This starts as follows:
"Governments are treating words as
weapons," a United Nations expert has warned, previewing a report on
the global attack on the freedom of expression.
based on communications with governments stemming from allegations of
human rights law violations — reveal "sobering" trends of threats
worldwide and "how policies and laws against terrorism and other
criminal activity risk unnecessarily undermining the media, critical
voices, and activists."
The expert, Special Rapporteur on the
freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, is presenting his report
on the sometimes "abusive" practices by governments to the UN General
Assembly on Friday.
The "tools of repression" used by
governments worldwide in their assault include internet shut-downs and
over-classification of documents in the name of national security. The
tactics may also include criminalization of criticism of the state,
which may lead to detention and other punitive measures against
political and human rights activists—and even journalists.
Yes, indeed: This is all true.
But I also miss two points that I
think are mostly behind this trend for governments to repress
the news they don't like:
(i) Governments have always tried
to repress much of the news they don't like, simply out of self-interest (of their leaders), and
(ii) governments now have it very much easier to repress the news:
Internet is far more centralized and therefore in principle far
easier to control than was the much more diverse and much less
centralized paper press.
I think these two points are also rather
evidently true, but they are not mentioned in this article and I do not
know whether they are mentioned in the report.
There is also this:
The report states that "attacks on
journalism are fundamentally at odds with protection of freedom of
expression and access to information and, as such, they should be
highlighted independently of any other rationale for restriction."
The United States isn't spared criticism
in the report, with Kaye noting that it "enforces its Espionage Act in
ways that ensure that national security whistleblowers lack the ability
to defend themselves on the merits of grounds of public interest."
That's the same argument that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,
who faces charges under the act, has made.
This is also true, but again I say
"attacks on journalism" are now far easier than they were in
the day of the printing press:
Not only can the government switch off
internet providers that provide news it doesn't like (which - on the
moment - is less likely to happen in Europe or the USA) but it can also
follow, track, trace and spy on almost anything (most) journalists
do to gather information. (And this seems already to have stopped most journalists from working as they did "in paper days".)
Here is the last bit that I will quote from this article:
The report concludes that the
justifications governments give for limiting freedom of opinion and
expression "are often unsustainable."
Some of the limitations involve
assertions of a legitimate objective—typically national security or
public order—without the barest demonstration of legality or necessity
and proportionality. Other limitations are based on objectives that are
not legitimate under international human rights law. Old tools remain
in use, while others are expanding, as States exploit society’s
pervasive need to access the internet. The targets of restrictions
include journalists and bloggers, critics of government, dissenters
from conventional life, provocateurs, and minorities of all sorts. Our
communications have revealed allegations relating to all of these
issues, and reporting from civil society suggests that the problems are
more pervasive and extensive than even our communications illuminate.
"Censorship in all its forms reflects
official fear of ideas and information," Kaye said in a statement
Again I agree, though I must say that I
know the last statement for more than 50 years.
And also - but I admit I say this without
having read the UN report - it seems to me that the UN makes this too
much a matter of "being against censorship" (which I agree with,
but this is an ethical norm) and doesn't seem to see that as a
matter of fact governments nearly always try to censor information
that displeases them and, again as a matter of fact, they have it
far easier in principle with the internet to stop information they
don't like, indeed also long before it is published, namely by
spying on journalists.
I would have liked to read more about
2. 'Final Death Blow' to CETA as Delegates Hold Firm Against
The second item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Dealing what campaigners say is the
final "death blow" to the pro-corporate Canada-European Union trade
deal, negotiations collapsed on Friday after representatives from the
Belgian region of Wallonia refused to agree to a deal that continues
ignore democracy in favor of multi-national corporations.
Canada's International Trade Minister
Chrystia Freeland reportedly walked
out of talks with the Wallonia delegation, which had ruled to maintain
their veto against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after the
parties reached a stalemate over the controversial Investor State
Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.
Yes, I have heard the same news on the
Dutch radio. Then again, I am skeptical: I don't think any of the TTP,
TTIP, TISA or CETA is going away until they are definitely totally
killed, and they are not, now.
