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Nederlog

June 8, 2019

Crisis: China & The Internet, Americans & Innocence, U.S. Supreme Court, Bolsonaro & Brazil


“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 June 8, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 8, 2019.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 8, 2019:
1. China Bans The Intercept, The Guardian and more
2. All Americans Have Blood on Their Hands
3. Four Ways to Expand the U.S. Supreme Court
4. 'Bolsonaro Is Setting the Whole Country on Fire'
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. China Bans The Intercept, The Guardian and more

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The Chinese government appears to have launched a major new internet crackdown, blocking the country’s citizens from accessing The Intercept’s website and those of at least seven other Western news organizations.

On Friday, people in China began reporting that they could not access the websites of The Intercept, The Guardian, the Washington Post, HuffPost, NBC News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Toronto Star, and Breitbart News.

It is unclear exactly when the censorship came into effect or the reasons for it. But Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and Chinese authorities have reportedly increased levels of online censorship to coincide with the event.

Charlie Smith, co-founder of GreatFire.org, an organization that monitors Chinese government internet censorship, said that the apparent crackdown on Western news sites represented a significant new development and described it as a “censorship Black Friday.”

“This frenzied activity could indicate that the authorities are accelerating their push to sever the link between Chinese citizens and any news source that falls outside of the influence of The Party,” said Smith, referencing the ruling Communist Party regime.

Yes, I agree to all of the above. Also, I like to point out that I think that there still are some relevant differences between authoritarian China and elsewhere, especially the West, but these may be soon over (for I think that the internet is by far the best and the most dangerous approach to neofascism there ever was).

Here is more about Chinese censorship:

For years, China has blocked several Western news organizations after they have published stories that reflect negatively on the government. The New York Times, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and Reuters have all previously been censored, rendering their websites inaccessible in the country.

China operates an internet censorship system known as the Great Firewall, which uses filtering equipment to stop people in the country from accessing content published on banned websites that are operated outside China’s borders.

It is possible to circumvent the censorship using tools such as a virtual private network, or VPN. However, use of technology that bypasses the Great Firewall is banned — and people in the country who sell access to these services have been jailed.

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

Prior to the anniversary, on June 4, Chinese internet users reported widespread censorship on social media websites. On popular messaging services such as Weibo and a streaming service run by the company YY Inc., users were prevented from entering search terms such as “Tiananmen incident,” “candlelight vigil,” “repression,” and “student movement.”

Yes. Once again, I think that unless something radical happens in the coming 5 to 10 years, this will probably the situation in the West, because the remaining paper press will be eliminated, and whatever is on the internet can be controlled by either the NSA or else their collaborators from Google, Facebook, Apple etc. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. All Americans Have Blood on Their Hands

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

Shortly after Truthdig columnist Danny Sjursen left the Army, where he spent 18 years on active duty and rose to the rank of major, he sat down with Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for an interview about life after the military and a discussion about the conclusions he drew throughout his military career. Sjursen, who attended West Point and did several tours in the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, opened up to Scheer about how leaving the institution where he spent most of his adult life has allowed him to finally be completely frank about his experiences, in his columns as well as in his recent book, “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.”

Yes, I think it is a good idea to interview Danny Sjursen, even though I do not quote him much in Nederlog.

Here is some more:

RS: And you’re a father of two children; you’ve had an interesting life. And you wrote a book about the surge in Iraq called “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” And it’s a really terrific book that people can get, if they want to go online or find some bookstore that has it. And what it really—you know, I was going to start with something from the book, and you can help me here. It was a quote from Graham Greene: “Innocence is a kind of insanity.” Graham Greene, the great writer, great novelist. And he wrote “The Quiet American,” which is about innocence as a form of [insanity], how we got involved in Vietnam. And your book is really an unmasking of the conceit of innocence. Somehow Americans go off to war, they’re always intending to do good, they’re always going to make it a better world. And generally, they screw it up horribly, with very few rare exceptions. And that’s really the thesis here, isn’t it? And so why don’t you give us that overall view. And are you bolder in that view now that you’re not active duty, that you’re out of the military for the first time in 18 years? How does it feel?

DS: It feels good. I’d like to think that I was always bold on active duty, but the reality is that I was censoring myself. You know, there is a degree of fear and harassment, you know, and it’s very passive-aggressive stuff.

I think most of the above is correct, although I am a bit doubtful about ¨Innocence is a kind of insanity¨, though probably not for the reasons most people think, but because I know, as a psychologist, that half of any large unsorted human population has an IQ of 100 maximally, simply because the tests have been set up that way, while I much doubt you can impose the same criterions on those with IQs from 75 to 100 as you can imposte on those with IQs from 125 to 150.

Then again, I am aware that this is probably problematic with many, because the majority of people (who are not very intelligent, as pointed out) is strongly for equality of all.

I leave this theme and return to the interview:

DS: (..) And it’s two tracks; it’s my own innocence as someone who was, you know, naive enough to believe not only that the Iraq War might be valuable and necessary, but also that the military was just ultimately a force for good in the world. But the other innocence is a collective, national innocence. Only such a collective, national innocence that borders on insanity, as the quote says, could have allowed us to invade Iraq. Probably the catastrophic blunder of the 21st century, if not even larger than that. And I don’t even think we understand the scale of what a disaster we’ve created, because the aftershocks are–they’re sometimes worse than the initial earthquake. And we haven’t seen the last of it. So the book is an unmasking of my own innocence, which very quickly was rattled.

I mostly agree with the above, although I think myself that ¨national innocence¨ is not a very useful concept to analyze a nation of over 300 million. Besides, while I agree with Sjursen that the war on Iraq was crazy and a disaster, I also refer to three facts (as I think they are):

First, in 2001 very few Americans knew much about Iraq; second, in 2001 there was an attack on the USA (that afterward was much abused by those interested in war); and third, since 1991 (the Gulf War) American wars have been mostly secret, with just a few ¨embedded¨ ¨journalists¨.

Given these three facts, it was rather easy to manipulate the majority of the American population, that as I said above is on average also not intelligent nor informed.

Here is more from the interview:

RS: And the really interesting thing here is who controls history, who controls knowledge, who controls truth and true news? And fake news is really, in a way, the norm, it seems to me, if we talk about Vietnam, we talk about Iraq, and so forth. And without the whistleblowers, we don’t even get a crack—a crack there where the light can come through. But you were on the ground, and when you talk about it being—I mean, look, after all, we had supposedly gone to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction; that was a lie. And it was a lie that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11; he didn’t. You know, and another lie is that somehow this was a backward country with no redeeming virtue–well, we managed to make it a far more unlivable, miserable country than it had ever been.

Quite so. Here is some more:

DS: There are precious few whistleblowers about military issues, as you mentioned. And that is a shame, because what Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Chelsea Manning should be is a splash of cold water, a bucket of cold water, on the face of the collective American people. And yet it’s not, for the most part. We’re willing to accept what our military does in our name. We’re willing to accept that the United States has a system where the president is essentially a dictator in foreign policy. You’re right that it’s the only institution where we do not, you know, expect whistleblowers to provide that check, that truth that you mentioned. And it’s very, very disturbing.
    (..)
And it may take a long time before the empire collapses, but in the interim, we are going to act poorly. And as long as we have an all-volunteer force, as long as a, you know, a select half of a percent—the other 1%, as I like to call them. As long as we give it out to a military caste, and it doesn’t Main Street, especially in the wealthy communities, then this will continue indefinitely, and America will continue to behave badly, as the empires often historically do.

Yes, I agree this is either true or probable. Here is the last bit that I quote from this interview:

DS: You know, we have 800 military bases in 80 countries; on any given day, we are bombing at least seven countries, some days more, if there’s something going on in Africa. We have a defense budget as large as the next seven countries’ combined. We have, you know, the majority of the world’s aircraft carriers, 10 times more than the Russians and the Chinese. We have divided the planet into regional commands—CENTCOM, Northcom, Southcom—where our four-star generals in charge of these commands are essentially Roman proconsuls, right? Ruling over—and much more powerful than our diplomats. Our diplomats are not taken seriously anymore; it’s the military that gets the business done. And you know, finally, we are unique. We are exceptional. Exceptional in the sense that we are the most imperial of all the places on the planet. Because there are 77 total foreign bases split between all the other 200 countries of the world, and we have some 800.

Quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article in which there is a lot more than I quoted.

3. Four Ways to Expand the U.S. Supreme Court

This article is by Thomas Neuburger on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In the same way that countries like Libya are "failed states," the U.S. Supreme Court is a failed institution. Always partisan, either mainly or partly, its authority—meaning the people's acceptance of the validity of its rulings—rests on a kind of momentum, a belief that despite its long history of missteps (Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, to name just two) the Court can be trusted, in time, to self-correct.

That the Supreme Court was failing its constitutional role had been clear to close observers since the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which ruled that election spending was "speech." Yet despite the numerous bad decisions that followed, the momentum of belief—and the illusion that Anthony Kennedy represented a "swing vote" on an otherwise ideologically balanced bench—has kept most Americans, if not blind, then unnoticing of the modern Court's deadly defects.

The first real crack in the dam of faith occurred with the Bush v. Gore decision, in which a nakedly partisan majority installed a losing presidential candidate in the Oval Office simply because it could, using only its authority, and not the law, as justification. Later decisions like Citizens United put proof to many people's suspicions that the Court was an operative in a war for political control and no longer a place where law, even bad law, had a place.

Yes indeed - I fundamentally agree. Here is more:

Expanding the Supreme Court has often been offered as an answer, but the last attempted expansion—FDR's so-called court-packing scheme—still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of most Democratic politicians (even though it worked; see "The switch in time that saved nine").

