November 7, 2018

Crisis: The Insane USA, Julian Assange, Liberal Democracy, Concentration Camps, Self-Annihilation


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 7, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 7, 2018.

And incidentally: I write Nederlogs very early in the morning, and it is too early to say what are  the final results of the American elections yesterday.

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 two 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 five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from November 7, 2018:
1. Has America Gone Insane?
2. The West is Failing Julian Assange
3. Can Liberal Democracy Survive Social Media?
4. Concentration Camps for Kids: An Open Letter
5. UN Biodiversity Chief Warns Humanity at Risk of Self-Annihilation
The items 1 - 5 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. Has America Gone Insane?

This article is by Jeffrey Bowers on Truthdig and originally on The Vimeo Blog. It starts as follows and is in fact a review of a film called "American Psychosis", that was inspired by Chris Hedges:
What does United States of America stand for nowadays if political division is at an all time high? Is it still the land of the free if America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world? Are we still the home of the brave if we refuse to stand up to injustice, because it would compromise our pocketbook? This disconnection from reality is the definition of psychosis. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, best-selling author, and activist Chris Hedges, has made it his life’s work to highlight this inequity and combat the complacency of the consumerist culture. In a 2010 essay published on Adbusters, Hedges caught the eye of filmmaker Amanda Zackem, when he succinctly spelled out the problems with totalitarian capitalism and corporate power. Those ideas deeply resonated with Zackem and caused her to reach out to Hedges about bringing his essay into the cinematic realm in order to expose them to a larger audience. This week’s Staff Pick Premiere, “American Psychosis,” is the result of that process and their attempt to make people think more deeply about the world we’re living in.
I say, for I knew nothing about Amanda Zackem and "American Psychosis" until reading this article. On the other hand, I know a fair amount about Chris Hedges, and this also is the reason for reviewing this article.

Here is more:
“We live in an unbalanced, exploitation-based system and that’s not morally right or just. The issues of totalitarian capitalism and totalitarian corporate power need to be discussed more openly and honestly in our national dialogue,” says Zackem. “To be clear, totalitarian capitalism is not sustainable and should not be intertwined with our government. Most people don’t realize how their consumer choices negatively impact the world – environmentally, socially, culturally, politically, globally.” Without going deep into the trenches, the short documentary illuminates many of these issues. However, with its hard-lined perspective, “American Psychosis” serves as a vital entry point to critically observing, thinking, and acting on the imbalances one sees in society.
I agree with Zackem, but want to add again that the present definition of totalitarianism on the Wikipedia is a falsification inspired by Brzezinski: According to the present definition of "totalitarianism" on Wikipedia, this is an attribute of governments much rather than of the ways of reasonings of people, parties or religious movements, which is essential  to both my definition and what Orwell and many other writers on totalitarianism had in mind.

And the Wikipedia can no longer be trusted (if you ever did) and it will not be (in my opinion) as long as it is anonymous and funded by God knows who: I am sorry, for this is just straight lying.

Back to the article:
Traditionally totalitarian mechanisms are being used to silence dissenters, imprison people without due process, challenge the freedom of the press, promote hatred between different ethnic groups, and destroy the humanities and arts.
Quite so, but - again - not according to Wikipedia: For Wikipedia only governments and states may be totalitarian, which means in effect that only China and possibly Russia may be totalitarian (which is complete bullshit, and a falsification of the meanings of hundreds of prominent authors: I know for I have been reading about totalitarianism for over 50 years now).

Here is one more bit from this article:

Has the US collectively gone insane? Do we have a misunderstanding of the wider world, of who we are, and where we’re going?

The United States is a very strange place when you really think about it. We celebrate freedom and yet we live in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. We have tons of money, but people go bankrupt and/or die because they can’t afford healthcare.  We have an abundance of food, much of which ends up in the trash, yet so many children and families are going hungry. Our education system is a mess. Teachers aren’t paid properly, nor do they have enough funding or resources to do their job. Our universities are putting our youth into massive debt.  Women are still not paid as much as men; the list goes on and on. And yet in the United States productivity has never been higher but average wages have been virtually stagnant since the 1970’s. Corporations pay hardly any taxes and hide their money abroad and our governmental system somehow allows this to continue?  All of this, as Chris highlights, is totally insane.

I completely agree (and "insane" is not a technical term of psychology or psychiatry) and this is a recommended article. 

