22, 2014
Crisis: NSA * 2, Senate, Obama, Conformity, Drones, Toddlers
   "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. NSA reform bill loses backing from privacy advocates
     after major revisions

2. Civil Liberties Groups Decry Neutering of NSA Reform Bill
3. Defense Department Refuses to Tell Senate Which
     Groups We’re At War With

4. Standing Up, One Year Later: President Obama’s Broken
     Foreign Policy Promises

5. Reasons for Intellectual Conformity
6. Why I Don't Want to See the Drone Memo
7. Doctors Prescribing Adderall And Ritalin To TODDLERS!

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of May 22. It is an ordinary crisis issue.

There are some interesting items, notably on the senate's powers and, especially, on conformism, that I liked a lot.

1. NSA reform bill loses backing from privacy advocates after major revisions

The first item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

A landmark surveillance bill, likely to pass the US House of Representatives on Thursday, is hemorrhaging support from the civil libertarians and privacy advocates who were its champions from the start.

Major revisions to the USA Freedom Act have stripped away privacy protections and transparency requirements while expanding the potential pool of data the National Security Agency can collect, all in a bill cast as banning bulk collection of domestic phone records. As the bill nears a vote on the House floor, expected Thursday, there has been a wave of denunciations.

“It does not deserve the name ‘USA Freedom Act’ any more than the ‘Patriot Act’ merits its moniker,” wrote four former NSA whistleblowers and their old ally on the House intelligence committee staff.

Yes indeed, to the last paragraph. As to the rest: It seems fair to say that the supposed "landmark bill" got the Obama treatment. That is, he and it got published, advertised, and elected as promising change, and when having him and it this all is shown to be mere propaganda for a Republican Lite president and a completely neutered bill, who simply does as Bush Jr. did, or indeed does worse and wants his complete population traced, tracked, spied upon and to have no more privacy of any kind.

As whistleblowers and former NSA officials Wllliam Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis and J Kirk Wiebe wrote:
“Much legislation has been exploited and interpreted by the administration as permitting activities that Congress never intended,” they wrote in a letter Wednesday to Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.
It seems part of the Obama magic that has been done to the bill, after it was made, was to introduce a new term of things that may be surveilled: An "address or device". I do not know whether addresses or devices yet have been declared "terrorists", but clearly they have no rights whatsoever.

Indeed, it is not only me and a few journalists who are skeptical:

A coalition of the US’s largest technology companies – including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, AOL, Dropbox, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn – warned that definition created an “unacceptable loophole that could enable the bulk collection of internet users' data”.

The coalition, which spurred attention in Washington with a December statement of principles for surveillance reform, announced it would not support the USA Freedom Act.

There is considerably more in the article, but it now seems as if every group that has any knowledge of surveillance has withdrawn its support. Well, except for one group, as the last paragraphs of the article makes clear:

Practically the only entity that lent its support to the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday was the White House.

“The administration applauds and appreciates the strong bipartisan effort that led to the formulation of this bill, which heeds the president's call on this important issue,” the White House office of management and budget said in a statement.

It still has Obama's support: He wants the total population surveilled.

2. Civil Liberties Groups Decry Neutering of NSA Reform Bill

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

This is the same topic as the previous item, and it starts as follows:

Civil liberties organizations say they can no longer support a National Security Agency reform bill—the USA Freedom Act—after the House significantly weakened it to allow for the possibility of continued bulk surveillance, following pressure from the Obama administration.

The amendments followed negotiations and talks between the Obama administration and House leaders.

"[W]e cannot in good conscience support this weakened version of the bill, where key reforms—especially those intended to end bulk collection and increase transparency—have been substantially watered down," said Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, in a statement released Tuesday.

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation cannot support a bill that doesn't achieve the goal of ending mass spying," the organization declared in a statement.

The article is briefer, but it does contain a clear statement of the main objection of the civil liberties organizations:

The new version of the bill (pdf) includes a more expansive definition of the "specific selection term," which determines who the government is allowed to spy on by compelling phone companies to turn over their records.

