July 21, 2015
Crisis: Hedges, "Human Resources", Assange on Spiegel, "Internment camps"
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


1. My Teacher
How Human Resources Manipulates and Spies on You,
     Even While You’re Not at Work

3. SPIEGEL Interview with Julian Assange: 'We Are
     Drowning in Material'

4. Wesley Clark Calls for Internment Camps for
     "Radicalized" Americans

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday July 21, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article of Chris Hedges on his teacher (with a disagreement about my sincerity); item 2 is a good article about how "human resources" in many corporations spy
on their employees; item 3 is about a good interview with Julian Assange; and item 4 is about general Clark's desire to lock up dissenters from the US government in camps.

1. My Teacher  
The first article today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This is indeed about a teacher of Chris Hedges: The late Rev. Coleman Brown, who was a Christian minister who taught religion at Colgate University, and who much inspired Chris Hedges, and who also taught him a lot, including being an effective preacher.

As regular readers of Nederlog probably know, I like Chris Hedges: He is a fine writer, with great courage, and - what I regard as - good principles, but I certainly do not always agree with him, and religion is one topic of considerable disagree- ments, for Chris Hedges is a Christian, who recently also became a minister, and who has said and written repeatedly that he doesn't believe in atheists.

It so happens that I am an atheist and a philosopher; that my parents were atheists; that three of my four grandparents were atheists; and that my mother's family were atheists since the 1850ies, which they became after the Catholic church had swindled them out of their farm, then at the border of Amsterdam.

So I will have something to say about atheism and religion, but first I will quote and comment three bits of this article, and I will do this (unlike most of my quotations, that generally follow the order in which they were written) in reverse order.

First then (but last in the article), there is this about Coleman Brown:
A descendant of the abolitionist John Brown, he placed at the center of his critique of American society the poison of white supremacy and the nightmare of racism that had been and remains part of our body politic. Being educated meant understanding how racism and white supremacy were ingrained in the beliefs, institutions, laws and systems of power—especially capitalism—that ruled America.
I say. I like John Brown, as you can see here (which was preceded by a considerably longer Nederlog on On Henry David Thoreau (on John Brown)).

I do not know how much this says about Coleman Brown, but if he was proud
of his ancestor, he had a right to be, for while John Brown was hanged for violently opposing slavery, his action also was an important trigger (
though not the only one) for starting the American Civil War, that ended slavery.

Next, here is one bit on Coleman Brown's opinions that I personally like, because I was exposed to "New Criticism" in high school, which I found utter trash, and especially because it pretended to be "scientific" (in a never clearly explained sense):
Coleman had open disdain for New Criticism, the evisceration of texts into sterile pieces of pedantry that fled from the mysterious, sacred forces that great writers struggle to articulate. You had to love great writing before you attempted to analyze it. You had to be moved and inspired by it. You had to be captured by the human imagination.
Yes, indeed - and few persons are capable of recognizing great writing by themselves, alas. (This is why I am such a fan of William Hazlitt: He was a
very great writer - but still is recognized by few, and hardly read.)

As the last quotation, there is this eloquent bit on education:

Education is not only about knowledge. It is about inspiration. It is about passion. It is about the belief that what we do in life matters. It is about moral choice. It is about taking nothing for granted. It is about challenging assumptions and suppositions. It is about truth and justice. It is about learning how to think. It is about, as James Baldwin wrote, the ability to drive “to the heart of every matter and expose the question the answer hides.” And, as Baldwin further noted, it is about making the world “a more human dwelling place.”
Yes, indeed - but the least this approach to education requires is truly intelligent students, with initiative and courage, and again such students are fairly to very rare. [1]

Finally, about religion and atheism.

I will not give my reasons for being an atheist, although these are quite logical: If interested, you can find them in my Philosophical Dictionary, e.g. under religion, God, Faith and atheism.

In fact, I only want to make one point: There are thousands of religions, and there have been many intelligent men and women who could not believe the religion they were educated in, all through history also, and quite a few of
these (though certainly not all) ended up as atheists, skeptics or agnostics.

And while I think - as a philosopher also, and that is a subject in which I am more learned than Chris Hedges - that Chris Hedges is mistaken, I see no reason to doubt his belief and his sincerity and his considerable knowledge of theology (of which he knows a lot more than I do).

