January 2, 2014

Crisis: Assange, Snowden, Congress, 2014, News, Judge, Sleep, Suicide

They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

Julian Assange rails against surveillance in Thought for
     the Day

2. Snowden affair: the case for a pardon
3. New York Times: Edward Snowden ‘Has Done His Country
     a Great Service’

4. Congress to the Unemployed: Eat Confetti
5. 2014: Seize the Moment
6. Happy ‘News Year’: Decline of the ‘News’
7. Merely an "Inconvenience": Judge OKs Border Search of
     Private Electronics

How Sleep Deprivation Decays the Mind and Body
9. When it's time to go, let me go, with a nice glass of
     whisky and a pleasing pill

About ME/CFS


This is the first fairly long crisis item of 2014. It doesn't consist only of crisis items, for the last two items are on the dangers of sleeping too little (which happened to me a mere seven (7) years in Amsterdam, because the municipal police - now happily defunct - rather saw me die than do their duty, and mayors and aldermen supported them to the hilt, and never even answered my letters or phonecalls) and a further one on the right of suicide, in the form of euthanasia, at least for the old, that I am quite in favor of. And while providing links to these, I have not quoted from the last two items. In case you are interested, you can check the links in this paragraph.

1. Julian Assange rails against surveillance in Thought for the Day

The first item is an article by Matthew Weaver in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has used the unlikely platform of the religious slot on the BBC's Today programme to condemn attempts by US and UK governments to acquire a "god-like" knowledge of citizens through mass surveillance.

Assange, who has been holed up in an embassy in London for more than a year, delivered a sermon about the importance of freedom of information, and liberating "hoarded knowledge", in an alternative Thought for The Day on the Today Programme.

He said disclosures by the security contractor Edward Snowden about the scale of mass surveillance by the US and UK security services had exposed how governments and corporations seek to "know more and more about us" while "we know less and less about them".

Assange, who has been granted asylum by Ecuador but faces arrest if he leaves the country's London embassy, was chosen to appear by Today's guest editor, musician PJ Harvey, who introduced him as a "person of great courage". She said he had "opened a door to freedom that ought to be the essence of democracy".

The reason Assange used "the unlikely platform of the religious slot" is that the British hardly allow him to speak to the public otherwise, and he was offered the opportunity.

Here is a summary of some of the things he said:

Assange cited Aristotle and passages from the Bible to claim backing for the idea that knowledge is power. "To be alive as a human being is to know, in the same way as it is to have a heart that beats," he said.

The WikiLeaks founder added: "To keep a person ignorant is to place them in a cage. The powerful – if they want to keep their power – will try to know as much about us as they can, and they will try to make sure that we know as little about them as is possible."

Quite so! There is more in the article, including some on the antics of the - quite possibly plain crazy - eager servant of the rich, Labour politician Austin, but these bits I leave to you.

2. Snowden affair: the case for a pardon

Next, an Editorial article in the Guardian:
This begins as follows:
In an interview with the Washington Post just before Christmas, Edward Snowden declared his mission accomplished. At first sight it seemed a grandiose, even hubristic, statement. In fact, it betrayed a kind of modesty about the intentions of the former NSA analyst. "I didn't want to change society," he explained. "I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

Mr Snowden – through journalists, in the absence of meaningful, reliable democratic oversight – had given people enough knowledge about the nature of modern intelligence-gathering to allow an informed debate. Voters might, in fact, decide they were prepared to put privacy above security – but at least they could make that choice on the basis of information.

That debate is now actively happening.

Yes - and see the next item, but also see item 6: There is a debate - but it is had by relatively few, and that seems mostly because most of the press has sold out, and produces "journalism" rather than real journalism. This is not the case everywhere, but it is the dominant tendency.

There is considerably more in the article that I skip, but I will not skip the end:

We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself.

Well...I hope so too, but I also think this is very unlikely. Even so, here is a bit more of the same:

3. New York Times: Edward Snowden ‘Has Done His Country a Great Service’

Next, an article on Truth Dig, about an article in the New York Times of January 1: This starts as follows:

The New York Times is kicking off 2014 by demanding clemency or a plea deal for Edward Snowden.

“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.”

That’s from an editorial published Wednesday, January 1st.

I say. I suppose this is a considerable advance over their columnist David Brooks' crazy antics of June, but "a plea bargain or some form of clemency" seems to me not much, given - as I think - the great good Snowden has done, which he also hardly could have done in another way.

4. Congress to the Unemployed: Eat Confetti

Next, an article by Amy Goodman in Truthdig: This starts as follows:
Is this really how we want to start the new year, by denying unemployment benefits to more than a million Americans who have lost their jobs? The bipartisan budget agreement passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama protects military spending, but promises to throw the most desperate in our economy into increased financial hardship, thrusting hundreds of thousands of families beneath the poverty line. The long-term unemployment rate is at the highest it has been since World War II, while the percentage of those receiving the benefits is at its historic low. Meanwhile, Wall Street bankers are popping the corks, celebrating a banner year for the stock market. As brokers await their bonuses, many more of the unemployed will head for the breadlines.

Quite so. There is considerably more in the article.

5. 2014: Seize the Moment

Next, an article by Senator Bernie Sanders on Truthdig: This starts as follows:

Congress has just ended one of the worst and least productive sessions in the history of our country. At a time when the problems facing us are monumental, Congress is dysfunctional and more and more people (especially the young) are, understandably, giving up on the political process.  The people are hurting.  They look to Washington for help.  Nothing is happening.

In my view, the main cause of congressional dysfunction is an extreme right-wing Republican Party whose main goal is to protect the wealthy and powerful.  There is no tax break for the rich or large corporations that they don’t like.  There is no program which protects working families – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, affordable housing, etc. – that they don’t want to cut.

But the Democrats (with whom I caucus as an Independent) are most certainly not without fault.

There is a considerably more in the article, indeed a sort of program, and it seems to me all quite good. But it is also true that Sanders is 72, and the only democratic socialist - probably in European terms: a social democrat - to be elected to Congress in six decades - which shows American politics is quite sick, not because I am a social democrat, for indeed I am not, but because in Europe there are very many of them, which strongly suggests there would be rather a lot of them in the US as well, if only the news were decent and fair.

Which leads me to the next item:

6. Happy ‘News Year’: Decline of the ‘News’

Next, an article by Danny Schecher on Consortium News:

This is from the beginning:

There are two news systems in America. The more prominent one is the official parody of journalism that represents most of what the mainstream – or what some call the “lame stream” – media offers. These are the “products” of an “official” news business, an industry under growing pressure from within and without to maintain a semblance of credibility with a global audience that now has many other divergent sources to rely on.

Yes, indeed. I can add that much of it arose in the last twelve years, under the combined pressures of losing many advertizers and the war started by the American élite under Bush Jr. and Cheney, though I guess much of the news in the US never was fair and decent.

This is from the middle:
News has become a publicity machine for those in power but also a shaper of the narratives and myths we live by. It is not surprising that two-thirds of the graduates of journalism schools find jobs not in news but in PR and lobbying firms. And many of the mainstream journalists function increasingly like stenographers, offering up only the news that they and their news executives consider fit to print while the audience increasingly turns away, or migrates to visual media and social media, abandoning most  “serious” newspapers and magazines all together.

Yes indeed - and not only in the US, but also elsewhere, such as in Holland, where I have given up on getting almost any decent news from any paper, since the total collapse of the NRC-Handelsblad as a serious paper in 2010 (when I had read the NRC for 40 years: I do know what I am talking about).

Also from the middle, but a bit further on:

Increasingly the news that has the most impact is the news satirizing the news. In many ways the Comedy Channel has become the most respected news channel, offering a hard-hitting take or a parody of a parody.

Yes, indeed - and see my: Should I've been a comedian? - which is of June 10, 2010.

There is considerably more in the article.

7. Merely an "Inconvenience": Judge OKs Border Search of Private Electronics

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
In a decision the ACLU says has "no silver lining," a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. government has the right to search the private electronic devices of individuals crossing its international border—even those of U.S. citizens—calling the possibility of having ones computer or phone taken and searched by authorities "simply among the many inconveniences associated with international travel.”

There's also this from the ACLU:

"We're disappointed in today's decision, which allows the government to conduct intrusive searches of Americans' laptops and other electronics at the border without any suspicion that those devices contain evidence of wrongdoing," said Catherine Crump, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the case in July 2011. "Suspicionless searches of devices containing vast amounts of personal information cannot meet the standard set by the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately, these searches are part of a broader pattern of aggressive government surveillance that collects information on too many innocent people, under lax standards, and without adequate oversight."

I deny that any government "has the right to search the private electronic devices of individuals crossing its international border", except on a decent suspicion of a probable criminal cause, and I think the federal judge who said that this is "simply among the many inconveniences associated with international travel” either is an utter idiot or was blackmailed.

But indeed, as I said last year in Crisis: No more Fourth Amendment I agree
with former vice-president Gore that these practices, and this judgment, are (I quote) "obscenely outrageous".

However, it seems to me considerably more probable than not that this is what president Obama wants.

8. How Sleep Deprivation Decays the Mind and Body

Next, the first of two items that are not about the crisis, but concern me. The first is an article Seth Maxon in the Atlantic:

This is a good and long article on the dangers of sleeping too little. I may return to it, and here only note the followinng three facts:

First, I have not had any of the experiences Maxon describes. Second, I have in total slept 7 years far too little in Amsterdam: In the early eighties, through the terror of a mad neighbor, and in the late eighties and early nineties, through living very close to 4 terraces of 3 cafés and 1 "coffeeshop" that were open to between 1 and 2 o'clock at night. Third, in the last period I totally collapsed, and have never since been the same as before, although I have slept decently since, because - after nearly 4 years - I got another place to live, where it was and is quiet and I have slept well (except because of my painful eyes, lately, but that too seems mostly past).

Finally, the main reason these many years of non-sleeping could happen is that the municipal police in Amsterdam (now defunct) consisted of sick sadists, who much rather worked for the drugs maffia than doing their legal duty to the public: In either case, I was told - many times also - that they would not do anything until after I was dead. They were supported by the mayors and the aldermen.

9. When it's time to go, let me go, with a nice glass of whisky and a pleasing pill

The second article is by Margaret Drabble (who is a writer, in her seventies) in the Guardian:

This is a good article on the right to die when you want to, instead of when the doctors, the parliamentarians, or the bishops want you to, generally after a lot of pain and misery, that they can't further prolong. I quite agree, but I don't see it happen fast, if at all.


[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.) 

About ME/CFS
(that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

       home - index - summaries - mail