"Less than a week ago, the definition was simply 'a term used to uniquely describe a person, entity, or account,'" the EFF explains. "The new version not only adds the undefined words 'address' and 'device,' but makes the list of potential selection terms open-ended by using the term 'such as.'"

“Put another way, it may ban ‘bulk’ collection of all records of a particular kind, but still allow for ‘bulky’ collection impacting the privacy of millions of people,” said Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute, in a statement.

Yes, quite so: in fact the intent of "such as an address or device", which is now the - totally unclarified and undefined - term for whatever the NSA or its mates can pick up is that the NSA or its allies in Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand are allowed to pick up anything (and soon - perhaps even now: nobody seems to have defined that term either: "bulk" will mean "anything in access of 102000").

There is more in the article, but the brief of it is that the bill is a legalese redefinition that simply continues what is happening: everybody will be surveilled, for that is what Obama and his government want.

3.  Defense Department Refuses to Tell Senate Which Groups We’re At War With

The next item is an article by Washington's Blog that shows the enormous power of the Senate over the Obama administration, which it is supposed to control:

This starts as follows (with colors and boldings in the original):

Senate: Which Groups Are We At War With? Admin: That’s Classified

The Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing today on renewing the Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senators repeatedly asked representatives from the Department of Defense which groups we are at war with.  And the DOD refused to answer.

As the ACLU’s deputy legal director and director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy (Jameel Jaffer) tweets:

There is more on the Orwellian character of this response in the article.

4.  Standing Up, One Year Later: President Obama’s Broken Foreign Policy Promises

The next item is an article by Medea Benjamin, who a year ago (tomorrow) interrupted president Obama:

It starts as follows:
A year ago, on May 23, 2013, I was in the audience at the National Defense University when President Barack Obama gave his major foreign policy address. Having worked for years trying to close the Guantanamo prison and stop US drone attacks, I was crushed to realize that the president’s speech was ending and he had not announced any significant change of course on either policy. My heart was pounding with fear—it’s not an easy thing to interrupt a president, but I decided to speak up.
She did speak up, and was forcibly removed, but she made the news.
Now she says this:
One year later, though, these profound questions still weigh heavily on our nation. While the President announced that he was appointing new senior envoys to deal with the Guantanamo fiasco, merely 12 prisoners have been released all year, leaving 154 men still locked up. Shamefully, 77 of them were cleared for release years ago—meaning the US government has deemed them innocent or not a threat to Americans—but remain behind bars. Most of the others are still held without trial. The President’s inability to secure fair trials or the release of cleared prisoners continues to exact an unbearable human toll.
I have to admit Obama tricked me too, in the beginning of 2009, for I believed part of his promises. But since my father and grandfather were locked into concentration camps as "political terrorists" in 1941 during WW-II by Dutch judges who collaborated with the Nazis that occupied Holland, which my grandfather did not survive, and my father barely survived, I know more about concentration camps than most, and indeed I also gave up on Obama by the end of 2009.

Here is a last bit quoted from
Medea Benjamin:
In another move to crush transparency, the Obama administration has taken the over 6,000-page report on the use of torture during the Bush years, laboriously researched by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and placed it in the hands of the very entity that carried out the torture, the CIA, to redact before making it public. Many believe the torture report will never see the light of day or will be so edited as to make it worthless.
Yes, indeed.

5. Reasons for Intellectual Conformity

The next item is an article by Lawrence Davidson on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows - and I quote the introduction of it, before quoting from the article:
In theory, many people hail the idea of independent thinking and praise the courage of speaking truth to power. In practice, however, the pressure of “group think” and the penalties inflicted on dissidents usually force people into line even when they know better, as Lawrence Davidson notes.
Yes, quite so: I am 64 now; I have a brilliant M.A. in psychology and an excellent B.A. in philosophy; my parents were communists; my grandparents anarchists; my father and grandfather were in the resistance and in German concentration camps; my IQ was (at least) over 150 - but even so, I have been removed from the University of Amsterdam no less than 4 times [2], the last time before getting my M.A. in philosophy; I have been tortured for nearly 4 years by dealers in illegal drugs protected by mayor Ed van Thijn, I think for a percentage of the profits; I could not even get 10 euros a week to assist me to get a Ph.D. (for I needed my house cleaned: I am ill since 36 years, although not even that is admitted in Amsterdam); and I absolutely never in my life earned more than the dole gave everyone, which made me very probably the poorest Dutchman of my age.