The reason these four secret trade deals
are so extremely popular is that they will give all powers to the
multi-national corporations, and that these powers will be taken from national
governments, national parliaments, national judiciaries and the
inhabitants of nations.
It will be the legal arrival of neofascism
, arranged by the lawyers of the multi-national corporations, and
put forward by vastly corrupted politicians.
Here is one of them:
Friday's talks were held as a last-ditch
effort to save the trade deal. After they fell apart, an emotional
Freeland told reporters, "I've worked very, very hard, but I think it's
impossible," referring to the impasse. "It's become evident for me, for
Canada, that the European Union isn't capable now to have an
international treaty even with a country that has very European values
Ms Freedland was posturing and bullshitting:
"European values" are baloney without specification, and if Canada
wants to take away the powers from
national governments, national parliaments, national judiciaries and
the inhabitants of nations, and thus found neofascism  it should say
"We want to take away all national
powers, and replace them by the powers of the ISDSs that only
look at the profits of the multi-national corporations. We Canadians
are proponents of neofascism. How dare you Europeans oppose that?!"
At least, that's what I think Ms Freedland
ought to have said. (And yes, I perfectly understand why, instead, she bullshitted about "European values".)
Here is some about some of her opponents:
Campaigners who have led the fight
against CETA and its sister
trade deals—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—rejoiced over
the news, saying the planned October 27 signing ceremony now looks
"Canada's trade minister may be 'very,
very sad', but there are millions of people in Europe who will be very,
very happy," said
Mark Dearn, senior trade campaigner with the UK-based War on Want.
Yes, but the signing of the CETA only looks
"improbable" - and neofascism  is a very, very big prize for the
multi-national CEOs, their lawyers and their politicians.
There is more in the article, that seems
too optimistic to me.
Major New Court Ruling Says “Even The
President” Can’t Declare Torture Lawful
The third item is by Alex Emmons on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
In a robust ruling in favor of Abu
Ghraib detainees, an appellate court ruled Friday that torture is such
a clear violation of the law that it is “beyond the power of even the
president to declare such conduct lawful.”
from a unanimous panel of judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
reinstates a lawsuit against a military contractor for its role in the
torture of four men at the notorious prison in Iraq.
Last June, a district court ruled
that a “cloud of ambiguity” surrounds the definition of torture, and
that despite anti-torture
laws, the decision to torture was a “political question” that could
not be judged by courts.
That ruling echoed the widely
discredited legal theories of the Bush administration, which argued
that the war on terror gave the president the inherent authority to
indefinitely detain and torture terror suspects, and conduct mass
surveillance on Americans’ international communications.
But the Fourth Circuit soundly rejected
that theory, saying that the United States has clear laws against
torturing detainees that apply to the executive branch.
Hm. I agree with the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals, but Bush Jr. and his team did not, and
started torturing people, on presidential orders, and with (apparent)
I think Bush Jr. was legally mistaken, but
Bush Jr. did not, and his rulings held the day as long as he was
There is also this in the article:
“While executive officers can declare
the military reasonableness of conduct amounting to torture, it is
beyond the power of even the president to declare such conduct lawful,”
wrote appellate Judge Barbara Keenan, writing for the unanimous panel.
The case in question revolves around
contractors from CACI Premier Technologies who participated in the
interrogations of the four men in 2004, subjecting them to extreme
temperatures, electric shocks, broken bones, death threats, and sexual
The Center for Constitutional Rights
suit against CACI on behalf of the
detainees in 2008. The company has been seeking to dismiss the lawsuit
ever since, and this is the fourth time it reached the appeals court.
I would have liked to know what are the
foundations of Judge Barbare Keenan to write that "it is beyond the power of even the president to declare
The reason is not that I disagree with
her: the reason is that the previous president and his staff disagreed
with her, and also confused the issues by avoiding the term "torture".
I think there are international laws that
the USA signed that do forbid torture, but if that was the reason, or
part of the reason, I would have liked to know it.
