who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
| "Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Last Gasp of American Democracy
3. The primary NSA issue isn't privacy, it's
Obama claims the NSA has never abused its
5. The left is too silent on the clunking
fist of state power
6. It's a scandal drug trial results are
still being withheld
This is again another crisis file, on the sixth day of the new year. It
also is the - so far - longest file of this year.
The Last Gasp of American Democracy
To start with, an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig :
This starts as follows, and is
a very good article:
This is our last
gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and
obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of
the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this
seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do
so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives.
I am afraid Chris Hedges is
quite right, though I should add that, very probably, for the majority
- if they have a job - it will not feel like that, for
the majority seems to have mostly accepted the bullshit the
thousands of advertisements they see every day teach them: That
they are proud and independent consumers, who are free to buy all the
best products, and who are free to watch television, and free to dream
that they too may become millionaires, like their betters.
That is - and see note 
- the great majority just lacks the intelligence or the education to
see through the lies and deceptions
they meet everywhere, and instead either proudly believe the lies and
deceptions they are fed or else acquiesce - possibly halfheartedly - in
the belief that protesting will harm them (which will soon become quite
realistic, if the NSA has its way).
Hedges's second paragraph reads thus:
The public debates
about the government’s measures to prevent terrorism, the character
assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by
the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage
of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the
capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability
to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any
state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is
totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it
will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its
corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular
movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate
masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into
Yes, indeed - and note that
there is an enormous amount of political
history that supports Hedges, which I add, because his ideas will
not be very popular (in fact, as often, because the truth often is
painful, and therefore rejected).
Here is part of the third paragraph:
If we do not
immediately dismantle the security and surveillance apparatus, there
will be no investigative journalism or judicial oversight to address
abuse of power. There will be no organized dissent. There will be no
independent thought. Criticisms, however tepid, will be treated as acts
Yes again. Further down, there
The object of
efficient totalitarian states, as George Orwell understood, is to
create a climate in which people do not think of rebelling, a climate
in which government killing and torture are used against only a handful
of unmanageable renegades. The totalitarian state achieves this
control, Arendt wrote, by systematically crushing human spontaneity,
and by extension human freedom. It ceaselessly peddles fear to keep a
population traumatized and immobilized. It turns the courts, along with
legislative bodies, into mechanisms to legalize the crimes of state.
Indeed - and the present US is
surprisingly far down that road. So far, I have only quoted page one of
two pages. The other page is on something that is fairly recent on
Truthdig: Everything is printed by itself, in one small column, without
any intersections (that is, without empty lines). I do not
understand why this happens, because it is considerably harder to read.
But page 2 is, apart from its editing, also a good page, of which I
will only quote the end:
The structures of
the corporate state must be torn down. Its security apparatus must be
destroyed. And those who defend corporate totalitarianism, including
the leaders of the two major political parties, fatuous academics,
pundits and a bankrupt press, must be driven from the temples of power.
Mass street protests and prolonged civil disobedience are our only
hope. A failure to rise up—which is what the corporate state is
counting upon—will see us enslaved.
I am afraid this is how it is,
though I can assure the silent majority that most of them probably will
survive, at least initially: It's "only" the more intelligent
and the strongly moral that will disappear forever, probably without
trial, without judge and without a jury.
But you may not believe me, or think I am too pessimistic. Here is some
2. The NSA files
Next, a reference to what must
be the best collection of NSA files, by the Guardian:
This is a really good collection of many files
and many references, that can keep you reading for a long time. A part
of it was quoted in the last half year in my Nederlog, but it
turns out that a far larger part was not.
In any case, this is a major reference, about which I have no complaint
(except that my Firefox refuses to show all of the opening page: it
sticks in 4.1 and doesn't show more, though I can copy all of the text
(that extends to 5.4) to my html editor).
Apart from that (which may just be my Firefox): A great reference!
3. The primary NSA issue isn't privacy,
Next, an article by Jeff Jarvis
in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
To this I'd like to say that both
privacy and authority are involved, and indeed quite a few more things,
and also that the one thing that I have learned from the several court
cases that I conducted myself , and won, is that
"the law" falsifies everything it touches, and does so by
trying to reduce every judgment to jurisprudence, that is, to conform
to earlier decisions by judges in similar cases.
I celebrate Judge Richard
J Leon's opinion
that the government's mass collection of communications metadata is
"almost Orwellian", and I decry Judge William H Pauley III's decision
that the NSA's collection is both
effective and legally perfectly peachy.
But I worry that the
judges, as well as many commentators and Edward
Snowden himself, may be debating on the wrong plane. I see some
danger in arguing the case as a matter of privacy because I fear that
could have serious impact on our concept of knowledge, of what is
allowed to be known and thus of freedom of speech. Instead, I think
this is an argument about authority – not so much what government (or
anyone else) is allowed to know but what government, holding unique
powers, is allowed to do with what it knows.