2. The West is Failing Julian Assange

This article is by Stefania Maurizi on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Let’s start with the cat. You never would have thought one of these beloved felines would play a crucial role in the Julian Assange case, would you? And yet look at the latest press coverage. The mainstream media’s headlines weren’t about a man who has been confined to a tiny building in the heart of Europe for the last six years with no end in sight, they were about orders from Quito to feed his cat. There you have a man who is at serious risk of being arrested by the UK authorities, extradited to the U.S. and prosecuted for his publications. A man who has been cut off from any human contact, with the exception of his lawyers, and whose health is seriously declining due to prolonged confinement without even an hour outdoors. Considering this framework, wasn’t there anything more serious to cover than the cat?
Of course there was, but Stefania Maurizi is quite right that this was the main reporting that mainstream papers recently did do on Julian Assange.

Here is more about Stefania Maurizi and Assange:
I have worked as a WikiLeaks media partner for the last nine years, and over these nine years I have met Assange many, many times, but only once did I meet him as a free man: that was back in September 2010, the very same day the Swedish prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for allegations of rape. Initially he was under house arrest with an electronic bracelet around his ankle, then he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19, 2012. Since then he has remained buried in that tiny embassy: a depressing building, very small, with no sunlight, no fresh air, no hour outdoors. In my country, Italy, even mafia bosses who strangled a child and dissolved his corpse in a barrel of acid enjoy an hour outdoors. Assange doesn’t.
I think all of the above paragraph is correct, and here is more:
Although the Swedish probe was ultimately terminated, Assange remains confined. No matter that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention established that the WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. The UK, which encourages other states to respect international law, doesn’t care about the decision by this UN body whose opinions are respected by the European Court of Human Rights. After trying to appeal the UN decision and losing the appeal, Britain is simply ignoring it. There is no end in sight to Assange’s arbitrary detention.
This is also quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Julian Assange’s situation is very precarious. His living conditions within the embassy have become unsustainable, and his friends speak as if there is no hope: “When the U.S. gets Julian”, they say, as if it is a foregone conclusion that the U.S. will get him and no journalist, no media, no NGO, no press association will do anything to prevent it.

In the last six years that Assange has been languishing in the embassy, not a single major Western media has dared to say: we shouldn’t keep an individual confined with no end in sight. This treatment of Julian Assange by the UK – and, more in general, by the West – is not only inhumane, but counterproductive.
And I almost completely agree with the above, except for "but counterproductive", which I simply fail to understand. This is a strongly recommended article.

3. Can Liberal Democracy Survive Social Media?

This article is by Yascha Mounk on The New York Review of Books. This is from near its beginning:
In most places, democracy’s pretense to let the people rule was a little more serious and the elite’s grip on the electoral process a little more tenuous. Even so, this story from the dawn of democracy encapsulates the basic deal that traditional elites offered to the people at the inception of our political system: “As long as you let us call the shots, we will pretend to let you rule.” It’s a deal that has proven phenomenally successful for two hundred and fifty years. Today, that deal is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, and the reason is both unlikely and counterintuitive: the rise of the Internet and social media is making the ideological foundation of liberal democracy—which has had a tight hold over our imagination for the better part of two centuries—look increasingly brittle.
I did not copy the beginning, which is about the very early days of democracy, when some of the voters were ordered by their bosses to vote as the bossed wanted.

Then again, while I agree with the title, which does ask an important question, I do not agree with the representation of "democracy" as something that is little different from a two hundred and fifty years during fraud - "
As long as you let us call the shots, we will pretend to let you rule" - and I also do not think that "the rise of the Internet and social media is making the ideological foundation of liberal democracy (..) look increasingly brittle".

So what do I think? I only answer this question here and now about the a-social media (for that is what they are) and liberal democracy, and I also keep my answer brief:

In fact, the a-social media, by which I shall understand here especially Facebook and Twitter, have given over two billion people the chance to write about their own opinions, values and feelings as if they each and all are publishers as good as the papers, while in actual fact few of these writers have the talents and the knowledge to do so in a rational and informed fashion, while also each and everyone of them also is being tracked (in absolutely everything they put on line or have on their computers) by Facebook and Twitter to find out their opinions, their values, their feelings and their private secrets, so that they may be targeted with personal advertisements of all possible kinds, including political advertisements, and may be misled in every possible way by the rich and the strong.

And I do not think that is a healthy state of affairs at all. Here is some more from the article:

As late as 2014 or 2015, the conventional wisdom on social media was overwhelmingly positive. Then came the rise of Donald Trump.

Throughout Trump’s unlikely campaign, it was obvious how important social media was to his ability to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of American politics. In an earlier age, most television networks would likely have refused to air his blatant lies or his tirades against immigrants, religious minorities, and political opponents. But thanks to Twitter, Donald Trump did not need the infrastructure of traditional media outlets. Instead, he could tweet messages directly to his millions of followers.
I deny the first paragraph - and what is "the conventional wisdom"? And does it matter if this is composed of 2 billion writers and publishers on Facebook, whose average IQ cannot be higher than 100, and whose average education is probably at best high school? While each and everyone is being tracked so as to influence them with advertisements and find out all their secrets?