Finally, there is this in the article:
The plaintiffs and advocates at the
Center for Constitutional Rights celebrated the decision.
“Torture is illegal and can never be a
‘policy choice,'” said Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney
with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “As the court made clear,
neither the military nor the president — let alone a government lawyer
— has the power to declare torture legal.”
I agree that the Center
for Constitutional Rights had some reasons for celebrations, but I do
like to insist that while I agree with their ethical
opinions, it is a matter of fact
that torture has been legal a very long time, also in Europe; that it
often was a policy choice; and that the lawyers of the previous
president of the USA insisted it was legal.
Carl Bernstein Warns of a ‘Neo-Fascist’ Movement and Media Empire if
The fourth item is by Elizabeth Preza on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Famed journalist Carl Bernstein signed
on to rumors that Donald Trump is planning on launching a media empire
of his own should he lose the November election, adding he fears “a
real neo-fascist movement and media empire.”
“I think the most interesting thing
going on right now is Trump saying that he may not go along with the
results of this election,” Bernstein said in an interview with CNN
Thursday. “What does it really mean? It means, I think, he is setting
himself up—again, I’m going to go back to that neo-fascist term—of a
real neo-fascist movement and media empire.”
Yes, I agree with Bernstein (<-Wikipedia), and I like it
that he used the term neo-fascism , for I think that is the best
designation of Trump's policies and plans.
There is also this:
Bernstein noted that the billionaire’s
businesses have taken a hit as a result of this election, and suggested
a media empire is next in store for the Republican candidate.
“[Are] there going to be remnants of a
neo-fascist movement that he leads in this country after this
election?” Bernstein asked.
“It’s a dangerous thing,” he added.
“We’re in a dangerous place.”
I don't know, but I agree with Bernstein
that the USA is "a
dangerous place", especially with Trump, while it is also true that
even if Trump himself were to disappear, there still are many millions
who supported his ideas and values.
5. Capitalism Is Doomed — Without Alternatives, So Are We
The fifth and last item is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In 1946, George Orwell pondered the
fragility of the capitalist order.
Reviewing the work of the influential
theorist James Burnham, Orwell presaged several concepts that would
later form the groundwork for his best-known novel, 1984.
In his book The Managerial
Revolution, Burnham envisioned, as Orwell put
it, "a new kind of planned, centralised society which will be
neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic.
The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively
control the means of production."
"The real question," Orwell adds, "is
not whether the people who wipe their boots on us during the next fifty
years are to be called managers, bureaucrats, or politicians: the
question is whether capitalism, now obviously doomed, is to give way to
oligarchy or to true democracy."
While Orwell was wary of Burnham's
worldview and of his more specific predictions, he agreed that the
relationship between capitalism and democracy has always been, and
always will be, a precarious one.
"For quite fifty years past," Orwell
noted, "the general drift has almost certainly been towards oligarchy."
very much like Orwell, and he saw this quite correctly and quite deeply
- and in case you are interested: He reviewed Burnham's ideas in
Volumes 3 and 4 of his "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell", that I own in Penguin.
Here are two points I want to make:
First, I think Burnham and (especially) Orwell saw quite deeply: The new rulers are not the owners of the means of production (mostly stock owners) but (especially) the CEOs of the rich multi-nationals, simply because they command very great amounts of money and power, and they are trying to organize society in an oligarchic way, with them at the helm.
I think that much is and was correct
(though I also think - and I have read all of Orwell - that Burnham was
mostly quite incorrect in other things).
Second, when Orwell wrote "For quite fifty years past, the general drift has almost certainly been towards oligarchy" he was quite right - and he spoke of the fifty years that had passed in 1946 since 1896, in which laborers were paid very little, and women only got the vote around 1920.
Meanwhile some 35 years of Keynesianism have passed, between 1946 and 1980, which produced considerably better incomes for the poor, while in the 35 years since 1980, everyone who did NOT belong to the 1% again have NOT made any progress in incomes, while the few rich gained enormous riches.
