May 29, 2019

   Crisis: Assange's Indictment, Socialism in the USA, More Assange, On Oligarchy in the USA

“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 29, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 29, 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, though 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 29, 2019:
1. The Indictment of Assange Is a Blueprint for Making
     Journalists Into Felons

2. Can Socialism Save American Democracy?

3. We All Share Julian Assange's Fate

4. What Does Oligarchy Mean?
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. The Indictment of Assange Is a Blueprint for Making Journalists Into Felons

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on Common Dreams and originally on the Washington Post. It starts as follows:

The U.S. government on Thursday unveiled an 18-count indictment
against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, charging him under the 1917 Espionage Act for his role in the 2010 publication of a trove of secret documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and diplomatic communications regarding dozens of nations. So extreme and unprecedented are the indictment’s legal theories and likely consequences that it shocked and alarmed even many of Assange’s most virulent critics.

The new indictment against Assange bears no relationship to WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign documents or any of its other activities during the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead, it covers only publication of a massive archive of classified U.S. government documents that revealed a multitude of previously unknown, highly significant information about wars, government and corporate corruption, and official deceit. WikiLeaks, in 2010, published those materials in partnership with some of the largest media outlets in the world, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais, outlets that published
many of the same secret documents that form the basis of the criminal case against Assange.

Yes indeed.

We'll come to the legal indictments against Assange below, but I want to comment here on the fact that these indictments do not cover any of "
WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign documents or any of its other activities during the 2016 presidential campaign" and do cover what Wikileaks published in 2010, together with the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel etc.

I think the explanation is fairly simple: (i) Trump's prosecuters want to protect the centrist Democrats, led by Pelosi, and (ii) hope to deal with
the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel etc., but especially the New York Times and the Washington Post after Assange has been convicted.

Here is some more by Greenwald:

With these new charges, the Trump administration is aggressively and explicitly seeking to obliterate the last reliable buffer protecting journalism in the United States from being criminalized, a step that no previous administration, no matter how hostile to journalistic freedom, was willing to take. The U.S. government has been eager to prosecute Assange since the 2010 leaks. Until now, though, officials had refrained because they concluded it was impossible to distinguish WikiLeaks’ actions from the typical business of mainstream media outlets. Indicting Assange for the act of publishing would thus make journalism a felony.

Yes, I think that is correct: Trump's government does want to make journalism in the USA, or at least the journalism that doesn't praise Trump and his government, a criminal affair and a felony.

Also, I think that if this succeeds the USA has turned neofascistic (but since I have been looking for something like ten years to find a single journalist who could frame a decent definition of fascism, and found no one at all, I merely state this as my belief, and will not cover this further in this review).

Here is something about press freedoms and the Trump era:

Press freedoms belong to everyone, not to a select, privileged group of citizens called “journalists.” Empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections would restrict “freedom of the press” to a small, cloistered priesthood of privileged citizens designated by the government as “journalists.” The First Amendment was written to avoid precisely that danger.

Most critically, the U.S. government has now issued a legal document that formally declares that collaborating with government sources to receive and publish classified documents is no longer regarded by the Justice Department as journalism protected by the First Amendment, but rather as the felony of espionage, one that can send reporters and their editors to prison for decades. It thus represents, by far, the greatest threat to press freedom in the Trump era, if not the last several decades.

I completely agree.

Here is part of the reason why Assange is a journalist:

Many of the most consequential and celebrated press revelations of the last several decades — from the Pentagon Papers to the Snowden archive (which I worked on with the Guardian) to the disclosure of illegal War on Terror programs such as warrantless domestic NSA spying and CIA black sites — have relied upon the same methods which the Assange indictment seeks to criminalize: namely, working with sources to transmit illegally obtained documents for publication.

Yes, I agree.

Incidentally, I have repeatedly argued in Nederlog t7hat I am not a journalist, basically because I was not educated at all as a journalist but as a philosopher and a psychologist. And I think that is correct, but does have nothing to do with whether or not Assange is a journalist.

Indeed, here is the last bit that I quote from this article, that is about the question whether Assange is a journalist:

“Julian Assange is no journalist,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers pronounced in announcing the indictment. By this reasoning, imprisoning Assange for publishing documents poses no dangers to “real journalists” because press freedoms are inapplicable to Assange (or, presumably, anyone else denied the “journalist” designation).

But this distinction between “real journalists” and “non-journalists” is both incoherent and irrelevant. The claim reveals a glaring — and dangerous — confusion about what press freedom means, how it functions and the reasons the Constitution guarantees its protection.

Unlike doctors and lawyers, “journalist” is not some licensed, credentialed title which only a small, privileged set of professionals can legitimately or legally claim for themselves upon fulfilling a defined set of educational and professional requirements. Unlike those professions, the state does not license who is and is not a “journalist.”

The opposite is true: a “journalist” can be, and is, anyone, regardless of education, credentials or employment status, who informs the public about newsworthy matters. The sole requirement to be a “journalist” is to engage in an act of journalism, with in turn is best defined as the reporting to the public of events in the public interest, particularly when such revelations inform the public about what democracy’s most powerful factions are doing behind a wall of secrecy. ‘

Yes indeed, and the main two arguments in the above bit are that (i) "the state does not license who is and is not a “journalist”" (unlike medical doctors and lawyers) and that (ii) "[t]he sole requirement to be a “journalist” is to engage in an act of journalism, with in turn is best defined as the reporting to the public of events in the public interest".

