February 8, 2019

Crisis: On Socialism, Authoritarian Trump, Leftist Defense, Ken Clarke On Tories, Green New Deal

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 8, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, February 8, 2019.

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 three 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 February 8, 2019:
1. Who’s Really Afraid of Socialism?
2. Trump urging Congress to stop Investigations

3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Dismantles Trump's Attack on Socialism

4. 'We Can't Carry On Being So Insane'

5. Pelosi dismisses Ocasio-Cortez's "New Deal" climate plan
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. Who’s Really Afraid of Socialism?

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

During his State of the Union address, President Trump expressed “alarm” at what he termed “new calls to adopt socialism in our country.” “Tonight,” he proclaimed, “we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” The line received a standing ovation from Republicans and Democrats alike, yet recent polls show that socialism is growing in popularity in the U.S., with a net positive rating among Democrats. Newly-elected Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are both members of the Democratic Socialists of America, and policy proposals identified with the socialist movement, such as debt-free college and universal health care, are gaining traction on the left. To discuss America’s long-held resistance to socialism and its current rise in popularity, Mehdi Hasan is joined by Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig.

Yes, and I think this is both interesting and confusing. I will outline some of my reasons why (the term) "socialism" is confusing:

First, there were for 72 years a number of states that in fact depended on the Soviet Union, which claimed the same, namely that they were "socialist" states. This was rather popular in various leftist circles until 1940 or 1945, but later - when Churchill and Stalin started the cold war - grew considerably less popular.

Because I was born in a fairly prominent communist family (and communism is a faith I gave up - as one of the extremely few with my background in 1970, when I was 20) I heard rather a lot about "socialist states", but I gave up on my belief that they were socialist in any sense that I could appreciate after visiting the German Democratic Republic in 1964.

Second, in Western Europe there were in most countries since the end of WW II a number of so-called "social democratic" parties, some of which were rather large. They were for the most part somewhat for socialism (in part to draw voters) but they denied that the Soviet Union and its associated states were socialists, at least in their sense.

These parties mostly still exist, though they are smaller than in the 1960ies and 1970ies (at least) and while I would agree that they are leftist, I do not think that they were socialists in any sense I would agree to.

Third, apart from the social democrats there were quite a considerable number of (somewhat or cvonsiderably) more leftist leanings, especially in the 1960ies and 1970ies. I think nearly all were small or not large.

Many of these parties disappeared (as did almost all communist parties after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991) but a few remain. It is too complicated to say which were in some plausible sense socialist.

This was just a brief survey of various meanings of "socialist". Here is more from the article:

Donald J. Trump: Tonight we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.

[Crowd cheers.]

[Music interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. President Trump gave one of the longest State of the Union speeches ever on Tuesday night, and it was filled with the usual racist lies about immigrants, the usual belligerence and warmongering in relation to Iran, and the usual BS about making America great again. But he also took time out to slam the S-word. Yes, socialism.

Yes indeed. Also, I think that in Trump's mouth "socialism" mostly is scaremongering (but as I said, "socialism" is a quite confused term).

Here is more:

MH: Donald Trump speaking on Tuesday night at his belated State of the Union address in Congress. His mention of the word socialism got boos from the Republican side. His pledge to never allow America to become a socialist country got applause and a standing ovation from a fair few people on the Democratic side too, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Because the U.S., of course, is the only advanced, industrialized nation whose political system has never had a large, mainstream, socialist or even social-democratic political party such as the Labour Party in the UK or the French Socialist Party. The German sociologist Werner Sombart famously asked, back in the 1880s: “Why is there no socialism in the United States?”

These days, though, after a half century of being demonized by Cold Warriors and tainted in the eyes of ordinary Americans by its association with the Soviets and the Cubans, socialism seems to be on the ascendant here in the U.S. The S-word is all over the media, and it’s fair to say that people, on the right, in the center, and on the center left of American politics, are spooked by the rise of socialism.