For these and other reasons I object that Chris Hedges doubts my sincerity and my beliefs and those of millions of others who also are sincere and intelligent atheists: it just isn't fair to deny them the sincerity of their beliefs, while insisting that those who believe in some God (out of the thousands there have been, in the imaginations of millions: surely nearly all of them must be wrong that their God -Mohammedam, Hinduistic, Catholic, you name it - is the true God) must - somehow - be sincere.

It just isn't polite and I know that in my case and quite a few others (all of whom gave up the hope of a blissful infinity in God's heaven, at His side - and Bertrand Russell is a good example) it simply is false. [2]

2. How Human Resources Manipulates and Spies on You, Even While You’re Not at Work

The next article today is by Glynis Sweeny on AlterNet:
This is a very good article that starts as follows:
It comes to no surprise to most people that corporate Human Resources departments work in conjunction with IT to monitor employee activities at the workplace. They monitor your movements with keycards and video cameras; they register when you log in and out of your work computer; and they even track your keystrokes, your email (including your personal account) and web browsing on their workstations. It can be argued that they have the right, as it is their equipment and you are on company time. However, more and more workers are being spied on and manipulated by Human Resources in more insidious ways, and they probably don’t even know it. Here are​ five.
I'd say that it is evident an employer does not have the right they have assigned to themselves, in many cases, to spy on their employees, but undoubtedly they do, it seems because they can, just like the NSA.

The rest of the article discusses these things that many employers do:
1. They monitor your personal electronics.
2. They track and manipulate your social media.
3. They demand access to your private online accounts.
4. They engage in social engineering.
5. They’re creating prison environments.
These are just the section headings: there is a fair amount of text in the article under each heading.

I do recommend that you read the article, though I grant that it may make you quite depressed. I think an employer has none of "the rights" they assign to themselves, but without good laws (that are not in sight) many employers will
spy on their employees all they can: it is worth money to them, and their employees are merely their wage-slaves about whom they know everything and to whom they only owe a salary, and no decency or fairness whatsoever.

3. SPIEGEL Interview with Julian Assange: 'We Are Drowning in Material'

The next article today is by Michael Sontheimer on Spiegel On Line:

This is a good and fairly long interview, for which Michael Sontheimer also travelled to the Ecuadorian Embassy, where Assange has been locked up for
three years now.

I will quote three bits from a lot more.

First, there is this about new Wikileaks publications and "transparency":

SPIEGEL: So we can expect new publications?

Assange: We are drowning in material now. Economically, the challenge for WikiLeaks is whether we can scale up our income in proportion to the amount of material we have to process.

SPIEGEL: Nine years ago, when WikiLeaks was founded, you could read on its website: "The goal is justice. The method is transparency." This is the old idea of Enlightenment born in the 18th century. But if you look at brutal political regimes and ruthless big corporations, isn't that slogan too idealistic? Is transparency enough?

Assange: To be honest, I don't like the word transparency; cold dead glass is transparent. I prefer education or understanding, which are more human.

That Wikileaks is "drowning in material" is good to know, not because of the drowning but because of its eventual publication, and Assange is quite right about "transparency": it tends to be a bullshit term. And indeed I favor "The goal is justice. The method is education."

Next, there is this about Wikileak's methods:

SPIEGEL: The work of WikiLeaks seems to have changed. In the beginning it just published secret documents. More recently, you have also been providing context for the documents.

Assange: We have always done this. I have personally written thousands of pages of analysis. WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, analyze them, promote them and obtain more. WikiLeaks has more than 10 million documents and associated analyses now.

I say. I didn't know there are as many, and it is good to know they are and have been analysed and contextualized.

Finally, there is this bit about censorship:

SPIEGEL: Are the personnel of the US government and the US Army still technically blocked from using your library?

Assange: WikiLeaks is still a taboo object for some parts of the government. Firewalls were set up. Every federal government employee and every contractor received an e-mail stating that if they read something from WikiLeaks including through the New York Times website, they have to remove this from their computer immediately and self-report. They had to cleanse and confess. That's a new McCarthy hysteria.

Yes, indeed: it is much like McCarthy, except that these days it is the US government that does it, and it has very much more power over and knowledge
of the people it spies upon.

There is a whole lot more in the interview, and I recommend tyou to read all of it: it is well done and informative.

4. Wesley Clark Calls for Internment Camps for "Radicalized" Americans

The final article today is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept, and is rather amazing:
This starts as follows:

Retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Friday called for World War II-style internment camps to be revived for “disloyal Americans.” In an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts in the wake of the mass shooting in Chatanooga, Tennessee, Clark said that during World War II, “if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”

He called for a revival of internment camps to help combat Muslim extremism, saying, “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”

The link (to the interview) works, and it is well worth seeing and not long.

