August 1, 2018

Crisis: On Israel, Surveillance State, The Constitution, On Assange, Trump In Trouble, Prozac


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 1, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, August 1, 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 August 1, 2018:
1. Israel Doesn’t Want to Be My State
2. Boston Globe Exposé Reveals TSA Is Secretly Surveilling Thousands of
     U.S. Travelers

3. Here's Why America's Constitution Won't Save Us from Trump
4. Virginia State Senator in Rare Support by Politician for Assange
5. Trump Is in Major Legal and Political Trouble
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. Israel Doesn’t Want to Be My State

This article is by Sayed Kashua on The New York Times, where someone added, correctly I think, that Mr. Kashua ¨is a writer and a Palestinian citizen of Israel¨. It starts as follows:

We were driving our rental car out of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. “Dad,” my oldest daughter said as we listened to the radio, “what’s the Nationality Law?”

“It’s a law that says Israel is a Jewish state,” I replied.

“But wasn’t it always that way?” she wondered, and rightly so.

“Yes. Bottom line, it’s always been that way.”

“I don’t get it,” my middle son said. “I thought you said we were citizens.”

“We are,” I answered.

“But we’re not Jewish, right?”

“No, we’re not.”

“Then I don’t get it,” my youngest son complained.

“It’s a little complicated,” I tried to explain. And it really was complicated to explain the law that Israel’s Parliament passed earlier this month without using terms like “racial segregation,” “discrimination” and “supremacy.” How was I going to explain to a 12-year-old that he is a citizen of a state that holds that he is inferior because of his non-Jewish origins? “Not everyone in the country is Jewish,” I said. “At least 20 percent of the citizens are not. But it’s a country where Jews enjoy rights that others don’t have. Meaning, non-Jews are less equal than Jews.”

Yes, I think that is basically correct (and indeed this is not a verbally tough article). Here is some more:

When Israel was founded on the ruins of the Palestinian people in 1948, it was defined as a Jewish state. The Israeli flag was always a Jewish one, bearing a Star of David; the national anthem invokes the “Jewish soul,” excluding anyone who is not Jewish from these national symbols. The Palestinians who became Israeli citizens when the state was founded — like my family — have always been viewed as an undesirable demographic burden and subjected to discrimination.

So what does the issuance of the Nationality Law change? In essence, perhaps not that much. It has turned de facto racism into de jure racism.

Well... up to a point I think this was quite understandable though also sorely mistaken: 1948 was just three years after WW II in which more than 6 million Jews were murdered, normally for ¨the crime¨ of being of ¨the Jewish race¨ (which itself was false nonsense).

And here is my view on why this was sorely mistaken:

It was all based on religion, and all religions are false. It would have been - for one example, and I do not know how realistic this might have been, in 1948 - much safer for everyone if the Jews had all migrated to the USA, and started something like a state there, for the simple reason that the alternative, which is the road the Israelis followed, namely a Jewish state in the place their God had given to them, thousands of years BC, created a Jewist state amidst its fiercest enemies.

Then again, I am totally irreligious, and have been raised that way, and also studied philosophy, which again never turned me on to any religion whatsoever.

The Jews did the opposite, and now, seventy years later, they have made Israel legally something much like an Apartheid state, with privileged Jews and non-privileged non-Jews - and incidentally, ¨being a Jew¨ is not defined by religion but by one´s mother (and one can be an atheist as much as one wants):

Israel’s message to its Arab citizens is that it does not wish to be our state. Moreover, it prefers to be the state of people who were born elsewhere, who do not speak its language, have never visited it or paid it taxes or served it in any way. The State of Israel will welcome these foreigners, wherever they are from, as long as they are considered Jewish by Orthodox Jewish law. Individuals who are lucky enough to have been born to Jewish mothers can — practically overnight — receive Israeli citizenship, join the ruling race and become masters of the native population

Yes. It was a sad and stupid decision, and this is a recommended article.

2. Boston Globe Exposé Reveals TSA Is Secretly Surveilling Thousands of U.S. Travelers

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
A Boston Globe investigation has revealed the existence of a domestic surveillance program run by the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, which has been shadowing U.S. citizens on planes and in airports since 2012. Under the program, called “Quiet Skies,” federal air marshals collect information about U.S. travelers, including common behavior like using the bathroom repeatedly, sleeping on flights or sweating heavily. In the wake of the Globe investigation, TSA officials have bowed to pressure from Congress and plan to meet with the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees. We speak with Jana Winter, the Boston Globe Spotlight Fellow who broke the story. Her investigation is headlined, “Welcome to the Quiet Skies.”
I say - and in fact I do so because I have been expecting developments like this (which is totally new to me) for a very long time, and from before 2012. Indeed, the last link is to an article I wrote in 2012 (that I repeated several times since), in which I stated, among very many more things, that the surveillance state, in which every citizen is better known (in principle) to the secret spies from the government than to himself or herself, is by far the best road to the most authoritarian forms of neofascism that has ever been invented:

The internet computer is the surest and quickest road to neofascism there ever has been, and I see myself no way to escape it other than to destroy the internet - which at the present day is totally impossible. (But I am thankful I was born in 1950 and not in 2000.)

And here is more, about how some American bureaucrats are spying on people who never did anything illegal whatsoever, but simply because they can spy on everyone, in secret:
JUAN GONZALEZ: (..) This is a video clip from The Boston Globe about the program.

UNKNOWN: While air marshals typically have assisted the FBI and surveilled people on a terrorist watch list, “Quiet Skies” casts a wider net. Sources told The Globe that surveillance targets have included flight attendants on duty, a young business executive and in at least one case, another federal law-enforcement officer. Anyone who flies into the U.S. is prescreened for the program. Documents show about 30 people on domestic flights are monitored each day. Thousands have been surveilled.

AMY GOODMAN: In the wake of The Boston Globe investigation, TSA officials have bowed to pressure from Congress and plan to meet with the House and Senate homeland security committees. For more, we go to Boston to be joined by Jana Winter, the Boston Globe Spotlight fellow who broke the story.
Incidentally, note this is just one case that became known. There may be many others. Here is Jana Winter:
JANA WINTER: Thanks for having me, and here’s what we know. We know that since March, thousands of ordinary Americans who are not under any investigation or on any watchlist have been followed by teams of armed air marshals from the moment they get to the airport, through the flight and up until they record the license plate number of the vehicle that picks them up in their arrival city. And they write down minute by minute details of everything they do. If they go to the bathroom, if they change clothes, if they, as you said, touch their face, and anyone they interact with. And details about what kind of phone they have. Were they on the phone? Were they having a conversation? Were they texting? What were they reading? Are you on a computer? What type of computer? And also, is that an iPhone? What color is the case? It’s a huge amount of information, and there are still a lot of questions.
I have two general comments on this, besides the remark that I trust Winter:

One. I am very glad I do not live in the present USA.

Two. I think this indicates the future for everyone (as indeed China does): Very many secret anonymous armed officials of some sort may follow you and record absolutely everything you do or say, while you are not accused of anything whatsoever, and without any judge allowing this, and indeed simply (in the present case) because you wanted to fly.

And here is how much (completely unchecked) power these
secret anonymous armed officials of some sort, who spy on arbitrary people who did not do anything, have these days:
JANA WINTER:  (..) Once I found out the details of this, I of course thought, “Oh wow, is this why we get bumped from planes all the time, even if we’ve booked well in advance?” And the answer to that is not a hundred percent, I certainly wouldn’t say, but yes, they bump people from flights every single day to sit near the person who they are targeting, who in this case is someone who has no reason to be followed.
I think that as long as there is an internet which can be tapped by the rich and the powerful, this only will get worse and worse. And this is a recommended article.
3. Here's Why America's Constitution Won't Save Us from Trump

This article is by J.M. Opal on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:
[W]hen it comes to our democracy’s problems at home, the closer parallel is with 18th century Britain, the “mother country” from which the United States broke away in 1776.

Britons of that time enjoyed many liberties unknown to their favourite bogeymen, the French. These freedoms had many roots, including the Magna Carta of 1215, the Bill of Rights from 1689 and various parts of English common law. Most Britons saw their country as God’s favourite and thanked their “Constitution” — a general term for established forms of law and government — for their rising glory.