Yes indeed (although I think I must disagree a bit with Sombart, for there were some socialist movements, in some sense, in the later 1880ies, notably Emma Goldman).

Here is more:

MH: In 2016, independent senator and proud socialist Bernie Sanders took America by storm in the Democratic primaries. He won 13 million votes. Yeah, a socialist in the U.S. And he didn’t hide his socialism either.

Anderson Cooper: How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

Bernie Sanders: We’re going to win because first we’re going to explain what democratic socialism is. And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one tenth of one percent in this country own almost as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent.

MH: Since 2016, Bernie’s only become more popular, as has his socialist agenda. Single-payer universal healthcare, for example, which Senator Kamala Harris was defending on a CNN town hall just the other week, debt-free college, a higher minimum wage, better regulation of the banks, higher taxes on the rich.

Well... perhaps Bernie Sanders is a socialist in a sense I can also acknowledge, but his politics fit better in a social democratic tradition (in the European sense) than in a democratic socialist tradition, I would say.

Here is more:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: For me, democratic socialism is about — really, the value for me is that I believe that in a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live.

[Crowd cheers.]

MH: By the way, I’m not pretending that socialism isn’t a contested term, that there aren’t arguments even within the left, about what it means or how to define it. But I think it’s fair to say that one of the core principles of socialism is equality. It’s about trying to achieve a more equal society in terms of power, wealth and income. That’s why I’d define myself as a socialist — because I’m outraged by inequality, and I happened to grow up in a country, Britain, where socialism gave us much-needed universal healthcare — and that’s why a lot of Americans, who live in one of the most unequal societies in the West, where the one percent keep gobbling up more and more wealth, especially since the financial crash, are turning towards socialism or at least socialist policies.

Well... "socialism" certainly is "a contested term", and I think one can very well be for "a more equal society in terms of power, wealth and income" (as are the European social democrats) without being a socialist (and I think most Europeans would agree to this).

But Hasan is probably correct in saying that in the USA there are now some - fairly popular  - politicians who are in favor of "socialist policies".

Here is some more:

MH: (..) And number three, if socialism is inherently flawed as an economic doctrine, and Venezuela is supposedly proof of that, if it automatically leads to economic mismanagement and ruin, then how do you explain the economic success stories that are the Nordic countries — the likes of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, which have all, in some way or another, implemented socialist economic policies, engaged in state ownership of assets, had high rates of tax, universal healthcare, childcare and the rest, and yet have had massive economic growth and are constantly voted the happiest places in the world with the best standards of living.

My reply (and I lived for several years in Norway) is rather simple: In Sweden, Denmark and Norway it were not socialists who were strong in politics, but social democrats, and indeed neither of these countries is a socialist country, though I think that they all - still, also under non-social democratic governments - incorporate more social democracy than most other European nations.

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

MH: And how do you define socialism than, specifically democratic socialism, which I think, is what you and others on the U.S. left are advocating?

EB: Yes. So, yeah, exactly right. So, democratic socialism explicitly rejects authoritarian forms of socialism and says that democracy and a democratic apparatus is essential to the kind of government we want to see. And then I think from there the sort of organizing principle of democratic socialism is to move as much of the economy as possible under democratic control. So, to return control of the economy to the people at large instead of a small number of super rich people.

I like Elizabeth Bruenig (of whom there is a lot more in the article) but I think the above is also somewhat confusing, because part of her aims are realizable by social demoratic policies, who are for more equality and more fairness, but who rarely are socialists, and tend not to be revolutionairies in any sense, while part of her aims, such as "to move as much of the economy as possible under democratic control" (which itself is not very clear) seem only realizable after a - mosly successful - socialist revolution.

But this article and interview are quite good, and there also is a lot more than I quoted. This is a strongly recommended article. And for more on socialism, look here:
Crisis: On Socialism

2. Trump urging Congress to stop Investigations

This article is by Matthew Chapman on AlterNet. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

One of the strangest and most ominous moments of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address was when, in an apparent warning shot at the newly divided Congress, the president implied that lawmakers would have to choose between investigating him and passing legislation.

