May 25, 2019

   Crisis: On the Assange Indictment, On Theresa May (1) & (2), On The War on Journalism

“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 25, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 25, 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 on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, but not yet quite decently working computers.

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 25, 2019:
1. Sanders, Warren, and Wyden Slam Assange Indictment
2. Theresa May Had One Job — Brexit. She Failed.

3. Theresa May Resigns as British Prime Minister

4. New Indictment of Assange Is Part of a Broader War on
     Journalism & Whistleblowers

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. Sanders, Warren, and Wyden Slam Assange Indictment

This article is by Akela Lacy on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The Justice Department filed 17 charges against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on Thursday, deploying the controversial Espionage Act as a cudgel against First Amendment protections and press freedom. It’s the first time the U.S. government has used the Espionage Act to prosecute a publisher, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.  

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with Sen. Ron Wyden, who all have been outspoken on civil liberties issues, slammed the indictment.

“Let me be clear: it is a disturbing attack on the First Amendment for the Trump administration to decide who is or is not a reporter for the purposes of a criminal prosecution,” Sanders wrote in a tweet Friday afternoon after The Intercept contacted his office for comment. “Donald Trump must obey the Constitution, which protects the publication of news about our government.”

Warren distanced herself from Assange but condemned the Justice Department’s move to curtail press freedom. “Assange is a bad actor who has harmed U.S. national security — and he should be held accountable,” Warren said in a statement. “But Trump should not be using this case as a pretext to wage war on the First Amendment and go after the free press who hold the powerful accountable everyday.”

“This is not about Julian Assange,” Wyden said in a statement. “This is about the use of the Espionage Act to charge a recipient and publisher of classified information. I am extremely concerned about the precedent this may set and potential dangers to the work of journalists and the First Amendment.”

Yes, this is mostly quite correct, although I add that I do not quite understand Warren, who seems to believe the U.S. national security, although she knows or ought to know that these are mostly anonymous people doing jobs nobody knows about, which indeed are claimed to be "national security", while often they are not.

Anyway. Here is some more:

The Justice Department has alleged that Assange violated the Espionage Act by publishing classified documents in 2010, and that he “encouraged sources to circumvent legal safeguards on information.” Assange, along with WikiLeaks, the indictment says, “repeatedly sought, obtained, and disseminated information that the United States classified due to the serious risk that unauthorized disclosure could harm [U.S.] national security.” Those documents revealed the U.S. military killing unarmed civilians and Reuters staff, and activity reports from Afghanistan and Iraq, along with briefings on detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay.

Information included in those documents were reported by outlets including the New York Times and The Guardian; the Obama administration had always been reluctant to indict Assange due to what it called “the New York Times problem.” There was no way to say that Assange’s action was criminal without also saying that much of what the Times and other mainstream outlets do is also against the law.

Well... the Justice Department seems to hold that (i) the U.S. military are completely free to kill anybody they please anywhere, and that (ii) anyone who publishes the imnformation that the U.S. army murdered unarmed civilians and members of Reuters staff is a criminal.

I say. Well... it seems to me that the present American Justice Department is being
neofascistic about anyone who opposes Trump or Trump's government.

Here is some background:
Indeed, the documents are still officially classified, meaning that anybody who discusses them, even in the context of Assange’s indictment, could themselves be committing a crime. Transparency advocates have said that the executive branch has been classifying far too much basic information — the soup of the day at the CIA’s cafeteria, for instance, could be classified. If the government effectively criminalizes reporting on classified information, that gives the government the unilateral authority to determine what can and cannot be published, simply by deploying its opaque and unreviewable classification scheme.
Precisely, and that is indeed what the present American government is doing and claiming: "the unilateral authority to determine what can and cannot be published". There is considerably more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

2. Theresa May Had One Job — Brexit. She Failed.

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

With yet another rejection of her Brexit deal looming, along with an imminent drubbing for her Conservatives in elections to the European Parliament, no one much disagreed with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May when she stepped outside the black door of 10 Downing Street on Friday and said that it was “in the best interests” of the country for a new prime minister to take over.

