highly incriminating findings, Comey explained, the FBI is recommending to the Justice Department that Clinton not be charged with any crime. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information,” he said, “our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
In fact, Glenn Greenwald agrees with Comey's decision, when considered in isolation. (I disagree, but leave that aside [1].) His point - which is quite correct - is that it doesn't happen in isolation, and that what happened is in fact this:
Like the Wall Street tycoons whose systemic fraud triggered the 2008 global financial crisis, and like the military and political officials who instituted a worldwide regime of torture, Hillary Clinton is too important to be treated the same as everyone else under the law.
But a system that accords treatment based on who someone is, rather than what they’ve done, is the opposite of one conducted under the rule of law. It is, instead, one of systemic privilege.
I agree. There is one law for the rich and powerful, and a quite different law for the rest.
2. Comments of the Week: Know Your History (Liberalism)

The second item is by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:

In fact, this is about one bit in these Comments, and I have added that to the title, in brackets: Liberalism.

Or perhaps "Liberalism", for it relates to my certainties that the term is used in a very vague way, both in Europe and in the USA, and also with a systematic difference between Europe and the USA, for in Europe a "Liberal" tends to be on the right side, though not the extreme right side, whereas in the USA a "Liberal" (perhaps the very same) belongs to the left side.

Here is Chris Hedges quoted on Truthdig:

I suspect your issue is more about terminology of “Liberal” than an actual disagreement with what is being said. There are many ways that the term is used. I’ve heard some refer to Liberals as “Leftists who still believe in the Establishment enough to work within it for liberty and equality in accordance with popular consent.” That definition might describe people like Bernie Sanders, but not Hillary Clinton, who is probably best characterized as “Center-Right,” in accordance with the ideology of the Republican Party of a decade or two ago.

Some use the term Liberal to describe a politician who is still responsive to the consent of the governed, albeit to a limited extent, and apart from believing in liberty or equality. That usage may have little to do with a politician’s personal inclinations, but sees the term in accordance with the Political Climate and Establishment. According to this usage, Nixon may be considered the last “Liberal” president, as he was quite scared of what the public might do to him (hence the pullout of Vietnam) in a more progressive era.

The relatively recent (and confusing) characterization of HRC and Obama (among others) as “Liberal” has led to public contempt for Liberalism. Most people recognize them as oligarchs, whatever else they are called, and “Neoliberal” is frequently invoked. This new term means something very different from “liberty and equality”, or “popular consent,” and thus adds another element of confusion.

Sanders calls himself (bravely) a “Democratic Socialist,” probably not wanting to be confused with the many ambiguous uses of the term Liberal. Sanders is a “New Deal” Liberal Politician in the original, classic sense.

There aren’t a lot of Leftists working within government. The term doesn’t accurately describe the majority of Democratic Party officials. The Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Black Caucus are not all that left-wing. Are they “Liberals”? It depends on whom you ask and how you mean it.

To which I say: Quite so. This is one of the best discussions about "Liberal" and ""Liberal"" I've read, and indeed Hedges spent many years as a correspondent outside the USA - and note that he distinguishes at least four rather different meanings of "Liberal" in the  USA.

Also, I note that this is much more about terminology than it is about politics. There is more to say about this (I can't find my own, rather classical,
meaning of "liberal", for example), but four quite different senses of the
same term is enough to make my initial point: To say so-and-so is "a liberal"
is almost meaningless without terminological explications in what sense one
uses the term.
3. Is Hillary Clinton Too Big to Indict?

The third item is by Bill Blum on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
The long-roiling question finally has been answered: Hillary Clinton will not be indicted for using a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Period. Full stop. Pause a moment, and let it sink in.
OK - we know that. I also agree this makes her almost certainly the Democratic candidate for the presidency (which is a pity, in my opinion).
Here is some more:

Reaction to his announcement has been swift and predictable, with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., expressing shock and dismay that the “rule of law” has been “damaged,” and the Clinton campaign voicing relief “that the matter is now resolved.” Taking to Twitter, Clinton’s Republican presidential rival, Donald Trump, blasted Comey’s analysis as further proof that “the system is rigged.”
To which I say: Clearly “the system is rigged” - but it is rigged both ways, and it is rigged towards protecting the rich and the powerful of both main parties.

The article ends as follows:

The decision not to prosecute, however, will not end the email controversy, not by a long shot.

The leniency shown to Clinton stands in stark contrast to the harsh sentences meted out to whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and former CIA analyst John Kiriakou for their alleged mishandling of classified material.