Note that there is a good reason for this, namely to have similar cases
have similar legal outcomes - but "similar in law" may not at all
be the same as "similar in fact", and anyway the matter is different
in a court of law from what it is in real life, while also the
law itself may be unreasonable, in which case the matter gets even more
In fact, here is an example, from the same article:
Yet we continue to
hold the NSA debate around whether communications metadata is public or
private. In the past, such data was presumed to be public because once
it was known by a third party, it could no longer be claimed as
private. The information on an envelope – metadata to the contents
inside: sender and recipient – must be known by a third parties along
the way, mail carriers and sorters, to get to its destination. So it is
not private. This same theory was applied to the telephone as the phone
company has to know who's placing and who's receiving a call to
complete it. Thus the government says it can seek such public
information without affecting privacy.
This seems to suggest
(it certainly doesn't deny) that the meanings of "metadata", "public"
and "private" all are settled, and indeed have been settled by
courts. But the whole construction of:
In the past, such
data was presumed to be public because once it was known by a third
party, it could no longer be claimed as private.
is totally artificial
The "presumption" that the addresses of those I mail to (in an ordinary
mail) must be "public" is extremely odd - it is like saying
that my discourses with my doctor or lawyer about my own health
or my own court case "must" be "public" because these
persons are other than me. That presumption is as crazy as the
"presumption" about addresses.
A similar confusion occurs later on:
Think of privacy
this way: when I tell you something about myself, that fact is then
public to that extent. What happens to it is now out of my hands; it is
But why should I
think of privacy in such a stupid and unrealistic way?! It all depends
on who you are, and what relationship I have with you:
Are you my wife, my child, a good friend of years standing, my own
doctor, a friend I didn't see for 20 years, someone I met in a bar, or
a journalist out for copy? Did we make arrangements on sharing of
information? Are "you", whoever you are, completely free to do with
what I told you, quite as you please? I think there are quite a few
I'd say that in each of these cases, what we tell these "yous"
is different, as is the presumption that it is "public"
"because" I told it to some specific person.
In any case, there is a lot more in the article, but most of it is not
very clear, and it certainly does not establish its title.
4. President Obama claims the NSA has never
abused its authority. That's false
Next, an article by Trevor
Timm, in the Guardian:
This starts as
Time and again since the
world learned the extent of what
the NSA was doing, government officials have defended the
controversial mass surveillance programs by falling back on one talking
point: the NSA programs may be all-powerful, but they have
never been abused.
President Obama continually
evokes the phase when defending the NSA in public. In his
end-of-year press conference, he
reiterated, "There continues not to be evidence that the [metadata
surveillance] program had been abused". Former NSA chief Michael Hayden
says this almost weekly, and former CIA deputy director and NSA
review panel member Mike Morrell said
it again just before Christmas. This mantra is likely to be
repeated often in 2014 as Obama is set to address the nation on
government surveillance, and Congress and the president debate whether
any reforms are necessary.
There's only one problem:
it's not true.
Trevor Timm is the
executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and
he has little trouble to show that what he says is true, that is, that
Obama lied, and lied knowing that he lied.
And he does so by appealing to what is now known about the FISA-courts:
court opinion (pdf) about the NSA collection of American internet
metadata, the court accused the NSA of engaging in "systemic
overcollection" for years, and that "'virtually every [metadata]
record' generated by this program included some data that had not been
authorized for collection". The judge listed the government's "frequent
failures to comply with the [surveillance program's] terms", excoriated
them for their "apparent widespread disregard of [Fisa court imposed]
restrictions", and accused the NSA of committing "longstanding and
pervasive violations of the prior orders in this matter".
Answer: It does not. But
this will not prevent president Obama of further lying, for indeed his
main principle is "Trust me!" - which one cannot do, not as a matter of
governments lie and nothing they
say should be believed." I.F.
Stone) and not in his
quite dishonest specific case either.
Does that sound like an
agency that has never abused its powers?
Here is a bit from the end of the article:
Yes, indeed - although
to me it is fairly clear "why
we're quibbling over whether or not the government truly abused the
data it has": Because the
government spokespersons like it that way.
With all that said, it's
unclear why we're quibbling over whether or not the government truly
abused the data it has. The programs themselves are an abuse. A primary
reason the founding fathers declared independence from the British was
in protest of "general warrants" – the idea that the police could seize
everything in a given neighborhood, only to go through it afterwards
and find the criminal.
The Fourth Amendment
requires particularized, individual court orders, and as long as the
NSA is collecting such a vast database on every innocent person in the
United States, and then searching it at their own discretion, they are
abusing our constitution.
