Archive | November, 2019

Labour candidate’s allegiance questioned after dining out with Nigel Farage

By Peter Madeley 

Pro-Europe West Bromwich East candidate Ibrahim Dogus admitted meeting with the former Ukip leader in a restaurant.

Ibrahim Dogus (right) enjoys a meal with Nigel Farage

A pro-Europe Labour parliamentary candidate has had his political allegiance questioned after an image emerged of him enjoying a bite to eat with Nigel Farage.

In the picture, West Bromwich East candidate Ibrahim Dogus can be seen smiling as he sits next to the then Ukip leader in a restaurant.

Mr Dogus, a Kurdish kebab restaurateur from London who is the current Mayor of Lambeth, is Jeremy Corbyn’s choice to replace Tom Watson in the Sandwell seat.

He is an avid Remainer who put the message “Brexit is bad” on the bottom of receipts in his restaurants – a stance which puts him at odds with Brexit Party leader Mr Farage, who wants a clean break from the EU.

The image has led to questions about Mr Dogus’s true political allegiance, and follows revelations that he has previously donated funds to the Conservative Party.

Government Cabinet minister Gavin Williamson, the parliamentary candidate for South Staffordshire, said Labour voters were likely to be “confused” at the “mixed messages” put out by Mr Dogus.

“Here is a man who is standing in a strongly pro-Brexit seat, who is clearly against Brexit,” he said.

“Yet he appears to have no problem with cosying up to Nigel Farage.

“He does not appear to have any deep convictions at all and it is difficult to see how the people of West Bromwich East could trust him.”

Ibrahim Dogus (second right) is a friend of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

West Bromwich East Tory candidate Nicola Richards, said: “The reality is in West Bromwich East it is a straight choice between myself a Black Country woman with a consistent record of backing Brexit, and the Labour Lambeth candidate whose campaign seems mired in controversy and problems.”

Mr Dogus said: “As part of my cross-party work on behalf of Turkish and Kurdish community organisations, I have met and attended events with MPs, MEPs and figures from across the political spectrum.”

Mr Dogus was parachuted in to West Bromwich East following Mr Watson’s shock decision to stand down earlier this month.

He had been rejected as a candidate in Vauxhall and Birmingham Hall Green.

He has proved to be a controversial choice, after it emerged he was forced to surrender £11,500 in cash after the UK Border Agency accused him of trying to smuggle it out of the country for the purpose of “unlawful conduct”, including “tax evasion”.

Mr Dogus insists he did nothing wrong, and has since described sending cash abroad in a suitcase as “not an unusual practice”.

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Is Naziyahu Ready to Inflame War to Escape His Legal Troubles?


Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The decision to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on three separate criminal counts pushes the country’s already unprecedented electoral stalemate into the entirely uncharted territory of a constitutional crisis.

There is no legal precedent for a sitting prime minister facing a trial – in Netanyahu’s case, for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was charged with corruption in 2009 but only after he had resigned from office.

Israeli commentators are already warning of the possibility of civil war if, as seems likely, Netanyahu decides to whip up his far-right supporters into a frenzy of outrage. After a decade in power, he has developed an almost cult-like status among sections of the public.

He called for mass protests in Tel Aviv by supporters on Tuesday night under the banner “Stop the coup”.

The honorable thing would be for Netanyahu to step down quickly, given that the two elections he fought this year ended in deadlock. Both were seen primarily as plebiscites on his continuing rule.

He is now the country’s caretaker prime minister, in place until either a new government can be formed or an unprecedented third election is held.

His departure would end months of governmental near-paralysis. The path would then be clear for a successor from his Likud party to negotiate a deal on a right-wing unity government with rival Benny Gantz, a former army general.

Gantz’s Blue and White party has made it a point of principle not to forge an alliance with Netanyahu.

Previous experience, however, suggests that Netanyahu might prefer to tear the house down rather than go quietly. If he is allowed to press ahead with another election in March, he is likely to stoke new levels of incitement against his supposed enemies.

Until now, the main target of his venom has been a predictable one.

During the April and September campaigns, he railed relentlessly against the fifth of Israel’s citizenry who are Palestinian as well as their elected representatives in the Joint List, the third largest faction in the Knesset.

Shortly before last Thursday’s indictment was announced, Netanyahu was at it again, holding an “emergency conference”. He told supporters that a minority government led by Gantz and propped up from outside by the Joint List would be a “historic national attack on Israel”. The Palestinian minority’s MPs, he said, “want to destroy the country”.

Such a government, he added, would be an outcome “they will celebrate in Tehran, in Ramallah and in Gaza, as they do after every terror attack”.

This repeated scaremongering had an obvious goal: rallying the Jewish public to vote for his far-right, now overtly anti-Arab coalition. The hope was that he would win an outright majority and could then force through legislation conferring on him immunity from prosecution.

Now he appears to have run out of time. After three years of investigations and much foot-dragging, the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has finally charged him.

According to the Israeli media, Netanyahu turned down opportunities for a plea bargain that would have seen him resign in return for avoiding jail time.

According to the most serious allegation, he is accused of granting media tycoon Shaul Elovich benefits worth $500 million in exchange for favourable coverage.

Weighed against the crimes he and other Israeli leaders have perpetrated over many decades against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, the offences he is indicted for seem relatively minor.

Nonetheless, if found guilty, Netanyahu faces a substantial prison sentence of up to 10 years. That makes the stakes high.

All the signs now are that he will switch his main target from Israel’s Palestinian minority to the legal authorities pursuing him.

His first response to the indictment was to accuse the police and state prosecutors of an “attempted coup”, claiming they had fabricated the evidence to “frame” him. “The time has come to investigate the investigators,” he urged.

As one Blue and White official told the veteran Israeli reporter Ben Caspit: “Netanyahu will not hesitate to sic [unleash] his supporters on those institutions of government that represent the rule of law. He has no inhibitions.”

Technically the law allows a prime minister to continue serving while under indictment and before a trial, which is still many months away. Assuming Netanyahu refuses to resign, the courts will have to rule on whether this privilege extends to a caretaker leader unable to form a new government.

Netanyahu is therefore likely to focus his attention on intimidating the supreme court, already cowed by a decade of tongue-lashing from the Israeli right. Critics unfairly accuse the court of being a bastion of liberalism.

But bigger dangers may lie ahead. Netanyahu needs to keep his own Likud party in line. If its members sense he is finished, there could be a rapid collapse of support and moves towards an attempt to overthrow him.

The first hints of trouble emerged on Saturday when Gideon Saar, Netanyahu’s most likely challenger in Likud, accused him of “creating an atmosphere of chaos” by denigrating the legal authorities. On Tuesday he went further calling on Netanyahu to quit.

After the failure by both Gantz and Netanyahu to put together a coalition, the task was passed last week to parliament. Its members have just over a fortnight left to see whether one of their number can rally a majority of MPs.

This brief window could provide an opportunity for Saar to move against Netanyahu. On Sunday he submitted an official request for the Likud party to hold a snap leadership race.

Observers fear that to allay this danger, Netanyahu might consider not only inflaming his base but also setting the region alight with a conflict to rally the rest of the public to his side and make his removal impossible.

In fact, the Israeli media reported that shortly before September’s election, he had tried to pull precisely such a stunt, preparing a war on Gaza to justify postponing the ballot.

He was stopped at the last minute by Mandelblit, who realised that the cabinet had been misled into approving military action. Netanyahu had reportedly concealed from them the fact that the military command was opposed.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has stoked severe tensions with Gaza by assassinating Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Al Atta. Last week he launched airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria.

When Olmert was being investigated for corruption in 2008, Netanyahu sagely warned of the dangerous confusion of interests that might result. “He will make decisions based on his own interests of political survivability rather than the national interest,” he said.

And that is precisely the reason why many in Israel are keen to see the back of Netanyahu – in case his instinct for political survival trumps the interests of stability in the region.

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Bearing Witness to the Costs of War


There is some incongruity between my role as an editor of a book about the costs of America’s wars and my identity as a military spouse. I’m deeply disturbed at the scale of human suffering caused by those conflicts and yet I’ve unintentionally contributed to the war effort through the life I’ve chosen.

I am the co-editor with Catherine Lutz of War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new volume of social science research from Brown University’s Costs of War Project. At the same time, I am a practicing therapist-in-training and I specialize in working with veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Through the scholarly research I review and the veteran clients I have seen, I am committed professionally to bearing witness to the human costs of America’s forever wars, and to alleviating suffering where I can.

I am also married to a submarine officer in the Navy. We are so fortunate in so many ways. We have two beautiful children, pets, loving friends, and extended family. We both have graduate degrees. While our finances take hits from relocations without adequate job and childcare support, we don’t face the continuous fears that many military families experience when a loved one is sent into a war zone. In many respects, my family’s life does not look like that of most American military families profiled in my book.

And yet I have misgivings.