I think both arguments are correct and I consent that in that sense I also am a journalist, as is Assange. There is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

2. Can Socialism Save American Democracy?

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

It was all but a formal declaration of his re-election strategy. “Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” President Donald Trump bellowed during his State of the Union address in February. “Tonight, we renew our resolve that this will never be a socialist country.” (It should be noted that the line earned applause from several congressional Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)

Since then, the Republican chorus has only grown louder, crescendoing last month with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call to make 2020 a “referendum on socialism.” McConnell’s recent remarks beg the question: Amid a historic transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top, is this still the reliable line of attack the GOP seems to think it is?

To answer the last question in the above quotation:

I think myself that the GOP may well be right in their assumption, and if it is, it is so basically because the term "socialism" has been very much abused in the USA, since six or seven decades at least, even to the extent that thoroughly capitalist Russia (since nearly 30 years!) still can be treated as if it were - at least - close to socialism in great parts of the American media.

The rest of this article is an interview with
Bhaskar Sunkara who is 29 and who has mostly somewhat vague ideas about socialism, which itself is a vague idea.

Here is one bit by Sunkara:
Bhaskar Sunkara: “Socialism has survived a lot over the past century,” he writes. “It’s survived persecution from tyrants and the tyrants that it itself gave birth to. It survived the radical reshaping of capitalism and that of its great protagonist, the working class. But does socialism really have a future? … Technical and political barriers to progress can’t be underestimated, but if we are to make something better of our shared world, socialist politics, broadly conceived, offer us the best tools we have for getting there.”
To which one can probably say yes, but then again socialism has not been defined at all by Sunkara (which I agree is difficult to do well).

So I do not think this is very interesting, and give just one more quotation from this interview:

Bhaskar Sunkara: What we’re seeing, I think, is the growth of an opposition movement that’s clearly defined to the left of liberalism, that actually stands for something. The anger isn’t just posturing—it’s connected now with real policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. And I think our message is frightening because we’re telling people that they deserve more and better, and that by joining with their neighbors in solidarity, they can lift themselves up.

Again I probably say yes to the above and observe that socialism is not defined at all. And this is a recommended article.

3. We All Share Julian Assange's Fate

This article is by Bill Blum on Truthdig and originally on The Progressive. It starts as follows:

The prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act represents a dangerous turn in President Donald Trump’s war on the First Amendment. Whether you love Assange or loathe him, it is vital to understand the eighteen-count indictment
filed against him on May 23 in the context of that wider conflict. In a very real sense, we are all defendants in the case against Assange.

The new charges allege that Assange collaborated with former Army Intelligence Officer Chelsea Manning from 2009 to 2011 to obtain and publish national defense information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. items supplied by Manning included more than 250,000 classified State Department cables as well as several CIA-interrogation videos. Manning also leaked the now-widely viewed video of a 2007 attack staged by U.S. military Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed two Reuters employees and a dozen other people.

Yes indeed, although I partially disagree with the title of this article: Yes, we all share the consequences of Assange's conviction, if he is convicted, but no: Assange - if he is convicted - may be tortured and may have to go to jail for 175 years, and I and most others will not.

Here is some more by Blum:

Although the prosecution of government leakers like Manning has become more common in recent decades, prosecution of a news entity for publishing leaked information is something new. As the Congressional Research Service noted in a lengthy 2017 analysis:

“While courts have held that the Espionage Act and other relevant statutes allow for convictions for leaks to the press, the government has never prosecuted a traditional news organization for its receipt [and publication] of classified or other protected information.”

Indeed, the prosecution of Assange for alleged violations of the Espionage Act reopens a threat to press freedom that hasn’t been seen in decades.

Yes, quite so. Here is ending of this article:

Unless and until the prosecution of Assange is dismissed, no publication will be safe from the Trump Administration’s vengeance and overreach.

Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.

4. What Does Oligarchy Mean?

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

“Oligarchy” means government of and by a few at the top, who exercise power for their own benefit. It comes from the Greek word oligarkhes, meaning “few to rule or command.”

Even a system that calls itself a democracy can become an oligarchy if power becomes concentrated in the hands of a few very wealthy people – a corporate and financial elite.

Their power and wealth increase over time as they make laws that favor themselves, manipulate financial markets to their advantage, and create or exploit economic monopolies that put even more wealth into their pockets.

Modern-day Russia is an oligarchy, where a handful of billionaires who control most major industries dominate politics and the economy.

What about the United States?

Yes indeed. As to the last question of the above quotation: I'd say that the present USA is quite oligarchial, though a bit less so than Russia.

Here is some support for that position:

According to a study published in 2014 by Princeton Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern Professor Benjamin Page, although Americans enjoy many features of democratic governance, such as regular elections, and freedom of speech and association, American policy making has become dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans.

The typical American has no influence at all.

This is largely due to the increasing concentration of wealth.

Yes indeed: I think that is correct. Here is more about oligarchy in the USA:

America has had an oligarchy before – in the first Gilded Age, which ran from the 1880s until the early 20th century. 

Teddy Roosevelt called that oligarchy the “malefactors of great wealth,” and fought them by breaking up large concentrations of economic power–the trustsand instituting a progressive federal income tax.

His fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, further reduced their power by strictly regulating Wall Street, and encouraging the growth of labor unions. The oligarchy fought back but Roosevelt wouldn’t yield.

Yes, I think this is correct as well. Here is the ending of this article:

But the American oligarchy has returned. We are now in a second Gilded Age. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “We can have democracy in this country or we can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

We must, once again, make the correct choice and reduce the economic and political power of the American oligarchy.

Well... I agree with Brandeis and 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 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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