5. The left is too silent on the clunking
fist of state power
Next, an article by
John Harris in the Guardian - and note this is about Great Britain:
I think the title is quite
correct, but also invites a suspicion: That the author sincerely
believes (more than not) that the present day political left in Great
Britain - post Tony Blair, post Gordon Brown - are in any way radically
different from the Tories, or Clegg's Liberals.
In my opinion, and with a few exceptions, they are not - and I
agree that is a major problem, and not only in Great Britain.
(The real left is mostly dead, and has been killed by Clinton, Blair,
Brown and their followers in other countries.)
Here is a bit from the beginning:
Large parts of
the welfare state increasingly look not like a safety net, but a mess
of traps, intended to enforce complete obedience under pain of
destitution. Doctors, nurses and teachers work to central diktat as
never before. And from the role of private firms in our penal and borders system to
the ties that bind the internet's corporate providers to government
(something at the heart of the storm over data collection, and now the
government's seemingly pernicious "porn filter"), it is increasingly hard to tell where
government ends and the private realm begins: what blurs the two is
effectively a shadow state, which gets bigger and bigger.
Yes, indeed. There also is
this, a bit later on:
If you doubt this,
consider what the essential functions of the modern state look like to
any politicised person under 30. The state comes to the rescue of banks
while snatching away benefits. It strides into sovereign countries, and
commits serial human rights abuses. It subjects doctors, nurses and
teachers to ludicrous targets. It watches us constantly via CCTV, and
hacks our email and phone data. It farms out some of its dirtiest
business to private firms. This is not a vision of modern government
invented by the current lot: in Britain, it decisively came to life
thanks to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Whether knowingly or not, they
demonstrated an essential modern truth: that contrary to the vanities
of the "free market", neoliberal capitalism needs the big centralised
state to clear its way and enforce its insanities.
Again: Yes, indeed. (And Tony
Blair currently is worth 20 million pounds, it seems: There was
a rosy "new dawn" for him. But for very, very few of his
Anyway, there is a considerable amount more in the article, of which I
only quote the last line:
politics of the left will either be pluralist, localist and
libertarian, or it will shrivel.
Then I suppose it will
shrivel, because so much of the left has been against pluralism and
libertarianism, even if - as the Dutch social democrats - they have
been formally in favor of it.
In any case, I have hardly seen a credible leftist since 9/11
at the latest: Almost everyone who acted "the leftist politician" did
so for personal power, money and status.
It's a scandal
drug trial results are
still being withheld
article by (of all people) Ben Goldacre, in the Guardian:
Before saying a little
more about Ben Goldacre, I will quote the subtitle or epigraph of his
article, that is fair and true enough - and the boldings are mine:
Doctors like me
can't give an informed view on the benefits of any treatment,
let alone Tamiflu, because drugs firms aren't publishing all the
That subtitle (or
epigraph) is indeed where it's at with modern medicine:
It ceased being a real science, and has become a pseudoscience,
for quite a few reasons of which two important ones are that these days
the drugs firms own the data, and publish preferably only what supports
their products, and because the drug firms ghostwrite many articles
that are published under the name of well-known doctors, so as to have
better support for their products. In both cases, the main motive is money,
and indeed very much money: Drugs firms make billions of
dollars a year, and are willing to share with cooperative doctors.
Here is the second paragraph (again with my bolding added)
give you a fully informed view on the benefits of any
treatment, let alone Tamiflu, because the results of clinical
trials are being routinely and legally withheld from doctors,
researchers and patients. As the committee pointed out, government
agencies around the world disagree on whether Tamiflu reduces your
chances of pneumonia and death, but we can have no idea who is right,
because we can't see the evidence. Astonishingly, in withholding this
information for five years, Tamiflu's makers, Roche, have broken no law
– and it is only an accident of history that this drug has become the
poster child for change.
Now about Ben Goldacre:
I know of him as a psychiatrist and a pupil of Simon Wessely, and as
the initiator of the Bad Science net. He styles himself - correctly -
as Dr Ben Goldacre, and is 24 years younger than I am. My main problems
with him are three: I don't think psychiatry is a real science; I don't
like Wessely; and what I've seen from Bad Science did not impress me.
(What I saw of it was mainly scoldings by the anonymous brain dead,
under the guise of "science".)
Then again, he is right about the corruption of medicine. Here is
another quote I agree with:
A 2010 review
article by the NHS's own research body summarises the results of a
dozen more studies on the same subject: this found that, overall, the
chances of a completed trial being published are roughly 50%. This
undermines our ability to make informed decisions on everything from
surgical techniques to drugs and devices. Unsurprisingly, trials with
positive results are twice as likely to be published as those with
negative results, so the evidence we do see is potentially biased.