Why? I spoke and speak my mind honestly, in a country where at most 1 in 10.000 do so [3], while also being rational and informed (for there are quite a few who talk but without rationality or information: I am not one of those, and do have both the brains and the scientific background so few have), while I do live in a country that is a lot more free and a lot more rich than most countries.

OK, now to Lawrence Davidson's piece, that starts as follows:
World Wars I and II created watershed moments in the lives of Western intellectuals, defined here as those who are guided by their intellect and critical thinking and who understand various aspects of the world mainly through ideas and theories which they express through writing, teaching and other forms of public address.
The brief summary of the behavior of the Western intellectuals is that 99.9% betrayed their roles as intellectuals: Only very few thought for themselves, judged for themselves, and dared to act on their judgments.

Here is - after skipping a considerable amount - Davidson on Benda:

In 1928, the French philosopher and literary critic Julien Benda published an important book, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals. In this work Benda asserted that it is the job of the intellectual to remain independent of his or her community’s ideologies and biases, be they political, religious or ethnic. Only by so doing could he or she defend the universal practices of tolerance and critical thinking that underpin civilization.

Not only were intellectuals to maintain their independence, but they were also obligated to analyze their community’s actions and, where necessary, call them into question.

In fact, that is how I saw it in 1970, when I gave up my parents' sincere and honest communism - except that I did not know, and at that time also did not think, that at most 1 in 10.000 intellectuals [3] think more or less the same, and the remaining 9999 either are stupid, or egoistic, or not talented enough, or too scared to retain their independence and to speak up and write as honest intellectuals, indeed also - maybe even especially - in formal democracies.

Davidson correctly says almost all intellectuals both in WW I and WW II betrayed their being intellectuals, for
(..) most intellectuals either supported the slaughter or remained silent. Some became fascists, others communists, and all too many once more lent their talents to propaganda machines and war industries in all the fighting states.
I skip the part on the difficulties of "Jewish intellectuals", and arrive at the following question:
While the portrayal of the intellectual as a thinker insisting on and practicing the right of critical thinking about society and its behavior is an ancient one (consider Socrates here), such behavior is not common in practice. This, in turn, calls Benda’s notion of a proper intellectual into question. might consider the following similarity:

At most 1 in 10.000 can do pure mathematics really well, on a high and creative level. Does it follow such mathematicians are not human? Of course not.

And while in case of pure mathematics it is a matter of ability, the problem with ethical and moral issues is not so much a matter of ability, as the plain fact that
almost everyone has other values and other ideas than trained intellectuals, notably religious and political ideals, while of those many quite a few are willing to sanction people whom they do not like in many ways, from scolding and exclusions to persecutions and killings (as happened to Socrates).

Here are the last two paragraphs of Davidson:

Indeed, from a historical perspective most people of high intellect have sought to serve power and not critique or question it. This is quite in line with the fact that most non-intellectuals accept the word of those in power as authoritative and true.

According to Eva Illouz, this reflects the primacy of group solidarity over truth. She is correct in this judgment. That, no doubt, is why the independent-minded, outspoken intellectuals demanding moral integrity and responsibility from those in power are so rare, be they Jewish or gentile.

Yes, indeed. In fact, I am the only one of my kind that I personally know: everybody else in Holland, at least, sold out (and having sold out they still pretend, and indeed are paid, as if they are "intellectuals" - and all the academically employed Dutchmen in fact are bureaucrats).

Again, this is why I am definitely not an optimist: There are more like I am, but they are quite rare, and they will never get the democratic sanction of any majority of whatever kind, for which reason even the best of their plans have only very small chances of success.