And I somewhat agree with the second paragraph (but Trump got a whole lot of totally free advertisement on television networks simply because that was profitable to the networks).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article (still from the beginning):
The truth about social media is not that it is necessarily good or bad for liberal democracy. Nor is it that social media inherently strengthens or undermines tolerance. On the contrary, it is that social media closes the technological gap between insiders and outsiders.
No. This is bullshit. Liberal democracy involves a real and free press, with real journalists writing about real facts; the a-social media produced two billion non-journalist publishers who are mostly not informed about the supposed facts they write about, and this must be important to both real journalism and real democracy, also as most people on Facebook and Twitter are anonymous, which means that no one can attack them with any hope of success.

As to the supposed fact "
that social media closes the technological gap between insiders and outsiders": Possibly so, but this also means that the gap of knowledge and intelligence vs lack of knowledge and lack of intelligence has been completely denied.

Anyway... there is a lot more but it gets worse and worse, and I do not recommend this article.

4. Concentration Camps for Kids: An Open Letter

This article is written by a whole lot of persons and is indeed an open letter. It starts as follows:

In Tornillo, Texas, in rows of pale yellow tents, some 1,600 children who were forcefully taken from their families sleep in lined-up bunks, boys separated from the girls. The children, who are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, have limited access to legal services. They are not schooled. They are given workbooks but they are not obliged to complete them. The tent city in Tornillo is unregulated, except for guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services. Physical conditions seem humane. The children at Tornillo spend most of the day in air-conditioned tents, where they receive their meals and are offered recreational activities. Three workers look after groups of twenty children each. The children are permitted to make two phone calls per week to their family members or sponsors, and are made to wear belts with phone numbers written out for their emergency contacts.

I say - and the fact that these children are (or seem to be) "permitted to make two phone calls per week to their family members or sponsors" seems a considerable improvement over earlier rules.

But in any case: I agree with the title, for these are concentration camps (but not according to Wikipedia, that only admits concentration camps existed in Hitler's Germany and during the Boer War (!!): it calls everything else "Internment" these days, I suppose - in their terms - to save your feelings).

Here is more:

The workers at the Tornillo camp, which was expanded in September to a capacity of 3,800, say that the longer a child remains in custody, the more likely he or she is to become traumatized or enter a state of depression. There are strict rules at such facilities: “Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita [younger sibling]. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.” Can we imagine our own children being forced to go without hugging or being hugged, or even touching or sharing with their little brothers or sisters?

Well... for me the cruel fact is that these are children who have not done anything, who are locked up because their parents tried to flee from extremely bad circumstances, and who have been intentionally separated from their parents, in what seems to be an effort to punish both the parents and the children for fleeing from extremely bad circumstances.

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

The US government is detaining more than 13,000 migrant children, the highest number ever; as of last month, some 250 “tender age” children aged twelve or under had not yet been reunited with their parents. Recently, the president has vowed to “put tents up all over the place” for migrants.

This generation will be remembered for having allowed for concentration camps for children to be built on “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This is happening here and now, but not in our names.

Quite so, and the letter is signed by a long list of persons. This is a strongly recommended article.

5. UN Biodiversity Chief Warns Humanity at Risk of Self-Annihilation

This article is written by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
With the midterm elections once more being described domestically as "the most important elections in history," it might seem trite until you receive on the same day a warning from one of the world's foremost experts at the United Nations that humanity's willful destruction of the planet's natural systems is fast pushing the species towards the brink of its own annihilation.

But that's what Tuesday brought. As tens of millions of Americans headed to the polls to determine whether or not Democrats could wrest some political power from President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Cristiana Pașca Palmer, became the latest person to declare that the human species—if it doesn't rapidly change its hostility to the natural world and drastically curb its destructive habits—will soon be faced with its own demise.
Quite so - and I mean that these are the facts, and that I agree with Palmer that the situation for the prolonged existence of the human species appear quite dire.

Here is more:

Noting the frightening loss of birds, fish, invertebrates, and other mammals, Palmer said the "staggering" levels make her hope humans are not "the first species to document our own extinction."

"The loss of biodiversity is a silent killer,"  she explained in an interview with the Guardian, published Tuesday. "It's different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late."

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

While noted academic and activist Noam Chomsky renewed this week his description of the modern Republican Party in the U.S. as the "most dangerous organization in human history," his evidence for that argument is partly based on their wholesale refusal to recognize—let alone taken action on—the planetary threat of global warming caused by carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Republican Party is simply a major threat to—not only to the country, but to human survival," Chomsky said on Democracy Now! on Monday. "I've said in the past that I think they’re the most dangerous organization in human history, on the issue of climate change alone, and I think that’s worth repeating."

I mostly agree with Chomsky and this is a strongly 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 2 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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