Large studies from the past two years, chasing up results from huge
registries of completed trials, report similar results. Information isn't just passively left
unpublished: it is actively
withheld when requested by researchers.
And I also agree with
majority of treatments prescribed by doctors right now – the everyday
drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers and more that are taken
by millions – all came on the market over the past two decades, not the
past seven days. That is the era of evidence that patients need.
Here it should be
observed that the situation Goldacre sketched existed "the past two decades" - or indeed the past more
than three decades (for it started in 1980, with the DSM-III, even
though Goldacre - a psychiatrist - probably will deny that).
And I have to say that I do not much trust Goldacre: He does not
mention his own specialism psychiatry, though there are many
cases of very remunerative falsifications, deceptions etc. there, and
he also ends his article as follows:
Medicine relies on
evidence: future generations will look back on us tolerating withheld
results in the same way we look back on medieval blood-letting.
What he does not
mention is that modern medicine pretends and very often claims
to be "evidence based" - which is a lie, given this article.
Also, while it is hard to foresee or predict what "future generations"
will think, I certainly hope they will not be so stupid and immoral to
look upon more than two decades of selling out patients for profits
to the pharmaceutical companies, with a practice that wasn't very
harmful, and that was done in a pre-scientific time.
The current corruption of medicine is far more serious, and
also far more enriching for the doctors who do it, than any of
the medieval practices, for these days there are very good
reasons to publish all the data, which is not done because not
doing so makes the pharmaceutical companies and some corrupt doctors
P.S. Jan 7, 2014: Corrected a few
typos and added a few boldings and a link.
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
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.)
Actually I like the title "Truthdig" or "Truth Dig" (and I
don't know which is the correct spelling). The reason I like it is one
of the facts that taught me a whole lot about the morality of
average human beings, also if these average human beings are
professors and doctors very well employed at a university:
From 1978-1995, and indeed probably also from 1970-1995, but my
evidence starts in 1978, all of the staff of the University of
Amsterdam consented to the teachings handed down to them by
speakers for the Board of Directors that were literally these: "everybody
knows that truth does not exist" (so 2+2=22 and water never freezes
are as good as 2+2=4 and water freezes), and that "everybody know
that everybody is equivalent to everybody else" (so the Jews
murdered by Eichmann are the equivalent of Eichmann and their
These were taught by many, explicitly, in the terms I gave them, and
were used to open the academic year of 1978, in a public lecture by
professor M.A. Brandt.
I have heard no professor or doctor protest these totalitarian
idiocies - while the worst that could be done was that one would be
removed from university, as indeed I was, in 1988, after I publicly
addressed the faculty of philosophy, as an invited speaker, who asked only questions.
At the same time, I was cried out for "a fascist" and "a terrorist" by
at least 16 of the professors and doctors whom I had addressed - quite
a few who knew I am the son and grandson of communists who had
been convicted as "political terrorists" to the concentration camp by
the Nazis (or rather: by Dutch collaborating judges), which my
grandfather did not survive.
What I learned about the human average, also if these are professors
and doctors who teach in a free country, is that the great majority
consists of eager, conscious and proud collaborators of whatever power
that rules their incomes, which were in this case mostly the ideas
of the communist party in the University of Amsterdam between 1978 and
1991, a communist party that my father and mother were members of
nearly all their lives, and that I had been a member of from 1968-1970
(and then gave it up, totally also).
This also explains why I could easily see through the totalitarian
nonsense that nearly everybody consented to, quite often honestly.
So this is one of the most important things I learned: the great majority consists of eager,
conscious and proud collaborators of whatever power that rules their
incomes - for I do not believe the Dutch are all that different
from the non-Dutch; I also do not believe that professors and doctors
are all that different from non-professors and non-doctors; and besides
similar things happened in other countries, though in Holland things
were far more extreme because from 1971-1995 all the universities were
- formally - in the hands of the students, which was not so in any
other country, because in 1971 the minister of education decided that
the power in the Dutch universities was to be in the hands of a sort of
parliament called "the University Council", and the members of this
parliament were to be chosen, on the principle of 1 man, 1 vote, by the
students, the staff and the personnel of the university.
I am saying this because my experiences with the University of
Amsterdam have taught me a lot, which also could not have been
learned if I had another background
or had been less of an individualist or less of a believer in truth and
This is also why I am one of the very few who writes as I do: Nearly
every other Dutch intellectual lacks my background, lacks my
individuality - and has effectively sold out to the institutions that
provide their excellent incomes and safe "civil servant" status for
Essentially because I could not find any lawyer with a halfway good
intelligence, and also because none of the idiots I met wanted to do as
I told them. It certainly was not what I desired, for I was (and am)
ill, but I did win.
(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: