5. Online Life and Confrontation

Oct-05-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Confrontations in cyberspace? No! Read an amazing story of compassion from the Guardian, the backstory to Wikileaks; and why Assange is far from the end of the story, whatever his fate may be; and the look at the world of online debate, and why we aren’t all getting wiser (except for Tikkunista  readers.)

* “The Day I Confronted My Troll” The Guardian

When I left Twitter numerous people thought it was as a result of an overreaction on my behalf. That my departure was a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of “trolling” or “flaming” incidents or that I was attention seeking. The reality of the situation is that my wife and I were targeted for over three years.

It started in July 2009. I’d been on Twitter for over two years at that point, having joined in May 2007, and I’d never had a problem. My account was followed by a fairly innocuous looking one which I followed back and within 10 minutes I had received a direct message (DM) calling me a “Dirty fucking Jewish scumbag”. I blocked the account and reported it as spam. The following week it happened again in an identical manner. A new follower, I followed back, received a string of abusive DMs, blocked and reported for spam. Two or three times a week. Sometimes two or three times a day. An almost daily cycle of blocking and reporting and intense verbal abuse. So I made my account private and the problem went away for a short while. There were no problems on Twitter but my Facebook account was hacked, my blog was spammed and my email address was flooded with foulmouthed and disgusting comments and images. Images of corpses and concentration camps and dismembered bodies. 

* “This Machine Kills Secrets,” about Wikileaks   Boing Boing

Here’s the video trailer for my new book “This Machine Kills Secrets” about the history and future of anonymous information leaks. The book, which started when I interviewed Julian Assange in London two years ago, aims to trace how the Cypherpunk movement used cryptography and anonymity tools to alter the act of spilling secrets and bring create a world where anyone can leak secrets with impunity.

* The Hysteria That Threatens To Erode Public Debate Peter Beaumont The Observer

The internet, it was once claimed by theorists such as Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, was supposed to be democratizing and empowering, giving a voice to those marginalized by the elite of opinion formers dominating the media and politics. These days, even Shirky has moved to distance himself from that earlier utopian idealism, telling Journalism.co.uk three years ago he feared that he, like others, had got it wrong and that public pressure via the internet, far from leading to “democratic legitimation”, could be seen as “just another implementation layer for special interest groups”.

All of which leads to an inevitable question – whether our new developing public discourse, largely mediated online, has made our conversation more open, democratic and accountable? Or, instead, more fragmented and poisonous? Among the pessimists has been the US academic Cass Sunstein, who was early in proposing a more dystopian picture of how debate was being shaped online, noting a fundamental contradiction. “New technologies,” Sunstein has suggested, “including the internet, make it easier for people to hear the opinions of like-minded but otherwise isolated others.”

Aug 31st, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 29

Aug-31-2012 | Comments Off

1. Followups

Bird’s Eye: Two interesting pieces expand on last week’s Julan Assange: Tariq Ali looks at the wider conflict between South America and the 1st world, and Glen Greenwald looks at the visceral hatred many journalists have towards Assange. Canada plans to spend a billion on their own drones (Thank goodness! I was worried our gov’t would fritter away our money hiring nurses and teachers.) And we have two more pieces on the politics and music of Pussy Riot.

* Why Latin America backs WikiLeaks Tariq Ali Green Left Weekly (Thanks Linda)

And that Venezuelan model, in different ways, spread. It spread to Bolivia, it spread to Ecuador, it spread for a while to Paraguay [where elected president Fernando Lugo was overthrown in a parliamentary coup in June by forces aligned with large landowning interests], to Honduras [where left-wing president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a 2009 military coup]. It had a huge impact in Brazil.

And so we don’t have the world of the West now in many South American countries. What do they do? They have oil wealth, they have other sources of wealth. They don’t allow this wealth to go to the fat cats. They don’t allow it to go to bankers. They spend it on free education. They spend it on hospitals. They have created new universities free of charge for poor kids.

They refuse to follow the Western model where everything is privatised — including the armies and including the police force here. Everything is being privatised. The train services here are privatised, in South America they are trying to construct a new one. And so, these social — radical social democratic governments in South America are today — in my opinion — offering more social and human rights to their citizens than the countries of Europe, leave alone the United States.

* The Bizarre, Unhealthy, Blinding Media Contempt For Julian Assange  Glenn Greenwald  The Guardian

Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies) depends just so happens to have become – long before he sought asylum from Ecuador – the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class and the British “liberal” intelligentsia?

