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Nederlog

April 27, 2019

Crisis: On Assange's Arrest, Facebook's "Factchecking", On Assange, On Capitalism, Arms Treaty


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 27, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 27, 2019.

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 five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from April 27, 2019:
1. What's Really Behind Julian Assange's Arrest
2. Facebook Partners With Notorious Far-Right Site on Fact-Checking

3. Assange’s Imprisonment Reveals More Corruption Than WikiLeaks Did

4. "I'm a Capitalist," Says Warren…But Why?

5. Trump Signs Order to Withdraw From Global Arms Treaty
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. What's Really Behind Julian Assange's Arrest

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

The recent arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has provoked a wide spectrum of responses in the media, but many journalists seem to recognize the Trump administration’s attack on the publisher as setting a dangerous precedent for freedom of the press. Many reports have focused on what Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer deems a mischaracterization of Assange’s character that is used to justify a heinous persecution and bury the fact that Assange, in his publishing of news, has acted much like any newspaper.

“It’s kind of a shame that we have to say, put in this disclaimer, ‘whatever you think of Julian Assange,’ ” the Truthdig editor in chief tells his guest, Bruce Shapiro, in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “Because of course, any whistleblower is going to be attacked, and it’s the traditional argument of shooting the messenger. […] Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning more spectacularly […] distributed at least 700,000 military, war and diplomatic records. And there is no question of the news value of those records, the right of the public to know that information, the need of the public to know that information. There has not been one documented example of an injury or death as a result of the release of that information.”

Yes, I entirely agree. Here is some more:

Robert Scheer: (..) [T]he reason I wanted to talk to you, Bruce Shapiro, is that you wrote a number of articles, but most recently in The Nation, the indictment of Julian Assange as a threat to press freedom. So can you basically summarize your view of this?

Bruce Shapiro: Sure. And I suppose I should start by saying that my view of this is that it’s a mess. It’s contradictory, it’s complicated. And I think it’s important to separate, for this conversation, whatever personal views or political views we may have of Julian Assange as an individual, or WikiLeaks as an institution. And instead, look at the indictment and say, what are its implications for the work of journalism and journalists, what are its implications for publishing, what are its implications for free expression. That’s what I’ve tried to do.
    (..)
First of all, the underlying charge is not just the limited charge of having tried to crack a password; that’s sort of a predicate to get him extradited and maybe add more later, who knows. But even in this limited indictment, it’s a conspiracy charge.
    (..)
And so this indictment in order to get to this limited act of password-cracking, is criminalizing the work, the day-to-day work of investigative reporting. That seems to me to be very dangerous. I think the government, the Trump administration is counting on a lot of people’s dislike of Julian Assange personally to get this through to, to establish the precedent for criminalizing investigative reporters’ relationships with leakers.

I more or less agree, but not quite, and what I mostly disagree with is this bit: "I think the government, the Trump administration is counting on a lot of people’s dislike of Julian Assange personally to get this through", and what I disagree with is not what is being said about the Trump administration, but about "a lot of people’s dislike of Julian Assange".

What is it based on? In fact, I have no idea, just as, in fact, I never met Assange, never mailed with Assange, never discussed with him anywhere, which - I take it - is the same for almost everybody else who dislikes or likes Assange.

And if that is all "a lot of people" believe about Assange, I say that is a very vague basis of judging a person you never met or mailed with.

Anyway. Here is some more:

RS: Yeah, it’s kind of a shame that we have to say, put in this disclaimer, “whatever you think of Julian Assange.” Because of course, any whistleblower is going to be attacked, and it’s the traditional argument of shooting the messenger. The fact of the matter is, there’s two points to be made. First of all, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning more spectacularly, and the real victim of prosecution here so far, has–you know, they distributed at least 700,000 military, war, and diplomatic records. And there is no question of the news value of those records, the right of the public to know that information, the need of the public to know that information. There has not been one documented example of an injury or death as a result of the release of that information. So the rump of this whole issue here, the documents that were released, that really showed evidence of serious war crimes, the killing of civilians, shooting of reporters, everything else–no one has gone for jail on the other end. No one has, you know, been held accountable for any of those crimes.

Yes, precisely. Here is some more:

BS: You know, there’s a big argument within journalism right now about whether Assange is really a journalist and whether WikiLeaks is really journalism. I actually think this is an irrelevant argument, because whether or not you think a public interest document dump is journalism or meets the best ethical standards or whatever, what Julian Assange unquestionably is a publisher. And the First Amendment doesn’t only protect journalists; in fact, journalism as a profession didn’t really exist when the First Amendment was passed back in 1789. The First Amendment protects publication and publishers, and that was the meaning as well of the Pentagon Papers case, right?

I agree, and like to add I am not impressed by the (supposed) fact that "there’s a big argument within journalism right now about whether Assange is really a journalist", if only because I do not like most products of journalism that I've seen (in fact, in my case, for a very long time, namely at least 50 years), for I think many journalists (whatever that is, or they are) write more like propagandists than as relayers of objective facts.

Here is some more:

RS: (..) [A] lot people are very angry with Julian Assange because of what happened in the election, and basically, the release of material that had nothing to do with this charge. But the Podesta file showing that the Democratic National Committee had basically tried to undermine the Bernie Sanders campaign. And the other important thing that was revealed, again having nothing at all to do with this charge or Chelsea Manning, was the content of the speeches that Hillary Clinton gave for three quarters of a million dollars to Goldman Sachs, saying that she would like to bring these wonderful bankers back to Washington with her to straighten out the problems that we have, that of course the banks caused.
    (..)
And there seems to be no concern, in this zeal to get Chelsea Manning or Julian Assange convicted of additional charges, of what about the crimes that they revealed? What about the killing of civilians? What about the invasion of a country and doing this, the dismemberment of a whole region? And there is absolutely no sense at all–which we usually bring to whistleblowing cases; we usually say, was the information important? Did the public have a right to know it? That is, after all, the First Amendment basic argument in defense of the press, that you need a vital press. And you could not have a better example of the vitality of a press, in terms of the documents revealed by WikiLeaks. No one can challenge that, I don’t think. And yet there’s no mention of it.

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

RS: And you have to really ask a question: why are there so few whistleblowers? If we’re such a great, free society, you know, where are the people of courage? Are they so worried–what are the risks they would be taking, there would be a slight kink in their career curve? But how many people, how many people on the inside, with security clearances, whether they’re in the academic world, the military world or so forth, have stepped forward and told the American people the truth they need to know in order to make intelligent decisions as an electorate? In national security, 95 to 99 percent of the information we operate on is government-tailored information, quite often fraudulent. You have that rare person, like a Julian Assange, an Edward Snowden, a Daniel Ellsberg and so forth, you can name them all right now on this program in a few minutes, and you have to ask the basic question: Where are the other folks? Where are the people with the security clearances who keep quiet while lies are sold to the American people that they know are lies?

Precisely, and this is a very good question to which I have a rather simple answer (as the son and grandson of a father and a grandfather committed by collaborating Dutch judges as "political terrorists" to Nazi concentration camps, where my grandfather was murdered) that I think is quite adequate: There simply are very few people like Assange, like Snowden and like Ellsberg, as can be easily deduced from their rarity. By far the most people - at least 95% - are conformists and collaborators from self-interest, for by far the most persons are ordinary people. And this is a strongly recommended article.


2. Facebook Partners With Notorious Far-Right Site on Fact-Checking

This article is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The right-wing Daily Caller is the latest site to partner with Facebook on its controversial fact-checking platform, Axios reported Wednesday.

CheckYourFact.com, a for-profit subsidiary of The Daily Caller, is, like all of Facebook’s fact-checking partners, including the Associated Press and PolitiFact, approved by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network.

Still, the parent company, as The Guardian’s Sam Levin explained Wednesday, is “a rightwing website that has pushed misinformation and is known for pro-Trump content.” CheckYourFact.com, on the other hand, says it is “loyal to neither people nor parties.”

Yes - or to be a bit more precise: Supposedly in order to get the real facts, Facebook partners with right-wing organizations, who indeed do "check facts", but who also and at the same time promote right-wing views.

I grant that is not an impossibility, but I wonder how many supposed facts are checked for whether they are really true, and how many supposedly factual statements are (also) checked whether they are right-wing.

Here is some more:

When Facebook was asked by The Guardian about its decision to partner with The Daily Caller, Facebook pointed to The Daily Caller’s Poynter certification.

The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalism in Florida, owns the Tampa Bay Times. The organization, which advises multiple news organizations as well as trains early and mid-career journalists, came under fire in 2018 after accepting funding from the far-right Charles Koch Foundation, whose founders, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) observed at the time, are “famous for their efforts to discourage and discredit journalism critical of their business and political operations.”

In an interview with CJR, the New Yorker writer Jane Mayer said the Foundation’s grants to Poynter and other media organizations are an attempt at “whitewashing” its reputation for being anti-press.

That is, Facebook pointed to the Poynter certification from the Poynter Institute - that accepted funding from the far-right Koch brothers.

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

In February, Snopes, a website dedicated to fact-checking news stories, hoaxes and urban legends, announced it was ending its partnership with Facebook.
    (..)
“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, told The Guardian in February.

I think Binkowski is right. Besides, to get the truth about Facebook what you do not need is either Facebook or its partners. And this is a recommended article.


3. Assange’s Imprisonment Reveals More Corruption Than WikiLeaks Did

This article is by Caitlin Johnstone on Consortium News. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
Consortium News has launched a new series titled “The Revelations of WikiLeaks”, geared toward helping readers come to a full appreciation of just how much useful information the outlet has made available to the world with its publications. Which is good, because there’s a whole lot of it. Understanding everything that WikiLeaks has done to shine light in areas that powerful people wish to keep dark makes it abundantly clear why powerful people would want to dedicate immense amounts of energy toward sabotaging it.

What’s even more interesting to me right now, though, is that if you think about it, the completely fraudulent arrest and imprisonment of Julian Assange arguably exposes more malfeasance by government and media powers than than what has been revealed in all WikiLeaks publications combined since its inception. And we can use that as a weapon in waking the world up to the dystopian manipulations of the powerful, in the same way we can use WikiLeaks publications.
I mostly agree, but not with Johnstone's "the (..) arrest and imprisonment of Julian Assange arguably exposes more malfeasance by government and media powers than than what has been revealed in all WikiLeaks publications combined since its inception", for that seems nonsense to me.

Here is some more:
All of these things are of course hugely significant. But are they anywhere near as significant as the earth-shakingly scandalous revelation that the U.S. government and its allies conspired to imprison a journalist for reporting facts about the powerful? That the governments of America, Ecuador, the UK and Australia all worked in concert to arrange a series of bureaucratic technicalities which all aligned perfectly to create a situation that just so happens to look exactly the same as imprisoning a journalist for telling the truth?
Again yes and no, for while I strongly dislike the behaviors of "the governments of America, Ecuador, the UK and Australia" I also think this simply was to be expected.

Here is some more:
The only thing which keeps this scandalous revelation from registering in the minds of the greater public with the magnitude it deserves is the fact that the mass media doesn’t treat it like the scandal that it so clearly is. If, for example, the mass media were treating this open act of tyranny with the same enthusiasm they treated the Democratic Party emails as they were published drop by drop in the lead-up to the presidential election, or the same enthusiasm they regarded the diplomatic cables or the “Collateral Murder” video, everyone would be up in arms at the fact that their government was acting in a way that is functionally indistinguishable from what’s done to journalists by the most totalitarian dictatorships in the world.
Well, yes... but governments are very often not honest about many things they do, and they strongly like to keep these things secret. ("All governments lie." I.F. Stone.)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The legal precedent that they are attempting to set with the extradition, persecution and prosecution of Julian Assange for everyday acts of journalism will affect every journalist on the planet, working or retired, professional or citizen. This literally endangers the lives and freedom of every single person working in every single one of those outlets, and they are all either ignorantly cheering it on, or too scared to care.
Well... this illustrates why I remain a bit skeptical about Caitlin Johnstone, who seems to identify very strongly with "journalists" (every one of them, included the retired ones and the non-professional ones) and who also seems to think that she is unique among journalists, for she writes that "they" - all kinds of journalists - "are all either ignorantly cheering it on, or too scared to care", that is, I take it, with the exception of Caitlin Johnstone.

4. "I'm a Capitalist," Says Warren…But Why?

This article is by Frances Moore Lappé on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

My headline poses a question I struggle with.

“Capitalism” refers to an economy driven by owners of private capital, typically with the aim of bringing the highest possible return to themselves, and I am sure that is not what Senator Elizabeth Warren stands for.

Warren has made clear that what she wants (and I do, too!) is “accountable capitalism,” a market economy that works for all of us because it responds to all of us—a market that’s truly competitive and always open to newcomers. Not what we have now.

Today in the US, just two companies control more than half the market in twelve major industries. Four control nearly 90 percent of the total global grain trade. Six control 90 percent of American media, and four control over 80 percent of air travel.

What Warren lauds are “fair markets, markets with rules.” Without them, she explains, it’s “about the rich tak[ing] it all… And that’s what’s gone wrong in America.”

So, I wonder, why call oneself a capitalist?

Well... the question in the title is a good one, but I am afraid Moore Lappé's treatment of it is shoddy, and I make two points - to start with - to show this:

First, "accountable capitalism" seems mostly bullshit to me: Most capitalists do not want to be "accountable" (for quite a few things) and disagree with laws that make it clear what they really do (rather than their advertisements claim they do).

Second, "fair markets, markets with rules" is definitely bullshit, for there are no markets without rules (and laws and standards), while "fair markets" is a phrase that seems to completely forget the differences between millionaires and poor people, including the 60% of all American adults who have less than $1000 dollars available for all their choices.

Here is more of the same:

A vibrant market economy, welcoming all these forms of ownership, needs a polity creating values boundaries in which it operates. As noted, Warren made this point strongly. A “fair market,” as opposed to the fictional “free market,” requires a democracy enforcing rules already on the books—those, for example, preventing monopoly and protecting health and safety—and creating new rules as needed.

If “capitalism” is inaccurate, what term does best capture the goal of such a vibrant, fair market economy? One with more accountable forms of ownership and protected from private, monopoly power or bureaucratic overreach?

“Socialism” can mislead because it’s often equated with top-down government control.

So, I vote for “economic democracy” enabling a “fair market”.

This also seems bullshit to me:

What is so desirable about a "market economy"? And what is that? And why would one "welcome" many "forms of ownership"? And WTF is "a
polity creating values boundaries in which it operates"?! Also, while I agree "free markets" are fictional, I certainly would also insist that "fair markets" are fictional. And if not, what are "fair markets"?

Next, who has said that "
“capitalism” is inaccurate"? And in what sense? Also, why dismiss "socialism" with total bullshit?! (It "can mislead because it’s often equated with top-down government control": Exit socialism, for Moore Lappé.)

And what is "
economic democracy"?! How does this differ from "political democracy"? (Besides, as I said a "fair market" is as fictional as a "free market".)

Here is what this article is in aid of:

So, let’s drop the dead-end debate of capitalism versus socialism and focus on choosing terms that capture what we really mean—an open, fair, and accountable market essential to real democracy. Thank you, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for your courage in opening this dialogue.

That is to say: Let's drop all debate about capitalism versus socialism; let's forget about over 150 years of discussions between philosophers, economists, sociologists, politicians and many more, in many thousands of books, or indeed let's not read them at all: the one clear conception we all like is the "open, fair, and accountable market essential to real democracy".

To me, that sounds like metaphysics, in Hume's sense: Nonsense.


5. Trump Signs Order to Withdraw From Global Arms Treaty

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

President Donald Trump announced during a speech to the National Rifle Association Friday that he is withdrawing the U.S. from a global arms treaty that aims to restrict the flow of weapons to human rights abusers.

"I hope you're happy," Trump told the crowd gathered at the NRA's annual convention in Indianapolis as he signed a letter asking the Senate to stop the treaty ratification process.

I say, for I did not know this. Here is some more:

Adotei Akwei, deputy director for advocacy and government relations for Amnesty International USA, warned in a statement that the president's move could open the "floodgates for arms sales with weakened human rights criteria, which could potentially fuel brutal conflicts and make everyone less safe."

"This announcement is a misguided blow to efforts to promote international peace and security," said Akwei. "As the biggest arms exporter, the U.S. signature to the ATT was an important step towards ensuring that dangerous weapons stay out of the wrong hands."

Well... I think I agree with Akwei, but I do basically because he speaks for Amnesty International.

Here is some background:

According to the Washington Post, the ATT "seeks to prevent illicit arms transfers that fuel destructive conflicts, making it harder to conduct weapon sales in violation of arms embargoes. About 100 countries, including U.S. allies in Europe, have ratified the treaty while more than 30 others have signed but not ratified. Countries that have shunned the treaty entirely include Russia, North Korea, and Syria."

And soon the USA will also belong to the last three countries, at least with regards to selling arms. This is a recommended article.

Note
[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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