July 23, 2018

Crisis: On Julian Assange, Private Messages, Israel, Social Media, Neoliberalism(?)


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 23, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, July 23, 2018.

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 two 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 July 23, 2018:
1. The Arrest of Julian Assange Appears Near
2. Private Messaging Apps Increasingly Used for Public Business
3. With Nationality Law, Israel Openly Declares Apartheid and Racial

4. Social Media Misinformation Campaigns Are 'Big Business' Worldwide
5. Neoliberalism Is Being Rejected Around the World
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. The Arrest of Julian Assange Appears Near

This article is by The Truthdig Staff. It starts as follows:

The Intercept and other media outlets are reporting that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has had sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, is imminent.

In light of this breaking news, Truthdig is reposting a July 15 article (at bottom here) by vacationing Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges that explores the persecution of Assange.

Quite so, and I completely agree. Truthdig also prints a list of some other articles they have published or republished on Assange. I copy the list:

We also call to your attention a few of the other articles on Assange that have been posted or reposted on Truthdig:

Where Is the Outrage Against Julian Assange’s Silencing?” by Teodrose Fikre, April 3, 2018 

In Defense of Julian Assange and Free Speech” by John Pilger, March 31, 2018 [my review]

Sweden Drops Rape Inquiry Against Julian Assange” by Donald Kaufman, May 19, 2017 

Julian Assange Strikes Back at the CIA Director: WikiLeaks Is Not ‘Omnipotent’ ” by Eric Ortiz, April 20, 2017

Truthdigger of the Week: Julian Assange, Publisher of the Clinton Campaign Emails” by Alexander Reed Kelly, Oct. 23, 2016

Julian Assange Explains Why Voting for Hillary Clinton Will ‘Spread Terrorism’ ” by Natasha Hakimi Zapata, Feb. 24, 2016

Julian Assange: The Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice” by John Pilger, Aug. 4, 2015

The Death of Truth” by Chris Hedges, May 6, 2013

Listen: Chris Hedges Interviews Julian Assange,” May 6, 2013

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, with a small addition:

Here’s a repost of Chris Hedges’ most recent column, titled “The War on Assange Is a War on Press Freedom”:

The small addition is that I added the link to the original in the above quotation, while here is also my review of it. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Private Messaging Apps Increasingly Used for Public Business

This article is by Ryan J. Foley on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
One app promotes itself as a way to discuss sensitive negotiations and human resources problems without leaving a digital record.

Another boasts that disappearing messages “keep your message history tidy.” And a popular email service recently launched a “confidential mode” allowing the content of messages to disappear after a set time.

The proliferation of digital tools that make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy. But open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws.

I say, which I do because this sounds mostly quite odd. Here are my reasons:

First, while this or that (probably anonymous) maker may advertise that his (or her) app will disappear text and email messages directly or a short while after they have been read, these messages generally are being copied as they are being send to one, and unless what you send is heavily encrypted (which is unlikely), it will be completely readable to anyone who can catch it, which are generally the secret services and Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Second, I must say that I wipe my ass with the purported sayings of purported ¨open government advocates¨: Open government is one thing, but that anyhow is completely impossible if the secret services + Facebook + Google anyway can read all or most of the emails anyone sends. And they can, since 2001 at the latest, and have been doing that ever since.

Here is more, that is equally odd:

Whether communications on those platforms should be part of the public record is a growing but unsettled debate in states across the country. Updates to transparency laws lag behind rapid technological advances, and the public and private personas of state officials overlap on private smartphones and social media accounts.

“Those kind of technologies literally undermine, through the technology itself, state open government laws and policies,” said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “And they come on top of the misuse of other technologies, like people using their own private email and cellphones to conduct business.”

What the fuck are ¨open government laws and policies¨?! Are they perhaps made up of all communications that the secret services can intercept?! And since when is one ¨misusing¨ one´s own email or one´s own cellphone ¨to conduct¨ one´s own ¨business¨?! What utter rot is that?!

For me the only sensible interpretation of what Bevarly said is: Anything Our Secret Services cannot catch is close to treason/misuse/abuse.

If that is what he meant (and I do not know) I don´t want anything to do with him or his institution.

Here is more of what appears to me as bullshit ¨information¨:

The issue exploded into public view last year amid reports that several employees in the office of Greitens, then Missouri’s governor, had accounts on Confide. The app makes messages disappear immediately after they are read and doesn’t allow them to be saved, forwarded, printed or captured by screenshot.

Well, if they reached you they passed the internet, and if they passed the internet (unless they are strongly encrypted) then they very probably are being read by the secret services (of almost any state), by Facebook, by Google, and by more.