Yet for all the liberties it tolerated, that Constitution’s real goal was to shield wealth and privilege from popular demands.

I take it this is more or less true, but I do object to the usage of “Constitution” for ¨a general term for established forms of law and government¨: The British simply have no constitution, in the sense in which I understand the term, which is a legal document that gives rights and duties to the inhabitants of a country. (And Opal seems to be a historian, not a lawyer.)

There is no English Constitution in that sense, and there never was, and this is in various ways and for various reasons a problem for the English.

Here is more on British law in the 18th and 19th centuries:

In the House of Lords, the privileged group was the aristocracy that still owned about 80 per cent of all the arable land in England. In the House of Commons, the favoured ones were rising merchants, bankers and industrialists. Together these old and new elites ran the show.

For example, British law treated labour organizations as “conspiracies” while respecting the fortunes that stockholders made as untouchable. A brutal criminal code complemented a draconian view of poverty.

Quite so. Here is more on American law in the 18th and 19th centuries:

By [1780], the American revolutionaries had given up on the British model. They dreamed of a republic —literally, “the public thing” — where the common good overruled selfish demands and private interests. After the American Revolution, the U.S. Constitution of 1787 seemed to fulfil these hopes by rejecting aristocratic titles and naming “the People” as the basis of authority.

Yet this same Constitution protected both slave-holders and bond-owners. It prohibited all kinds of popular interventions into the economy. And it arranged the federal government so that the general will of the population was divided, filtered and ultimately restrained.

In this sense, it simply updated British constitutional forms for American conditions, in which land was plentiful, labour was scarce and white skin rather than high birth conferred status.

I think this is also probably correct, with two remarks:

First, the American Constitution was in fact in part a bit of propaganda - ¨All men are equal¨, but in fact rich white Protestants got most of the advantages, and also were allowed to keep - black - slaves until 1865 - and in fact also legal (and Benjamin Franklin criticized it, but was in a small minority).

Second, I think it was less updating ¨British constitutional forms for American conditions¨ (and the English also never had a Constitution, as I explained) than it was in fact a set of new laws made for and by the American rich.

And here is one of the consequences of this last fact:

But over the last 50 years, another alliance of old and new has taken up arms (sometimes literally) behind constitutional bulwarks, rolling back much of that progress.

This alliance includes white voters who keep their traditional supremacy through gerrymandered districts, restrictive voting laws and mass incarceration of non-white people.

It also includes corporate interests that halt efforts to protect workers and the environment, to say nothing of sick, poor and elderly Americans. These plutocrats not only decide elections with their campaign contributions but also write legislation through their lobbyists.

As a now-famous study from 2014 empirically shows, majority needs and wishes in the United States have virtually no impact on public policy, regardless of which celebrity-candidate wins office.

Yes, I agree with this (with my remarks). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Even if non-white majorities pile up in some congressional districts, the Senate and Electoral College will neutralize them.

Even if dozens of Bernie Sanders acolytes get into office, their ideas will run aground in congressional committees awash in corporate influence.

And if progressive hopes ever make it onto the books, federal courts stocked with hard-right judges will strike them down —no matter what kind of “blue wave” arrives in 2020, 2024 or indeed 2040.

In short, there is no reason to assume that under the current Constitution, the demographic and cultural changes of the past generation will fundamentally challenge Donald Trump’s America.

After all, the British Constitution of the 1700s held firm through much of the 1800s, despite the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution. It gave ground in periodic “Reform Acts” but otherwise kept democracy at bay.
Well... the first two paragraphs are Mr. Opal´s opinions. I don´t quite agree to them because - for one example - I think ¨dozens of Bernie Sanders acolytes¨ in the Senate might make a difference.

Also - and once again - the English never had a Constitution in the sense in which I (and most others) use that term.

Finally, I think Mr. Opal holds on too strongly (in my opinion) to the letter of the law: In actual fact, there usually is considerable scope for changes, but I do grant this takes time, of which there may not be much.