She moved to that address in July 2016 with but one task, to clean up a mess not of her making. Her predecessor, David Cameron, had quit after calling a referendum on whether to exit the European Union, leaving it to Mrs. May to find a way of getting a brutally divided nation out of an extraordinarily tangled relationship. She failed, and on Friday she paid the price.

Mrs. May, a vicar’s daughter and lifelong Conservative stalwart, is exiting with all the dignity and reserve she has maintained throughout the tortuous process. But there was no denying the scope of her failure: The deal she had painstakingly negotiated with the European Union was overwhelmingly rejected by the British Parliament, again and again, and in the end she left the country more divided over Brexit than ever.

Yes, I think this is mostly correct. Also, I report on this in part because I am a European, and not because I ever was a fan of May or indeed of Brexit.

Here is some more about Brexit:

From the outset, Brexit was based on an illusion — that Britain could abandon those aspects of the European Union it didn’t like, like free movement within the union and limitations on sovereignty, but keep the economic benefits of a trade union.

The European Union was never prepared to allow Britain an à la carte exit, if only to avoid giving ideas to other wavering members. And as frustrations grew, so did the vilification of Mrs. May. She was mocked as Theresa Maybe for her wavering, or as Maybot for her stiffness.

I think this is also mostly correct. This is a recommended article. There is some more on May in the next article I review:

3. Theresa May Resigns as British Prime Minister

This article is by Jill Lawless on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, admitting defeat in her attempt to take Britain out of the European Union and sparking a contest to become the country’s next prime minister.

She will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process likely to take several weeks. The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election, and will take up the task of trying to secure Britain’s exit from the EU.

Her voice breaking, May said in a televised statement outside 10 Downing St. that she would soon be leaving a job that it has been “the honor of my life to hold.”

I say. Well, I concentrate on one bit of the above quotation, namely this: "The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election". I am quite willing to suppose that is legal in Great Britain, but even so I consider this anti-democratic nonsense, indeed also because Theresa May herself also became prime minister that way.

Here is some more on Great Britain:

Multiple contenders are already jockeying to replace her and take up the challenge of securing Britain’s EU exit. The early front-runner is Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary and strong champion of Brexit.

Conservative lawmakers increasingly see May as an obstacle to Britain’s EU exit, although her replacement will face the same issue: a Parliament deeply divided over whether to leave the EU, and how close a relationship to seek with the bloc after it does.

May spent more than a year and a half negotiating an exit agreement with the EU, only to see it rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament.

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

The next British leader is likely to be a staunch Brexiteer, who will try to renegotiate the divorce deal, and if that fails to leave the bloc without an agreement on departure terms.

Most businesses and economists think that would cause economic turmoil and plunge Britain into recession. Parliament has voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit, though it remains the legal default option.

I suppose this will turn out to be correct, although I don't know, and this is a recommended article.

4. New Indictment of Assange Is Part of a Broader War on Journalism & Whistleblowers

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

The Espionage Act charges filed against Julian Assange mark just the latest attempt by the Trump administration to criminalize journalism and whistleblowers. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning is back in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Two weeks ago, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale was arrested in Tennessee. We air a new video by The Intercept titled “Why You Should Care About Trump’s War on Whistleblowers,” featuring Jeremy Scahill. We also speak to Scahill and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg about how the corporate media has failed to stand up for Assange and others.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue to look at the Justice Department’s unprecedented decision to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for violating the Espionage Act. We turn now to a new video produced by The Intercept titled “Why You Should Care About Trump’s War on Whistleblowers.” It features Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill, who will join us after this video.

Yes. Here are some bits from the video with two comments by me:

JEREMY SCAHILL: On June 16th, 1918, the prominent socialist labor leader Eugene Debs delivered a speech in Canton, Ohio. And in that speech, Debs argued against U.S. involvement in World War I, and he praised activists who had been organizing against the military draft or had been convicted of sedition. At the time, Debs was one of the most prominent socialists in the United States, and his speech came on the heels of the Russian revolution and the rise of global socialist and communist movements.

EUGENE DEBS: [read by Mark Ruffalo] The working class who fight all the battles, the working calls who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish their corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Soon after Debs delivered that speech, he was arrested and charged under a new law in the U.S. that had passed just a year earlier. It was called the Espionage Act. Debs and his lawyers argued that his antiwar speech was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. They lost. And Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices voted unanimously to uphold his conviction. “I believe in free speech, in war as well as in peace,” Debs told the jury during his trial. “If the Espionage Law stands, then the Constitution of the United States is dead.”

Congress eventually amended parts of that act, but the thrust of the law has remained in effect to this day. Anarchist Emma Goldman was also prosecuted under the act. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted under the law.

Throughout its history, the Espionage Act has been used as a weapon to attack free speech and dissent. And then came the Pentagon Papers case, where the government charged the whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg under the Espionage Act. He faced more than a hundred years in prison.

Yes, quite so - and I tend to mostly agree with Eugene Debs in 1918 (over 100 years ago now): “If the Espionage Law stands, then the Constitution of the United States is dead.”

Well... it still stands, albeit with a few differences. Here are two bits of Scahill:

JEREMY SCAHILL: This government has been relentless in its pursuit of people of conscience who blow the whistle, and has characterized them as traitors and spies, and, in the process, has criminalized the ability to do independent journalism that is meant to hold them accountable, the government accountable.

JEREMY SCAHILL: We are at an extremely dangerous moment in the history of this country. Donald Trump is using the same rhetoric used by Nazi officials in 1930s and '40s to attack the press. He said he wants to jail journalists who publish stories he doesn't like. And he’s wielding the Espionage Act like a chainsaw against journalistic sources. What makes it all so much worse is that it was the constitutional law scholar and Trump predecessor, Barack Obama, who teed Trump up, who laid the groundwork, who blazed the trail for this extremely deranged and dangerous man currently occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I agree with most things Scahill is argueing in the above quotation, although I fail to see why this is made "all so much worse" by the fact that "it was the constitutional law scholar and Trump predecessor, Barack Obama, who teed Trump up": Because Obama is black?! Because Obama is a Democrat?!

As I said, I fail to see that, but the rest is correct. Here is some more:

JEREMY SCAHILL: Daniel Everett Hale is facing a half a century in prison for his alleged crime of blowing the whistle on a secret assassination program that regularly resulted in the killing of civilians, including an American teenager. None of this is about espionage. And it should be clear to every journalist in this country, to every person of conscience, that what this prosecution is about is threatening anyone who even thinks of leaking, say, a Trump tax return. This is about criminalizing journalism. It’s about increasing the secrecy and decreasing the transparency. It’s an assault on the very idea of a democratic society. At these moments, silence is complicity. Everyone should care about what happened to Reality Winner and what’s happening again to Chelsea Manning and what’s happened to Edward Snowden and, yes, what’s happening to Julian Assange. And we should all care what happens to Daniel Hale.

Yes, I completely agree. Here is some more:

JEREMY SCAHILL: (..) Look what’s happened, Amy. Trump is trying to run the deck on this. They are digging up old cases. They are trying to throw the book at anyone who does critical national security reporting. This isn’t about Julian Assange 2016, the election, Sweden. This is about a war on the press. And it was a huge, fatal mistake that major news organizations refused to stand up when they started coming for WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning in 2010. Huge mistake. They owe some of the responsibility for this.

Yes, I again completely agree. Here is some more:

JEREMY SCAHILL: (..) Trump now is blasting through Obama’s horrid record of eight journalistic sources charged under the Espionage Act. But this happens in the context, too, of William Barr, who is an obsessive-compulsive addict of the unitary executive, the notion that the executive branch should be a dictatorship when it comes to national security policy. They are going after people who blew the whistle on war crimes.

Again I quite agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

JEREMY SCAHILL: Julian Assange released evidence, very clear evidence, of U.S. war crimes, including the murder of Reuters journalists and civilians, duplicity, dirty tricks around the world on the part of the U.S. government. I agree with Dan [Ellsberg]. And I just want to say, it’s actually irrelevant whether Julian Assange—whether you think Julian Assange is a journalist. The First Amendment does not just cover freedom of the press. It’s all of our rights. And this is not just about press freedom. This is about a democratic society and a major frontal assault on our basic liberties and free speech.

Yes indeed: I quite agree. And this is a very strongly recommended article in which there is a lot more than I quoted.


[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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