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” said Trump. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”

I say, for these sentiments are those of an authoritarian and not those of any democrat (and that is wholly apart from Trump's thesis that "an economic miracle is taking place in the United States", which either is pure bullshit, or refers only to the richest 1%).

Here is some more:

In conversation with CNN’s John Berman on “New Day,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed back hard.

“One of the functions of the Congress, the Article I section of government from the days of the founding fathers, was oversight of the executive branch,” said Schumer. “And the president says, ‘If you investigate me, I’m not gonna make progress.’ That’s doing what he did with the shutdown, holding the American people hostage.”

“You know what I think it shows, John?” said Schumer. “He’s scared. He’s got something to hide, because if he had nothing to hide, he’d just shrug his shoulders and let these investigations go forward. He’s afraid of them.”

I don't like Schumer, but he was quite correct in insisting that "one of the functions of the Congress, the Article I section of government from the days of the founding fathers, was oversight of the executive branch”.

Then again, I don't know whether Trump is scared (and this seems like indirect propaganda for Russia-gate).

Here is one more bit from this article:

Trump, his family, his campaign, his businesses, and even his inaugural committee have faced investigations by Congress, special counsel Robert Mueller, prosecutors with the Southern District of New York, and the New York State Attorney General, for everything from conspiracy with Russia, to violating campaign finance and nonprofit laws. The Democratic takeover of the House means even more congressional investigations, and Trump is already plotting how to stonewall them from even obtaining his tax returns.

Yes, I think this is all correct, and this is a recommended article.

3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Dismantles Trump's Attack on Socialism

This article is by Jake Johnson on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While Republicans and many Democrats rose and enthusiastically applauded President Donald Trump’s attack on socialism during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—who, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), remained seated—said the president’s remarks showed he’s “scared” of the progressive policies that most Americans are embracing.

Speaking to reporters after Trump proclaimed that “America will never be a socialist country,” Ocasio-Cortez said the president felt the need to lash out at socialism because bold progressives have gotten “under his skin.”

“I think he’s scared,” said Ocasio-Cortez, a self-identified democratic socialist. “He sees that everything is closing in on him. And he knows he’s losing the battle of public opinion when it comes to the actual substantive proposals that we’re advancing.”

Well... perhaps. In fact, I might have included "progressives" and "leftists" as well under my explanation of various meanings of "socialist" (see here - and I did not simply because that would have made my text too long).

I hope Ocasio-Cortez is right, but I do not know. Then again, she seems to be mostly right on the following points:

In an interview with MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews late Tuesday following Trump’s address, Ocasio-Cortez argued Trump’s swipe at socialism demonstrates that he’s “losing on the issues.”

“Every single policy proposal that we have adopted and presented to the American public has been overwhelmingly popular, even some with the majority of Republican voters,” said the New York congresswoman. “When we talk about a 70 percent marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million, 60 percent of Americans approve it.”

“Seventy percent of Americans believe in improved and expanded Medicare for All. A very large amount of Americans believe that we need to do something about climate change, and that it is an existential threat to ourselves and to our children,” she continued. “What we really need to realize…is that this is an issue of [an] authoritarian regime versus democracy.”

Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.

4. 'We Can't Carry On Being So Insane'

This article is by Jörg Schindler on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

Before he extends his hand in greeting at his office, Kenneth Clarke says he's never seen such a "crazy situation" in all his whole life. The politician, a veteran of the Conservative Party, will soon have spent a half-century in the British parliament. He's been a part of many of the biggest battles over Europe in Westminster. He served as a government minister under Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron and might well have made it to the top, "if I hadn't been so pro-European," as he confides. Next to Michael Heseltine, many consider Clarke to be the best prime minister Britain never had.

The 78-year-old member of parliament says he has never seen the kind of discord that has unfolded in recent weeks as the deadline for Brexit approaches.