4. Virginia State Senator in Rare Support by Politician for Assange

This article is by Virginia State Senator Richard Black, who is a Republican. It starts as follows:
As a military officer, I was trained to strictly observe security protocols.  So when I first heard of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, I was instinctively critical.  But upon reading his released documents, I saw how Julian gave people accurate insights into the inner workings of their own government.

Government “of the People” cannot flourish beneath a suffocating cloak of secrecy.  And secrecy is often aimed, not at protecting us from enemies abroad, but at deceiving us about the dark machinations of our own government.  The most consequential secrets are those used to conceal steps taken to establish predicates for future wars—unwarranted conflicts that seem to roll off an endless assembly line.  No-fly zones, bombings, sanctions, false flags, blockades, mercenaries, bloodthirsty terrorists have all become stock in trade.  Sanctions destabilize our targets through hunger and suffering.  We terrorize and blow body parts into the streets like calling cards.  Regime change is the end game; coups and assassinations are fair play.

Before Assange, those who “broke the code” and detected the Deep State’s patterns of misbehavior were labeled “conspiracy theorists” or worse.  But with the advent of WikiLeaks, original, unchallenged source documents have proven our arguments, and revealed the truth to citizens.

I say, which I do because I did not know this. Also, while I do not agree with everything Black says - for one thing: I do not think Assange should be defended because he ¨gave people accurate insights¨ or ¨revealed the truth to citizens¨ according to Mr. Black, but much more simply because he is doing a journalist´s work (and was doing that well) - I think this is rather remarkable for a Republican, and indeed I also agree with much of the second paragraph.

Here is one more bit:

Today, we see intense, coordinated efforts to reimpose effective information control in America and globally.  Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, PayPal and other high-tech titans rush to hire censors and adopt restrictive policies that block controversial voices from reaching global audiences.  Big Brother is back in town.

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are among the censors’ prized targets.  They have disrupted Big Media censorship.  Assassinating Assange is not out of the question. He is that important.

I agree. Also, I have a remark on the side:

The main reason why ¨
Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube [and] PayPal¨ can rush in because at least 2 billion persons are either too lazy or too stupid to write their own html site, and besides because a sizeable proportion of these folks also prefer to anonymously scold and offend each and everyone who is obviously more intelligent or more knowledgeabe than they are. (I am sorry, but I am 22 years on line, and these are my inferences.)

Anyway.... this is a recommended article.

5. Trump Is in Major Legal and Political Trouble

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Is it now time to imagine how far Trump and his Republican cronies in Congress might be able to push things? And how we, as Americans, might respond?

This isn’t the first time such a question has been raised.
Schwartz, who wrote Trump’s book The Art of the Deal and spent months with Trump to gather information for the book, predicted that Trump would declare martial law. Not as a possibility, but as a near-certainty.

Schwartz predicted that Trump would do three specific things, although not necessarily all at once or in any particular order: He’d attack the free press; he’d compile an enemies list and begin getting revenge on those he thinks slighted him; and he’d declare martial law to solidify his power.
How would this happen? Andrew Buncombe, who interviewed Schwartz for the Independent, wrote: “Asked how Mr. Trump would go about undertaking such a drastic measure, [Schwartz] said many of Mr. Trump’s supporters were police, members of the border guards force and the ‘far right wing’ of the military.”

Well... I think Schwartz turned out to be mostly correct, and he may be correct in the guesses he made that Trump did not realize (so far).

Here is more:

For example, imagine that Trump, his family members, and numerous Republicans are indicted for actual crimes, and, particularly with the Nunes faction of Congress, for conspiring to conceal or obstruct investigations of those crimes. And the indictment comes right after the election in November when Democrats have won control of one or both houses of Congress, but Republicans are still in charge until January.

This combination would present Trump and his GOP with both a problem and an opportunity.

The problem, of course, is that Trump, Jared, Don Jr., and the Republicans who’ve conspired with Trump like Devin Nunes (for example) might all be heading toward jail, and possibly even impeachment after the first week of the New Year.

The opportunity is to create a constitutional crisis and grab even more power and immunity for themselves, possibly even “temporarily suspending” the 2020 presidential elections.

