10, 2014
Crisis: Obama's directive, McMillan, US propaganda, digital library
   "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

1. Obama Directive Makes Mere Citing of Snowden Leaks
     Punishable Offense

2. Remorseful Jurors Plea to Judge: No Prison Time For OWS

3. How the US Propaganda System Works
4. A World Digital Library Is Coming True!
About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of May 10. It is a crisis issue, but it is a Saturday, and I found only four items - or even three, if you say the fourth is not about the crisis.

Anyway here is a summary: Obama issued a completely crazy directive that forbids all government officials to even reference Snowden (or so it seems); the jurors wrote a plea to the judge who is going to punish Cecily McMillan, possibly to seven years imprisonment; there is a piece on the US propaganda system, that these days consists mostly of the big television corporations; and the last is a longish essay on a subjecr that may not belong to the crisis, namely that there is a chance there may be a world digital library (but also opposition, that only wants it for large profits for them).

1. Obama Directive Makes Mere Citing of Snowden Leaks Punishable Offense

The first item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In a new policy directive from the Obama administrative, national security and other government officials will no longer be allowed to publicly discuss or even reference news reporting that is based on "unauthorized leaks."
This must be because the Obama government is more and more growing into a fascist or a socialist state, as in the former Soviet Union: this is sick, draconian injustice. And in case you do not like my terminology: Neither do I, but I cannot find any other term that is descriptively adequate. (And see my Crisis: Hypotheses about the causes of the crisis that in fact is redacted a bit from December 25, 2012: Then I spoke of "corporate fascism", which is justified by the classical definition that "fascism" occurs when "the government is run by the big corporations".)

Here is Jon Queally, who continues the previous paragraph as follows:

President Obama once promised the American people that his administration would be the most transparent in history, but after years of fights with civil libertarians trying to obtain legal memos used to justify the president's overseas assassination program, an unprecedented pattern of prosecuting government whistleblowers, the targeting of journalists, and all the secrecy and obfuscation related to the NSA's mass surviellance programs made public by Edward Snowden, that claim is now met with near universal laughter, if not scorn, by critics.

Yes, indeed - and yes, he tricked me too, albeit not later than the summer of 2009, when I learned he kept open the concentration camp in Guantánamo rather than close it, which is one of the many false promises he broke, and that may be more meaningful for me than for others, because my grandfather was murdered in a German concentration camp and my father survived more than 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps, both because they were in the resistance, but were declared to be "political terrorists" by collaborating Dutch judges, who were never punished and were allowed to judge on after WW II was ended and over 1% of the Dutch population had been murdered, with their active collaboration. (Also see my Corrupt Dutch Supreme Court of Sep 30, 2012.)

Next, there is this:

According to the New York Times:

A new pre-publication review policy for the Office of Director of National Intelligence says the agency’s current and former employees and contractors may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.

Such officials “must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,” it says. “The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security.”

Failure to comply “may result in the imposition of civil and administrative penalties, and may result in the loss of security clearances and accesses,” it says.

First note the "and former employees" and second note "must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information" - and in any case, my own reaction to this ("must not use (..) unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information" including "news reports" is that government officials then must be little different from slaves who are forbidden to speak about what everyone speaks about - such as the stealing of everyone's personal data by the NSA.

No? Consider this:
Timothy H. Edgar, a visiting professor at Brown University, told the Times the ODNI directive is overly restrictive because (...) it bizarrely asserts that these people cannot even acknowledge the existence of a story that may have appeared on the cover of a major newspaper.

“You’re basically saying people can’t talk about what everyone in the country is talking about,” Edgar said. “I think that is awkward and overly broad in terms of restricting speech.”
I wonder how long it lasts until this policy is extended, first to journalists and next to everyone who has the luck to be born an American.

2. Remorseful Jurors Plea to Judge: No Prison Time For OWS Activist

The next item is an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

A majority of the jury that found Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan guilty of "felony assault" of the very police officer who she says sexually assaulted and brutalized her appears to be remorseful that the 25-year-old could spend up to seven years behind bars.

Nine of the 12 people who served on the jury have penned a letter to Judge Ronald Zweibel begging for a "lenient" sentence that avoids any prison time. The letter, obtained by the Guardian and dated Tuesday, states:

We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan. We would ask the court to consider probation with community service. We feel that the felony mark on Cecily's record is punishment enough for this case and that it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.

I like that. There also is this:

During McMillan's trial, the jury was not informed of the severe sentencing guidelines for the verdict, as is the standard in the United States, except for death penalty cases. Furthermore, they were denied key evidence throughout the trial.

McMillan's conviction on Monday shined an international spotlight on what critics charge is a failed "justice system" that routinely sides with police—no matter how bad their behavior, dismisses survivors of sexual violence, and criminalizes dissent.

And there is a considerably more under the last dotted link.

3. How the US Propaganda System Works

The next item is an article by Lawrence Davidson on Consortium News:

This contains the following:

Perhaps the grossest ongoing censorship of all is the culturally conditioned, narrow range of opinion fed to the vast majority of Americans by their own media. The differences in story lines and opinions in the “news” given by well-watched television channels such as ABC. CBS, NBC and CNN, or those of the nation’s major newspapers and news magazines, is minuscule.

One venue that stands out is Fox TV, and its “news” and opinion offerings verge on the mendacious. The narrow range of views offered creates a uniform background noise hiding most of what is at variance with the standard message. In other words, media practices constitute de facto censorship.

So well does this process work that it is probably the case that many news editors and broadcasters and most of the public taking in their reporting do not understand that their reductionism has rendered the constitutional right of free press ineffectual.

Yes, indeed. But is it "censorship"? That is, does it depend on instructions to toe the line or else be punished or dismissed?

I don't know, though I agree that (1) very much of the US media are very partial, very colored and exclude most persons and viewpoints that I like (also apart from my agreement or disagreement) and also (2) there is little real difference between the different television channels while (3) all do propagandize their viewers and also (4) give much less of the news than is helpful to make up the viewers' own minds, in a rational and informed way.

There also is this:

In a report issued late in 2013 by the Committee to Protect Journalists, President Barack Obama, a liberal within the U.S. political spectrum, has been accused of pressuring journalists to toe the line. He has done this by “attacking sources, conducting surveillance, creating a climate of fear, and prosecuting double the amount of cases for alleged leaks of classified information as all previous administrations combined.”

As a consequence the global index on media freedom issued annually by the conservative Freedom House alleges that in 2014 the U.S. suffered a sharp erosion of press freedom and the right of the citizen to know what his or her country is doing. The report cites “attempts by the government to inhibit reporting on national security issues” as a major reason for this situation.

Yes, though I would not call Obama "a liberal" (but I agree that term is used in widely varying ways). But I agree with the "sharp erosion of press freedom and the right of the citizen to know what his or her country is doing" in the U.S. (See also item 1.)

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, but I do want to quote the last two paragraphs:

The system is successful because all but a few people are culturally conditioned not to notice or care. Such a manipulative process as this at once helps keep societies cohesive and at the same time creates the conditions wherein hate is easily bred and vast numbers are made willing to charge enemy machine guns.

Those who see through their conditioning and manipulation are, if you will, cultural mistakes. They are also the human race’s best, albeit slim, hope for a saner, more tolerant world.

Yes, indeed.

4. A World Digital Library Is Coming True!

The next item is an article by Robert Darnton on The New York Review of Books - and no, it is not precisely a crisis item, though it could be fitted in the categories I use for the crisis:

This is a longish essay, that I liked (though I generally do not have much of a liking for the literary style of the  NYRoB, I must add [2]) and from it I will quote only two bits.

The first bit might well have been used as its epigraph, but it isn't, and I plucked it from halfway through the text:
The public pays twice—first as taxpayers who subsidize the research, then as taxpayers or tuition payers who support public or private university libraries.
And that is just the problem, or at least part of it: I generally these days avoid the group of professional thieves that call themselves "Springer", after having quite a few times met my questions whether I could read this or that bit of mathematics or logic that anyway very few read, and that were all produced on tax money, with the demand that I first fork over $ 37,50 to them, per article - which is utterly absurd: I do not have the money, and if I had the money I would still refuse to pay these extortionate demands.

The second bit is this, which does address part of the problem, and also clarifies it:

Consider the cost of scientific periodicals, most of which are published exclusively online. It has increased at four times the rate of inflation since 1986. The average price of a year’s subscription to a chemistry journal is now $4,044. In 1970 it was $33. A subscription to the Journal of Comparative Neurology cost $30,860 in 2012—the equivalent of six hundred monographs. Three giant publishers—Reed Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, and Springer—publish 42 percent of all academic articles, and they make giant profits from them. In 2013 Elsevier turned a 39 percent profit on an income of £2.1 billion from its science, technical, and medical journals.

All over the country research libraries are canceling subscriptions to academic journals, because they are caught between decreasing budgets and increasing costs. The logic of the bottom line is inescapable, but there is a higher logic that deserves consideration—namely, that the public should have access to knowledge produced with public funds.

Yes indeed - and Elsevier was doing it already in the 1960ies, when I worked for them: This is plain extortion, which is the worse because it lives from science that is produced from the tax payer money, and because type-setting - that was important in the days prints were made from lead, also for mathematics - is not a problem anymore, and cannot be a major cost.

Anyway... there is a lot more under the last dotted link, though I should say I find the title of the piece rather optimistic: I doubt I will see it happen during my life. (But I did like the news that a New York Federal Court has blocked Google's attempts to get all of the non-copyrighted literature effectively in their hands in 2011, on the - wholly correct - ground that it made it a monopoly.)

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that 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 one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2] Why, you may ask. Actually, I don't really know, also because it plagues many authors, since many decades also, and it is the reason I rarely read the NYRoB since the 1960ies. I suppose in the end it derives from the desire of the authors to write a lterary style and getting the space for it, that then gets combined with various degrees of inability to do so: A few can do so, some can do it a bit, and many just get pretentious, allusive, condescending, bombastic, obscure or simply in-group. Also, this is not just the NYRoB: I tend to meet it wherever the publication is American; where there is a considerable size for the publication; and where the writer has an academic position, and therefore it probably is based in part on the - totally mistaken - idea that "academics can write". No, they usually cannot. (And please note I have nothing against "a literary style", and would not object at all if the authors published by the NYRoB could write like Hazlitt.)

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 Komaroff

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)

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