As a result, we can expect the cries of double standards, political influence and corruption to persist and redouble as we head for the November election. At the same time, the increasingly proto-fascist Trump campaign will be fortified with a fresh set of inexhaustible talking points.

Most disastrous of all, the race for the White House, which should be a cakewalk for the Democrats, will go down to the wire because the party has chosen as its leader a candidate driven by blind ambition, with an appalling disregard for accountability and transparency, who, when push came to shove, was too big to bring to the bar of justice.

I don't know. For one thing, Clinton will not be prosecuted, and probably will refuse to talk about it. For another thing, there are more interesting political
topics (than discussing something from the past, that will not be prosecuted).

And I agree the outcome is not fair, but then I would also say both parties have presidential candidates "
driven by blind ambition, with an appalling disregard for accountability and transparency".

4. Perilous Plebiscites: Brexit Vote Underscores Limits of Direct Democracy

The fourth item is "a Spiegel Editorial" by Michael Sauga:
This starts as follows, with a (bold) summary:
Brexit sheds light on the problems created when the idea of direct democracy is abused. In our complex 21st century world, we have no choice but to delegate authority for most decision-making to our elected representatives.
In the late 60-ies (yes, loooong ago) I was a regular reader of the Spiegel, which then was - see item 1 for terminology - in my understanding and the understanding of most other Europeans at the time "leftist liberal". [2]

I have no idea who Michael Sauga is, but I would not call him either leftist or liberal, and the reason is that he is against direct democracy as soon as that
produces decisions he doesn't like.

What he wants is that all decisions in Europe will be made by the around a 1000 prominent politicians, nearly all of whom - left, right and center - are evident liars and evident careerists, who are much more out for their own welfare and their own careers than for caring or thinking about the many poor
or the many mistreated (except briefly before elections, to be sure).

This - he might intone - is because he is for "De-mo-cra-cy! Free-dom! E-qual Rights!", for nearly all politicians and most journalists found their careers on their willingness to lie, and present-day journalists seem to often make very well-paid careers by (underhand) selling of their public viewpoints.

I do not know whether Sauga did, because I have no idea who he is. Here are some parts of his argument - that proposes to take the abilities of the democratic majority  away from them (several hundreds of millions, indeed) and give them to the 1000 or so political liars and careerists who already made the vote.

It starts with following gross lie:
Boris Johnson has always had a playful relationship with power. During his time at university, it is said that the conservative politician pretended to be a member of the Labour Party in order to have better chances in the student union. As a journalist, he had a penchant for criticizing EU laws that didn't even exist. And when the world was recently left scratching its head over how Britain could have voted to leave the EU, the leader of the Brexit camp unceremoniously dismissed the historical vote by 17 million Brits as a non-event. For now, the former London mayor concluded, "nothing will change over the short term."
This is a gross lie, because Boris Johnson did not have "a playful relationship"
with politics or power: As the paragraph makes clear, he has a thoroughly dishonest, fraudulent and grossly lying relation to those who vote for him, and to present this system of lies and falsehoods as
"a playful relation- ship" is - in my opinion - simply a gross lie about a gross political liar. [3]

Here is what Michael Sauga has against the Brexit referendum (which - I take it - he would have fondly embraced as "A Triumph Of De-mo-cra-cy" if slightly more than 2% of the Brits had voted against Brexit instead of for it):

Rarely, though, have the limitations of plebiscites been shown so clearly as in the British vote. Not because most experts believe the result to be misguided. Voters have the undeniable right to value the supposed advantages of increased sovereignty over the obvious economic and political disadvantages.

But the British referendum was a disaster because it failed to achieve just about every single overarching goal. Rather than provide clarification, the vote has instead caused confusion: Indeed, not even the exit from Brexit can be ruled out. Furthermore, far from pacifying the country, the referendum has created new rifts: between old and young, London and the provinces, the English and the Scottish. In the end, further referenda may follow, with the result that the once powerful United Kingdom could be transformed into a loose alliance of marginalized mini-states.

Note that Sauga doesn't complain about the democracy of the referendum: he complains about the outcome, because he (a German) doesn't like it. And
because he doesn't like it he infers that the several hundreds of millions of European voters should be unqualified to vote on their politicians in a referendum, and such public votes have to be radically abandoned, and be left in the hands of the 1000 or so elected European politicians with some power.

