June 1, 2019

Crisis: Julian Assange, Israel & Zionism, Alabama's Laws, Snowden on Mass Surveillance

“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 June 1, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 1, 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 June 1, 2019:
1. U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Julian Assange to Be Freed,
     Citing “Psychological Torture”

2. Did the Left Betray Israel and Zionism?

3. Alabama lawmakers compare abortion to Nazi genocide

4. Edward Snowden: With Technology, Institutions Have Made
     'Most Effective Means of Social Control in the History of Our
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. U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Julian Assange to Be Freed, Citing “Psychological Torture”

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

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture is warning that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is suffering from the effects of “psychological torture” due to his ongoing detention and threats of possible extradition to the United States. The U.N. expert, Nils Melzer, also warned that Assange would likely face a “politicized show trial” if he were to be extradited to the United States. Melzer writes, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.” Julian Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012 at London’s Belmarsh Prison, after he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy by British police last month. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced it was charging Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange, who had already been charged on one count of hacking a government computer, now faces up to 170 additional years in prison under the new charges—10 years for each count of violating the Espionage Act. Assange was due to appear by video link before a magistrates’ court on Thursday but failed to appear, reportedly due to health problems. We speak with U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer.

Yes indeed, and I have reported repeatedly before on Assange. On the above bit I have I have two remarks.

The first is about this quotation of Melzer: "In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time."

My remark is - rather simply - is that indeed because Melzer has not seen this in "20 years of work" it seems fair to me to reject the term "democratic states" and replace this by the term "partially democratic states".

And my second remark is about the fact that Assange "now faces up to 170 additional years in prison under the new charges": I think that such "legal punishments" are quite crazy, both for Assange, and also in general, for no one ever got to be 170 years old.

Anyway. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Melzer writes, quote, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.” Melzer spoke to reporters this morning in Geneva, Switzerland.

NILS MELZER: And our finding was that Mr. Assange shows all the symptoms of a person who has been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. So what we’re speaking about is severe stress and constant stress, a chronic anxiety, severe psychological trauma. The psychiatrists that accompanied my mission said that his state of health is critical, and if he did not get urgent relief, that we would have to expect a rapid deterioration of that state of health, and possibly with irreparable harm.

I commented on what Amy Goodman said above, but the evidence given by Melzer seems to me rather important (if you care for rational and reasonable law and for Assange, at least).

Here is some more by Melzer:

NILS MELZER: Thank you, Amy. Well, I did visit Mr. Assange in prison, Belmarsh Prison, on the 9th of May in the company of two medical experts. And my primary concerns really are that I’m extremely worried about his current state of health, which was alarming already when I visited him and which seems to have deteriorated rapidly since then, to the point where he’s no longer even able to stand trial and to participate in court hearings.

I must say that I’m appalled at the sustained and concerted abuse that this man has been exposed to at the hands of several democratic states over a period of almost a decade. And I’m gravely concerned about the prospects of a possible extradition to the United States. As I have indicated this morning in Geneva, I worry that he would be exposed to a politicized show trial in violation of his human rights.

I completely agree with Melzer, except for his reference to "democratic states", for I think it is fair to observe that states that abuse a person like that, and besides have other characteristics - such as surveillance of everybody - are no longer fully democratic in any clear sense, and should be called (still optimistically, in my eyes) "partially democratic".

Here is some more by Melzer on the quality of the evidence he gives:

NILS MELZER: Yes. Well, I think it’s very important to say that I went to the prison with two very experienced and specialized medical experts, so experts that are specialized in examining and identifying and documenting symptoms of torture—physical torture or psychological torture. And we ran medical protocols, called the Istanbul Protocol, which are recognized protocols to examine torture victims, to have an objective medical assessment.

So, Mr. Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for persons that have been exposed to prolonged psychological torture. My assessment is that Mr. Assange has been exposed to various forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that cumulatively have the same effect as psychological torture.

I think this is good evidence. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: The British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has responded to your report by saying, quote, “This is wrong. Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.” Nils Melzer, your response?

NILS MELZER: Well, I—actually, I have responded to him. And I said that, “With all due respect, sir, but Mr. Assange was about as free to leave as someone who is sitting on a rubber boat in a shark pool.”

I completely agree with Melzer (and regard Hunt as an obvious liar). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Nils Melzer, what Julian Assange would face in this country, in the United States, if he were extradited here, a country that has the death penalty? Talk about the trial, what you see—you’ve talked about the elephant in the room.

NILS MELZER: Yes, I’m gravely, gravely concerned. I’m almost, you know, certain that he would not get a safe—a fair trial and a safe treatment in the United States. The public prejudice, including on the part of former and current officials in the United States, has been so predominant for several years now, and so that it would be almost impossible to have an impartial court hearing where he could actually be heard of his concerns. When we see the charges that have been added now, recently, under the Espionage Act, most of them really relate to activities that any investigative journalist is conducting every day. So, it’s really a reason for concern for press freedom around the world.

Yes, I completely agree with Melzer and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Did the Left Betray Israel and Zionism?

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Israel and the Zionist ideology that its founding is based on have been topics at the heart of global politics for decades. On the left, progressives, especially Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, have become increasingly critical of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. At the same time, the self-defined Jewish state has lurched further right with each election.
In her recent book, “The Lion’s Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky,” New York University professor Susie Linfield traces the history behind what she views as a leftist abandonment of Zionism.
Scheer, a Jewish journalist who himself has been critical of the Israeli occupation, disagrees strongly throughout the discussion with Linfield’s extreme condemnations of Chomsky, Arendt, I.F. Stone and others he views as having presaged the contradictions inherent in Zionism at an early stage.

Well... I thought that by selecting and reviewing this article, I might have been able to say something somewhat interesting about Israel, which I have hardly been following since Netanyahu became its prime minister, but it turned out that I was quite mistaken, mostly because I almost completely disagree with Linfield in general terms, whereas the specific arguments she gives are much too detailed to review in Nederlog.

So I only want to say something about the above bit, and about one more bit that I quote below.

First the above bit, which makes me ask, in view of "Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky" and "Scheer, a Jewish journalist": What is a Jew?! (In fact, I did know Chomsjy "has a Jewish background", but I did not even know that Scheer has one as well.)

My reasons for asking this question (apart from the fact that my father and grandfather were locked up as "political terrorists" in German concentration camps by the Nazis, which happened in part because they tried to defend the Jews) is that the answers seem quite confused, for on the one hand (at least in the USA but also elsewhere) one is "a Jew" because one's parents or grandparents were "Jews", which seems to me almost as stupid as Archie Bunker's calling people "Polacks" or "Wops" or "Dagos" because their parents or grandparents did not come from the USA, while on the other hand, being a Jew is defined by having the Jewish religion, as one is e.g. a Catholic because one has the Catholic religion, and is no longer either Jewish or Catholic if one ceases to believe in these religions.

Of course, I take it that the present mix-up in the meaning of "being a Jew" is mainly due to the fact that some 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. Then again, I also think that it is considerably more correct to say that being Jewish depends on having the Jewish religion (and I'd say it is more correct to say that  those who lost the Jewish religion but had parents or grandparents who were Jewish are "having a Jewish background").

Anyway. Here is the one other bit I quote from this article:

RS: (..) [O]ne point that your book makes in, I think, a compelling way, is that Zionism, prior to the rise of German-inspired fascism, was not a popular movement among Jews. Whether they were of the left, center, or right. And–that’s correct, right?

SL: Yeah, Zionism—

RS: That it took the Holocaust to make Zionism a viable and significant force in Jewish life, right?

SL: Yeah, Zionism is not at all a, much less the, major movement among politically active Jews. Many, many, many more were drawn to socialism or drawn to communism.

Yes, I think that is correct.

3. Alabama lawmakers compare abortion to Nazi genocide

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

Who owns history? Who controls the truth?

Hannah Arendt signaled to these questions in her classic work “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” where she wrote, “Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”

Arendt’s wisdom and warning resonates loudly in the ongoing struggle to protect women’s reproductive rights and freedoms in the United States.

Denying women control over their own bodies is antithetical to real and full democracy. Reproductive rights are human rights. To restrict or otherwise limit women’s reproductive rights and freedoms is to diminish their full and equal membership in political society.

In this way, authoritarianism and patriarchy are conjoined monsters.

For these and many other reasons, the fight for women’s reproductive rights and freedoms is central to defending democracy in the Age of Trump.

I think this is more or less correct (although perhaps I should add that I did read Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism", but was not impressed by it, though this is a side-remark).

Here is some more:

Alabama recently voted into law a forced-birth bill which bans women from ending their pregnancies except when their lives are in danger. This new law does not provide exemptions for when a woman — or a girl — is a victim of rape or incest. The new Alabama law also demands criminal punishments for doctors and other health care providers who help women end their pregnancies. Under this new law, doctors who terminate pregnancies can be put in prison for up to 99 years. When put into effect in November, Alabama will have the most draconian forced-birth laws in the United States.

I agree this seems factually correct, and I agree with DeVega that these new laws are anti-democratic, anti-women and quite cruel.

Here is more on the justifications the Alabama lawmakers has for their new law:

Alabama’s new forced-birth law is no different. One of its footnotes reads as follows:

i) It is estimated that 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in German concentration camps during World War II; 3,000,000 people were executed by Joseph Stalin’s regime in Soviet gulags; 2,500,000 people were murdered during the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” in 1958; 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the 1970s; and approximately 1,000,000 people were murdered during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. All of these are widely acknowledged to have been crimes against humanity. By comparison, more than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined.

So it appears that the governor and legislators who passed this new law — and those others in Alabama and elsewhere who support it —  believe that women who choose to end their pregnancies are morally equivalent to, and perhaps worse than, Adolf Hitler and the Soviet police state and Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia

Yes, I think that is a fair inference - and the Alabama lawmakers also were quite incorrect in saying this concerned "babies": No, it did not, for babies have been born.

Anyway. Here is some more:

Andrea Pitzer, who is an expert on genocide and concentration camps, also highlighted the ahistorical and intellectually dishonest nature of such comparisons.

“Legislation depicting abortion as a tragedy that surpasses the Holocaust, Stalin’s crimes, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cambodian genocide combined is a gross abuse of history,” she said. “The political and genocidal horrors of the 20th century shouldn’t be used as a prop for some other issue, particularly an unrelated one.”

I completely agree with Pitzer. Here is some more:

David Neiwert, investigative journalist and author of “Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump,” offered this context in an email to Salon:

The dynamics of heroism and the mythologizing around it are really the keys to how right-wing authoritarians, and especially the real extremists among them, produce. The self-conception as heroic, as acting to save either their community or their nation or their race, is fundamental to how they think and how they then act. So for the anti-abortion extremists, if abortion is murder, then they are acting to prevent a Holocaust itself. One that only just accidentally dwarfs the unpleasantness that befell their Hebrew “friends.”

Yes, I also agree with Neiwert, and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Edward Snowden: With Technology, Institutions Have Made 'Most Effective Means of Social Control in the History of Our Species'

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said Thursday that people in systems of power have exploited the human desire to connect in order to create systems of mass surveillance.

Snowden appeared at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia via livestream from Moscow to give a keynote address for the Canadian university's Open Dialogue Series.

Right now, he said, humanity is in a sort of "atomic moment" in the field of computer science.

"We're in the midst of the greatest redistribution of power since the Industrial Revolution, and this is happening because technology has provided a new capability," Snowden said.

"It's related to influence that reaches everyone in every place," he said. "It has no regard for borders. Its reach is unlimited, if you will, but its safeguards are not."

Yes, I completely agree with Snowden, and in fact reached a position that is quite similar to his half a year before knowing Snowden existed. See here: Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS - and I think that is still an excellent analysis that I strongly recommend you to read.

Here is some more from this article:

Without such defenses, technology is able to affect human behavior.

Institutions can "monitor and record private activities of people on a scale that's broad enough that we can say it's close to all-powerful," said Snowden. They do this through "new platforms and algorithms," through which "they're able to shift our behavior. In some cases they're able to predict our decisions—and also nudge them—to different outcomes. And they do this by exploiting the human need for belonging."

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

"We don't sign up for this," he added, dismissing the notion that people know exactly what they are getting into with social media platforms like Facebook.

"How many of you who have a Facebook account actually read the terms of service?" Snowden asked. "Everything has hundreds and hundreds of pages of legal jargon that we're not qualified to read and assess—and yet they're considered to be binding upon us."

"It is through this sort of unholy connection of technology and sort of an unusual interpretation of contract law," he continued, "that these institutions have been able to transform this greatest virtue of humanity—which is this desire to interact and to connect and to cooperate and to share—to transform all of that into a weakness."

"And now," he added, "these institutions, which are both commercial and governmental, have built upon that and... have structuralized that and entrenched it to where it has become now the most effective means of social control in the history of our species."

"Maybe you've heard about it," Snowden said. "This is mass surveillance."

Yes, I completely agree and add that I dislike Facebook and Google very much, but they are, so to speak, the corporate wing of mass surveillance, whereas there is also the governmental wing of mass surveillance, which is the NSA in the United States, the GCHQ in Great Britain etc. etc.

Finally, as I have been saying many times already in Nederlog, I think the internet was created for mass surveillance and for neofascism, as can be - to some extent - verified here.


[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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