[ot] latest community news from dl

Karl gmkarl at gmail.com
Mon Jul 5 05:14:15 PDT 2021

This is from a bit ago.  Hard to share something like this.

*Belarus*. My blog post last week includes a news blast that quickly
explains the situation in Belarus. I’d just like to add this week two
youtube embeds that provide more information from the Belarusian opposition
leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The first is just under six minutes in
length. It’s Tsikhanouskaya’s TED talk from November 2020 entitled “How to
be fearless in the face of authoritarianism.” She talks about how, to lose
fear of authoritarians, members of the public have to show up for each
other, by supporting one another, by attending rallies, and so on. It
reminds me a little of Gandhi’s autobiography, *The Story of My Experiments
with Truth*, the section where Gandhi describes how there’s a threshold
point where the public loses fear of being jailed. Once they no longer fear
jail, great things can be accomplished. I do think the jails in India
during his day were not mammoth in size and scope like U.S. prisons are
today, which makes a huge tactical difference. Still, the point
Tsikhanouskaya made last November is somewhat similar to Gandhi’s back
then. In order to lose their fear of authoritarians, people have to be very
strongly connected with each other and must stand up for themselves and
others. Being strongly connected with others doesn’t necessarily mean being
an extrovert or cooperating directly with others. You can be connected with
others via memories, re-reading old letters, having photos of loved ones,
connecting with nonhuman things such as houseplants, Nature, etc. You can
collaborate indirectly as in stigmergy
<https://georgiebc.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/stigmergy-2/>. Now, the
opposite of what Tsikhanouskaya (and Gandhi) say would be the attitude a
friend JG—– expressed to me several times, when he kept asking me why I
find whistleblowers worth reporting on. It was along the lines of, be
smart, don’t stick your neck out, that’s the only way to go through life,
else prison or other bad consequences. That attitude is also expressed by a
character in Ursula K. Le Guin’s story “The Finder.” Her novella tells of a
young man with special powers who, unusually, also has a strong sense of
ethics. Like his father, he works as a shipbuilder, but when he learns a
ship he’s tasked to build will be used by slavers, he no longer wants to be
complicit and tries to figure out a way to interfere with the ship’s
construction. Yet his father warns him: “You think I can turn the King’s
[work] order down? You want to see me sent to row with the slaves in the
galley we’re building? Use your head, boy!” I find JG—– and the fictional
father’s emphasis on “reason” and “logic” strange. Anyway, the father is
pointing out a tactical concern, that if either of them disobey, they’ll be
caught, and in fact, the protagonist, despite scheming a clever way through
the dilemma, does get caught for disobeying. So the tactical concerns do
matter. But it’s interesting how little, offline, I hear people discuss
ethical dilemmas beyond what to do in quarrels with friends (which are
important too). I think this is because people have become comfortable with
being essentially treated like zoo animals in cages, go to paid-job, sit in
desk, come home, watch television, go to bed, repeat. Inside, though, they
still have a spark wanting liberation; everybody does, and it just gets
suppressed to varying degrees in varying ways. So while showing people,
comfortable with their cages, something like this Tsikhanouskaya TED talk,
they find various ways of ignoring or changing the subject. Yet they
consume fiction where, for instance, the *Star Trek: The Next Generation* crew
goes around saving the day (in some episodes, anyhow). Imagine if a message
of despair, pleading for rescue, came from a planet, and listening to it,
Captain Picard just shrugged and said “Who cares? I’ll be in the Holodeck
pretending to be a detective, fuck them” and the Enterprise starship just
flies right past the pleading planet. Audiences would revolt. And yet they
accept the same of themselves and each other in real life. Fiction seems to
keep the spark alive, but then too often the spark doesn’t catch fire. We
don’t discuss this whole topic enough, I think, in the United States. The
second video is from 9 June 2021. It’s about 110 minutes long. It’s the
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing
<https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/us-policy-on-belarus-060921> on US
Policy on Belarus. The first 60 minutes or so consist of the US ambassador
to Belarus Julie Fisher talking with the foreign relations committee. From
about 72 minutes in, to the end, it’s primarily Tsikhanouskaya talking with
them, though some portions of the hearing focus on Radio Free Europe
president and CEO Jamie Fly. It’s annoying to hear the US senators wax on,
throughout the hearing, about protecting press freedom and civil liberties,
when the US abridges those domestically and elsewhere so frequently, but
simultaneously, the tankie position influenced by Russian state media that
anything the US supports — in this case, free elections replacing the
dictatorship in Belarus, Tsikhanouskaya’s chief goal — must be bad, is
parochial brain damage resulting from not seeing a globe with 190+
countries and shifting alliances beyond a 1960s Cold War bipolar order,
where any particular country can do horrible things and sometimes take good
positions also, if only out of self-interest. It’s like: rightwingers on
the northeastern Oregon airwaves insist the US is the uniquely best
country; tankies insist it’s the uniquely worst country, and neither really
engage with topics on their own merits. On June 21, joint sanctions were
the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States
against the Putin-protected Belarusian dictator Lukashenka. Of course,
while things look increasingly optimistic for Belarus and Tsikhanouskaya
now, things might go bad in the future, but hopefully not. In the Senate
hearing, Tsikhanouskaya concisely says “I would like to ask to add to the
record an expanded list of suggested steps on the situation in Belarus by
the US and other nations. These actions would help build up the momentum to
launch a transition to elections, exactly what Belarusians demand.
Otherwise, Lukashenka and other dictators around the world will feel
impunity to freely break international norms to crush their opponents.”
Ending impunity is the important point. My quick search didn’t turn up her
expanded list of suggested steps; anybody have a link for it, if it’s
available? If not, it’d make a good FOIA request. Also in the hearing,
Senator Chris Coons (R-DE) asks her “I’d be interested if I might, Ms.
Tsikhanouskaya, in hearing from you about how you assess the extent of
Russian influence in Belarus; how exactly it’s exerted; and how Russian
support of the Lukashenka regime is changing Belarusian civil society at
this time.” She answers: “At the moment, the Kremlin supports Lukashenka
diplomatically, politically, and, you know, financially somehow. But I have
to say, we want friendly relations with all the countries, including
Russia, and propaganda is trying to show us that we are against Russia but
this is not true. We are against dictatorship. And it depends on the
Belarusians which pathway they will choose in free and fair elections.” Her
reference to a pathway might refer to the Belarus-Russia union state
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_State>, but I’m not sure. I wish she
had said more, especially about that “you know, financially somehow” part!

*United States* – Current legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. In this news
blast, I’m mostly summarizing the analysis article “Are US ‘Forever Wars’
about to end? US House pushes to repeal the 2002 war authorization
by YAC.news <https://yac.news/>, as well as this Defense News article
 and this WaPo article
The US constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress. However,
that power began eroding in 1991 with the Gulf War-era Authorization for
Use of Military Force (AUMF). In 2001, following 9/11, a second AUMF was
passed — with only one federal legislator voting against, Barbara Lee
(D-CA) — that moved the power to launch wars from Congress to the
presidency, more or less completely. This legal magic was partly
accomplished by reams of paperwork that changed going after terrorists from
happening under a law enforcement paradigm to happening under a war
paradigm; in other words, instead of arresting terrorists, they became
military opponents. (Terrorists were occasionally military targets prior to
9/11, but usually they were considered law enforcement suspects, not
military enemies.) In 2002, a third AUMF was passed revolving around the US
plans to lead an invasion of Iraq because Saddam Hussein supposedly
possessed weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a US
government lie. So, three AUMFs, legally cited in the US as justification
for Bush II-era electronic mass surveillance, Obama-era drone strikes,
kidnappings, and torture, and Trump-era occupation of Kurdish-controlled
Syrian oilfields and assassination of Iran’s top commander Qasem Soleiman.
The AUMFs are the legalese-magic justification for the whole permanent war
thing, where US presidents are constantly sending JSOC special forces and
who knows who else (maybe these?
into whichever country, without having to explain it to Congress (who are
in theory the public’s representatives; in other words, the AUMFs provide
for the White House launching secret wars without having to justify them to
the US public). Some of my relatives were born shortly after 9/11, so the
United States has technically been at war, often secretly, in multiple
countries, against the vague noun “terror,” for their entire lives. Massive
Pentagon and spy agency budgets, Congressional legislators suddenly
discovering their own country has a thousand-something troops in, say,
Niger, and so on. All while the public is blasted with propaganda about the
need to unquestioningly worship soldiers, who agree to kill strangers based
on the orders of other strangers, sometimes trusting that this will all
somehow defend their loved ones, proof not much provided. So it’s pretty
remarkable that earlier this month, on June 17, the US House voted on a
bipartisan basis to repeal the 2002 AUMF. The 2002 AUMF is no longer
relevant since the Iraq war officially ended in 2011 and the Saddam Hussein
regime has not existed since 2003. The Senate is supposed to take up the
matter in mid-July; here are some more details
the upcoming Senate vote, with the thorny matter being getting enough votes
from Republican senators, who typically do love them some war. I’m seeing
divided commentary regarding how much repealing just the 2002 AUMF, with
the other two staying in force, would actually change things, but for sure
it’d at minimum be a good start, if only symbolically, to reigning in the
expansive and secretive White House war powers and returning to Congress
the authority to declare war, meaning launching a war has to once again be
debated publicly. Imagine that.
[image: The colorful photo is taken from atop a hill with yellowed grass
and green bushes. On this hill, a solitary green tree stands to the left.
Below is the Grande Ronde valley with the different colored rectangles of
agriculture. In the distance, blue mountains; above, blue sky and white
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: text/html
Size: 15917 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <https://lists.cpunks.org/pipermail/cypherpunks/attachments/20210705/bdb5b0c2/attachment.txt>

More information about the cypherpunks mailing list