There is a considerable amount more in the article, but this article seems mostly nonsense to me.

3. With Nationality Law, Israel Openly Declares Apartheid and Racial Supremacy

This article is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment. It starts as follows:

Israel has for decades been running the occupied territories of Palestine—Gaza and the West Bank—with apartheid tactics. As with black South Africans under apartheid, most Palestinians have been deprived of citizenship in a real, recognized state. Their villages have been isolated by a network of what often amount to Jewish-only highways. They have trouble getting to the hospital through checkpoints. Their territory in the West Bank is patrolled by the Israeli army, and the Israeli state is actively depriving them of their property and giving it to white squatters.

One reply had been that while the Occupation regime may have apartheid characteristics, it is temporary. It has become abundantly clear, however, that the Occupation is forever and the Palestinians will be kept stateless in perpetuity (they are the largest group of human beings in the world entirely lacking citizenship and nationality– a condition much worse than having a nationality you don’t want, as with many Kurds).

I do not know whether everything said in the above article is true, but I think most is. Also, as an aside: My grandfather was murdered by the Nazis for being in the resistance; my father survived more than 3 year and 9 months of 4 German concentration camps, and was eventually knighted; my mother was in the resistance but was never arrested, and all three were strongly moved in their decisions to resist then by what they considered the inhuman treatments the Nazis gave to the Jews.

And I mostly keep apart from commenting on Israel, although I strongly dislike Nethanyahu. But he and his government now have introduced laws which can only be understood as Apartheid laws.

Here is more on that decision:

Another reply had been that in Israel proper, 20% of the population is Arab (i.e. Palestinian-Israeli), and they are equal citizens of the Israeli state with full democratic rights. That assertion was all along de facto untrue, since Palestinian-Israelis suffered various forms of discrimination. Some of their villages were unrecognized, and were hence forbidden to conduct repairs or building expansions. Only 1% of Bedouin Israelis have a college degree.

But now the Israeli parliament or Knesset has passed a law openly declaring Palestinians to be second-class citizens. Building squatter settlements on Palestinian land is made the official policy of the state (well, it has been for decades de facto, but now it is de jure). Arabic is demoted from being an official language.

It would be as though the US passed a law designating America as a state for white Christians, excluding African-Americans and Latinos, and making English the only official language.

I say. Again, I do not know whether all of this is true, but I don´t like it at all. Here is the last bit that I copy from this article:

It is difficult to see how Zionist Jews can complain about being second-class citizens in Christian societies if their movement treats non-Jews this way in Israel.

Sovereignty is vested solely in the 80% majority of Jewish Israelis. Israel is no more a democracy now than Turkey is. Both have regular elections and in both the Right routinely wins, and probably fairly so.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization correctly declared this system to be unadorned Apartheid.

Well... I think the first paragraph is false for various reasons. First, I do not see why ¨Zionist Jews¨ should not complain about ¨being second-class citizens¨ if they are, and second, they have complained about such things while the Arabs were abused in Israel, so I see no reason why they would or should stop complaining now.

But yes, I agree that the above either makes or comes close to making Israel an Apartheid state, and I am an opponent of all Apartheid states.

4. Social Media Misinformation Campaigns Are 'Big Business' Worldwide

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It has a subtitle:
"In emerging and Western democracies, data analytics and political bots are being used to poison the information environment, promote skepticism and distrust, polarize voting constituencies, and undermine the integrity of democratic processes."
I agree but I do want to add some necessary conditions why these techniques succeed:

They succeed mostly because the majority of the people these bots seek to manipulate can be manipulated (in the present climate of opinion, that may soon be worse, at least in the USA)
because the majority is ignorant, stupid, conformist or are wishful thinkers.

Indeed, this is the more so as currently anyone with a reasonable intelligence and some time
can - still (?) - be informed mostly rationally simply by reading the non-mainstream sites: Try to read Truthdig, Democracy Now!, and Common Dreams, for example, for three months, together with your normal mainstream sites.

This is from near the beginning of the article:

[A]n Oxford Internet Institute study published Friday found that use of social media by governments looking to "spread junk information and propaganda to voters" has become a global phenomenon.

"Social media manipulation is big business," the researchers found. "We estimate that tens of millions of dollars are being spent on social media manipulation campaigns, involving tens of thousands of professional staff."

While there is nothing new about political parties and governments using disinformation to manipulate elections at home and abroad, the Oxford researchers note that the massive, easily accessible, and lightly regulated platforms offered by Facebook and Twitter have become enormously powerful tools in the hands of political actors, who have used social media to kick their propaganda campaigns into overdrive and cast doubt on science and public institutions.

