May 23, 2019

   Crisis: Legalizing Marijuana, How Republics Die, Interviewing Lula, Internet in China

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 23, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 23, 2019.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before, after 24 hours of misery.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 three 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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 23, 2019:
1. Why We Must Legalize Marijuana
2. This Is How Republics Die

3. Interview With Brazil’s Ex-President Lula

4. How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities

The items 1 - 4 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. Why We Must Legalize Marijuana

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

The federal prohibition on marijuana has been a disaster. For decades, millions of Americans have been locked up and billions of dollars have been wasted. It’s also deepened racial and economic inequality. 

We must end this nonsensical prohibition.

The facts are staggering. In 2017, more Americans were arrested for marijuana possession than for murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery combined.That’s one marijuana arrest every minute.

The costs associated with enforcing this ban – including arrests, court costs, and incarceration – reach nearly $14 billion a year

Prohibition also hurts the economy in terms of lost wages. And Americans with criminal records have a harder time finding a job and getting the education they need.

On the other hand, legalizing, taxing, and regulating is good for the economy and creates jobs.

Yes indeed. Then again, Reich nowhere in his article (which is reasonable) mentions the health reasons for marijuana, which I learned a full 50 years ago, in 1969, from the British Wootton Report, from 1968, that was published in January 1969.

What it said was - among quite a lot more - this (in 1968/69):

"The long term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects (…) Cannabis is less dangerous than the opiates, amphetamines and barbiturates, and also less dangerous than alcohol. (…) An increasing number of people, mainly young, in all classes of society are experimenting with this drug, and substantial numbers use it regularly for social pleasure. There is no evidence that this activity is causing violent crime, or is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis requiring medical treatment (…) there are indications that (cannabis) may become a functional equivalent of alcohol."

In 1968/69 marijuana was not legal in Holland (it still is not, in spite of many lies in - especially - the American press) and that situation basically continued for 50 years, except that Amsterdam's former mayor Van Thijn in 1986-1990 introduced an illegal ruling that was accepted by all Dutch judges, to the effect that marijuana still was illegal and could be sold in "coffeeshops" in Amsterdam, and a little later in Holland, which made it appear that marijuana is legal in Holland.

I do not know what moved
former mayor Van Thijn to do this, but I do know that there has been one (and only one) parliamentary report on marijuana in 1996/1997
that indicated that the sales of (only) marijuana in Holland (in the semi- "legalized" "coffeeshops") amounted to 10 billion euros a year, which means that it has sold over 300 billion euros in Holland alone, and probably much more, also in cocaine and heroin in the rest of Europe, basically because the legal punishments in Holland are much less than in surrounding countries, and the jails are less unpleasant than in surrounding countries.

I think it personally a lot less probable than probable that the Dutch mayors, who for thirty years have been deciding who "of their personal friends" may semi-"legally" deal marijuana from a "coffeeshop" - for that is the rule since Van Thijn was mayor of Amsterdam in the late 1980ies - did this completely for free. Instead, I  think this not done completely for free.

If the Dutch mayors got 1% of the marijuana they allowed to be sold semi-"legally" in Holland, which is very easily paid by those who buy marijuana in Holland, they earned semi-"legally" a mere 3 billion dollars. (I do not know this, but I do consider that more probable than its denial.)

But that is marijuana in Holland, to which I can add that I learned over the past 50 years that marijuana is a lot less dangerous than alcohol. (But it is still illegal in Holland, apparently to give Dutch mayors extra income, which incidentally can be made by the taxes that the Dutch cities impose.)

Anyway, back to Reich and the present USA who says that at least 6 billion dollars can be made in the USA in taxes if marijuana is legalized, and who continues:

But this is more than an economic issue. It’s also a matter of racial justice and equality. 

The federal prohibition on marijuana dates back to anti-Mexican sentimentin the 1930s.  In large part, it was nothing more than another way to criminalize communities of color. 

Today, black and brown Americans are still much more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white Americans, despite using marijuana at similar rates.

Given the racist legacy of these laws, it’s particularly important that the economic gains of legalization extend to communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs.

Support for marijuana legalization has surged in recent years, with two-thirds of Americans now in favor of it. Even a majority of Republicans are in support, and more states are taking action to reform their laws and move toward legalization.

Yes indeed. The article ends as follows:

Just as with the prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s, the federal prohibition of marijuana has been unnecessarily cruel – wasting billions of dollars, unjustly harming millions of lives, and furthering racist policies. 

It’s time to legalize marijuana.

I quite agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. This Is How Republics Die

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

The American republic could die, just like Rome.

Wavering for some time on the verge of becoming a complete oligarchy, America is on the verge of flipping from a democratic republic to a strongman or autocratic form of government, something that’s happened to dozens of democracies in the past few decades, but never before here. It’s possible we won’t recover from it.

The death of a republic is different from the death of a nation; Rome was a nation for nearly 2,000 years, but its period of being a republic was only around 300 years long. For the rest, it was a brutal empire with a small but wealthy and corrupt ruling class and a thin patina of democracy-for-show.

Trump is openly defying the norms and laws of our republic, while calling for the imprisonment of both his political enemies and members of the very law enforcement agencies that might hold him to account. And he’s only able to do it because billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, with Fox News, and the billionaires Republicans depend on to fund their re-elections are providing him with cover.

And they’re largely able to do that because five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court empowered billionaires to own the political system with the 1976 Buckley and 2010 Citizens United decisions.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

Republics die when the price of losing political struggles becomes higher than individual politicians are willing to pay, so they just roll over in favor of the interests of whoever is most powerful. Republics die when compromise is seen as betrayal, and a single principled vote, position or statement is enough to cause donors and party to turn their back and end a political career, or even end a person’s ability to earn a living.

Quite so. Here is some more:

A republic falters because it ceases to be functional and democratic—meeting the needs of the people and being governed by the people—when behind-the-scenes plutocrats, warlords, or corporations achieve near total—and nearly invisible—political/financial dominance over the visible political process

Precisely. Here is some more:

A republic is dying when the price of political activism becomes so high that the only people willing to engage in it are also willing to kill or die for their positions. But before the physical killing and dying happens, first comes financial and political killing and dying.

When politicians are terrified that the wrong statement or vote will lose them their political and financial patrons—or could even get them thrown in jail or killed—they cease to be players in a republican democratic drama, and instead become sycophants to and enablers of the plutocrats who have the actual political power, even though they don’t hold office.

Quite so. Here is some more:

The modern Republican Party has, since the Reagan era, stood exclusively for making the very rich much richer, privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare and Medicaid, gutting food stamps and other programs to help those in poverty and the working poor, increasing levels of poison and pollution in our air and water, and turning our entire school system over to for-profit vultures.

Quite so - and incidentally: This has been going on voor almost 40 years, and still nearly half of the American voters voted for Trump. Hazlitt said:
I believe in the theoretical benevolence of mankind and its practical malignity.
He also said:
If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, "to every good work reprobate."
I agree with both quotes. Here is some more:

Republican politicians now live in such fear of these billionaires and the corporations who made them rich that they’re unwilling to acknowledge simple science like climate change or the impact of industrial pollution on children.

These are the signs of a dying republic.

I do not know whether this is true, but I believe it is. Here is some more:

These are the symptoms of a republic in crisis:

  • Calling the press “the enemy of the people.”
  • Refusing to interact with Congress as the Constitution dictates
  • Packing the courts with demonstrably unqualified ideologues
  • Lying to the people on a daily basis
  • Embracing autocrats while trashing traditional allies
  • Breaking the law and flaunting a Nixon-era “guideline” from the DOJ saying that the president can’t be prosecuted, while he runs out the clock on the statute of limitations
  • Bragging that he’s making money on the presidency and daring anybody to stop him
  • Putting lobbyists in charge of public lands, our banking system, and our environment
  • Embracing violent and hateful people and movements, both at home and abroad
Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

America will not “bounce back” from the Trump presidency when it ends, and may lose all ability to recover at all if that presidency lasts six rather than two more years.

If Republicans in the Senate are too cowardly to repudiate the petro-billionaires who threaten to fund their primary opponents, we will continue on the rapid downward slide Rome experienced in the first century BCE.

And if Democrats don’t take strong, immediate, and decisive action to curb GOP excesses, we may well never again have a chance to return to our democratic-republican roots.

I think this is probably correct. There is a lot more in this excellent article that is very strongly recommended.
3. Interview With Brazil’s Ex-President Lula

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. Incidentally, here is the interview with Lula on video. The article starts as follows:

Among the planet’s significant political figures, no one is quite like Lula. Born into extreme poverty, illiterate until the age of 10, forced to quit school at the age of 12 to work as a shoe shiner, losing a finger at his factory job at 19, and then becoming a labor activist, union leader, and founder of a political party devoted to a defense of laborers (the Workers’ Party, or PT), Lula has always been, in all respects, the exact opposite of the rich, dynastic, oligarch-loyal, aristocratic prototype that has traditionally wielded power in Brazil.