During one of my husband’s deployments, I was relieved to hear our 2-year-old son talk about war in a way that, despite his innocence, was more nuanced than the usual tales of “sacrifice,” “honor,” and “fighting terror” that one hears routinely in the mainstream media and in local command newsletters.

It was spring 2017 and we had just seen Kim Jong-un displaying one of North Korea’s new missiles on the TV news. Our son asked me what a war is. I gave my best explanation and his reply, undoubtedly garnered from preschool discussions about conflict resolution, was: “They don’t use words? They hit?”

Sort of, I told him. I did my best to explain what a weapon was, a description I suspect that many of my liberal mom friends would balk at. In our military community, however, such imagery is all around us. Real missiles and replicas are, for instance, often used as decorations lining the streets of naval bases or as lampposts or even wall hangings in military family households.

My son did his best to take it in. Later, at the waterfront near our home, he tossed a piece of his donut into the ocean and told me it was for his father who, he insisted, was under the water “playing hide-and-seek.” Of course, he doesn’t connect the relentless training and deployments characteristic of our military life with the fighting of war itself, though our family feels the strain and implicit sense of danger in our daily lives.

In writing my recent book on the costs of this country’s post-9/11 wars, I learned about Afghan war widows who use heroin to make it morally possible to live amid grief and poverty after seeing their spouses and children killed; about NGO workers who leave their own families, facing threats of kidnapping and death, to aid refugees in the Pakistani-Afghan borderlands. And I read about the experiences of the million war-wounded, ill, or traumatized American combat veterans, the sorts of patients my therapy will someday (I hope) help, who have sought health care and social support and so often come up desperately short.

As I do this, there’s always a low buzz of guilt somewhere in my gut, even about my own voluntary, unpaid work in support of other military spouses, even after I’ve relinquished travel assignments in my work as an activist that would have compromised my husband’s security clearance, even as I abide by harsh security restrictions in my personal life. I worry, in other words, about aiding the very military that, 18 years after the 9/11 attacks, still continues to rack up war’s costs without an end in sight.

The Costs of War at Home

I see firsthand trends affecting all military communities in the United States. Deployments during these wars have come more frequently and often last longer than in past American wars. The specter of death by suicide hangs over all our lives, because everyone in such communities knows someone who has died that way or has threatened to do so.

In 2012, for the first time in our history, American service members began to die by suicide at higher rates than civilians. Today, they are more likely to take their own lives than to perish in combat. As anthropologist Kenneth MacLeish points out, military suicides are most prevalent among those who have deployed to our war zones just once or not at all, or who left the military involuntarily with a “bad paper discharge” or other than honorable discharges of some kind. Moreover, mental illness is rampant among active-duty military service members. According to the nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness, in 2014 roughly one in four active-duty service members showed signs of mental illness, including mood and trauma disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety (though this figure is conservative, given that the study did not include the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries among combat vets. Many soldiers seek relief from the stresses of training and combat through alcohol and other drugs and, in our military community, it’s common knowledge that seeking professional support for such problems can place you at risk of social stigma.

And don’t forget military families either. Training and fighting both take a toll on us, too. What modest figures we have on the subject make the point. For example, as anthropologists Jean Scandlyn and Sarah Hautzinger point out in our book, among servicemembers who entered the military between 1999 and 2008, the more months spent deployed, the more likely they are to divorce, with the vast majority of such divorces occurring soon after returning from deployments.

Local reports of domestic violence in military communities suggest that the problems leading to such divorces are only growing, though documentation on the subject is unreliable. It wasn’t until 2018 that, under pressure from Congress, the military made domestic violence a crime under its own legal code. Deployments of nine months or longer or frequent redeployments leave spouses at greater risk of depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, which, in turn, often affect the mental and physical health of their children as well.

Young children with deployed parents visit the doctor more frequently for behavioral health issues than those whose parents have not been deployed. Yet, as many spouses like me have discovered, community-based physicians are often unprepared to help in such situations, tending instead to blame the behavioral and mental-health issues of children on their parents or even on the children themselves, while not making referrals to services that could help (often, sadly, because there are none in the community).

“They Were as Hard Off as Me and I Was Killing Them”

Such collective problems are, of course, experienced individually and I’ve felt many of them in my own life. My spouse, for instance, departed for sea tours at moments when most of our family’s ducks were anything but in a row, whether it was a matter of childcare, work schedules, my health needs, or our other family obligations. Our son, for instance, has trouble sleeping because he was sad and scared for his dad, given what he hears in passing about Syria, North Korea, and — from other well-meaning military spouses and our own extended family — his own father’s attempts to “keep us safe” from unnamed others who might want to harm us.

I’m edgy and uneasy, knowing that my husband’s commander, a combat vet, has been angry at our family because I refused at one point to volunteer to work with a spouses group. When our house gets broken into, mid-deployment, and I’m alone with our toddler and pregnant, I wonder briefly if payback could have been involved before I dismiss the thought.

After I have our second child, a woman from the base with no mental-health or social-work training calls me weekly to ask about my baby’s health and safety. When I request that she stop, she refuses, telling me the same commander has ordered her to check in on each new mother in his command during deployment. I receive capitalized, hysterically punctuated emails from this woman warning all spouses not to jeopardize national security by talking to anyone about the submarine’s movements or, for that matter, emailing anything to our partners that they might find “distressing,” even details about a family member’s illness. Repeatedly, I am reminded that the U.S. is fighting a war on terror and our individual problems should never get in the way of that.

Things aren’t exactly a cakewalk between deployments either. It seems that, wherever I go, I find stigma, not support. For example, shortly after giving birth, I consulted a psychiatrist for help with post-partum depression. He was the only psychiatrist within 30 miles of our town who accepted military health insurance. Upon meeting me for the first time, he asked me to sign paperwork allowing him discretion to commit me to a psychiatric hospital “because military spouses often get psychotic during deployments.” I decided to tough it out rather than see him again.

And I try to keep in mind that my problems don’t add up to much, given the true costs of war out there. As a start, it’s a stretch to draw comparisons of any sort between an educated, white millennial family here and those who directly pay war’s costs like combat vets or, above all, civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other American war zones. As my co-editor Catherine Lutz and others have shown, though, combat and the home front are connected in unexpected ways.

If you spend 18 years fighting wars you grossly underestimated how to payfor, if you embark upon those wars without first considering alternatives like diplomacy, if you assume that social support for this country’s wars and those fighting them will come from military families that are patriarchal ideals from the white 1950s, and if you imagine an enemy — terrorism — that could be anywhere at all any time at all, then you’re already in a battle that’s going to prove unwinnable and morally unnerving for everyone involved.

I obviously can’t speak for how people from groups in this country more vulnerable than mine think about our never-ending wars and their costs, but my guess is that at least some of them feel connections to those in the war zones far more intimately than I do, no matter how hard I try. I will never forget a neighbor of ours, a Mexican-American Vietnam vet whom I would find smoking on our street when I completed my daily runs. One evening, when we were chatting, he told me that what haunted him most was how many of the rural, poor Vietnamese he’d shot at looked more like him than most of the American officers in his unit. “They were as hard off as me and I was killing them,” he suddenly said, tears in his eyes. Among veterans, he’s not alone in feeling an affinity for those on the other side.

On Bearing Witness

When Catherine Lutz, Neta Crawford, and I first founded the Costs of War Project at Brown University in 2011, we took a close look at the kinds of public assumptions we wanted to upend. As a start, we wanted to show that, contrary to the Bush administration’s stated rationales for invading Afghanistan and then Iraq, Washington had not effectively protected human rights — not to safety, liberty, or for that matter freedom of speech — nor brought “democracy” with us into those distant lands. Instead, by then, those countries had already seen spikes in gender-based violence and the deterioration of the most basic protections that led to everything from the collapse of prenatal care to the killing of civilians to the kidnapping of journalists, aid workers, and academics.

We wanted to go beyond the Pentagon’s focus on the deaths of American soldiers and focus instead on the tens of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi military deaths that had taken place and especially the soaring death rates of civilians in those lands. And, of course, we wanted to show that our grim wars should not be described in sterile terms via the usual imagery of families embracing upon a smiling service-member’s return or the by-then-familiar photographs of neat coffins draped with flags being carried out of planes by uniformed service members as spouses (usually white, female, and non-disabled) looked on sadly.

That, we knew, was not the essence of America’s already ongoing war on terror. My colleagues and I wanted people in this country to refocus on the staggering death and injury rates that only grew as the years passed, the ever-more-crippling ways in which all sides learned to kill and injure, and the long-term mental-health effects of arduous family separations.

A therapist mentor once taught me that, when working with veterans who have PTSD, I should, as he put it, “Ask them to start their story a little before they think it began and have them keep going even after they think it’s over.” My colleagues and I wanted to do that when it came to our wars, focusing not just on the obvious newsworthy photographs that tended to appeal to the American psyche, but on the missing context in which those photographs were taken. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the purpose of our new book (and our future work). None of us should stop trying to refocus in that way, not until America’s war story is declared over — and not even then, given how long the costs of war are likely to take to play out.

One sunny afternoon in May 2011, as Catherine Lutz and I sat in her office in Brown’s Anthropology Department sifting through media images for the initial launch of the Costs of War website, we happened upon a video of a screaming young Iraqi child with open burn wounds covering his face and body, a relative clutching him in her arms as they hustled through a crowd. Gunshots and explosions were audible in the background. The before, the after, the neighborhood where the violence was taking place, the weapons used, who was even fighting whom — none of that was evident from the clip.

For years, that image and the sound of that child has haunted me. Who was he? Did he get to the hospital? Was there even a hospital for him to get to? Would he ever go to school or play again? Who was the woman and what had her life been like before the American invasion of Iraq in 2003? What was it like now? What services could she access? Was she safe?

I think of this image when I wake up at night, when I hear patients describe the screams of children in war zones, when I hear my own children scream during tantrums. It’s like a nightmarish echo that spurs me to keep working because all of us, regardless of where we are, should be bearing witness to the costs of war until somebody in power decides to end the suffering.

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Student Protesters are Walking a Tightrope in Hong Kong


Photograph Source: Studio Incendo – CC BY 2.0

It’s hard to know what to think about the student protests in Hong Kong.

On the one hand, they are incredibly inspiring. The courage, determination, brilliant organizing in the face of corporate blocking of the social media platforms that have been so critical early on to coordinating actions and rallying support, and the links that these masses of students have been able to build with the broader Hong Kong community, have been amazing to witness. So too is the massive support that the city’s residents — even its staid usually conservative business-minded bankers and shop owners — have given and continue to give to this young people’s movement, for example coming out regularly on the street at lunch from their offices and storefronts, sometimes in masks, to voice their support for the kids.

On the other hand, there is the hard reality that the students’ very success in standing firm against increasingly violent police repression raises the specter of an eventual Chinese military response that could end what freedom Hong Kong has managed to hang on to since the 1997 handover from colonial Britain to the People’s Republic of China.

The latest attempt by students to occupy the semi-autonomous metropolis’s universities and convert them into fortresses against police attacks, because they were so destructive and militant in nature, featuring as they did the use of bows and arrows (some of them flaming arrows), slingshots and petrol bombs, the tearing up of sidewalks for use in blocking passage on access streets and highways, and the destruction of train stations and toll booths, precisely because they have been so successful at disrupting travel and economic activity in the territory, are inevitably being viewed by the hard-line Communist Party leadership in Beijing as a potentially existential threat to their 70-year rule over China dating back to 1949.

So far the PRC, with its firm grip on news inside the country, thanks to a tightly controlled national “intranet” and state-controlled news media, has succeeded in its efforts to keep information about the uprising inside of Hong Kong away from the broad Chinese public. What news there is in China (with the exception of what’s receivable in Guangdong province and Shenzhen on Hong Kong TV and radio that reaches across the border) concerning the disturbances in Hong Kong make it all out to be the result of foreign interference — a tried-and-true way to appeal to a growing Chinese nationalism and to a still widely held sense of a historic wrong suffered by China at the hands of foreign imperial powers.

The Hong Kong students, who have legitimate grievances and are trying their best to prevent what they rightly see as increasing Chinese meddling in Hong Kong local affairs and laws, and as a reneging by Beijing on promises for more local democracy in the city’s governance made in 1997. The lion’s share of political power in Hong Kong, whether under British or Chinese control, has always been and still is kept with the business elite in the city. Student activists need to realize that any dreams they may have of Hong Kong becoming an independent city-state like Singapore are futile. China will simply never allow that to happen. Actions, even symbolic ones, that suggest the city’s independence to be a goal, like waving American flags or burning the Chinese flag, are like waving a red cloth in front of a charging bull to the rulers in Beijing. So is calling for Hong Kong independence as a demand.

But if the goal is to press China to honor its promise to gradually allow full one-person-one-vote elections for all seats on the Legislative Council that is supposed to govern the city, and open election of the city’s Chief Executive who to date under Chinese rule has been carefully hand-picked by Beijing’s leaders (it’s currently Carrie Lam, whose tone-deaf subservience to Beijing’s dictates sparked the current crisis), that might conceivably be achieved through concerted peaceful protest. Indeed the effectiveness of the protests that began last June toward those ends probably explains the Hong Kong government’s (and behind the scenes the Chinese government’s) resort to ever more violent police repression, perhaps even in hopes of provoking a violent response.

But this means that student activists have to walk a tightrope. So far, they have managed to retain the support of the vast majority of Hong Kong’s eight million residents as historically massive marches supporting the students over recent months, some almost spontaneous in response to events, have demonstrated. As the UK newspaper the Guardian reports, that support has been dramatic, with a poll in late October showing that 52.5% of respondents blamed the government for the unrest and protest, while 18.1% blamed the police and only 9.1% blamed the students. But as that article also reports, there are signs that this support for the students may wane as their resistance, certainly understandable, to police attacks turn more violent and destructive. The November 17 article, published a day after students had left or were driven by police from all but one of the city’s public universities, and after students had closed down key transportation hubs, rail lines and highways and tunnels, states that at least anecdotally, some ordinary Hong Kong residents who have supported the student protests are growing disenchanted. Among the concerns of those interviewed: the fear that China may activate the People’s Liberation Army. The PLA reportedly has some 12,000 troops garrisoned in the territory at this point — up until now confined largely to barracks — and has also quite publicly moved more Chinese troops and transport vehicles into Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong’s New Territories.

China knows it still needs Hong Kong as an economic gateway to the global economy, with its relatively well-regulated stock market and British Common Law-based legal system a reliable source of international investment capital for Chinese listed companies. It also values the “Made in Hong Kong” label affixed to products actually largely produced in China except for minor additions, a sleight-of-hand that is useful for insulating Chinese manufacturing products from international tariffs and costly involvement in trade disputes. But make no mistake: China’s national leaders will certainly ignore all the economic benefits to China of an at least officially autonomous Hong Kong if the alternative is a loss of control over this unique piece of Chinese real estate. Hong Kong, don’t forget, is where the British humiliated the Chinese empire in the mid-19th Century by grabbing the island, and from that base demanding the right to peddle opium to China’s population.

As a young anti-war activist in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was a committed participant in the largely student-led struggle against the US imperial war against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Our protests were for a long time inspired by the non-violent tradition espoused by Martin Luther King and others dating back to Henry David Thoreau. But by May 1970 after Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the murder by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio and police at Jackson State in Mississippi of student anti-war protesters (possibly at the urging of the White House), we became much more militant as a movement (here, by CSN&Y is our anthem of the day).

A wildly successful national student strike was called after those killings and swept the country that spring, which, as in Hong Kong today, saw buildings occupied and classes brought to a halt. In some universities, degrees were simply awarded with seniors no longer attending class or taking final exams. In others, students were left hanging, their coursework left undone or ungraded. Things escalated further in 1972 when President Nixon, running for a second term, ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam — a dangerous act of war escalation that risked damaging Russian ships and globalizing that conflict perhaps into a nuclear war. The anti-war movement responded with a series of quickly organized mass demonstrations across the country that featured highway-blocking sit-downs, smashing of windows and other violent disruption, even as radical militant groups like the Weather Underground were exploding bombs at various locations considered to be part of the US war effort.

The results of this confrontational turn by the US anti-war movement were mixed. The increased militancy of the movement may well have hastened the US government’s decision to wind down its increasingly bogged-down war in Indochina, though it’s hard to tell because of course, the main factor in that decision was the dogged resistance of the Vietnamese themselves, who were wearing down and defeating the US military. But increased militancy by US antiwar activists also certainly led to a loss of broader support for the anti-war movement. Sen. George McGovern did manage to win nomination as a peace candidate for president on the Democratic ticket in 1972. But sabotaged by his own party leaders and a victim of Nixon campaign’s dirty tricks, he went on to lose that election in November by a landslide. In the end, Nixon improbably won a second term by 60.7% of the vote to McGovern’s 37.5% (almost a mirror image of Lyndon Johnson’s 61.1%/38.5% romp over Barry Goldwater less than a decade earlier in 1964), capturing the electoral votes of every state except for Massachusetts.

One can easily overstate the parallel here but it seems clear to me that student activists in Hong Kong need to move carefully. It they are attacked violently by police for peacefully protesting, Hong Kong people have shown they will respond by the millions to support the kids. But if the police violence looks like it is in response to student attacks by arrows and flaming petrol bombs, that support may not be so forthcoming or so broad. Furthermore, if student movement demands go too far, to the point for example of calling for Hong Kong’s independence, they risk eventually having China cross the Rubicon of activating the PLA.

I have a pretty good sense of what is happening in Hong Kong, having lived there and worked as a journalist and as a member of the Hong Kong Journalists Association during the critical six-year period from 1992-97. That was when the terms of the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty were finalized, and when China finally took back the city stolen by the British during the Opium War in 1841. Hong Kong people, and the students and young people I knew back in those days, were both proud and anxious about that handover — proud because they had never liked being colonial subjects of Britain, which had a long history of repressing, diminishing and looking down on local Chinese residents of the city, and anxious because they had won many-valued freedoms over the years of British rule, which they feared could be lost if the city became too much like China. Students, in particular, were committed to hanging on and even to expanding those freedoms from the start.

I don’t buy the claim being made by some in Hong Kong that the current student revolt — being conducted by young people most of whom were actually born since the handover of the city to China — is the work of outsiders and of outside funding by the likes of billionaire anti-communist George Soros. (Believe me, whether it’s a good strategy or not, the students barricaded inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University and under assault by police threatening to go after them using live gunfire are not doing what they’re doing for a check from Soros! They’re committed to an extent that few of us in the US have been committed to anything in our lives.

I’m confident that what we’re seeing in Hong Kong today is the genuine, heartfelt desire by Hong Kong’s educated younger generation for the preservation of the freedoms they and their parents have won over years of struggle from first the British and then the Chinese government. None of it was just handed to them. It was the result of insistent pressure for more democracy, for freedoms of press, speech and assembly, and of a willingness, often on the part of their parents, to take to the streets to make their demands clear. In recent years China, uncomfortable with the degree of freedom Hong Kong people won, has been trying to push that genie back into the bottle.

The students, to their credit, aren’t having it.

If they are strong, steady, and work out how to modulate their protests and their demands as they maneuver their way along the tightrope of political activism, they may yet win and serve as an inspiring model to young people everywhere. (Although I have to add that if activists here in the US were to use methods that Hong Kong students have been using – shooting at cops with arrows and flaming arrows, and tossing hundreds of water bottle “Molotov cocktails” and burning police vans – there’d be a massacre. So far Hong Kong cops, for all their brutality on display, have stuck for the most part to water canons, stinging blue-dye spray and rubber bullets, with “only” two demonstrators shot by live ammo, and one dead under suspicious circumstances so far.)

One thing is sure, and it’s important too: The whole world is watching and needs to keep watching Hong Kong.

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Another Death Penalty Horror: Stark Disparities in Media and Activist Attention


Photograph Source: Andrew Petro – CC BY 2.0

On November 12, intrepid abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean tweeted to her legions of followers: “What do Sen. Ted Cruz, Gigi Hadid, Kim Kardashian, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and me all have in common? We’re among a growing local and national movement asking Texas @GovAbbott to stop the scheduled Nov. 20 execution of #RodneyReed[.]”

But for Twitter’s character limitation on tweets, Sister Helen’s impressive and growing list of famous people – to publicly throw their support behind Reed’s bid to stop his impending execution – could have also included: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Busta Rhymes, Ayanna Pressley, Ava Duvernay, Oprah, Beyoncé, Rihanna, LL Cool J, Reggie Bush, Meek Mill, Dr. Phil, Chuck Woolery, Beto O’Rourke, Common, Questlove, Larry Krasner, Greta Van Sustren, the Dixie Chicks, and many, many more (far too many for me to likewise list here).

A day after Sister Helen’s tweet issued, on November 13, Maurice Chammah, a writer for the Marshall Project and author of a forthcoming book about the Texas death penalty, also took to Twitter; shortly before Georgia executed Ray Cromartie, Chammah insightfully observed: “Still amazed [Cromartie’s] case has not gotten much attention despite untested DNA that could implicate someone else (like #RodneyReed) and an affidavit suggesting someone else committed the murder (also like Reed).” Clearly troubled, Chammah wrote that this “presents food for thought: Why do some death row prisoners get celebrity help and others don’t? Georgia is executing Ray Cromartie tonight, and the contrast to the attention on Rodney Reed is pretty stark.”

While perhaps not a satisfying answer to Chammah’s intriguing and disturbing inquiry, New Yorker staff writer Nathan Heller has provided, albeit unwittingly, in his July 1st article about the inequities of using GoFundMe to crowdfund medical costs, searing analysis I submit is equally applicable to why some death row prisoners receive more media and celebrity support than others.

Heller quotes GoFundMe’s C.E.O. Rob Solomon, who, while grimacing, admitted that “The reality of the social web is that connections are important,” and success raising money “really is dependent on a lot of different factors – like your network or your ability to tell a story that travels.” This led Heller to dolorously conclude: “People can speak their truths and still get lost within a labyrinth of trending interests, channeled audiences, and ten million individuated heartfelt pleas that don’t connect.”

The same is true for prisoners on death row. The arbitrariness and the disparity in media and activist attention between different cases involving death row prisoners is itself a horror, and an unseemly byproduct of state-sponsored killing. This is true despite the fact that cases like those of Rodney Reed, Troy Davis in Georgia (in 2011), Keith Tharpe (also in Georgia), and Julius Jones (in Oklahoma), have successfully, though fleetingly, managed to seize and hold a sizable portion of the public’s sympathy for a measurable period of time; generally, only until after execution though. After that, it’s only trench weary abolitionists, defeated lawyers, and the demoralized friends and relatives of the executed that continue to carry the pain. And the loss. And the damn injustice of it all.

The outsized difference in the media (and the resulting public) attention to the cases of different death row prisoners – despite often hard to discern differences legally, morally, and ethically – is why, rhetorically, in 2018, after the well-publicized botched execution of Doyle Hamm in Alabama, I bitterly observed: “If you have a high-profile lawyer with powerful friends and you’re tortured while on death row in Alabama, everyone in the nation not only knows about it – overwhelmingly, especially in liberal, progressive, civilized circles of thought and news – they’re righteously appalled. But poor death row inmates in Alabama . . . whose stories are not featured in the New Yorker multiple times, and, who have no well-connected, media-savvy friends and supporters? They can be tortured just as terribly, just as brutally – they can be killed barbarically – and not many people in America, much less the rest of the world, knows a thing about it. Or worse, cares.”

And so what I’d like to impress upon all people – the rich and powerful, but also the poor and unconnected, and all those in between – newly woken to the death penalty’s repugnance because of what they’ve heard and read about Rodney Reed: Rodney Reed’s case is no different than that of any other death penalty case in at least one regard. He’s a flesh-and-blood human being who deserves humane and just treatment, not extermination, regardless of whether you believe he is innocent and hasn’t had a fair legal process.

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Freedom, Valor, Love: On Snowden’s Permanent Record


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“The computer guy [sic]…can know everything…”

–Edward Snowden, Permanent Record

We all know someone who has suffered explicit privacy violations through data breaches, has been censored, or has valiantly fought for press, Internet, and telecommunications freedoms at a time of deep political polarities and culture war divisions. Edward Snowden’s life reveals it’s not just “the computer guy” (or other non-male folks) at tech’s helms, but the general U.S. public that bears witness to corporatized data surveillance state violations, or the data industrial complex. This secretive sprawling network is the invasive rule today; it involves regular media outlets, telecommunications, social media platforms, Internet service providers, and government agencies.

In the contemporary U.S. there’s nowhere to run and hide. Edward Snowden seeks to change this, and he reminds us of his mission again upon publication of his supposedly illegal memoir, Permanent Record. (You’ll miss essential technical details too numerous to be covered here if you don’t read the memoir yourself, by the way. )

If it weren’t for people like Snowden, the U.S. public wouldn’t know that coordinated privacy violation, resulting in mass surveillance, is a central governmental security program. Permanent Record teaches if the U.S. government has its way, all telecommunications and cyberspace explorations would be accessible. As it stands, our lives are reduced to massive cash vaults for tandem agencies and corporations, exploiting us politically— for profit.

Hello, Cambridge Analytica. I am talking to you. Rapacious technocapitalism consistently adds to its official ruling class of spineless security state multimillionaires and billionaires. I’m talking to you, Palantir, Google, Amazon, Facebook…

Snowden’s Permanent Record (along with Manning and Assange’s ongoing cases) unintentionally upholds mythological— even Homeric— virtues: freedom, valor, love. You know, the attributes we collectively value amidst our otherwise sharply articulated political differences— especially in this presidential campaign season.

News flash: U.S. surveillance has resulted in something besides a democracy. According to Snowden: “Any elected government that relies on surveillance to maintain control of a citizenry that regards surveillance as anathema to democracy has effectively ceased to be a democracy (p.330).”

Here, it’s the public “citizenry” that imbues the government with its democratic character, defining what is and is not democratic.

Snowden’s above quoted words ring true with First and Fourth amendment constitutional convictions. It could be scrawled near the Liberty Bell, or on a plaque in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building. This might be the real reason why the U.S. Justice Department says Snowden’s book violates his nondisclosure agreement with the federal government, and is suing to acquire its proceeds. Permanent Record is a threatening document that extensively records all NSA and intelligence community (IC) mass surveillance program sacred cows.

According to Snowden, under mass surveillance, the U.S. has “ceased to be a democracy.” Current U.S. left rhetoric might criticize Snowden’s view that U.S. democracy ever existed. Another view is that due to its settler colonial status, founded on stolen land and free labor, American capitalism can not be a democracy by definition. In this view, surveillance is the expression, not the exception, of U.S. national character. That debate is ongoing, but in so far as this is a legal battle with Espionage Act threats, the Constitution marks relevant parameters.

It’s common knowledge that leftist/ anti-imperialist/ anti-racist/ ecological/feminist/ labor/ socialist/ communist/ anarchist/ queer activists have historically suffered under Cointelpro sureveillance and are current targets of ongoing IC sabotage. Consider how the new FBI profiling category–the “black identity extremist”–emerged after Black Lives Matter. Consider the comrades we’ve lost under dubious circumstances. For any form of survival, we must align with Snowden’s critical oppositional insider knowledge and create anti-surveillance state solidarity amidst the chaos produced by security state entities.

Snowden’s stated relationship to the concept of democracy exemplifies what I term here the “whistleblower dialectic.” Initial faith in the system places would be whistleblowers in proximity to the very information they later expose as problematic: proximity creates bona fide whistleblowers. While whistleblowers themselves may begin careers in a blissful state of innocent naivete (this is an exaggeration, of course), their exposed information is the radical must-have product, regardless of their own intentions or histories.

This is what makes whistleblowing so important in the security state/ Big Tech era: it’s not where they begin, but where they end that matters politically. Veteran and soldier knowledge is also a case in point here. Think of how central the returning Vietnam soldiers’ testimony was for the anti-war movement in the 60’s and 70’s. They didn’t burn their draft cards in the first instance, as others did, but if they returned to the U.S. alive, many infuriated and damaged soldiers held very important information. This is the same for our anti-war veterans and soldiers-in-combat today.

Snowden physically risked his life to challenge surveillance forces and expose deep state machinations. He should be praised for his sacrifices, not nitpicked on his rhetorical fine points in Permanent Record or elsewhere.

That said, Snowden is not simply another white American male with some precious constitutional violations to rectify; he’s a political exile from a government that sadistically pursues those holding it accountable to its own constitutional claims. After working countless IC sub-contracted and government jobs, Snowden is an intelligence tech expert with a thorough understanding of constitutional violations, exposed by releasing classified information.

Please recall, although granted temporary Russian asylum, he faces extradition, like Assange, to the U.S. Like Assange and Manning’s cases, state power is the central problem, as it cozies up to Big Tech to unleash a Draconian, Orwellian, Palantirian-dystopian nightmare on the world. It is not hysterical to recognize just how doomed resistance seems under this surveillance arrangement. Just as digitization, like GPS phone capabilities, can map individuals whereabouts so can individuals be followed and harassed. This happened to Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, while he was in Hong Kong releasing classified documents.

Naive as it may seem, those constitutional appeals to democracy’s privacy rights, with accompanying regulatory demands on Big Tech, will remain part of a larger strategy here.

As argued in my piece on Assange’s possible extradition, potential critics here should recall the battle is against U.S. state power/ Big Tech, and not for picture perfect defendants. By the way, it appears Snowden’s particular character and position relieve him of the magnitude of (gossipy) public opinion charges Assange has not avoided. Snowden reveals his good character precisely when he could be snarky about Assange; he claims Assange was “genuinely invested” in helping him evade capture, refuting charges Assange helped Snowden out of “self-interest (p.301).”

Gossipy, petty hairsplitting, and jealous dismissals of exiled/ politically imprisoned press freedom/ anti-surveillance hackers, should dissipate as more people read Snowden’s eloquently written and even suspenseful “permanent record.” How he arrived in Russia as an exiled political dissident from a hostile imperialist regime waging an intelligence (and street) war against its most profound global and domestic critics is a captivating story well-written enough to provoke the U.S. Justice Department.

Snowden’s Internet: Jungle Gym, Tree House, Fortress, Classroom

Heroic values run deep among the hacktivists facing U.S. Espionage charges. Snowden’s values were shaped by his earliest sense of youthful freedom. This freedom was encouraged by the Internet’s early freeform quality that is today a mere semblance of its former non-corporatized incarnation.

When it comes to autobiographical recollections about cyber-hacking skills of the magnitude Snowden’s document liberation reveals, it all begins with access, which he had. Snowden is the child of military/ federal government employees. His dad worked for the Aeronautical Engineering Division at Coast Guard Headquarters in D.C. His mom ended up working for the National Security Agency (NSA) itself, if you can imagine that poetically just legacy. As Snowden tells it, his father casually plunked an early computer with a dial up modem on a centrally located table in his childhood home, and the rest is history. Unlimited access to the earliest version of the Web empowered him with creative and exploratory space that transferred seamlessly to a cyber-intelligence career stopped short by his own convictions against the surveillance apparatus.

This is not his mother’s NSA.

Not only is Permanent Record a significant document, itself marking the anti-surveillance legal battle his name is synonymous with, but Snowden’s recollections of the early Internet is really engaging reading for general technology studies purposes.

He writes: “Internet access, and the emergence of the Web, was my generation’s big bang or Precambrian explosion. It irrevocably altered the course of my life as it did the lives of everyone. From the age of 12 or so, I tried to spend every waking moment online. The Internet was my sanctuary; the Web became my jungle gym, my treehouse, my fortress, my classroom without walls (p.42).”

Snowden fondly remembers the early days of “limitless space that was growing exponentially, adding web pages by the day, by the hour, by the minute (p.42)…” Today’s monitored, tracked, recorded, and hunted Internet portals no doubt have Snowden, and so many Internet users, nostalgic for those Precambrian days and nights online. Snowden knows what cyberspace could have been, how government and corporations abuse it, and what it could be transformed into now with immense sacrifice and political struggle, as his biography reveals.

If you want to overthrow the U.S. government, including its unlimited data saved in clouds, you’ll need top level security clearances and serious hacker skills. Enter Edward Snowden.

Another sense of early Internet freedom Snowden so candidly describes is anonymous virtual identities. This is far from today’s self-evidentiary Facebook culture favoring real identities. Instead, the early Internet is awash in anonymous, anti-identitarian fluidity, delinkinking “users’ personas” and “their offline legal identity (p.47).” Snowden defends anonymity’s liberating negation of positivistic and hegemonic online culture; this culture is epitomized by the security state’s facial recognition technology, for example. Voluntary updated user data, profiles linked to mainstreamed cryptocurrency accounts: all data saved securely in a convenient accessible cloud, right?

Whimsically picking new names (inventive handles) and new faces (avatars) is the opposite of “enforcing fidelity to memory, identitarian consistency, and ideological conformity (p. 47).” Snowden defends self-reinvention in the following description:

“The early Internet’s dissociative opportunities encouraged…my generation… to change our most deeply held opinions, instead of just digging in defending them when challenged. This ability to reinvent ourselves meant that we never had to close our minds by picking sides, or close ranks out of fear of doing irreparable harm to our reputations. Mistakes that were swiftly punished but swiftly rectified allowed both the community and the “offender” to move on. To me, and to many, this felt like freedom (p.47).”

As employment and dating sites increasingly required “real” online profiles, non-commercial, experimentally playful days of nonstop gaming under constantly changing identities has faded, favoring FaZe Clan’s manic panic profiteering instead. Some hold steady on truly anonymous gaming avatar usage amidst reactionary charges of “irresponsbility” or “trolling.” Most fold under market expediencies.

Many present day cyber-heroes report lackluster school experience in contrast to cozier online homelife, resulting in the first mention of Snowden’s book’s title. One of Snowden’s teachers admonishes his lower grades: “You have so much potential, Ed… You have to start thinking about your permanent record (p.56).”

He was thinking about video games and hacker zines, not his permanent record, apparently.

Snowden’s brain pegged the Internet’s multi-faceted potential, to be sure. In addition to logging on to play the earliest versions of Doom, Quake, and Ultima, or argue some controversial opinion, he also met new people (most notably his wife, Lindsay Mills) and applied for jobs online. He even found a security glitch in Los Alamos National Laboratory website. The Lab accepted his report and fixed the problem (p.57)

Here’s just one reason to drop all Snowden’s charges: his attention to Los Alamos’ site may have prevented a nuclear catastrophe. Put that on his permanent record.

Snowden’s cyber-appreciations were so immense he pursued an IC job after 9/11 because he identified with the task of achieving real world security. He strategically joined the military for a brief spell, before discharge due to injury, because this would grant him the highest security clearance.

The post 9/11intelligence culture was rampant with private subcontracting, producing a gig mentality that his own IC career reflects. His first position was with a CIA subcontractor stationed in Beltway headquarters, then he transferred to Geneva and Tokyo before returning to work for CIA sub-contracted Dell in the Beltway again. Finally, he ended up at the Hawaii NSA position where he painstakingly encrypted his evidence: Booz, Allen, Hamilton was his last position before exile.

His work trajectory is complex, which is why memoir chapters titled after job locations are helpful here.

Valor: CIA Systems Administrator to the Stars

For a fun description of life as a nighttime shift subcontracted CIA employee, replete with predictable characteristics, like coworker malaise and outdated equipment mishaps, look no further.

He starts off on a bad foot with the CIA by complaining about housing accommodations during CIA training. A dilapidated Comfort Inn accommodated the cloistered, top-secret on-site Warrenton Training Center, aka. “The Hill” in Warrenton, Virginia. He was harshly admonished for complaining, but got his team transferred to better temp housing.

How’s that for an early glimpse of Edward Snowden, IC labor activist?

Permanent Record’s middle section captures post-9/11 blank check security state boom time which had Snowden morphing into and moving on from various intel security tech positions for years. This kind of transferring was not viewed as suspicious, and it allowed Snowden a wider sense of the intelligence community (IC) as it evolved its technological prowess.

The curiosity engendered by early Internet freedoms produced an insatiable interest in not just the content, but the form, of CIA and IC information. Here, Snowden’s routine hindsight about IC/ CIA security culture becomes a hacker’s taunt against the apparatus itself. The Justice Department knows this well.

Describing his time with CIA computers, Snowden credits childhood desire to “understand how everything works.” This leads to his now haunting reflection that “one thing that the disorganized CIA didn’t quite understand at the time, and that no major employer outside of Silicon Valley understood, either: the computer guy [sic] knows everything, or rather, can know everything (p.133).”

These are highly entertaining pages, well-written, with prose accurately foreshadowing a dramatic turn towards Russian exile.

What exactly happened?

Snowden regales us with late night explorations into the CIA’s own Internet, social media platform, and arcane data back-up protocols. Internal news sites inspired his casual absorption of “top secret dispatches regarding trade talks and coups as they were still unfolding… (p.133)”

He confidently confirms or denies longstanding CIA-related conspiracy theories. Years spent on internal sites have almost everything clarified: “Yes, man really did land on the moon. Climate change is real. Chemtrails are not a thing (p.133).”

It’s surprising he doesn’t weigh in on the who’s who of rumored Hollywood/ Democratic National Committee’s MK Ultra beta kitten programming scenes via Jeffrey Epstein’s Black Book contacts.

Edward Snowden never went on the Lolita Express. Add that to his permanent record.

Snowden’s position is sacrosanct for a generation experiencing the ruinous IC transition from human intelligence (HUMINT) to tech intelligence (SIGINT) gathering– or what would become a combination of the two modes. In Geneva, a co-worker casually informed Snowden that when he has a subject to investigate,“just give us his email address and we’ll take care of it (p.160).”

A seemingly casual comment like this, to a Systems Administrator like Snowden, sparked concern about the IC’s reach into private, seemingly secure, platforms— like email.

In a blizzard of information, events, personalities, and post 9/11 IC daily realities, Snowden begins to analyze the content and form of data storage protocols. It’s the form that enlightens him to what the U.S. is doing globally, as expressed in its international Web relation security protocols. He notes that the NSA only shares its secured data with the “Five Eyes” club. Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S. share info through the UKUSA Agreement– a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence with secret origins, of course.

Such much for NATO’s relevance.

In Tokyo, Snowden begins another position, accompanied by Lindsay Mills. Japan introduces him to America’s “home field advantage” when it comes to Web access via American companies dominance over software (Microsoft, Google, Oracle), hardware (HP, Apple, Dell) and chips, routers, modems, services, platforms, and cloud services. While many products are manufactured overseas, the American I.D. allows companies to use “American policies to pervert law and permit the U.S. government to surveill virtually” everyone (p.164).

Here, Snowden’s candor about his relative naivete entering Tokyo’s NSA Pacific Technical Center (PTC) in 2009 is endearing, as he comes to grips with how global Internet infrastructure leads to the obvious condition of U.S. planetary surveillance programs. That the NSA was more technically sophisticated and less secure, compared to its CIA counterpart, also caught Snowden’s attention. Again, hindsight transforms an innocent reflection about inter-agency differences into a hacker’s taunt: a lax security culture allowed Snowden to expose NSA surveillance procedures to the world.

Things shifted in Tokyo, when Snowden was researching for a Chinese conference on foreign military spying operations (p.169). He begins to encounter the NSA’s “array of abuses” through researching China’s own “totalitarian” government surveillance capabilities. Snowden writes:

“I had the sneaking sense while I was looking through all this China material that it was looking at a mirror and seeing a reflection of America. What China was doing publicly to its own citizens, America might be–could be–doing secretly to the world (p.171).”

The American internet is more easily accessed and more “democratic,” exercising minimal cautious censorship, right? Wrong. Snowden learns Internet computerware is mass surveillance machinery. Websites lure users into data traps, accompanied by rapid malware deployments, resulting in an unregulated Wild West of American-cum-multinational capital. The gold nugget here is what the NSA calls “metadata”–the “unwritten, unspoken information that can expose the broader contexts and patterns of behavior (p.179).” Another word for this is “activity data”: “…all the records of all the things you do on your devices and all the things your devices do on their own”(p.179).

Snowden differentiates streamlined metadata from the clumsy, bulk collection of infinite content. One popular idea of what “mass cyber surveillance” involves (p.178) is this clunky bulk– which leads many to decry the idea of mass surveillance itself because there’s too much content to spy effectively. In the first surveilling instance, metadata reveals relevant info: individual associative synopses, via phone, email, social media, that help government and corporations “extrapolate predictions of behavior (p.180).” They move in if they get suspicious of your metadata (or long term political activist data held in FBI files, acquired by FOIA requests.)

Metadata meets bio-data, too. While surveillants can’t access “what’s actually going on inside your head,” the inevitability of mass real time mind reading technologies, via electrode-based microchip enhancements, inch closer– as reported by The Guardian from Nature Journal.

Has Snowden encountered the ultra-secretive CIA MK Ultra program? What’s the latest in psych op tech these days, or should we ask Palantir? Inquiring minds want to know!

Research mainstreaming previously esoteric electrode technologies, used in some patient paralysis applications, signals an unthinkable crisis in any remaining semblance of a democracy (that experts like Snowden are best equipped to address.) Beyond conspiracy theory circles, microchipping, which could theoretically be done involuntarily en masse, will further violate privacy boundaries already in crisis.

Add to his permanent record that Snowden pointedly rejects this microchipped dystopian future.

Metadata facilitates mass surveillance capabilities. It leads surveillants to the trough, and they can continue to drink in the finer details of lives if deemed necessary. Japan provided Snowden with his metadata “atomic moment”–when he realized technological dominance supersedes ethical considerations.

Given market-driven mind reading microchipping capabilities, we could have used tech regulatory ethics, like, twenty years ago.

Much to be regulated here, but it’s the government doing it to the people. NSA surveillance techniques select from the “vast mass of dragneted communications (p.224).” There are two gathering modes: server and upstream collecting. PRISM collects data–email, photos, video, audio, search content–from servers (Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple, and Paltalk).

Arguably “more invasive” is use of “NSA’s Special Sources Operations Unit which built secret wiretapping equipment and embedded it inside the corporate facilities of obliging Internet service providers around the world (p.224).” This upstream collection allows interception as users place search terms in engines. The NSA weapon of choice here is TURBULENCE, described as: “a few black servers stacked up on top of one another, together about the size of a four shelf bookcase… installed in rooms at major private telecommunication buildings throughout allied countries… in U.S. embassies and on U.S. military bases (p.225).”

One of TURBULENCE’s tools, TURMOIL, passively collects midstream data if it trips security wires. The second tool, TURBINE, takes over if your data is deemed suspicious. Here, NSA servers uses choice malware to attack your site: you get “all the content you want… with all the surveillance you don’t… in less than 686 milliseconds (p.226).” All without government seeking a warrant, even if this malware allows surveillants to access metadata and “your entire digital life.”

The Intercept provides an excellent guide to XKEYSCORE, the NSA’s self-described “widest reaching system.” Snowden describes it as direct access to people’s desktops in real time. The National Tailored Access Operations (NTAO) division “remotely hacks into the computers of people whom analysts had selected as targets (p.330).” This includes foreign targets, too. In HawaiiSnowden landed a contracted position with Booz Allen Hamilton’s NTOC division before he went AWOL on this whole surveillance enterprise.

Thanks to Snowden’s indomitable valor exposing NSA surveillance in 2013, massive phone spying is curtailed by the 2015 U.S. Freedom Act requiring warrants for telecommunications metadata bulk collection. Now, just being an American making a cell phone call is not considered “relevant” enough to potential foreign intelligence and terror investigations. But the Internet still revolves around NSA programs, and telecommunications monitoring can happen under the radar.

Remember that “the computer guy [sic]…can know everything…”– even that the Internet battle is just beginning.

Love in the Time of Callin’ Ya

From Booz Allen Hamilton to Hong Kong: Snowden surpasses Hawaii and airport security measures to smuggle supporting documents to Hong Kong’s Mira Hotel. He boarded up in there for ten days until U.S. journalist-heroes Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald arrive. This occurred just as they had all prepared in their carefully crafted and encrypted email plans, but it was nonetheless a “surreal dynamic” for Snowden.

One jarring hotel moment is when Greenwald scrutinized Snowden’s youthful appearance, questioning his willingness to “throw his life away (p.288).” More uplifting is Snowden’s recognition of Poitras’ amazing journalistic foresight, arriving with her “indispensable” video camera in hand.

These passages reveal language’s failure to communicate precarity; prose strains to capture the risk levels, mishaps resulting in quick assassinations. Words fail us. The inherent risks in the lives of journalists, publishers, and various sundried whistleblower-types in the data-mining/ surveillance state era can not be underscored here. These relative positions of social/ educational privilege, via cultural capital and technological access, quickly morph into hunted lives standing in as universal subjects in a protracted political battle against a corporatized data surveillance state that has its venture capital aimed at the next big surveillance mechanism.

Snowden, Poitras, Greenwald, and Ewen MacAskill were in the Hong Kong hotel room, while Lindsay Mills was notably absent. While more secure in the presence of the arriving team, Snowden describes “empty and desolate” sleepless nights away from his real security: his lover.

[Here Snowden, the lover, should be recognized for his “good guy” stance on the temptations of IC porn/ doxxing subcultures. He briefly touches on this when describing how SIGINT coworkers track and harass ex-lovers. You can imagine the underground sex subcultures spawned from agent access to streams of porn and personal data. Shades of Epstein here.]

Mills would do well to begin her own memoir; she provides diary pages for a Permanent Record chapter called “From the Diaries of Lindsay Mills.” Here she describes coping through police/agent harassment and intimidation, with a strong support network including legally-savvy friends and family— especially Snowden’s mother, Wendy.

As Snowden’s wife-to-be and mother grow sick with worry stateside, his journalist comrades in Hong Kong, along with lawyers, secured him a stay with four adult Filipino and Sri Lankan refugees–Vanessa Rodel, Ajith Pushpakumara, Supun Thilina Kellapatha, and Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis— and two girls. They are military torture, rape/ sexual abuse survivors— and Snowden describes feeling welcomed and protected as he hid out with those who understand well the the prevailing precarity of a state-defined illegal status (p.296).

Another crucial character in the Hong Kong story is WikiLeaks journalist, Sarah Harrison, whose impressive confidence assures Snowden while twenty-seven asylum requests were being denied. Once Ecuador came through with asylum, Snowden’s passport was suspiciously cancelled by John Kerry. Russia became Snowden’s place of exile. He likens exile to “an endless layover”–inspired by his 40 days and 40 nights stay, with Harrison, in Russia’s Sheremetyevo airport. Then he moved to Moscow.

The story ends at a kind of beginning in the final chapter, “Love and Exile.” Mills joins Snowden in 2014. Although they were necessarily separated by Snowden’s secret keeping, the lovers reunited to continue battling together. They even fit in enjoyable moments, like attending the Bolshoi ballet, while still remaining under the radar.

Snowden describes Lindsay as “more patient and generous and kind” than himself, and their love is what’s being interrupted, tracked, targeted, and hunted by the rapacious data industrial complex’s political protectors. Data is now more valuable than oil.

As the Justice Department pursues Snowden’s memoir royalties, emerging security tech behemoth, Palantir, has Peter Thiel, Alex Karp, and staff shoring up ICE deportation and BP North Sea oil extraction contracts. If we ever needed a reminder of polarized realities in the data monetization age, and the NSA/ CIA’s own ongoing violations, it can be found in these CIA workers’ lives. Thiel/ Karp represent unbridled CIA privatization efforts that monetize the global data Snowden is punished for portraying as private information. Snowden also insists unconstitutional NSA/ CIA data acquisition practices are public information.

If not, consider the deeply troubling future: involuntary and voluntary mass microchipping, routinized online bio-doxxing programs, bio-data warfare tactics, and data-theft, including child and adult nudity, with commercial and underground applications. All of this coordinated in user-friendly social mediated-cryptocurrency packaging whereby users themselves never really understand which wing of the sprawling global IC data industrial complex they work for. They just know they get paid to promote or destroy online product, or content, including people’s reputations.

On the flip side of the individual privacy coin is government transparency in telecommunications info gathering, and illegal military operations reporting. Snowden is exiled while Reality Winner, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and countless others endure their own individual, but deeply intertwined, punishments.

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Labor and the UK General Election


Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The media focus in the UK general election has tended, understandably, to be on BoJo Johnson, the latest prime (un)mover of Ukania’s protracted and bizarre Brexit ordeal.

BoJo also draws attention for his antics, gaffes, endlessly contradictory hot-air pledges, and torrid love life.

By contrast, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, comes across as a benign and slightly eccentric grey-bearded uncle, quite unlike BoJo’s persona as an overweight, tousle-haired and preening lothario of the kind any decent or self-caring person (women especially!) would keep well away from at a family reunion.

None of this stops the rightwing tabloids from resorting to fiction when depicting Corbyn as a sinister and wacko figure who supports or keeps company with Palestinian and IRA terrorists, insurrectionists (he was arrested outside the South African embassy calling for the release of Nelson Mandela), “antisemites” (Palestine will be recognized as a state if he becomes PM), peaceniks (he opposes the renewal of the Trident nuclear missile programme), anti-monarchists (he supports the abolition of the monarchy), vegetarians who grow their own vegetables (as does Corbyn), environmental activists (Labour supports the Green New Deal), and so forth.

For crying out loud, Corbyn even had the gall to denounce the coup against Evo Morales, and meet with that yacht-hitchhiking uppity teenager Greta Thunberg!

Labour has not yet released its election manifesto, but as has been clear since Corbyn became its leader, the party is committed to overturning the neoliberalism entrenched solidly in Ukania since the Tory and New Labour premierships of Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, and David Cameron and his two successors as Tory leader, that is, from 1979 until now.

Labour’s election manifesto is likely to have the following key elements:

+ Labour will introduce “sector-wide collective bargaining” across the economy. To quote The Guardian:

“Laura Pidcock, the shadow employment rights minister, told the TUC congress in September that “sector-wide collective bargaining will set minimum and legally binding pay, terms and conditions for every employer and every worker in the sector”.

She added: “In practice, it means that rather than the employer having all the power to determine what your conditions and pay are at work, they will be legally obliged to enter into negotiation with your trade union – a giant step forward in rebalancing the unequal power relations that exist between worker and employer”.”

+ Labour’s proposal for a 32-hour work-week will be negotiated with the trades unions.

+ £10/$13-an-hour minimum wage for all workers will be introduced.

+ Labour will increase the top rate of tax to 50p/65c for workers earning more than £150,000/$193,000 a year.

+ £150bn/$193bn for schools, hospitals and housing

+ £250bn/$322bn of investment to prime the pump for a “green industrial revolution”

+ University tuition fees will be scrapped

+ Labour will hold another referendum on Brexit

+ A free and universal broadband service will be introduced, paid for by a new tax on media giants such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. (The UK ranks 35 out of 37 nations for broadband connectivity according to an OECD report, and while 98% of South Korean premises have full-fibre coverage, the UK’s figure is less than 10%.)

Labour will of course face the almost ritual “tax and spend” accusation from the Tories, but the force of this allegation will be mitigated by the fact that the Tories also propose spending increases in a last-ditch effort to play down the impact of austerity (albeit while cutting taxes for the rich— obviously taking a leaf from the Trump playbook where the latter is concerned).

Labour is still behind the Tories in the opinion polls, though it has been closing the gap steadily.

Brexit continues to be the elephant in the room for all the main parties, and will have such a variable impact in different parts of the country that uncertainty until polling day is the only guaranteed outcome.

A major consideration where Brexit is concerned will be the degree to which Brexit-leaning voters in Labour strongholds are moved to abandon their party and vote for the Tories or Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

Media attention is of course focused on these Brexit-leaning Labour redoubts, and while in London last week I spent hours watching election coverage on TV. I saw people interviewed in one such working-class Labour constituency who voiced the dilemma facing the Labour-voting Brexiter: “I want Brexit, and so does my family, but no one in our family has ever voted Tory”. Anguish was written all over the face of this interviewee. Will these Brexiters bring themselves to vote for the class enemy on polling day in the hope it will bring them Brexit?

What these Labour-voting Brexiters obviously want is a left-wing exit from the EU (“Lexit”), which many on Labour’s left have wanted historically, including Jeremy Corbyn. This would be an exit from the EU managed responsibly and with attention to due process.

However, this Tory Brexit has been the opposite of a properly conducted exit from the EU: it has been managed by an assortment of crooks, liars, con artists, fanatics, fantasists, racists, nincompoops, useful idiots acting as surrogates for “dark money” interests, and of course the usual troop of careerist politicians.

Add to the above the palpable sclerosis of Britain’s political system, and we have the beginnings of an explanation for the Brexit fiasco.

The next week of campaigning will see the televised debate between BoJo and Corbyn.

Also televised will be a show belonging to a different genre, with BoJo’s squeeze from a few year’s ago, Jennifer Arcuri, hinting that she may lift the curtains on what went on between them in a television interview.

We know that BoJo diverted public funds to her business, and that she accompanied him on trade missions while he was mayor of London, despite not being qualified to do so.

A chagrined Arcuri says that BoJo no longer takes her calls, making her feel like “a one night stand”. Hopefully this will envenom what she says about the former mayor of London.

BoJo’s first full week of campaigning has been a gaffe-filled parade, and his meet-the-people events have seen the proverbial middle finger raised in his direction nearly every time by hostile members of the public.

The media have started to ask questions about BoJo’s “relatability” when he meets the public, since he makes it quite clear he’s there entirely for the cameras and the ensuing photo ops. Even when he visits the site of a disaster, the people he encounters are made to feel like props for the Great Boris Johnson Progress Across Britain.

BoJo’s handlers will probably have to come up with new ways to improve their candidates “relatability” for the rest of the campaign—a tough ask, given his unquenchable narcissism.

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‘The world stands disgraced’ – Nazi regime shelling of school kills at least 15


Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Only in Gaza can the world look the other way while a neighbor systematically murders unarmed persons almost daily. Jewish power over the press hides acts like this one from all but a few of us, while US presidents, one after another, look the other way. Worse yet, our current one, and those who support him blame the killings on the unarmed victims.

But lately, those of us who stand with the victims have a new ally we could not count on 17 years ago, when this writer visited Gaza, saw and filmed Nazi murder raid from my rooftop in Gaza city. The United Nations is no longer remaining silent, nor is the London based Guardian who brings us this tragic story.

Peace must start where war is being ignored, in our American churches. We will continue to expose the silent complicity of our church leaders, as we have done since I watch Gazans being murdered by Nazi flying US Apaches, firing Hellfire Missiles on unarmed people. [Ed.-CEC]

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World Jewish Congress: Billionaires, Oligarchs, Global Influencers for the Nazi regime

World Jewish Congress: Billionaires, Oligarchs, Global Influencers for Israel
Dozens of Secret Service agents gathered to protect billionaires, politicians, global influencers, & diverse glitterati at the 2019 gala for the World Jewish Congress… there were oligarchs from Russia, ambas- sadors from the Ukraine, & dozens of inner circle investors. The Theodor Herzl Award was presented to Niki Hayley; previous awards went to the Rothschilds, Joe Biden, & Henry Kissinger… all there to support Israeli oppression of PalestiniansRead more
Mohammad Salama SawarkaNovember 22, 2019: Mohammad Salama Sawarka, 40, died from serious wounds he suffered when Israeli soldi- ers fired a missile at the family home, on November 14th, 2019, killing eight family members, including five children. The health Ministry identified the slain Palestinian man as Mohammad Salama Sawarka, 40; he was seriously injured at dawn on Thursday, November 14th, when the army …Read more
UN Report On Israeli Settlements Speaks Truth,

World Refuses To ListenThe latest UN Report states Israel’s “civilian set-tlements” in occupied territory are a breach of the Fourth Geneva Con-vention and a “war crime” under the Rome Statute. The report says the world should “take the necessary steps to collectively construct a list of effective countermeasures…”Read more

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, CampaignsComments Off on World Jewish Congress: Billionaires, Oligarchs, Global Influencers for the Nazi regime

Gideon Levy: ‘Israel’s massacre of family is a war crime’

Gideon Levy: Israel’s massacre of family is a war crime

Palestinians attend the funeral procession of members of the al-Sawarkah family who were killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike on Deir al-Balah, Gaza, November 15, 2019. Credit: AFP

Had the IDF wanted to, it could have known exactly who was inside the shack it targeted in Gaza. But it didn’t care, and now a little girl is left alone in the world.

by Gideon Levy, reposted from Ha’aretz

Anyone who bombs houses from a fighter jet in the middle of the night without checking who is inside is a war criminal. Whoever claims they did not intend to kill the nine members of the Palestinian al-Sawarkah family is trying to mislead and wash their hands of it, but their hands are not clean. They are dripping with the blood of innocents.

Maybe they did not intend to murder nine people in their sleep – five of whom were children and among them two infants – but they certainly did not do everything in their power to not harm them. No excuse will serve to justify the actions of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli intelligence and of course the Israel Air Force pilots.

The audacious statements by Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi are an outstanding example of apathy and the loss of humanity: “Such things can happen,” he said innocently. Maybe his statement was a reference to one made by former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who said that “it’s like a light bump to the wing of the plane” when he was asked what he felt when he dropped a bomb that killed innocent civilians.

Not a word of guilt, not a sentence expressing regret, no acceptance of responsibility, no apology. Of course there’s no point in talking about compensation, because the army doesn’t see those who died as important. The IDF is the most moral army in the world, and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are terrorist organizations. And those who kill nine helpless civilians sleeping in their own beds in their own home – what should they be called?

What else needs to happen so that Israelis begin to understand that their so beloved and admired IDF is a brutal army that has lost all of its inhibitions and that Gaza is not a target bank. That an army that invented a wanted man who never existed in order to justify the killing of a family is a sick army. That it’s impossible to strike Gaza with fighter jets without killing innocent people. That there’s not a single place in the densely populated enclave without civilians who don’t have any shelter for salvation, no rocket alerts sirens and no Iron Dome defense systems. That Gaza is not just a hornet’s nest and home to terrorist compounds, but first and foremost a horribly crowded home to miserable people subject to the Israeli occupation that has never ended in the Strip.

Fourth and fifth generation refugees, who Israel imprisoned 13 years ago in the largest cage in the world and expects them to sit quietly, surrender and throw rice at the planes bombing them and at the fence that imprisons them.

palestinians pray over bodies of those killed by Israel
Palestinians pray next to the bodies of members of the same family who were killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah. Credit: AFP

The revelations that keep one from sleeping reported by Haaretz’s Yaniv Kubovich on Thursday join Kubovich’s November 15 report, describing the chain of events in Deir el-Balah in their entirety: An unbelievable reality in which the army bombs targets without checking what, and more importantly who, is inside.

Now it is no longer just a mistake, now it turns out that not checking is routine. Pay attention to the hair-raising phrasing used in statements issued by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit: “Incriminating the house,” as if the house can be incriminated. “Validating the incrimination,” as if it is a bus pass, and of course “target bank.” Whoever sees a disaster-stricken place as a “target bank” cannot avoid killing sleeping infants.

The notion that the IDF’s Intelligence Corps, which knows the color of the underwear of every Iranian nuclear scientist in Fordow, doesn’t know to check who is inside a shack in Deir el-Balah before bombing it is of course ludicrous. If the army had wanted to, it could have known exactly what and who were in the meager shack. But it simply wasn’t important enough for the IDF. First you drop a JDAM smart bomb on a tin shack in a ‘fire and forget’ attack, and then you check.

But this turned out to be a forgettable, unimportant and uninteresting incident. Most Israelis didn’t hear about what happened on their behalf in Deir el-Balah, and they don’t care. Save Haaretz, the Israeli media almost didn’t report on what happened on the day after the attack. Readers of the free daily Israel Hayom did not hear that the army killed nine people, while the readers of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth needed to work hard to find the article. Such a massacre is not appropriate for the front page of the former “national paper.” In any case, the military correspondents, most of them the most grotesque in the Israeli press, were busy describing the IDF’s combat fitness championship.

classmates remember children killed by israel
Palestinians pray next to the bodies of members of the same family who were killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah. Credit: AFP

“It was a simple target, where civilians were not supposed to be,” explained the army’s propaganda mechanism. And once again the Arabs are to blame for their own deaths. They shouldn’t have been there. And where should they be? In the sea? In the air? “We act meticulously,” said Halevi, giving lying a bad name. “Black Belt” is the name the army gave the operation in Gaza, more daring than ever before, with a black flag waving over it.

And what about Nariman? Who cares about Nariman? Nariman al-Sawarkah is a 10-year-old girl from the shacks who didn’t have a present or a future. On the night of November 14, 2019, Israel Air Force pilots killed her mother, father, three brothers, her uncle, aunt and two little cousins. Nariman was left alone in the world. The head of the Southern Command said such things can happen. Such things need to be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.


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