This starts as follows:
In the conflicts I covered as a reporter in Latin America, Africa,
the Middle East and the Balkans, I encountered singular individuals of
varying creeds, religions, races and nationalities who majestically rose
up to defy the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed. Some of them are
dead. Some of them are forgotten. Most of them are unknown.
These individuals, despite their vast cultural differences, had
common traits—a profound commitment to the truth, incorruptibility,
courage, a distrust of power, a hatred of violence and a deep empathy
that was extended to people who were different from them, even to people
defined by the dominant culture as the enemy. They are the most
remarkable men and women I met in my 20 years as a foreign
correspondent. And to this day I set my life by the standards they set.
Yes, I agree mostly - and one of the
reasons I agree is that I am the child of two such people, and the
grandchild of four more.
Also, this is a background which extremely few share: My mother's parents were anarchists ,
while she became a communist during WW II (which also meant entering
the - real - resistance in Holland); my father's father ended his life
as a communist in a German concentration camp; and my father was a
communist since 1935 (mostly because of Dimitrov's (<-Wikipedia) courage in the trial about the Reichstag Fire (<-Wikipedia)), who survived 3 years 9 months and 15 days as a "political terrorist" in German concentration camps.
I say this again, in part because I simply do not know of anyone with that background in Holland ,
and in part because my background also seems to have determined most of
my attitudes and values, in spite of the fact that I gave up Marxism
when I was 20, mostly because I simply could not agree with it
intellectually, and also because I did not believe "the socialist
countries" - and there were plenty of them, in 1970 - were really socialist by my norms: I thought them dictatorships since I had been in East Germany in 1964.
Here is one of the main reasons why few resist radical evil (and turn very rapidly into ordinary persons out for ordinary profits for themselves and their families, who look away from nearly all evils they can see):
To resist radical evil is to endure a life that by the standards of the
wider society is a failure. It is to defy injustice at the cost of your
career, your reputation, your financial solvency and at times your life.
It is to be a lifelong heretic. And, perhaps this is the most important
point, it is to accept that the dominant culture, even the liberal
elites, will push you to the margins and attempt to discredit not only
what you do, but your character.
Again in personal terms I know best: Both of my parents became communists because the communists were strong opponents of Nazism. Both of my parents
went into the communist resistance, in which my father was arrested in June 1941,
and convicted to concentration camp imprisonment as a "political terrorist" by collaborating Dutch judges, none of whom was ever punished after WW II.  And both of my parents were discriminated
for over two decades after WW II as "traitors" because they were
communists (while in fact they were Dutch nationalists who had given
all their children Dutch names).
As it happens, I agree that my parents were politically mistaken, but I also insist that this holds for virtually everyone,
while my parents took their original position because they were
anti-fascists, and persisted in it because they suffered a lot in WW II
and did not have a good education.
Here is what usually happens (and see Obama, who mouthed the language of morality while serving the structures of power):
Ruling institutions—the state, the press, the church, the courts,
academia—mouth the language of morality, but they serve the structures
of power, no matter how venal, which provide them with money, status and
authority. In times of national distress—one has only to look at Nazi
Germany—all of these institutions, including the academy, are complicit
through their silence or their active collaboration with radical evil.
And our own institutions, which have surrendered to corporate power and
the utopian ideology of neoliberalism, are no different.
Yes, but there is - as yet - a
considerable difference between Nazi Germany and the present USA: Nazi
Germany was a real dictatorship, while the USA is not - yet, possibly -
a dictatorship. And while it may be easier to forgive those who
collaborate with a dictatorship, it also may be more difficult to
forgive those who collaborate to produce lying governmental propaganda
in a system that is not a dictatorship.
Then there is this, with which I don't quite agree:
To be a rebel is to reject what it means to succeed in a capitalist,
consumer culture, especially the idea that we should always come first.
I agree that only a quite sick egoism would say to you that you should (always) come first, but the reason my parents and grandparents rebelled were the following three:
(1) they were poor and exploited and had to work all their lives for very little money;
(2) they disagreed with the principle that the rich have the right to exploit the poor;
(3) they insisted there was a different society possible, where the
rich would not exploit the poor; where both the pleasures and the pains
of life were distributed fairly; and were there would be neither rich
nor poor, while everyone had a decent income.