That’s precisely what makes Lula’s rise to power, and his incomparable success once he obtained it, so extraordinary. And that’s what, to this very day, makes him so worth listening to regarding the world’s most complex and pressing political questions: As the ascension of right-wing nationalism and populism at times seems unstoppable, Lula is one of the world’s very few political figures of the last several decades able to figure out how to win national elections in a large country based on left-wing populism in the best sense of that term.

Yes indeed. Here is some more on Lula and Brazil:

So bold and charismatic was Lula’s leadership that it not only transformed the lives of millions but also the perception of Brazil itself: both domestically and globally. Brazil was awarded the World Cup and then became the first South American country to host the Olympics. Tens of millions of Brazilians who resigned themselves to eternal, inescapable deprivation began to believe for the first time that a brighter future was possible. When Obama saw him at the G-20 summit in 2008, he anointed Lula “my man,” adding: “He’s the most popular politician on Earth.”

Obama was right: By the time he left office in 2010, Lula had an approval rating of 86 percent.

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

We present the entire one-hour interview with very few edits so that the full vibrancy of our exchange can be seen. It was a sweeping discussion with one of the world’s most incisive political minds, involving a wide range of issues, some of which were about Bolsonaro and Brazil, but most of which were about the dangers the planet faces from collective threats and global political changes around the world. The complete transcript is below.

Yes, although - having read the transcript - I think much is about Brazil, which also is justified. And this is a strongly recommended article.
4. How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities

This article is by Chris Buckley and Paul Mozur on The New York Times. This is from near its beginning:
This is the vision of high-tech surveillance — precise, all-seeing, infallible — that China’s leaders are investing billions of dollars in every year, making Xinjiang an incubator for increasingly intrusive policing systems that could spread across the country and beyond.

It is also a vision that some of President Trump’s aides have begun citing in a push for tougher action against Chinese companies in the intensifying trade war. Beyond concerns about market barriers, theft and national security, they argue that China is using technology to strengthen authoritarianism at home and abroad — and that the United States must stop it.

Developed and sold by the China Electronics Technology Corporation, a state-run defense manufacturer, the system in Kashgar is on the cutting edge of what has become a flourishing new market for technology that the government can use to monitor and subdue millions of Uighurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

Treating a city like a battlefield, the platform was designed to “apply the ideas of military cyber systems to civilian public security,” Wang Pengda, a C.E.T.C. engineer, said in an official blog post. “Looking back, it truly was an idea ahead of its time.”

The system taps into networks of neighborhood informants; tracks individuals and analyzes their behavior; tries to anticipate potential crime, protest or violence; and then recommends which security forces to deploy, the company said.

On the screen during the demonstration was a slogan: “If someone exists, there will be traces, and if there are connections, there will be information.”
Yes indeed, although I think I should add that (1) the internet is - by far - the strongest argument and the strongest reason for a neofascistic future for all of mankind, and (2) it has been designed to be so from the late 1960ies (!!) onwards, as is explained in this Nederlog article.

Here is some more:
It is a virtual cage that complements the indoctrination camps in Xinjiang where the authorities have detained a million or more Uighurs and other Muslims in a push to transform them into secular citizens who will never challenge the ruling Communist Party. The program helps identify people to be sent to the camps or investigated, and keeps tabs on them when they are released.
Yes indeed. Here is some more:
In the city of Kashgar, with a population of 720,000 — about 85 percent of them Uighur — the C.E.T.C. platform draws on databases with 68 billion records, including those on people’s movements and activities, according to the demonstration viewed by a Times reporter at the industry fair, held in the eastern city of Wuzhen in late 2017.

By comparison, the F.B.I.’s national instant criminal background check system contained about 19 million records at the end of 2018.
I say - and I add this is the probable future of the internet everywhere. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
“The goal here is instilling fear — fear that their surveillance technology can see into every corner of your life,” said Wang Lixiong, a Chinese author who has written about Xinjiang as well as China’s surveillance state. “The amount of people and equipment used for security is part of the deterrent effect.”
Yes indeed - and in fact the present (bolding added) "surveillance technology can see into every corner of your life", and it can do so everywhere, though not yet as extremely as in the authoritarian China. And this is a strongly 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 3 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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