I say: Fifty years in parliament! Anyway, that more or less identifies Kenneth Clarke (and the last link gives more information).

Here is some more:

DER SPIEGEL: Why has the prime minister chosen this path regardless of signals from the European Union that the Withdrawal Agreement is nonnegotiable?

Clarke: The prime minister is obsessed with keeping the Conservative Party in one piece. I have argued for months that the moderate majority of the House of Commons should come together on a cross-party basis. We can only reach an agreement if Tory remainers and Labour remainers strike a compromise. But Theresa May has not really reached out to them. Instead, she is making a desperate effort to win over the hardline right-wing people of our party.

I do not know, but the above may well be correct. Here is some more:

DER SPIEGEL: What are the deeper roots of the eternal struggle over Europe in your party?

Clarke: There was always a group of nationalists in the Tory party that didn't come to terms with our changed role in the world. In their eyes we have an imperial destiny. But that was fading away and we were becoming a rather pro-European party in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher. Remember, it was us who had to persuade the Germans and French of the single market.

DER SPIEGEL: But Thatcher turned into a euroskeptic herself at the end of her term as prime minister.

Clarke: She rejected Jacques Delors' idea of a more social Europe. Her fall in 1990 enraged the Tory far-right. They thought it was all a kind of pro-European plot. The European issue became symbolic of the betrayal of Margaret Thatcher. It became a spiritual event -- revenge for Margaret. And then there was the question of the euro and the Maastricht Treaty, which became symbols for the destruction of our independence and sovereignty.

Well, two remarks (and I do not know to what extent the above is correct):

First, Great Britain entered the EEC before Thatcher became prime minister, while second, I tend to agree with Clare on "
the euro and the Maastricht Treaty, which became symbols for the destruction of our independence and sovereignty", though very probably not for his reasons. But I do think both were major mistakes.

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

DER SPIEGEL: Are you worried?

Clarke: Of course, I am. The Brexit debate has absolutely crippled our party-political system and it has distorted the usual process of political debate. We have lots and lots of other really big things we should be getting on with. We urgently need to create an economy that distributes benefits more fairly. But we're not, because the political class is obsessed with Brexit. This is almost a nervous breakdown, we need to stop it.

I think Clarke is mostly correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. Pelosi dismisses Ocasio-Cortez's "New Deal" climate plan

This article is by Matthew Rozsa on Salon. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to throw shade on the Green New Deal being proposed by progressive congresspeople like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

The California Democrat made her disparaging remarks when speaking with Politico earlier this week:

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?”

Pelosi has long championed stronger environmental rules, and described climate change as her “flagship” political issue.

Yes, "dismissive" and "disparaging" are the correct words for Pelosi's sayings, and I should add, I think, that I disagree with the statement that "climate change [i]s her “flagship” political issue", namely because I think she is first for the Wall Street banks, who finance her and most elected Democrats, and only second for the political plans she is in favor of.

Here is some more:

Pelosi's reluctance to offer a full-throated endorsement of the Green New Deal makes a certain amount of political sense; for every progressive congressperson like Ocasio-Cortez, there are also more moderate Democrats who need to hold their seats in districts that voted for President Donald Trump or, at the very least, could conceivably flip to Republican in the next election cycle.

At the same time, Pelosi's attitude toward the Green New Deal also risks putting her out of step with the direction her party is taking on a national level. She seemed to understand her perilous position when she walked back a bit of her dismissiveness.

Calling the Green New Deal an[d] “enthusiastic” idea at her weekly press conference, Pelosi reportedly said the Democratic House caucus "welcome the enthusiasm that is there”

This may well be correct. Here is a reply by Ocasio-Cortez:

"Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us," Ocasio-Cortez told NPR's Steve Inskeep during an interview on Thursday morning. The New York congresswoman added, "It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail. And so that's really what we're trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal."

Ocasio-Cortez's ideas have also received plaudits from Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee that has been instrumental in trying to push the Democratic Party to the left.

I think this is correct as well, 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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