Well... I don´t much like guesses of this kind. Hartmann may be correct (I don´t know) but even if he is, I don´t think much will come out of it in terms of opposition.

Hartmann has rather a lot more that I skip. He ends as follows:

While the time for freak-out is hopefully far in the future, imagining and gaming out our response to some of the worst-case and most extreme possibilities is not at all a hysterical reaction. If anything, it’s the essence of prudence.

What do you think he could do? And how should we best react?

An entire generation of Germans, Italians, and Spaniards are aging into their twilight years right now wishing they’d had such imagination in the early 1930s.

It’s time for a conversation.

Not for me. I do not believe in conversations with people who are a lot more stupid and ignorant than I am (and yes: I have tried, and this was and is my conclusion), and besides... these ¨Germans, Italians, and Spaniards¨ from ¨the early 1930s¨ who are presently (according to Hartmann) ¨aging into their twilight years¨ must have had remarkably strong genes, for they must be as old as my father was, who would have become 106 this year, if he had not died in 1980.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit that belongs more to health or health matters than to the crisis. It is by David Healy M.D. and appeared on his site:
It starts as follows:

A recent BBC File on Four program on Antidepressants in Children, presented by Paul Connolly, has drawn disparaging comments on posts here.

Here is some background detail.  I was interviewed for the program.  My messages were as follows:

  1. That the trials of Prozac in children were identical to the trials of other SSRIs and other antidepressant drugs in this age group – negative.  There are more negative Prozac trials for depression in this age group than for any other antidepressant.
  2. Part of our problem is that MHRA and NICE don’t want to be seen to go back on judgements they made 14 years ago when they licensed Prozac. Better children die than regulators lose face.
  3. That all of the literature in this area is ghost or company written.
  4. That there is no access to data from clinical trials – MHRA don’t have access, NICE don’t have access – no-one does.

A week before the programme ran, there was an email from File on Four saying that owing to space constraints I was one of several people being omitted.
Well... I am (academically) a psychologist and a philosopher, which are degrees I made in the 40 years in which both my ex and myself have been ill with ME/CFS, which was only this year admitted by Dutch medics (in an important report) to be ¨a serious and chronic disease¨ (as my ex and I had been saying almost from the beginning, that is, for nearly forty years).

In fact, this is also the reason I follow Healy´s site, together with the fact that he is one of the very few medical doctors who appears to be competent and honest to me (and yes: my ex and I have met a whole lot of incompetent and dishonest Dutch doctors, although we ceased with this in the middle 80ies: we only got offended and discriminated, and received no help whatsoever).

So... I completely agree with Healy on his points 1,2 and 4 (and incidentally: yes, I have used Prozac but terminated it long ago, and I also was around 50 when I used it and not around 15). I do not know about his point 2, but he may well be correct there as well.

Also, I completely agree with Healy that children should not be given Prozac for at least three reasons: (1) there is a considerable - established - risk that they may suicide; (2) if they don´t,
it is not very likely they will be helped by Prozac; and (3) there is no good evidence whatsoever on very many of the current medicines (including Prozac), for the simple reason that, as Healy said: ¨
there is no access to data from clinical trials – MHRA don’t have access, NICE don’t have access¨, for the only ones who have access are the pharmaceutical corporations who claim these data are their property, and not to be revealed.

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

When it became clear that 4 innocent Irish people, the Guildford Four, jailed in the mid 1970s in English jails for a bombing, were innocent, Tom Denning, then the leading English legal authority, said that even so they should remain in jail because otherwise the public would lose confidence in the law and the police, which would be an appalling outcome.  It could not be let happen.
Denning was right we have lost confidence in the legal and criminal justice system. We need a similar loss of confidence medical academia and the pharmaceutical licensing system.
I agree with Healy, though my reasons are that my - very intelligent - ex and myself have been told for 40 years by utterly incompetent Dutch medical doctors that nothing was the matter with us, and that if we thought something was, it was because we were imagining things, hallucinating things, or making up things.

And indeed I have lost all and any trust, belief or confidence in any Dutch medical doctor, and believe that the vast majority is interested in one thing only: Money for themselves.


[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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail