February 11, 2014

Crisis: The Intercept, NSA, Obama * 2, Starkman, Zappa

   "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

crisis -Next  

Welcome to The Intercept
The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program
3. Is Obama Full Of It On Drone Strikes?
4. ACLU to Obama: No, You Can't Just Murder an American

5. Dean Starkman: How Lapdog Journalism Led to the
     Financial Crisis

6. Frank Zappa - The Biggest Problem In The World

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file. It's a bit special in that it welcomes The Intercept, which is a part of First Look Media, which is financed by Pierre Omidhyar and done by Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras. See the first two articles below.

Next, there is a video by TYT, that explains, quite clearly also, that Obama is full of shit when talking about drone strikes, followed by an article on the ACLU, who also has had it with the many arbitrary killings committed by U.S. drones. The fifth is a brief bookreview that seems to be about a sensible theme, and the last item is a minute of video of Frank Zappa from 1976, about "The Biggest Problem In The World" (the quality of the average mind).

That last item - a mere minute of video - is in Nederlog because I think more or less the same, and indeed also thought so in 1976, but I did not know Zappa had pronounced on it. Almost 40 years later, there are also a few consequences, of which I spell out only one.

Also, the present Nederlog got uploaded earlier than usual.

1. Welcome to The Intercept

First, an article by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and
Jeremy Scahill in The Intercept, that they founded with financial help from Pierre Omidhyar This starts as follows:

We are very excited to welcome everyone to The Intercept, a publication of First Look Media (FLM). The Intercept, which the three of us created, is the first of what will be numerous digital magazines published by FLM.

As soon as we resolved to build The Intercept, we set out to recruit many of the journalists whose work we have long respected and admired: those who have a proven track record of breaking boundaries, taking risks, and producing innovative, rigorous journalism.

We have assembled a team of experienced and independent journalists and editors (see our masthead here). Our central mission is to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable, and to do so, we will report on a wide and varied range of issues.

It surely is good news. It took them about three months, but since I do not know about modern internet magazines, I can't say whether this was fast.

They also say:

The Intercept has a two-fold mission: one short-term, the other long-term.

Our short-term mission is limited but critically important: to provide a platform and an editorial structure in which to aggressively report on the disclosures provided to us by our source, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. We decided to launch now because we believe we have a vital and urgent obligation to this story, to these documents, and to the public.

Yes, quite so. And about the other mission:

Our longer-term mission is to provide aggressive and independent adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues, from secrecy, criminal and civil justice abuses and civil liberties violations to media conduct, societal inequality and all forms of financial and political corruption. The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed, and they will be encouraged to pursue their journalistic passion, areas of interest, and unique voices.

We believe the prime value of journalism is that it imposes transparency, and thus accountability, on those who wield the greatest governmental and corporate power. Our journalists will be not only permitted, but encouraged, to pursue stories without regard to whom they might alienate.

This also is very important, for most papers and most media companies do not do this anymore.

Then again, I suppose everybody who reads this will read all of the story.

2. The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program

an article by Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

There is a lot more, which I trust you can read for yourselves. Besides, it is also the subject of the next item:

3.  Is Obama Full Of It On Drone Strikes? 

Next, a video by The Young Turks, who have as their text the previous piece:
As you can see, it is a long video (for TYT), but it is good. (And yes, president Obama is full of it.)

Also, since I assume that you will see this or have read all of the previous item, I  infer that I need not give more information.

4. ACLU to Obama: No, You Can't Just Murder an American Overseas

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
An Associated Press story published Monday cites unnamed U.S. government officials saying the Obama administration is considering its options for assassinating an American citizen it accuses of being involved in terrorism.

According to AP, "one U.S. official said the Defense Department was divided over whether the man"--said to be affiliated with Al-Qaida and engaged in alleged terrorist plots--"is dangerous enough to merit the potential domestic fallout of killing an American without charging him with a crime or trying him." However, the report continues: "the Pentagon did ultimately decide to recommend lethal action."

But the ACLU, which is fighting an ongoing legal battle with the White House over the CIA and Pentagon's use of drones and Obama's secretive assassination program, responded to the leaked details of the internal deliberations by issuing a serious warning against an attempted assassination.

“The government’s killing program has gone far beyond what the law permits, and it is based on secret evidence and legal interpretations," said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. "The targeted killing of an American being considered right now shows the inherent danger of a killing program based on vague and shifting legal standards, which has made it disturbingly easy for the government to operate outside the law."

Yes, indeed. Also, as to these "vague and shifting legal standards": One of the things you may have learned from either of the previous two items is that drone killings are in fact usually killings of those who are close to a certain cell-phone, whoever that may be.

Anyway - this is another article that I recommend you read all of.

5. Dean Starkman: How Lapdog Journalism Led to the Financial Crisis

Next, an article by - it seems - Aaron Cantú on AlterNet:
In fact, this is the review of a recent book by Dean Starkman, called "The Watchdog That Didn't Bark". I do not know who Dean Starkman is, but he is right about the following:

Starkman explains that heavier regulation in the past allowed the business press to be more adversarial because they could uncover information on corporate corruption via government reports. As business became less regulated throughout the 1980s, publications could no longer rely on public channels for insider information, and resumed the sort of affable ties with the business sector they had at their start.

In addition to deregulation, Starkman articulates two other reasons why the business press grew so uncritical of their reporting subjects in the last decade: The "stampede of the middle class into the stock market," which heightened demand for business insider intelligence among the public, and the changes induced by the Internet on the press's traditional revenue generating models, which decimated funds for investigative reporting (an expensive undertaking) and made publishers skittish about upsetting advertisers. 

It seems to me that the most important of these reasons is the second, that is "the changes induced by the Internet on the press's traditional revenue generating models". This certainly is the case in Holland, where I saw the NRC Handelsblad collapse between 2008-2011 from a decent paper for intellectuals that I read for 40 years, to an eager servant of Louis Vuitton and Mercedes Benz, who are served between trivia about Our Dutch Team in Sotchi.

6. Frank Zappa - The Biggest Problem In The World

Finally, something that I hadn't seen till today, although it is from 1976 (and one reason I did not see it is that I don't have a TV since 1970). It is by Frank Zappa; it appeared originally in some German program, for which reason it has German subtitles, and it takes less than a minute:

Because I mostly agree, indeed from before 1970, I first give the statement:
Let me explain something to you. You know what my idea of a good time is, ladies and gentlemen of the German nation, or whoever else is watching this stupid broadcast? My idea of a good time is: the biggest problem facing the world today is mental health. If everybody had good mental health, then all the other problems would be solved. Because in order to take care of mechanical and practical problems, you have to have the mental health in order to attack those problems. If people have motives that are not worthwile, then those bad motives are always going to creep into their activities. You see that every day from the way political people work. If people were just in the position of having their minds functioning right, then everything else would fall into line. Now that's where I am at, that's a dream. Now that is a dream that is probably not going to happen, but that is my dream.
I agree, except for one thing:it is not primarily about "mental health", which is difficult to define and only obscures the problem. It is about rational intelligence.

Next, it seems also to be the case - nearly 40 years later - that people in general just are not capable of getting into "
the position of having their minds functioning right", simply because they both lack the native intelligence and also did not have good, intelligent and honest parents. (If people in general were thus capable, it would have come out during these nearly 40 years, which surely were richer in the West and gave the people living there better chances than there were at any other time or place.)

However, I am willing to assume Zappa would agree to my restatements, although I am not certain - and besides, it also is over twenty years too late to ask.

There is a lot more I could say about the consequences of this biggest problem in the world, which is the average lack of rational intelligence, but in fact I did do so already in my
This is from 2002, and still seems quite good to me. Here is small quote from it:

If human beings were on average like the men and women whose ideas they claim to practise, the human world would be a very different place. Alas, it isn't - and one cannot blame the human average for not being like the intellectually or morally best, just as one  cannot blame the human average for neither being pretty nor smart: Thus they are born, and they never asked to be born, nor to be born with their limitations, appearance, needs and shortcomings.

However, if human beings on average remain as they have been these last 25 Centuries - say: per one genius a hundredthousand hooligans, cowards, hypocrites, fools, followers and supposedly decent average conformists - there soon will be no more human beings, for they will exterminate one another, very probably for the purportedly best of moral reasons. 

Indeed, with men like Clapper, Alexander, Hayden and Obama in power, it seems less likely there will be many human beings in a hundred years, and it seems more likely that if any survive, it will be in a very unequal "civilization" where the few have almost all, and the many are like their functional very well surveilled slaves, who proudly serve. (See Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".)

So I agree that one problem with this diagnosis is that it leaves little hope - but then that is what most really intelligent men had, or lacked, once they had overcome their teenage dreams: the vast majority is not intelligent, and instead is conformist, and that is the biggest problem of mankind.

But yes, it is also true that history never develops as any man thinks it does - and that may, perhaps, give a little hope.

[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)[2]

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
Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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