Here is his thoroughly crazy argument:

The lessons from the British referendum disaster are clear: It's not more direct democracy that the EU needs. Rather, it is finally time to implement the long-discussed reforms of European institutions in Brussels. The next British government must strictly implement the referendum result if it doesn't want to transform the principle of democracy into a joke. At the same time, defenders of direct democracy should also understand that the instrument they champion is a limited one. In our complex 21st century world, there is no getting around the need to transfer political responsibility for core issues to elected representatives.

It is then vital that those elected representatives are subject to effective checks and balances. As Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, once said: "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When governments fear the people, there is liberty."

That is: (1) Direct democracy should stop immediately; (2) the issues on which direct democracy would or might show a difference of opinion in the
majority of the voters for hundreds of millions, should all be left to the
opinions of the 1000 or so prominent elected politicians; and (3) this is
real democracy because "
those elected representatives are subject to effective checks and balances".

So he moves in three steps from totally forbidding direct democracy, and embracing the rule of the 1000 or so liars and careerists who have some power (mostly by lies, deceptions and false promises), to calling that real democracy
because he falsely pretends elected representatives "
are subject to effective checks and balances" - which 46 years of experience tells me is an utter lie.

Finally, he also has the cheek to quote Jefferson in support of his completely
"When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When governments fear the people, there is liberty."

What Mr. Sauga wants is that the European governments have no reasons whatsoever to fear the people, for they should abandon all referendums on politics and politicians (and leave it to very few politicians).

This is the position of tyranny, according to Jefferson. According to Sauga, that is highly desirable.

5. Abby Martin and Paul Jay - Should Sanders Run for a Third Party?

The fifth and last item today is by Abby Martin and Paul Jay on The Real News Network:

I put on this slightly over 20 minutes of a video registration of a discussion between Paul Jay and Abby Martin because I like both, Jay as the main man behind The Real News Network, and Abby Martin as a journalist (known best
to me as the presenter of "Breaking the Set", that is now in the past).

Then again, I did see all of this yesterday, and I wasn't much pleased, although I do not think Jay and Martin are much to blame. Here are their respective positions:

Jay in effect proposes to drop Bernie Sanders, basically because he is too old (he is 74), supports Clinton as the least evil of a choice from two evils, and expects a lot from the movement that he says is growing out of the Sanders-
For-President movement, and from "younger politicians" he claims are part of that.

Martin in effect supports Bernie Sanders, wants him to continue as a Third Party candidate (also if he looses), is much opposed to "choose the least evil", it seems mostly because she doesn't know who is more evil, Trump or Clinton,
and doesn't see any politician who has Sanders' 40-year progressive history.

I think that is a fair summary (but the discussion is not always clear). What do I think? I'm midway:

Jay seems correct on choosing the least evil, because Martin doesn't seem to see that one basic difference between Clinton and Trump is that Clinton, while evil, is not mad, as Trump is (I am sorry, but I am a psychologist). I don't think he is fair to Sanders, and I think he is quite naive in the good he expects
from a largely anonymous rather uncertain movement with mostly unknown and untested politicians.

Martin seems correct in supporting Sanders (I agree that - if Sanders wants to - it is best he runs as a Third Party candidate for the presidency [4]), and is certainly correct in saying there is not any other politician in the US with such a long history of consistent progressive politics as Sanders. But I think she is simply mistaken about there being no difference between Trump and Clinton: Even if both are equally evil, Clinton is sane and Trump is not.

And now you can watch the debate, if you want.
[1] I think Clinton had her e-mails on her own server i.a. in order to escape all FOIAs, and I think that was quite illegal, and she knew it. Therefore, I think she ought to be prosecuted - but since I know now that she won't, I will indeed leave this out of consideration.

[2] I did read it more or less weekly then, from 1967 till 1970, and it was widely seen as "leftist liberal" then (which also, in Holland at least, meant something rather different from "liberal"), but this is mostly here
for accuracy's sake and because it was all quite different then.

[3] In case you doubt this, reread the quoted paragraph: he pretended to be Labour; he criticized "laws" that don't exist. He lied, quite consciously, also.

[4] I don't see why not, were it only because he has been an independent most of his life, and the Democrats didn't want him. Whether he is up for it, I don't know. What I do know is that Jay's argument against this possibility - presidential elections with three candidates - is pretty ridiculous: Jay is against it because (he says he thinks) this might mean that Trump wins (because Sanders gets too many votes, without a majority) and that would give Sanders
a bad reputation. (That is a triple hypothesis: If Sanders wants to, if he wins
too many votes from Clinton but not enough to win, and if he is right the people then would blame Sanders. In fact, this sort of emotional hypostasizing is one of the reasons I gave up politics and turned to science, in 1970.)

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