First, about these so-called "internment camps". This reminded me of the following bit by George Carlin:

Now if you think you do have rights, one last assignment for you. Next time you're at the computer, get on the Internet, go to Wikipedia. When you get to Wikipedia, in the search field for Wikipedia, I want you to type in "Japanese Americans 1942" and you'll find out all about your precious fucking rights, Okay? All right. You know about it. In 1942, there were 110,000 Japanese American citizens in good standing, law-abiding people who were thrown into internment camps simply because their parents were born in the wrong country. That's all they did wrong. They had no right to a lawyer, no right to a fair trial, no right to a jury of their peers no right to due process of any kind. The only right they had: "Right this way" into the internment camps! Just when these American citizens needed their rights the most, their government took them away! And rights aren't rights if someone can take them away. They're privileges. That's all we've ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. You see all, sooner or later. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government does not give a fuck about them! The government doesn't care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply does not give a fuck about you! It's interested in its own power. That's the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.


Next, about these so-called "internment camps". The link George Carlin spoke about is this one:

And this starts as follows (quoted minus note numbers):

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States was the forced relocation and incarceration during World War II of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast in camps in the interior of the country. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. The U.S. government ordered the removal of Japanese Americans in 1942, shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Such incarceration was applied unequally due to differing population concentrations and, more importantly, state and regional politics: more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, nearly all who lived on the West Coast, were forced into interior camps, but in Hawaii, where the 150,000-plus Japanese Americans comprised over one-third of the population, only 1,200 to 1,800 were interned. The forced relocation and incarceration has been determined to have resulted more from racism and discrimination among whites on the West Coast, rather than any military danger posed by the Japanese Americans.
Quite possibly, this was a bit more serious than what Wesley Clark may have in mind, for the schema was: "if your parents are Japanese, then you can't be trusted, and because it is war, we lock you up before we know you did or even intended to do anything the government doesn't like", whereas Clark's schema seems to be: "if you disagree with our heroic government, you should be locked
up (especially if you are a Muslim)", which at least seems to presuppose that
those fit for "internment camps" must have done something, for - it seems - they
must have dissented from the most heroic government there is in the world, but then I do recall history, for it went quite similarly in Hitler's Germany:

Within two weeks of Hitler's coming to power, he had created his first concentration camp in Dachau, and started to fill it with people who dissented from his heroic plans, especially communists, socialists and Jews.

Especially the Jews were very badly treated, and this also became rapidly known,
which was part of their function: to install fear in the population. My father - who survived four German concentration camps - told me that one of his main reasons for becoming a communist was that he knew about these camps from 1934 onwards
and was abhorred by them, as indeed were many others.

That is, unless they were the Dutch government or Dutch bureaucrats:

These pretended to be neutral, and also saw little fundamentally wrong with Hitler or Nazism (a passing German political fashion), and therefore they returned many Jews, communists and socialists, who had fled to Holland, to the Gestapo, from 1933 till 1940, and especially if they had no or little money.

It appears to me this is rather similar, though I am willing to believe that general Clark (ret.) doesn't quite want a Guantánomo, at least yet, although that is a concentration camp maintained by his own former colleagues.

In any case, it seems that
general Clark (ret.) doesn't believe in rights, for he wants to take them away from people who dared to dissent - "radically", which he doesn't define - from his heroic government.


P.S. Jul 22, 2015: Corrected the day (it was Tuesday yesterday) and a few typos.


[1] I know I have been educated in the University of Amsterdam that "everybody knows all human beings are equal" and also that "everybody knows that truth does not exist", but I am sorry: That was utter crap. All people are different, physically, intellectually and morally, and there are both extremely intelligent and extremely stupid people. I agree that it is very good to give everybody equal rights, in part because that is the fairest way to deal with individual differences, but that I was not told at the University of Amsterdam, where I was told - very many times also - that, by direct logical implication,  Hitler and Einstein are equals.

Also, I have met but few t
ruly intelligent students, with initiative and courage, I am very sorry to say, though I have seen and talked with many.

[2] Incidentally: I am also quite willing to agree with Hedges that it is not true that all atheists are sincere, just as it is not true that all people who profess a religion are sincere. But I definitely disbelieve in Hedges' disbelief in the sincerity of atheists, for I have known quite a few quite sincere atheists, and was also raised by them, which very probably helped my own atheism.

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