Yet the composition of the Supreme Court has changed many times throughout our history, and the number of judges was deliberately and explicitly left to Congress, an obvious example of a constitutional check against the over-exercise of judicial power. Clearly, congressional action can address the problem.

Yes, I agree. Here is more:

In an excellent article published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review, Kurt Walters offers not just one, but four ways that Congress could restructure the Court. Each deserves attention and consideration:

The first and most straightforward approach to expanding the Court is adding two, four, or six new justices to the Court.
    (..)
The second option is to reconstitute the Supreme Court in the image of a federal court of appeals. This course of action would increase the number of justices to fifteen or a similar number. Panels of justices would be drawn from this larger group, with an option of en banc review. This plan would not only dislodge the Court's current reactionary majority, but the panel format also would allow a greater number of cases to be heard.
Third is the Supreme Court Lottery, a more aggressive version of the panel strategy. Daniel Epps and Ganesh Sitaraman have outlined this proposal in a forthcoming Yale Law Journal piece. All federal appellate court judges, roughly 180 in total, would become associate justices on the Supreme Court. Panels of nine justices would be randomly selected from this pool.
    (..)
Fourth and finally is Epps and Sitaraman's idea for a
"Balanced Bench." This proposal aims to counteract the effects of partisanship on the Court by explicitly recognizing and institutionalizing partisanship presence.

I agree that this is quite interesting, and here is Neuburger´s opinion on these alternatives:

I'm partial to the second and third alternatives myself, with the added benefit that under the third proposal,"decisions on whether to grant certiorari on a given case would be made by panel members who would not know the ideological makeup of the panel that would hear the case." Implementing a proposal like that would certainly tip the scales of justice toward justice and away from partisan manipulation.

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

4. 'Bolsonaro Is Setting the Whole Country on Fire'

This article is by Jens Glüsing on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

Seven months ago, DER SPIEGEL correspondent Jens Glüsing asked the Brazilian Supreme Court for permission to conduct an interview with the country's former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been in prison for over a year. Until April, all interview requests had been rejected, but permission was then unexpectedly granted. Glüsing was allowed to speak to Lula for 60 minutes in a windowless conference room at police headquarters in the city of Curitiba in southern Brazil. Two armed policemen were present for the duration of the interview. DER SPIEGEL's correspondent was permitted to greet the former president with a handshake, but after that he was required to keep a distance of about 3 meters (about 10 feet).

The former president seemed to be in excellent physical and mental condition and he also seemed combative.
    (..)
Each morning, prison staff save a press review and important documents on a USB stick for him. He has no access to the internet.

I say, but Spiegel did this well, I think. Here is some more:
Lula: I am 73 years old, I was president of Brazil and I am too well known. I didn't see myself as a refugee. Important people spoke with me about whether I should leave Brazil or seek refuge in an embassy. I decided to stay in the country. I am fighting for the truth. I want to prove that my accusers are liars, even if I have to do that from custody. I have a clear conscience. I am convinced that Judge Moro and the prosecutors who put me behind bars do not sleep as well as I do.
Well... Moro won, I´d say. But I like Lula, and here is some more:

DER SPIEGEL: Do you see yourself as a political prisoner?

Lula: Judge Moro, who convicted me, has since been appointed Justice Minister by Jair Bolsonaro, the new president. A few days ago, Bolsonaro publicly admitted that he had agreed with Moro to move him to the next vacant justice position at the Supreme Court. That shows that it was all planned in advance.

DER SPIEGEL: Moro is defending himself against such accusations ...

Lula: Moro made sure that Bolsonaro was elected president by preventing my candidacy.

I´d say that Lula means and says ¨Yes, Moro made me a political prisoner¨, which I think is quite brave in his circumstances. Here is some more:

Lula: The Brazilian elite do not accept the rise of the poor. My crime was that I made it possible for the poor to study, to use the same sidewalks as the rich and for them to suddenly be able to go to shopping centers and airports. This country belongs to everyone. PT has been generous to those who need the Brazilian state, but it has not neglected the rich. I bear my cross, but the sins were committed by others.

I think this is is fundamentally correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

DER SPIEGEL: Bolsonaro, though, isn't a representative of the traditional opposition ...

Lula: He's not capable of serving as president. Why did he win anyway? Let me quote the Mozambican author Mia Couto: "In times of terror, we choose monsters to protect us." A guy comes along who was a member of parliament for 28 years, but never achieved anything, and manages to sell himself as the "new one." He wasn't elected because his supporters believe he is the better alternative. It was because he opposes the PT. It was a protest vote.

DER SPIEGEL: Is democracy in peril in Brazil?

Lula: Bolsonaro doesn't think much of democracy. He and his people know only one thing: weapons.

I fear Lula is correct and 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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