And indeed they hardly thought
about succeeding in a capitalist culture, or about coming first: They
knew they were exploited, knew they were too poor to ever
become a success (in spite of being quite intelligent), and also knew
they would never become first, again simply because they were poor. 
And - as it happens - I still agree with
these three points, though indeed not in the same ways or for the same
reasons as my parents and grandparents did. 
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
It happens to be the case that I neither like Arendt nor
Kant much (and I am a philosopher who has read several books of both).
Also, I do not think the form of words one chooses to articulate one's
ethical convictions are very important: What matters a lot more is that one does have sincere ethical convictions and a deep respect for factual truth.
As Hannah Arendt wrote
in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the only morally reliable people
are not those who say “this is wrong” or “this should not be done,” but
those who say “I can’t.” They know that as Immanuel Kant wrote: “If
justice perishes, human life on earth has lost its meaning.” And this
means that, like Socrates, we must come to a place where it is better to
suffer wrong than to do wrong. We must at once see and act, and given
what it means to see, this will require the surmounting of despair, not
by reason, but by faith.
I saw in the conflicts I covered the power of this faith, which lies
outside any religious or philosophical creed. This faith is what Havel
called in his great essay “The Power of the Powerless” living in truth.
Living in truth exposes the corruption, lies and deceit of the state. It
is a refusal to be a part of the charade.
And being a complete atheist (like my parents and grandparents), I also do not have much room for faith: I believe a skeptical respect for truth and facts and a probabilistic
conviction in the scientific method, together with real honesty, are more than sufficient "to live in truth".
And it so happens that I sum up my ethical
convictions since 1984 as "Don't be MAD, don't SIN", where I understand
"MAD" to be an acronym for Meanness, Anger, and Dishonesty, and "SIN"
to be an acronym for Stupidity, Ignorance and Negligence.
This is a recommended article.
2. The Republican Party Is Ready to Sell Off Your Internet Privacy at a Level That Boggles the Mind
article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Trump’s new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, recently co-authored what is either an intentionally or naively deceptive op-ed in The Washington Post.
Pai suggested that when Republicans in the House and Senate – without
a single Democratic vote in either body – voted to legalize your
Internet Service Provider – your ISP – to sell your personal (and
you-thought-private) browsing information and the content of your emails
and video-viewing to anybody they choose, they were actually working to
“protect” your privacy. He knew this, he wrote, because critics of the
GOP policy “don’t understand how advertising works.”
That claim is unadulterated BS.
Yes indeed. Here is the explanation, but I should add this is a little bit less plain than it is sketched:
At the core of this debate is a simple concept that Pai’s op-ed goes out
of its way to obfuscate. It’s the question of whether the internet and
access to it should be a “public” space (i.e. “part of the commons”)
with a We The People government-regulated expectation of privacy, or a
hypermonetized private/corporate/billionaire-regulated space where you
are left to the tender mercies of giant corporations and their
In a sense this is quite true, but the internet was created very quickly and quite unclearly, and I cannot recall any important discussion of privacy or encryption in
the first few years (and I started early, with a telephone modem, in 1996).
This is not to say they were not there at
all, indeed in part because I had a slow telephone modem between 1996
and 2009, but I certainly do not recall them.
Here is a fine parallel between the internet and the phone system that was instituted in the 1930ies:
Imagine, instead, that the newly-formed 1934 FCC had taken the
position that Pai and his Republican allies argue for – that phone
systems were purely profit machines for the companies that own them, and
they could monetize them anyway they wanted based on the content of
your phone calls.
Agnes could listen in and tell her boss, “He’s
discussing a big business deal,” or, “He's having an affair!” The phone
company could then sell that information to a competing company or your
spouse, or buy or sell stocks based on it (a theme in several 1920s
stories), thus increasing their profits. Maybe Agnes could even get
herself cut into the deal.
Additionally, Agnes could (again,
check out the old movies) even “censor” you, telling you you shouldn’t
be having that affair, or cutting your connection just when you’re in
the heat of passion or about to consummate a business deal with which
Can you remember any in-depth reporting on net
neutrality or privacy? They’re treated as if they’re irrelevant, even
though they’re at the core of most of our daily lives.
Yes, except that the internet is hundreds of thousands (or tens of millions) times more powerful than mere phoning. And the internet-as-is is - apart from the few things that now are encrypted (if the encryption works) - is the complete thief of everything private, simply because basically nothing is encrypted, while most everything is done with it: If you have internet, you are almost certainly an open book to tens of secret services, and indeed this may have been the purpose of internet (for internet was invented in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), while internet turned out to be very much like Brzezinski claimed it would be some 25 years before its existence (and see here) - and while I am guessing here, this amount of foresight is virtually unique, and therefore rather incredible).
Here is how it stands now:
Pai and his Republican buddies in Congress, assert (now successfully)
that your use of the internet is not a protected communication, that the
internet is not a “public good” or a “public utility,” and that
everything you say or do online can and should be turned into extra
revenue sources for the big ISPs that then pass big bucks along to the
GOP through lobbying and campaign contributions.
This is why he argues that instead of the Federal Communications
Commission overseeing the internet, regulatory power should be shifted
to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s not about “communications”
in his mind; it’s about “trade/commerce.”
And that “trade/commerce” will transform every private individual into a fully known feudal slave of his rich masters, or that is at least what I expect will happen: There is no privacy with everything one does is secretively known to many, and there is no defense of the poor to the billionaires that will work, except rarely.
There is this about a contrast:
This is a huge contrast to Canada or the European Union, which
have both declared internet neutrality a basic human right and use of
the internet to be part of a telephone-like common carrier process with
appropriate privacy protections enforced by governments answerable to
Well... I live in Europe, and I am a lot less optimistic, basically because almost the whole internet is not safely encrypted, and therefore open to any secret service with access to the cables that transport the internet traffic, and the secret services have been accessing it now for 16 years at least.
This ends as follows:
Pai’s argument is basically that if Google can sell or use your
information, then Comcast, AT&T, Time-Warner, etc., should be able
But there’s a fundamental difference. If you don’t
want Google to sell or use your information, you can use a search engine
(like www.duckduckgo.com) or an online store that promises not to.
your internet service provider sees everything you do on the internet,
right down to the keystroke level. They can monitor every VOIP
conversation, make note of every search or purchase, and transcribe
every email or IM. Just like your phone company, before Title II, could
listen in on every one of your phone calls.
And, who knows? Maybe that’s next on Pai's agenda.
In fact, I think Google should not sell or use my information (certainly not without my written consent) because I think the whole internet should be safely encrypted. Also, my internet service provider should not have the power to see "everything you do on the internet,
right down to the keystroke level" indeed because they should not be able to "monitor every VOIP
conversation, make note of every search or purchase, and transcribe
every email or IM".
And all of that could be done quite easily (I think), but it is not done because the existing situation is perfect for the rich thieves of any and all privacy.
3. Is Turkey Becoming a Dictatorship?: Erdogan Claims Victory in Vote to Give President Sweeping Powers
This starts with the following introduction:
The third article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Truthdig:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in Sunday’s
referendum over whether to give sweeping powers to the president, but
Turkey’s main opposition party is calling for the the referendum results
to be tossed out, citing irregularities. According to unofficial
results, just 51 percent of voters approved the sweeping change.
Turkey’s three largest cities—Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir—all voted
against the referendum. The opposition says they’ve received thousands
of reports of voter fraud, including some alleged instances caught on
camera. Critics say the constitutional changes will allow Erdogan to
rule until at least 2029, if not longer, and could turn Turkey into a
dictatorship. Earlier today, Turkey announced it would extend its state
of emergency put in place after an attempted coup last year.
Yes, indeed. And as I said yesterday:
I should say immediately that I do not
trust that vote, however much it was "closely
watched", and I don't because (i) I disbelieve
the news of some months ago that Gülen was supposed to have started an
attempted revolution in Turkey; (ii) I dislike the
authoritarian Erdogan; and (iii) both his version of the attempted
revolution in Turkey and his arrests of tenthousands of supposed
followers of Gülen seem one of the classical ways in which
authoritarians try to become dictators.
Here is some support for my views:
I admit that I do not know enough of Turkey to be surprised by the number of naysayers. Here is part of the reason why I dislike Erdogan:
AMY GOODMAN: (..) Joining us now is Bilge Yesil, associate professor of media culture
at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. She’s
author of Media in New Turkey: The Origins of an Authoritarian Neoliberal State.
Professor, welcome to Democracy Now! Your response to what’s taken place in Turkey?
Well, this outcome has not been very surprising for me and for a lot of
Turkey watchers and observers. We’ve been expecting a yes vote. And
what has surprised me is how the naysayers in this campaign turned ou[t]
at the polling stations, because, as you have mentioned earlier, there
has been an unlevel playing field. And just moments ago, I was following
the news. OSCE observers in Turkey held a
press briefing, and they called it an unlevel playing field. So, this
referendum has not taken place under very, you know, like fair
conditions. It has taken place under a state of emergency that has been
in effect since the aborted coup attempt in July 2016. And it has been
renewed every three months. And there has been a media crackdown, with,
you know, like dozens of journalists imprisoned. So, the yes campaign,
run by the AKP government and President
Erdogan, has almost drowned out any dissident voices in the general
public and media sphere. What has pleasantly surprised me, and perhaps
others, is how high the naysayers turned out at the polls, so it’s very
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: More than a hundred television and radio stations closed?
And, yes, that has happened. In the aftermath of last year’s coup
attempt, more than hundred media outlets, including radio and television
stations, publications, periodicals and news agencies, have been
closed. But this media repression is really nothing new. It has been
going on for some time. I can trace that back to at least 2008, 2009,
when there were political investigations going on into, you know, like
high-level military generals and NGOs and activists and journalists and
And here is more:
In fact, this is one of the reasons why I don't believe much in the coup: I do know that in Turkey "especially the leftist and
the socialist and Kurdish and pro-Kurdish voices" have been persecuted and prosecuted a lot, and since quite a long time.
The latest number, as far as I know, I think it’s about 40,000 people
have been arrested. And this is after the coup attempt. Another 130,000
people have been dismissed from their posts in state bureaucracy and,
you know, like civil servants.
AMY GOODMAN: Mainly teachers?
And especially leftist teachers have been sacked, as well as hundreds
of academics in public universities. So, the purge, that started as an
attempt to eliminate the masterminds of the coup, has turned into a
broader initiative to purge all dissidents, especially the leftist and
the socialist and Kurdish and pro-Kurdish voices.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article, that makes a connection to neoliberalism and the 1980ies:
BILGE YESIL: Actually, the neoliberal project undertaken by the AKP
is, again, really nothing new. And in the book, I trace this back to
the post-1980 era, when Turkish economics structure was, you know,
like—it was restructured along the lines of neoliberalism and market
policy. So what the AKP has done is to, you
know, like take that neoliberal economic initiatives and those
trajectories, and, you know, like continue that tradition, along with,
you know, the—along with statism and Turkish nationalism and mixing it
with their own vision of Islamism and, you know, like religious
conservatism. So, I see the AKP’s project as a continuation of that
I think Yesil may well be correct but I do not know enough of Turkey's history. And this is a recommended article.
4. Through the ‘War on Terror’ Looking Glass
The fourth and last article today is by Nicholas J.S. Davies:
This is from a long and good article that is too long to extract properly. This is the first quotation, which has the great merit - for me - that it embodies one of my favorite quotations:
There is another critical factor in the under-reporting of these
constant, daily atrocities, one that has probably been a common pattern
in every war ever fought. George Orwell described it very well in an
essay entitled “Notes on Nationalism” that was published in May 1945, as the allies celebrated Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II.
“Actions are held to be good or bad,” Orwell wrote, “not on their own
merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of
outrage – torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass
deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the
bombing of civilians – which does not change its moral color when it is
committed by “our” side… The nationalist not only does not disapprove of
atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity
for not even hearing about them.”
Far from treating this prejudice as a problem to be overcome through
public accountability and serious journalism, our current military and
civilian leaders and their media mouthpieces treat this kind of
nationalism as a weakness they can exploit to further suppress public
awareness of their own atrocities.
Actually, I'd prefer another term than Orwell's "nationalism" (which Orwell himself had doubts about, but that is by the way). One preferred term is "totalitarianism", and another is "relativism".
I think either is better than
"nationalism", indeed in part because they embodied - also in the
1940ies - the post-truth attitude towards truth and ethics: These do not exist, or do totally depend on one's interests: "True" is what supports one's interests, as does "good"; "false" is what opposes one's interests, as does "bad". (And you do not need to know anything real whatsoever: all you need to know is your own interests!)
Here is why these completely relativized attitudes are both deeply wrong and quite illegal:
If we or our leaders ever seriously want to prevent war crimes and hold
war criminals responsible, we must start with the basic principle of
justice invoked by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson at the London
Conference that drew up the Nuremberg Principles in 1945. But this is a
principle that Trump, Obama and other present-day U.S. leaders would
find quite alien. Robert Jackson declared:
“If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes
whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we
are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others
which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
Note this is a simple inference from defining something as a legal crime: If doing X is a legal crime, then doing X is forbidden whatever your interests. If torturing others is a legal crime, it is forbidden to torture others, also if this will much expand your income or please you a lot (as may well be the case if you are a sadist).
Indeed, this is also why I said that relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel and the stupid: For relativists only their own norms and standards have validity or credibility, and this also usually means they give up on truth, simply because truth is incompatible with relativism.
Here is more on how relativism unpacks in practice - and the reference to Benjamin Ferencz (<-Wikipedia) is interesting and justified:
As Ben Ferencz predicted only a week after the 9/11 attacks, our
failure to follow the “slow and cumbersome” path of justice and our
resort to systematically indiscriminate and illegal threats and uses of
force has left us trapped in a cycle of violence that has so far
destroyed half a dozen countries and killed about 2 million people.
I said there is a lot more than I can extract in this article, but the number of those killed by the US army since 9/11 does seem to be about 2 million people, mostly civilians.
This continues as follows:
More are being killed every day, and our government has no mechanism
or policy in place to prevent further, even unlimited escalation. Like a
blinded and wounded giant, the U.S. lashes out at every perceived enemy
on every pretext, falsely invoking laws, values and standards of
accountability that our leaders doggedly refuse to apply to their own
Our leaders effectively claim the sole power to define whose violence
is justified and whose is criminal, and on a strictly self-serving
basis. Our violence is always legitimate. Our enemies’ is always
criminal. Noam Chomsky has referred to this as the “single standard”
that governs U.S. foreign policy. It is more traditionally referred to
as “might makes right,” or the “law of the jungle.” It bears no relation
to the rule of law, except to violate, abuse, undermine and discredit
I quite agree with the second quoted paragraph, although I think "relativism" may be a better term than "“might makes right,” or the “law of the jungle”", although I agree these are the usual consequences.
Here is more, and again, while I agree that apart from the politicians, the military men and the military industrialists, it is especially the mainstream media who played an extremely sick role, I think it is fair to say the mainstream media also were relativists, who took their own financial interests as the main norm to judge everything else by, and therefore (!) indulged in very much governmental propaganda:
Through several administrations, across political parties, and with the
active collaboration of the U.S. mass media, our leaders have replaced
the rule of law with the rule of propaganda,
treating flaws in our public debates like those exposed by Orwell and
Zinn only as weaknesses to be exploited, instead of dangers to beware
of. The vital principles of justice upheld by Robert Jackson, Ben
Ferencz and the ghosts of Nuremberg are reduced to inconvenient
obstacles to be marginalized by propaganda and flushed down the memory
I more or less agree, though I would
explain what happened less in terms of "principles of justice",
although these are involved, but in terms of truth vs. relativism.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
The first paragraph correctly points out what "political skill" is, in most cases: Having the skill to plausibly deceive the public with lies and propaganda. And the second paragraph correctly points out the consequences of relativism, lies and propaganda.
Political skill across the spectrum is now measured in the ability to
“connect” with the public in a way that is completely divorced from the
actual details or effects of government policy. U.S. politics has
gradually been reduced to the corrupt circus of smoke and mirrors now
personified by President Trump.
And yet we all have to live in the society that our political and
economic systems create. The distractions of glitzy political campaigns
and Hollywood fantasies can provide only superficial relief from the
monopolization of our resources by an insatiably greedy ruling class;
the resulting poverty of more and more working Americans; the
systematic corruption of every institution of government and society by
corporate power, or “inverted totalitarianism”;
and the extreme violence of a foreign policy whose only response to the
endless crises its militarism provokes is to threaten and then destroy
yet another country and kill hundreds of thousands more innocent people
We live in a sad and corrupt world, but this is a good and recommended article, that also contains considerably more than I could quote.
P.S. April 19, 2017:
I corrected two mistakes in the beginnings of the last two sections
that were not corrected after I kicked out an article I had selected
because it contained too many Tweets. I think Tweeting is sick;
it is essentially self-advertising; and I think "journalists" who fill
their "articles" with Tweets are not real journalists. Here is also my
rule for Tweets: More than three in any
article will mean I will neither mention nor review the article. I
don't contribute to deliberate stupidity.