…When it comes to the American media, I’ve long noted this revealing paradox. The person who (along with whomever is the heroic leaker) enabled “more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime” – and who was quickly branded an enemy by the Pentagon and a terrorist by high U.S. officials – is the most hated figure among establishment journalists, even though they are ostensibly devoted to precisely these values of transparency and exposing serious government wrongdoing. (This transparency was imposed not only on the US and its allies, but also some of the most oppressive regimes in the Arab world).

But the contempt is far more intense, and bizarrely personal, from the British press, much of which behaves with staggering levels of mutually-reinforcing vindictiveness and groupthink when it’s time to scorn an outsider like Assange. On Tuesday, Guardian columnist Seumas Milne wrote a superb analysis of British media coverage of Assange, and observed that “the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.” Milne noted that to the British press, Assange “is nothing but a ‘monstrous narcissist’, a bail-jumping ‘sex pest’ and an exhibitionist maniac” – venom spewed at someone “who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything.

* Canadian Military Intends To Spend $1 Billion On Armed Drones Ottawa Citizen

Senior Canadian defence leaders pitched the idea of spending up to $600 million for armed drones to take part in the Libyan war shortly before the conflict ended, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.

And while the death of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi effectively ended the war and scuttled the Defence Department’s plans, the military has now relaunched its program to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can be outfitted with missiles and other bombs. According to DND documents the military intends to spend around $1 billion on the project.

* Pussy Riot Prove The Only Professionals In Sight  Michael Idov  The Guardian

The entire case was a triumph of amateurism on every conceivable level, as one participant after another forewent logic, law, and common sense in favour of personal grievances, knee-jerk responses and anger.

The Russian authorities took a marginal act of arty protest and, through sheer cruelty, made it into an international cause. (In covering the trial live, CNN and the BBC have broadcast what essentially amount to long infomercials against investing in, visiting and generally dealing with Russia.)

… The only professionals anywhere in sight are Pussy Riot themselves. From their name, perfectly pitched to both shock and attract the western media, to their instantly recognisable look; from their message (concise bursts of feminist agitprop with just enough of a tune to pass as a song), to their method of distributing this message via social networks; from their initial punk posturing in interviews, to their pointedly academic statements to the court, which no less than David Remnick called “a kind of instant classic in the anthology of dissidence”; these women, and they alone in this mess, know exactly what they are doing.

* Have Pussy Riot sparked a new wave of grrl power?  The Guardian

 For Distras, the Pussy Riot influence echoes the “riot grrrl” scene of the early 1990s, an underground feminist punk movement that originated in the US. Riot grrrl’s central message has been much debated, but can perhaps best be summed up as a mission to engender communities of supportive, creative women. Certainly, Pussy Riot’s abrasive, energetic sound has much in common with that of the original riot grrrls Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill.

Aug 24th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 28

Aug-24-2012 | Comments Off

1. Showdown over Assange: Run–In in London 

Bird’s Eye: Assange matters because Ecuador is standing up for him, with South America behind it. As South America has swung left and the US and UK have swung right, it was always clear a conflict would happen some day – but who would have guessed that an Aussie accused of rape in Sweden would be the touchstone? We have three articles on the hawkish feathers that have been ruffled, followed by a wonderful thought experiment discussing the best way for Assange to get out and escape. But this issue has become much bigger than the relatively minor accusations (while it’s called ‘rape’ in Sweden, it wouldn’t be rape in either Canada or the UK. And even rape doesn’t constitute ‘rape’ among Republicans in the US these days.)

* Assange and Wikileaks: The Basics   Ian Welsh

Assange has not been charged, he is wanted for questioning.  Sweden is refusing to question him in England.  I note that they have questioned a man accused of murder in another country. The way the case has been treated is vastly disproportionate to how people wanted for questioning about such a crime are usually treated.

Ecuador said they would hand over Assange under one condition: Sweden promised not to extradite him to the US.  Sweden refused. Sweden engaged in illegal extraditions on behalf of the US in the past, and handed people over to be tortured.  No one has gone to jail for those crimes.  Since no one was punished, I can’t see why Sweden wouldn’t do it again.  Certainly Assange would be a fool to take the chance, because if he winds up in the US he will be thrown into an isolation cell and treated in a way which amounts to torture.  This isn’t in question, the US has done it in other high profile cases.

Anyone who thinks this is just about sexual misconduct…. Yeah.

As for Assange, his long game is simple.  He will run, in absentia, in the next Australian elections.  He is more than popular enough to be elected.  Once he is an MP, he can’t be touched.

* How South America sees the Julian Assange Case  Atilio Boron   The Guardian

Since the end of the last century, the expression “rogue state” has become increasingly acceptable within international public discourse. Driven by US propaganda, the concept aims to demonise countries opposed by Washington by portraying them as global threats. However, in recent years, this argument has been turned against the White House. An alternative view is gaining traction – namely that the main rogue state of the planet and the greatest terrorist threat to world peace is none other than the United States, and it has the backing of the likes of eminent US intellectuals Noam Chomsky and William Blum, and the film director Oliver Stone.

Viewed from South America, the UK has done more than enough to share that accolade with its US cousins, and the attitude in Britain to Julian Assange is simply the latest example. The Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, reported that the British government transmitted to Quito an “explicit threat in writing that they may assault our Ecuadorean embassy in London if we do not deliver Julian Assange”.

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, later confirmed the threat, thus breaching the Vienna convention, which establishes the immunity of diplomatic headquarters, something that not even the bloodthirsty South American dictators Jorge Videla and Augusto Pinochet dared to do…. Worse still, London extended a welcome to Pinochet, but denies it to Assange. This regrettable moral double standard speaks for itself….It is a discouraging sign that the country which, in the mid-19th century, welcomed Karl Marx is now ready to deliver Assange to a country that administers the infamous Guantánamo prison camp, sends prisoners overseas in secret flights to be tortured elsewhere, and deprives alleged criminals of the most elementary right of self-defence.

* Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy Juan Cole Informed Comment

The British government’s menacing of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday morning, with its threat that its police might well come on to the embassy grounds to arrest wikileaks leader and fugitive Julian Assange, resembles nothing so much as the Iranian regime’s cavalier attitude to the supposed inviolability of embassies. To be sure, Assange does not himself have diplomatic immunity. But the ground on which the Ecuadorian embassy sits is considered in international law to be Ecuadorian territory, and breaching it is tantamount to an invasion.

…The British threats do a great deal to absolve Iran of its bad behavior toward embassies. British Foreign Secretary William Hague fulminated (with some justification) in November, 2011, that the Iranian authorities had “committed a grave breach” of the Vienna convention in neglecting to protect the British embassy in Tehran from being invaded by angry crowds of protesters on November 29.

…What exactly does the [pdf] 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations say? Here is the relevant language: Article 22 1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

* What is the most effective way for Julian Assange to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London and safely travel to Ecuador?   Quora

Hundreds of protestors in black hoodies, slip on Anonymous masks and storm the embassy steps to give Julian a black hoodie and an Anonymous mask.  Everyone then scatters.

3. Stratfor & Wikileaks

Mar-02-2012 | Comments (1)

Bird’s Eye: Wikileaks this week released 5 million documents from Stratfor, a right-wing research firm. Some chaff, but also some amazing stories. The first one is just mind-blowing.

* No Honour among Thieves Arms Merchants Ynet

WikiLeaks has released an e-mail exchange between employees of Stratfor, the US-based global intelligence company, which reveals Israel and Russia made a deal to swap access codes for defense and surveillance equipment.

According to the leaked document, Israel gave Russia the “data link codes” for unmanned aerial vehicles that the Jewish state sold to Georgia, and in return, Russia gave Israel the codes for Tor-M1 missile defense systems that Russia sold Iran. 

* Top 5 Stratfor Revelations Juan Cole Informed Comment

Wikileaks is publishing internal memos of the Stratfor security analysis firm. A few tidbits have emerged in these very early days, to wit:

1. Up to 12 Pakistani active-duty and retired officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew that Usama Bin Laden was in Abbottabad and were in regular contact with him. The Pakistani chief of staff is denying the report.

2. Dow Chemicals hired Stratfor to spy on activists in Agra who continue to protest over the Bhopal environmental disaster that blinded many workers and destroyed their health. I.e., Stratfor was not just doing analysis but was involved in private intelligence operations against civil society groups that had a right to protest.

3. Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, a former State Department official involved in counter-terrorism, lamented that in the old days the US would simply have assassinated Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez and Bolivian leftist leader Evo Morales. 

* Wikileaks’ Stratfor Dump Lifts Lid On Intelligence-Industrial Complex  Pratap Chatterjee Guardian

What price bad intelligence? …The most striking revelation from the latest disclosure is not simply the military-industrial complex that conspires to spy on citizens, activists and trouble-causers, but the extremely low quality of the information available to the highest bidder. Clients of the company include Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, as well as US government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Marines.

Analysts working on the Middle East for the company appeared to be very poorly informed, with no more experience than a semester of studying abroad, according to journalists who have studied the documents. “They used Google translate to read al-Akbar news articles,” says an incredulous Jamal Ghosn, associate editor of that newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon. “This is a guaranteed way for good intelligence to be lost in translation.”

Mike Bonnano of the Yes Men, a group of international pranksters who impersonate corporate executives and government leaders to highlight environmental and social abuses, was astonished to discover that his group was being tracked by Stratfor, which was apparently making money selling a list of his public-speaking engagements.

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