And I think that is the fundamental opposition: Between the rich few
who have always tried to organize things so that they remained on top,
both in incomes and in power, and have done so for the last 2500 years,
and the non-rich many, who did not have much power or money ever.
Then there is this on capitalism:
Recent events, and the material
circumstances of much of the world's population, have prompted
serious examinations of the same questions Orwell was considering
seven decades ago. And though it appears as if rumors of capitalism's
imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated, there is good reason to
believe that its remarkable ability to adapt and evolve in the
face of frequent (self-induced) shocks has reached a breaking point.
I have no strong opinions on "capitalism's demise". I do believe there are quite a few other social models than capitalism to run a society, and therefore I definitely disagree with those who insist capitalism is the only economical model for a viable society. 
And while I do not know when capitalism will end, I think one of the main reasons for its end is the enormous rise in the human population: In the time
I have lived, the human population increased from 2 billion to well over 7 billion (more than 3 times as many, in 60 years).
again, the rich few stick to their riches and their power as much as
they can - and since Thatcher and Reagan took over power around 1980 in
fact gained both a lot of power and a lot of money:
Far from loosening the leash, elites
have consolidated power to an unprecedented
extent, and they have used their influence to undercut
democratic movements and hijack public institutions.
Here is how much the few own (which is more than at any time in human history, I think):
According to Oxfam, the global 1
owns as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent. CEO pay has
continued to soar. And though post-crisis reforms have carried
soaring promises of stability, the financial sector is still far
too large, and many of the banks harmed by the crash they created
and nearly as powerful as ever.
Incidentally, while I really have no strong opinions on the demise of
capitalism, I think one strong possible reason for an enormous
economical collapse is the financial sector, that mostly seems to enrich itself by refusing any control, and who can refuse most control because they are so powerful and so rich.
Then there is "the sociologist Peter Frase":
"To the extent that the rich are able to
maintain their power," Frase writes, "we will live in a world where
they enjoy the benefits of automated production, while the rest of us
pay the costs of ecological destruction—if we can survive at all." And,
"To the extent that we can move toward a world of greater equality,
then the future will be characterized by some combination of shared
sacrifice and shared prosperity, depending on where we are on the
other, ecological dimension."
It comes down, in short, to who wins the
class struggle. "I am a very old-fashioned Marxist in that way," Frase remarked
in a recent interview.
Hm. I have three remarks.
First, I think 7 billion people is too much. You may disagree, but there still are about 1 billion who do not
have enough to eat, and I think "a global society" where 1 in 7 do not
have enough to eat, while 1% owns 99% of the wealth, simply is too unfair and too exploitative to keep existing for a long time.
Second, I think the few rich also
think there are too many people, and it seems they have decided that
those who cannot pay their own survival have to die. (This is probably
also behind the termination of social security in the USA: The rich
think the many poor have no right to survive, not even on the minimum
that social security gives them.)
But third, since I was raised by two Marxists, with Marxist and Anarchist grand- parents, and since I know Marx very
well, I think "class struggle" is a fundamental confusion: There are
the rich and the non-rich, and their interests are fundamentally
opposed, simply because the rich are rich because they took
their riches - somehow - from the non-rich, but "classes" are an
additional abstraction that mostly confuse the issues. 
The article ends as follows:
The future is necessarily
disobedient; it rarely conforms to even the most meticulous
theoretical anticipations, to say nothing of our deepest desires
But one thing is clear: The future of
capitalism and the future of the planet are intertwined. The health of
the latter depends on our ability to dismantle the former, and
on our ability to construct an alternative that radically alters
our course, which is at present leading us toward catastrophe.
I agree, except that I may be more pessimistic:
I think "the health of the planet" is much worse than it could have been, and this is mostly due to actions of the rich few since 1950 and especially since 1980; I think undoing global warming will take centuries (at least); I think nature is still being ruined very rapidly; and as I said, I also think 7 billion people is too much for the present capacities of the earth. 
And this is a recommended article.