October 21, 2018

Crisis: Greenwald On Brazil, On Anonymity, On Nukes, On The U.S. Millenials, PEN Sues


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 21, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 21, 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 October 21, 2018:
1. Upheaval: Brazil on the Brink. The Saudi Regime Under Fire.
2. Let’s Agree Not to Kill One Another
3. Trump: U.S. Will Pull Out of Intermediate Range Nuke Pact
4. Message To Millennials
5. PEN Sues: It Is Up to Those of Us Who Depend Upon A Free Press To Rise
     In Defense Of It

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. Upheaval: Brazil on the Brink. The Saudi Regime Under Fire.

This article is by Glenn Greenwald (sitting in for Jeremy Scahill) on The Intercept. This is from near its beginning:
GG: I’m speaking to you from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where political events have left much of the world shocked, baffled, and even somewhat horrified by recent political events here in the country. And here in Brazil, a large segment of the population is all of those things in addition to being somewhat terrorized. And the reason for that is the remarkable political ascension of someone who has been on the fringes of Brazilian politics for three decades but now is about to take over the country with virtually unlimited power and his name is Jair Bolsonaro — who has been a far-right extremist serving in the Brazilian Congress, essentially without very many allies and without very many partners. In the 30 years of his being in Congress, he was able to pass virtually no bills. He was able to form almost no political alliances. He was essentially a cult-like figure who had a fanatical following in Rio de Janeiro that constantly sent him back every four years to Congress, but never had any impact on the national scene.
And what he was probably most known for — the views of his that have been most consistent — are his continuous comments praising, and heralding, and heaping all kinds of compliments on the military generals who in 1964 overthrew the democratically elected left-wing government of Brazil. And then proceeded to rule the country for twenty-one years, from 1964 until 1985, under a brutal, highly repressive military dictatorship that did things like round up dissidents and critics, torture its opponents, and even engage in summary execution of people who opposed them.
And what’s most remarkable is that the same Jair Bolsonaro is on the verge of taking over the entire political structure of Brazil.
Yes, quite so - and there is more about Bolsonaro who does seem to me more like a very frightening madman in the above bit (on the bits ¨(..)¨) than a politician - but yes: Greenwald is right it is quite likely that that man is going to get the supreme power in Brazil, which happens to be a country with 210 million inhabitants.

Here is more on Bolsonaro´s ideas and values:
(..) Bolsonaro has spent 30 years developing a highly definable ideology that is far more extreme than anything Donald Trump has ever advocated, including a literal return of the military dictatorship. The only time he criticized the military dictatorship was to say that the mistake they made was to only torture people and not torture and then kill them all. He says they should have killed at least 30,000 more people including the right-wing president who was elected, Fernando Cardoso. So he’s far more extreme than Trump in his ideology and much more important is the difference between the U.S. or countries in Europe that have far-right leaders on the one-hand and Brazil on the other.
Yes, this seems all quite correct.

And here is a part of Greenwald´s explanation for the fact that a man as frightful as Bolsonaro probably will get elected in Brazil:

We saw the same thing with Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S., with the success of Brexit in the U.K., with the rise of right-wing parties in Eastern Europe, and now even in Western European countries where far-right movements were previously unthinkable — places like France and Germany and Sweden. And the lesson is: That when the establishment fails to serve the needs of a huge portion of the population eventually they will come to realize that — will direct all of their hatred toward that establishment, will decide they have nothing to lose, and will run into the arms of whoever is the most extreme demagogue, even if it’s somebody with ideas as hateful, and ideologies as obviously dangerous and tyrannical as Jair Bolsonaro.
I think Greenwald´s explanation is very probably correct. But then I have a rather important remark:

In fact, the above explanation implies that in many large elections (democratically organized or not), the chances are - not only in Brazil, but in the U.S., France, Germany and Sweden - that a large part of the voters - ¨
a huge portion of the population¨ - are so stupid or ignorant that they will elect a demagogue who is, for the minority of the more intelligent and more informed, obviously against the real interests of those who vote for him.

And this can be easily and well illustrated by Trump´s election in the USA. In fact, this is also an important objection against democracy since Aristotle or earlier.

In fact, this is from the lemma on
democracy in my Philosophical Dictionary:

As it happened, giving the vote to all of the adult population in the 20th Century "in the name of democracy" has been very good for rabble-rousers and has produced few good governors: Hitler was democratically elected, and in every parliamentary democracy one can be sure that most of the voters have no adequate ideas of what they vote on or whom they vote for.

Yet the great majority in democratically governed societies believes itself to be free and to vote in 'free and fair elections', also and indeed because these elections have been much engineered by propaganda.

It should also be noted that because 'government by the people' and 'power to the people' are such popular slogans, all governments of any kind whatsoever tend to style themselves 'democracies', and tend to manufacture periodic public elections. The main reason to do so is that this enables the leaders of government to claim that they govern by popular support and through free and fair elections.

The truth is that even where there are free and fair elections, and where there are several political parties who compete to get their leaders elected, the majority of the electorate is not qualified to judge rationally about those they elect or about the plans these propose to get elected for.

In brief, I have no solution for this problem (but I do not deny it, like many).

