By Robert A. Vella
The tide of authoritarianism which has swept over much of the world over the last decade or so under the guise of populist nationalism presents an aura of irresistibility. People naturally, but mistakenly, perceive aggressiveness as strength. We humans evolved in a primal environment where dominance apparently prevails. The aphorism “might makes right” reflects this disposition of ours. However, it is mere illusion born from fear. Sheer aggressiveness neither guarantees the success nor survivability of a species, and it likewise provides no such guarantee in social structures where cooperation between individuals is paramount.
For example, rodents are small timid creatures which are regularly preyed upon by a wide variety of predators. Yet, they represent about 40% of all mammalian species, thrive in the most diverse habitats on Earth, and have existed for at least 60 million years. Aside from an occasional daring urban rat, rodents aren’t typically aggressive. Similarly, a single ant isn’t much of a threat to any animal but a cohesive ant colony certainly is. Ants, which have existed for roughly 150 million years, are so successful that they constitute 15-25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. These and countless other examples evidentially disprove the concept of Social Darwinism which promotes hyper-competitive individualism over social cooperation. A pure “survival of the fittest” strategy is inconsistent with species survival. Even usually solitary creatures such as bears and sharks do cooperate with each other, and extreme individualism is utterly detrimental to highly social creatures like humans.
Social Darwinism is the only basis for authoritarianism and autocratic forms of government regardless of whether it is right-wing fascism or left-wing totalitarianism. Dictators must continually assert their dominance over the entire population by demonstrating their power, superiority, and sometimes divine privilege (as is the case for theocrats and monarchs). Obviously, this couldn’t work without instilling fear in the populace. Citizens who lose their fear represent an existential threat to such rulers – not only because they become less obedient, but also because they see the innate weakness and vulnerability of dictatorial leaders. Once enough people see that the King wears no clothes, his downfall becomes inevitable.
That’s the theme for today’s news stories. The defenders of democracy have been languishing for far too long, but they are now beginning to counterattack. The U.S. under Donald Trump, Russia under Vladimir Putin, and China under Xi Jinping, are all under intense and increasing public scrutiny. Like Winston Churchill said in November 1942 after the Second Battle of El Alamein:
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
LONDON – A report on Russian interference into British politics was finally published Tuesday, more than a year after allegations surfaced that Moscow sought to meddle in Britain’s 2019 general election and following similar claims about its 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union and a 2014 failed referendum on Scottish independence.
The report, published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, and based on the findings of spy agencies as well as assessments from independent security analysts, confirmed what British politicians have long suspected: that the Kremlin has used espionage and diverse forms of subversion, including cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and state-sponsored assassinations to undermine British democratic processes and divide alliances such as NATO and the EU.
“Russia’s intelligence services are disproportionately large and powerful and, given the lack of rule of law, are able to act without constraint,” the report said. “The fusion between state, business, and serious and organized crime provides further weight and leverage: Russia is able to pose an all-encompassing security threat – which is fueled by paranoia about the West and a desire to be seen as a resurgent great power.”
The report was submitted to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in October last year and Britain’s prime minister has claimed that the report couldn’t be published until it was reviewed for national security issues. And there have been other unexplained delays.
The opposition Labour Party has accused Johnson’s government of failing to publish the report because it would lead to further questions about links between Russia and the pro-Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum on European Union membership, which Johnson helped lead.
The report also concluded that senior figures with links to Putin’s inner circle enjoy access to top British business and political leaders. It said that successive British governments have “welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat,’ and connections at the highest levels with access to UK companies and political figures.”
It called for “immediate action” and “international unity” to meet Russia’s threat.
“If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government,” Biden wrote.
“I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators,” he added, noting that the potential costs could include “financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption.”
“We know from before and I guarantee you I know now because now I get briefings again. The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process. Fact,” Biden said Friday evening at a virtual fundraiser hosted by a group of top lawyers.
“China and others are engaged as well in activities that are designed for us to lose confidence in the outcome,” the former vice president, who served for multiple stints as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his 36-year career in the U.S. Senate, added.
From: Biden, lawmakers warn of foreign interference in election [emphasis by The Secular Jurist]
The Democratic leaders said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday that they are concerned that Congress appears to be the target of a “concerted foreign interference campaign” to influence the 2020 presidential election. They asked Wray for an all-members, classified briefing on the matter before the August recess.
The letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees contains no details about the threats, though they describe them as serious and specific.
“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” wrote Pelosi, Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel.
A congressional official familiar with the letter said that there was a classified addendum “to ensure a clear and unambiguous record of the counterintelligence threats of concern.” The person, who was granted anonymity to describe the confidential letter, said the addendum largely draws from the executive branch’s own reporting and analysis.
The FBI said it had received the letter but declined further comment.
Democrats, including members of the Senate intelligence panel, have voiced concerns that an ongoing Republican probe into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his work in Ukraine would amplify Russian disinformation. That probe is being led by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China is using its technological rise to develop “digital authoritarianism” to conduct surveillance and censor information not just within its borders, but around the world, a U.S. Senate report said on Tuesday.
The report, led by Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and conducted by Democratic staff, says China uses technologies such as artificial intelligence and biometrics to keep track of its citizens and control information.
A lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Michael Cohen claiming the former attorney for President Donald Trump was returned to prison because of his plans to publish a publish a book about the president.
The American Civil Liberties Union and law firm Perry Guha LLP filed the suit on behalf Cohen, who was returned to prison July 9, seven days after he tweeted that he was finishing a book about Trump. At the time he was returned to prison, the Bureau of Prisons said Cohen had violated the terms of his home confinement.
“The First Amendment forbids Respondents from imprisoning Mr. Cohen in retaliation for drafting a book about the President and for seeking to publish that book soon,” the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York. It seeks his immediate return to home confinement. Cohen had been let out of prison in May to serve his sentence at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
CINCINNATI – Federal officials arrested Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others on Tuesday morning in connection with a $60 million bribery case.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers’ office would not discuss details of the case, but a source involved in the investigation confirmed Householder’s arrest to The Cincinnati Enquirer of the USA TODAY Network.
Also arrested, according to the source: Neil Clark from Grant Street Consultants in Columbus; former Ohio Republican Party chair and consultant Matthew Borges; Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group in Columbus; and Jeffrey Longstreth, adviser to Householder.
A spokeswoman for DeVillers said an Ohio official and associates were charged in the case, which she described as a “public corruption racketeering conspiracy involving $60 million.” DeVillers has scheduled a 2:30 p.m. ET press conference to discuss the case.
Racial injustice protests: