June 18, 2019

Crisis: Trial of Assange, The NSA, Sanders & ¨Socialism¨, Hong Kong Protests, George Carlin

“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 18, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 18, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

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 18, 2019:
1. The Coming Show Trial of Julian Assange
2. NSA Whistleblower: Government Collecting Everything You Do
3. Why Bernie Sanders Isn’t Afraid of ‘Socialism’
4. Massive Hong Kong Protests Demand Withdrawal of Extradition Bill
5. George Carlin Interview
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 Coming Show Trial of Julian Assange

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

On Friday morning I was in a small courtroom at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London. Julian Assange, held in Belmarsh Prison and dressed in a pale-blue prison shirt, appeared on a video screen directly in front of me. Assange, his gray hair and beard neatly trimmed, slipped on heavy, dark-frame glasses at the start of the proceedings. He listened intently as Ben Brandon, the prosecutor, seated at a narrow wooden table, listed the crimes he allegedly had committed and called for his extradition to the United States to face charges that could result in a sentence of 175 years. The charges include the release of unredacted classified material that posed a “grave” threat to “human intelligence sources” and “the largest compromises of confidential information in the history of the United States.” After the prosecutor’s presentation, Assange’s attorney, Mark Summers, seated at the same table, called the charges “an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights.”

Most of us who have followed the long persecution of Assange expected this moment, but it was nevertheless deeply unsettling, the opening of the final act in a Greek tragedy where the hero, cursed by fortuna, or fate, confronts the dark forces from which there is no escape.

Yes indeed - I either know the above is correct or else fear it is. Here is some more:

The publication of classified documents is not a crime in the United States, but if Assange is extradited and convicted it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded and publishes, is not a U.S.-based publication. The message the U.S. government is sending is clear: No matter who or where you are, if you expose the inner workings of empire you will be hunted down, kidnapped and brought to the United States to be tried as a spy. The extradition and trial of Assange will mean the end of public investigations by the press into the crimes of the ruling elites. It will cement into place a frightening corporate tyranny.

Yes again: I agree. Here is some more:

On Thursday, the day before Assange appeared in court, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid advanced the process for his removal to the United States by signing an extradition request. It is a clear signal to the courts where the British government stands.

We know what will be done to Assange. It has been done to thousands of those we kidnapped and then detained in black sites around the world. Sadistic and scientific techniques of torture will be used in an attempt to make him a zombie.

Yes again - and in fact Assange needs not to be tortured in order to turn him into a zombie (although I certainly do not say thay he will not be), because this can happen with psychiatric pills he cannot avoid to take, knowingly or unknowingly, in prison.

Here is some more:

Assange’s psychological and physical state, which includes a dramatic loss of weight that was apparent Friday, came as Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, spoke out after he, with two physicians, went to Belmarsh Prison to assess Assange. Melzer said Assange had undergone prolonged psychological torture. He went on to criticize what he called the “judicial persecution” of Assange by Britain, the United States, Ecuador and Sweden. He warned that Assange would face a politicized show trial in the United States if he were extradited to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act, each carrying a potential sentence of 10 years, for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic cables, documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. An additional charge that he conspired to hack into a government computer carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Yes indeed, and I reported this (and quite a few other things about Assange) in Nederlog.
Here is some more:

“The prosecution attorney told the BBC yesterday I was wanted in the U.S. for computer hacking,” he said. “This is unquestionably false. Even the U.S. admits there was no hack. No passwords were broken. There is no evidence that I, WikiLeaks or Chelsea Manning engaged in hacking. I have 175 years of my life at stake. This is a signal that the prosecution will misrepresent the charges to mislead the press.”

The judge, Emma Arbuthnot, cut him off, saying “this is not the time to go into this.”

Commenting in 2018 when Assange’s lawyers requested that the warrant for his arrest be dropped, Arbuthnot said, “I accept that Mr. Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but, absent any evidence from Mr. Assange on oath, I do not find that Mr. Assange’s fears were reasonable.”

This statement by the judge captures the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the judicial persecution of Assange. She dismisses as unreasonable Assange’s fears that if he voluntarily left the Ecuadorian Embassy he would be arrested by British police and extradited to the United States because he did not appear in court to express them. And yet, she is now presiding over his extradition trial.

Yes indeed. There is some more about Arbuthnot in the article and I agree with Assange´s lawyers that she is not an objective judge.

Here is some more:

“A fair trial requires legality—that he’s actually being charged for something that is punishable,” Melzer said. “Seventeen out of the 18 charges are under the Espionage Act. All of them relate to activities that any investigative journalist would conduct and would be protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 18th charge, the so-called hacking charge, doesn’t relate to him. The U.S. doesn’t claim he actually hacked a computer to receive information. He obtained all of the information he published [from] someone who had full clearance. He received this information. He may have perhaps encouraged the source, as any journalist would do, to give him the information and then published it. The hacking charge relates to him unsuccessfully attempting to help the source break a password that would have allowed her to cover her tracks. But he didn’t succeed.”

Yes, I think this is also correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

“There is no longer the rule of law,” Melzer said. “There is no longer equality before the law. There are no longer transparent court proceedings when you have a secret grand jury and a secret session debating classified evidence. These are proceedings skewed against the defendant. I don’t think Julian Assange would get a fair trial.”

And neither do I, but then the USA at present is better described as a totalitarian country than a democracy - and there is more on this in the next item. There is considerably more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

2. NSA Whistleblower: Government Collecting Everything You Do

This is not a article but a video, made by Abby Martin on her series Empire Files. It is an interview with Bill Binney, the former technical director of the NSA (who took leave from the NSA in 2001), that was published on April 1, 2019. It lasts 27 min, 2 sec.

I think it is quite interesting, because Binney says (and I believe him) - in effect: to hear his exact words you should watch the video - that
  • the NSA has been collecting everything it could get from everyone for nearly 20 years now
  • the same holds for all or most other "national security" (spying) organizations in most other countries
  • this is a totalitarian set of measures, and he advices you
  • that you should only write, say or publish on the internet what will not offend any court, and
  • that you should also not say anything privately (because what you say privately in your own home also can be picked up by the NSA) that may offend any court.
I think that is correct, and an alternative version of Binney's statements is that we do live at present in a totalitarian society, wherever we live, because the secret services (from anywhere, and certainly from the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Ireland) now has personal dossiers on absolutely everyone (which it also shares with other secret services).

Indeed, even Wikipedia says so, about the NSA: See the article on the NSA which says

The NSA currently conducts worldwide mass data collection and has been known to physically bug electronic systems as one method to this end.
The NSA, alongside the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), maintains a physical presence in many countries across the globe; the CIA/NSA joint Special Collection Service (a highly classified intelligence team) inserts eavesdropping devices in high value targets (such as Presidential palaces or embassies). SCS collection tactics allegedly encompass "close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, [and] breaking and entering".
In 2013, the NSA had many of its secret surveillance programs revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. According to the leaked documents, the NSA intercepts and stores the communications of over a billion people worldwide, including United States citizens. The documents also revealed the NSA tracks hundreds of millions of people's movements using cellphones metadata. Internationally, research has pointed to the NSA's ability to surveil the domestic Internet traffic of foreign countries through "boomerang routing".

In fact: And so on, and so on. I think the present video is strong and fair, and it is strongly recommended.

3. Why Bernie Sanders Isn’t Afraid of ‘Socialism’

This article is by Jamelle Bouie on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

After watching Bernie Sanders try, for at least the second time, to defend himself as a “democratic socialist” by defining “democratic socialism” as something that is not actually socialism, I’m struggling to understand the purpose of it all. What does he gain from this? What is he trying to do?

Here’s how Sanders talked about his ideology in a speech last week at George Washington University:

The right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a good job that pays a living wage, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement, and the right to live in a clean environment.

“That,” he continued, “is what I mean by democratic socialism.”

Compare this with the vision of his political hero, Eugene Debs, whom Sanders profiled in a 1979 documentary, “Eugene Debs: Trade Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary.”

“Socialism,” Debs wrote in 1904,

is first of all a political movement of the working class, clearly defined and uncompromising, which aims at the overthrow of the prevailing capitalist system by securing control of the national government and by the exercise of the public powers, supplanting the existing capitalist class government with socialist administration.

It is, Debs said, “the collective ownership and control of industry and its democratic management in the interest of all the people.”

Yes indeed: I quite agree with Bouie and indeed remarked something very similar. See (for example) here (and there are more items on ¨Socialism¨ - including the quotation-marks - in Nederlog) and also see this, which articulates my own position (and George Orwell´s and a few others) on socialism: Crisis: On Socialism

In fact, the briefest summary for the term ¨socialism¨ is the same as for the term ¨fascism¨: After ten years of dedicated reading, I am quite certain that few Americans are capable of giving even halfway correct definitions or explanations of either term.

There is also some reason to assume that the definitions of either term in the USA, both by the public and by prominent journalists, are driven by specifically American reasons, but while I think there is some truth in that, I also think it is mostly as I said in the previous paragraph.

O, and besides: I do have a good understanding what ¨socialism¨ means, simply because I have been born in a communist and socialist family, with anarchist and socialist grandparents on one side, and a communist grandfather on the other side, and I also am a philosopher (who did not get an M.A. in that subject because I was - illegally but factually - removed from the faculty as a student because I had criticized the utter incompetents who taught me in a public speech).

Here is more by Bouie:

More modern programs for American socialism started from the same place. In his 1978 essay “What Socialists Would Do in America — If They Could,” Michael Harrington — who would co-found the Democratic Socialists of America a few years later — assumed a “national planning process in which all the people would have an effective right to participate.” This would include democratically owned and managed property as well as a private sector where “many of the existing functions of corporate power” had been socialized.

Yes indeed, and I suspect (but do not know) that Harrington´s conception of socialism was a lot better than of almost all other Americans (but he died in 1989).

Here is some more on Sanders:

Sanders has proposed a capital fund controlled by workers at major corporations, but that arrangement lies quite a distance from the direct ownership envisioned by Debs or Harrington. That, Sanders rejects. “The next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this,” he said in a 2015 speech at Georgetown, “I don’t believe the government should own the means of production.”

Instead of a Marxist, Sanders likes to frame himself as a New Dealer — an heir to the party of Franklin Roosevelt.

Yes indeed: I think Bouie is correct, and I agree that this would not make Sanders a socialist in my sense, or Debs´ sense, or Orwell´s sense.

And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

What, then, should we make of Sanders’s decision to embrace a nearly revolutionary label, “democratic socialism,” but define it in terms of American left-liberal politics?

One answer is that as someone who did live and work in left-wing and Marxist circles for much of his adult life, he wants to bring the term itself into the mainstream of American politics. To not just embrace the “socialist” attacks as a badge of honor but to make “democratic socialism” an extension of the New Deal is to make it sound normal, even desirable.

Yes, that is quite possible. And from my own - indeed European point of view, that is quite informed - I would say that Sanders' position is mostly what I would call (honest) social democracy. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Massive Hong Kong Protests Demand Withdrawal of Extradition Bill

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

As many as 2 million protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday demanding the withdrawal of a bill that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China. Protesters also called for the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and other top officials who pushed for the extradition bill. Lam has apologized for her handling of the legislation and indefinitely delayed a vote on the bill; however, the bill has not been fully withdrawn. Critics of the extradition bill say it would infringe on Hong Kong’s independence and the legal and human rights of Hong Kong residents and visitors. Just a few days ago, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray at tens of thousands of demonstrators. We speak with Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist who helped lead the Umbrella Movement, and Minky Worden, director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch.

I say, for I did not know about the latest protests in Hong Kong, while I agree with the ¨[c]ritics of the extradition bill¨.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) The recent protests are the largest Hong Kong has seen since before Britain’s handover of Hong Kong in China in 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has operated under a different legal and political system as mainland China, a setup known as “one country, two systems.” Critics of the extradition bill say it would infringe on Hong Kong’s independence and the legal and human rights of Hong Kong residents, as well as the people visiting Hong Kong.

Yes, I agree with Goodman and with the ¨[c]ritics¨. Here is some more:

NATHAN LAW: Well, I think after the 2 million people marching down last Sunday, Carrie Lam indeed issued an apology, but it is definitely not enough. Our demand is very clear and sound. She has to retreat the proposal. She has to investigate the police brutality. And she has to step down. So, I think if these demands are not met in the future, then there will be more and more protests and rallies.

AMY GOODMAN: Nathan, can you explain what the law is and why protesters will not accept it?

NATHAN LAW: Well, Hong Kong’s “one country, two system” with China, one of the most important features, is that we have a separated legal system. In Hong Kong, we have independent judges, fair trial and also rule of law. These are not found in China. And if this law is passed, then it allows China to extradite people in Hong Kong with fabricated cases, and they have to be extradited back to China to face unfair trial. So it imposes dangers to all of us.

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

MINKY WORDEN: (..) [T]he extradition law is the latest in a series of moves from China to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights. And I think if you were to look at all of the things that distinguish Hong Kong from China—religious freedom, a functioning rule of law, a judicial system that is largely independent, a free press is absolutely essential, and the ability to protest—all of these rights and freedoms have been under steady assault from China, but in a way that the international community really wasn’t paying a lot of attention. Certainly, it caused enormous fear and concern in Hong Kong. But in the 22 years since the handover from Britain to China, the defense of human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong has largely been left to Hong Kong people. And every time there has been a crisis like this, they have stood up. What the extradition law does that is so pernicious is that it would actually legalize kidnapping.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article in which there is considerably more.

5. George Carlin Interview

This is also not an article but a video. It is with George Carlin (1937-2008) of whom I am a big fan because I think he was quite intelligent, quite knowledgeable, and very funny. I like him a lot, and discovered him in 2009, because then I got fast internet (which I did not have from 1996-2008: I had a 28 Kb telephone modem, that made the viewing of videos quite impossible).

Also, I first saw this interview in 2012 and yesterday found some notes on that from 2012, including the url, which still works.

Here is the introduction of this interview that takes about 45 minutes:

A comprehensive interview with the iconic comedian George Carlin. He recounts his early career from childhood dreams of becoming an actor like Danny Kaye all the way up to his 1960's transformation into a leading voice of the counterculture and then he details the evolution of his writing and finding his true voice on stage in the 1990's. For Carlin fans (if you're not what's wrong with you and why are you watching this?) the final ten minutes is remarkably touching as he chokes up discussing plans he was forming to star in a one man Broadway show which never came to be and then reflects over his successful career and how wonderfully fulfilling his life has been.
Yes indeed, and this is a strongly recommended video.


[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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