There is very much more in this article, also about Saudi Arabia, and it is strongly recommended, but since I myself survived two periods of over 3 years each in which I was very credibly threatened with murder, first by an utter madman who lived next to me, and next by illegal drugsdealers who were protected up to the hilt, that included murder threats and nearly succesful attempts to gas me, by the mayor of Amsterdam, who did not even answer my letters, and by the city police of Amsterdam, who told me
¨we will do nothing for you because all Amsterdammers are bastards¨
I think I have a lot of direct personal experiences with murder threats (I also was literally gassed by the illegal drugsdealers or their collaborating house owner); I know that no one will really help you (also not in Amsterdam) while the authorities rather seem to see you dead than alive (for I criticized Holland´s utterly corrupt drugs policies); and for these and other reasons I strongly recommend Greenwald and his husband to move from Brazil.

Also, as I said, this is a strongly recommended article in which there is very much more than I quoted.

2. Let’s Agree Not to Kill One Another

This article is by Bill McKibben on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
In a world where the president goes on Twitter to call a woman “horseface” it seems pointless to call for “civility.” So let me suggest that we start with a lower bar, maybe one we could still hope to achieve: Let’s stop threatening to kill one another.
I say. Well... here is some background: McKibben has received dead threats since the 1990s. He also uses the following ¨remedy¨:
My practice has been just to delete threats from my email — I find that if I don’t, I keep looking at them, and I imagine (I hope) the main goal of their authors is to distract me. If you’re going to be a lightning rod, some sparks are probably the price.
Of course, that is no real remedy. But then this happened (and there is more in the article):

But then the commenters went at it. One said: “Anybody got Bill McKibben’s home address? Let’s see how he really feels about ‘civil disobedience’ if it shows up at his front door.” Another added, “Give him a smack for me.” One or two tried to calm people down. But there was also this comment, from someone named “gnomish:” “There is a protocol worth observing: S.S.S. It stands for shoot, shovel and S.T.F.U. Hope that saves you some trouble.”

This “protocol” was left over from the right-wing fight against endangered species laws. If, say, a protected woodpecker was on your land, the “Three S’s” doctrine held that you should kill it, bury it and keep your mouth shut about it. It was, in this case, a public call for someone to murder me, and not long afterward another commenter, “Carbon Bigfoot,” supplied my home address.

All of which stopped me cold.

I thought I was inured to social media abuse. But this was something new: a calm public discussion about how to find me and what to do to me. No one deleted the comment by “gnomish.” The conversation just kept spiraling along.

And Bill McKibben is quite right that this was ¨a public call for someone to murder me¨. Before I turn to my own ¨solution¨, there is this by McKibben:

But aside from my own fear — and I’m now installing surveillance cameras, because it turns out that public death threats slash through some of the psychic insulation privilege provides — what really bothered me was the matter-of- factness of it all. What does it say about a society when people just routinely call for the killing of those they disagree with? You’ll note that “gnomish” abbreviated his profane phrase, because curse words are banned on this website. But its moderators apparently just read right past the death threat.

Yes. Then again, my own ¨solution¨ to the problem of - let´s say - offensive mails by anonymous persons is different, though indeed it is as little a real solution as McKibben´s approach:

I refuse to read any comments anyone has on anything that is on the internet, for I found that I have to read pages and pages and pages of comments in order to find a single one that was minimally reasonable, and I hate wasting time or energy; I refuse to read any tweets or any tweetlike comments or reactions: I am just not interested in people´s ¨contributions¨ of one or two statements; and I also refuse to dispute anything with anonymous people without a site.

In fact, I am a strong opponent of all anonymity on the internet and that for three reasons:

First, 99,999 % of all anomymity serves help take away all personal responsibility for a writer of something anonymous, and I think this is extremely childish: Every adult should be personally responsible for such opinions as he or she publicly utters (and the internet is a public place).

Second, anonymous people without a personal site can say whatever they please, and be as offensive as they want to be, for no normal user of the internet can find out who they are, which means they cannot be made personally responsible.

Third, the only people who can find out who is - really, with his or her real name and real address - personally responsible for threats or insults are the secret services, and Google and Facebook.

In brief, I wish to communicate only with a very small - intelligent, informed - portion of the internet; I want to know who I really am talking to (real name, real address) if we are going to dispute things; and if I can´t, then I just say nothing.

Then again, this removes a part of the problem for me, but does not solve it at all, and it can be solved only if personally responsible people succeed in making all people on the internet personally responsible for their opinions, values, expressions, insults and threats, and this can happen only if all - real - communications on the internet happens between real persons with real names and real addresses.

Here is the ending of Bill McKibben´s article:

I don’t want this website shut down; I don’t want the people who write on it prosecuted. I definitely don’t want them murdered. I just want — as the very beginning of some kind of return to the gentler old normalcy — for people to stop making death threats. That seems to me the least we can ask of one another.

Well... I sympathize with McKibben, but it will not happen as long as anyone can assume any false identity that no normal person can unravel. But this is a recommended article, for the problem McKibben poses is quite real and quite important.

3. Trump: U.S. Will Pull Out of Intermediate Range Nuke Pact

This article is by Eke Miller and Michael Balsamo on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
President Donald Trump said Saturday he will exit a landmark arms control agreement the United States signed with the former Soviet Union, saying that Russia is violating the pact and it’s preventing the U.S. from developing new weapons.

The 1987 pact, which helps protect the security of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East, prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.

Yes. Incidentally, I think this also - and perhaps better - can be seen as a preparation for war with Russia, for Russia is to a large extent surrounded by countries associated with the USA, and these countries, and the USA, have a special interest in ¨producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile¨ of a relatively small range. (And the USA is not surrounded at all by friends of Russia.)

Here is some more by Trump:

The agreement has constrained the U.S. from developing new weapons, but America will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons, Trump said. China is not currently party to the pact.

“We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” he said.

Here is the outcome-so-far as expressed by a Russian:

“We are slowly slipping back to the situation of cold war as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, with quite similar consequences, but now it could be worse because (Russian President Vladimir) Putin belongs to a generation that had no war under its belt,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent Russian political analyst. “These people aren’t as much fearful of a war as people of Brezhnev’s epoch. They think if they threaten the West properly, it gets scared.”

Well... of course the same holds for the Americans. And this is a recommended article.
4. Message To Millennials

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

You are the largest, most diverse, and progressive group of potential voters in American history, comprising fully 30 percent of the voting age population.

On November 6th, you have the power to alter the course of American politics – flipping Congress, changing the leadership of states and cities, making lawmakers act and look more like the people who are literally the nation’s future.

But you need to vote. In the last midterm election, in 2014, only 16 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 even bothered.

In fact, there are over 100 million American voters (of all ages) who did not vote in the presidental elections of 2016.

Then again, Reich is addressing those between 18 and 29:

Now, I understand. I was young once. You have a lot on your minds – starting jobs, and careers, and families. Also, unlike your grandparents–some of whom were involved in civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement–you may not remember a time when political action changed America for the better.

You don’t even recall when American democracy worked well. Instead, during your lifetime you’ve watched big money take over Washington and state capitals. Which may explain why only about 30 percent of you born in the 1980s think it “essential” to live in a democracy.

Personally, I have no idea what these people mean by “essential” (what is? and for whom is it?) and I doubt many have any clear ideas about democracy, but OK.

Here is Reich´s ending:

You’ve also seen that your votes count. You saw Hillary lose by a relative handful of votes in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. You’re aware of the slim but increasingly real possibility of taking back the Senate.

As doubtful as you are are about politics, or the differences between the two parties, you also know that Donald Trump and his Republican enablers want to take the nation backwards to an old, white, privileged, isolated America. You don’t.

In my thirty-five years of teaching college students, I’ve not encountered a generation as dedicated to making the nation better as yours.

So my betting is on you, this November 6th. Please register and vote. 

Actually, it is a bit strange to say to a class of voters of whom only 16% voted to say that (bolding added) ¨your votes count¨, while it is also a bit strange to say to the same class of voters that one has ¨not encountered a generation as dedicated to making the nation better as yours¨ - but OK again.

But I am pleased that there is a ¨slim but increasingly real possibility of taking back the Senate¨ and I hope Reich is right in his belief that this time there will be far more voters between 18 and 29. And this is a recommended article.

5. PEN Sues: It Is Up to Those of Us Who Depend Upon A Free Press To Rise In Defense Of It

This article is by Abby Zimet on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Conceding Trump's right to abuse, demean or even noxiously slam journalists as "enemies of the people" but fiercely rejecting his right to use the power or machinery of the government to shut them up, or try to, PEN America, representing thousands of writers and journalists, has filed a federal lawsuit
against him. The suit, authored by Protect Democracy and Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, was filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. Charging that punitive acts by Trump have "violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution," it seeks to stop him from from ordering any employee, agency, or government entity to "retaliate or threaten reprisals" against any negative coverage or gutsy journalists he happens to dislike - ie: the sort of thing he has repeatedly, increasingly engaged in, and that the courts have found illegal. Trump "has First Amendment rights and is free to criticize the press vehemently," the suit reads, "but he is not free to use the power and authority of the United States government to punish and stifle it."
Yes indeed, and this is also well-phrased. Here is some more:
In this era of incessant, specious tirades against “fake news,” PEN charges, Trump uses “retaliatory directives (and ) credible public threats" against news organizations who challenge him - browbeating book authors who call out his lying buffoonery, urging the firing of journalists who do the same, threatening Bezos' Washington Post (with anti-trust action) and Amazon (with higher shipping costs), and bad-mouthing CNN, NBC and any other media presence that affronts his pathologically fragile sense of self.
I have a remark on the above, namely that I think either ¨narcissistic¨ or ¨megalomanian¨ may be better terms than ¨pathologically fragile¨, but OK.

Here is the ending of this article:

"It is up to those of us who depend upon a free press," they write, "to rise in defense of it."
Well... I think the PEN, which presumably covers ¨those of us who depend upon a free press¨ is quite right in prosecuting Trump, but I also think that far more people than ¨those who depend upon a free press¨ should rise up to a defense of the free press. But this is a recommended article.


[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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