"Although closely related to some of the  dirty tricks and negative campaigning we might expect in close races (and which have always played a part in political campaigning ), what makes this phenomenon unique is the deliberate use of computational  propaganda to manipulate voters and shape the outcome of elections," the study notes.

Well... yes and no, but in fact mostly no.

My reasons are that I have no idea what ¨computational  propaganda¨ is supposed to mean, while the main thing that is different since 20 years is not even mentioned: The fact that the secret services (from virtually anywhere) can read absolutely everything anyone writes on a computer with an internet connection, while the same goes for enormous advertisers like Facebook and Google.

The secret services (from anywhere) and Facebook and Google have freedoms to know absolutely everything about absolutely everyone they should never had had in the first place.

And that is the basic problem, indeed since 2001, for then the secret services, starting with the American ones, were let loose on the public.

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

"Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement, to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants, and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike," the study concludes. "We cannot wait for national courts to sort out the technicalities of infractions after running an election or referendum. Protecting our democracies now means setting the rules of fair play before voting day, not after."

Facebook was never anything else but manipulators of their members and collectors of all the information they could get from them, and damn the legalities, in part because they did not and do not exist, or are completely non-maintained (such as my right to send private mail that will not be read by many tens of secret services, like the post once was).

Besides, I can ¨wait for national courts to sort out the technicalities of infractions¨ and I can, because I have concluded after 20 years of this not happening, my own conclusion is that it is not happening because the governments and the secret services do not want it to happen. For they want to know everything you write, for this will give them more power than anyone ever had.

5. Neoliberalism Is Being Rejected Around the World

This article is by Conor Lynch on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near the beginning, about an asserted similarity between Trump and López Obrador (who was recently elected as president of Mexico):
“Those who have compared his populism to Trump’s are fundamentally mistaken, in my view,” wrote Anderson, who explained that the Mexican president-elect’s populism is “built not on a hatred of ‘the other,’ or on a need to prevail at the expense of others, but rather on an intuitive faith that Mexicans can overcome their current reality with a redeployment of their most outstanding national traits — hard work, resourcefulness, pride, modesty, and bravery.”

The knee-jerk comparisons of the two leaders were lazy (albeit predictable), and lumping together politicians based on personality traits is typical of our current era of personality-driven politics, where the press often focuses more on a politician than his or her politics. (To be fair, it is hard not to focus on personality when discussing President Trump, whose politics seem inseparable from his personality.)

In fact, most of this sounds like propaganda. Here is more:

While they stand on opposite sides of the political spectrum, both Trump and López Obrador are part of the global revolt against what critics call neoliberalism, and this is important for understanding our current era.

The past 30-plus years has been defined by the political project of neoliberalism, spearheaded by the U.S. government and international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with the utopian aim of creating a global capitalist economy perfectly guided by the invisible hand of the market (for neoliberals and free-market fundamentalists, the invisible hand is an almost divine concept, worshipped in economics departments around the country). The neoliberal era peaked in the 1990s, and in America it was Democratic President Bill Clinton who accomplished neoliberal “reforms” that right-wingers had long dreamed of, including financial deregulation, NAFTA and “ending welfare as we knew it” (he would probably have privatized Social Security too had it not been for Monica Lewinsky).

Well... first of all, it were not only ¨critics¨ who called ¨neoliberalism¨ neoliberalism: So did the neoliberalists themselves, indeed also if their ¨neoliberalism¨ in fact was a lot like neofascism. Second, neoliberalism became an important political force in 1979 and 1980, with the elections of Thatcher and Reagan. Third, ¨free markets¨ are and have been pure propaganda since God knows how long. Fourth, the neoliberal era did not peak in the 1990s, but since the 2000s.

So in fact I do not know whether Lynch knows much about what he writes about, or at least not whether we are addressing the same issues if we are using the same words, although I agree that Bill Clinton ruled for the rich, who also afterward helped to make him a considerable millionaire, as they did with Tony Blair, in thanks for precisely the same services.

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

According to Oxfam, 82 percent of the wealth created in 2017 went to the top one percent, while the poorest half got nothing. In America alone, inequality is at historic levels and more than 40 million people live in poverty; a UN report from last month notes that the U.S. “now has one of the lowest rates of intergenerational social mobility of any of the rich countries,” and zip codes “are tragically reliable predictors of a child’s future employment and income prospects.”

Yes. There is a lot more but I shall not quote it because it is again very vague.


[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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