Also, see conformism and character in my Philosophical Dictionary and the links supplied in these items. Here is the last part of the item

The public character of the vast majority of men and women - the face they put on for others, as 'person' comes from 'mask' - is mostly intentional falsification: It is a balancing act made up of conformism, hypocrisy, illusion and fear, in which they pretend that they are and feel and believe what they know they are and feel and believe not, because they believe, with some justification, that pretending they are other than they really are and feel and think will help or protect them.

This phoney 'character', the false public face, that most men and most women have is not one they are born with, but one they acquire between ages 15 and 25, when they try to fit themselves into society, and soon learn that their native talents and courage are not large, and that duplicity and conformism are rewarded, and sincerity, individuality and thinking for oneself punished, and that the prevailing standards in society, from elementary politeness to politics and religion, are in most men and women more based on pretense, acting as if, make-belief, party-feelings and wishful thinking rather than on sincerity, skepticism, independent individual thought or reason.
6. Why I Don't Want to See the Drone Memo

The next item
is by David Swanson on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us a secret memo that gets us out of the bit about Thou-shalt-not-kill.

And, lo, as I was driving home from the committee hearing I was pulled over for speeding, and I said unto the officer, "I've got a memo that lets me speed. Would you like to see it?" and he said, "No thank you, and not your grocery list or your diary either."

This is more relevant than you might think, for David Barron is a friend of Obama who also studied law, and wrote a secret memo that is supposed to explain why killing people with drones is legal (or "legal"), after which he was made into a federal judge by Obama, one may suppose for services rendered.

Here is David Swanson:

I don't want to see the memo that David Barron wrote "legalizing" the killing of U.S. citizens with drone strikes, after which (or is it beforehand?) I'll decide whether he should be a federal judge.

Laws don't work that way. A law is a public document, known to or knowable to all, and enforced equally on all.  If a president can instruct a lawyer to write a memo legalizing murder, what can a president not instruct a lawyer to legalize? What's left of legality?
Laws remain law until they are repealed. These laws have not been.  If a memo can make a murder part of a war and therefore legal, we are obliged to ask: What makes the war legal?

Yes, quite so. There is more and it ends thus:
We shouldn't fall for those traps.  A president is not legally allowed to invent criteria for killing people.  Never mind that he doesn't meet his own criteria.  We should not be so indecent or so lawless as to engage in such a conversation.  We should not want to see the blood-soaked memo.
7.  Doctors Prescribing Adderall And Ritalin To TODDLERS!

Finally for today, not an article but a video by The Young Turks, on the subject of giving speed (packaged as medicines: Aderall or Ritalin) to 2 and 3 year olds, that I discussed before on May 18, 2014:
Note that these are legalized amphetamines (which is speed, as I said), which are quite addictive, and indeed untested on 2 and 3 year olds (while I insist that even testing giving amphetamines on a daily basis to such small children would be criminal) and note also this seems to happen especially to people qualifying for Medicaid, who generally are not well-educated.

Anyway - I like the response of the TYT-team, and repeat my diagnosis of May 18:

But yes, it all is very well-paid, and very easy to do, on someone else's children, and it seems The Intellectual Model underlying it all runs as follows:
We doctors can get very rich by prescribing the latest patented drugs to everyone and anyone.
Our Professional Organization is filled with stethoscope-clad
persons willing and able to plug anything for money.
We can safely get very rich by
prescribing the latest patented drugs to everyone and anyone. Long live medicine!
This is called "evidence based medicine", and it works extremely well: Lots of medics are quite rich, and don't do anything for it but prescribing enormous amounts of pills. This also is very good: medics became medics usually because they wanted to make a lot of money. So - if you forget about the patients, here small children, who also can't protest - everything works out beautifully in modern medical practice!
[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] The previous three times - 1976, 1977, and 1983 - were on technicalities, that I think now were intentionally created by the student assistant of philosophy Theodoor Bolten, who cooperated in 1988 with dr. Frans Jacobs to remove me from the faculty because I asked questions as an invited speaker.

[3] You think that is an underestimate? Consider this:

I protested in the University of Amsterdam that for 25 years was in the hands of quasi-marxist students and quasi-socialist professionals from the Dutch Labour Party:

Almost no one listened; almost everyone regarded me as "a fascist" and "a terrorist" simply because I thought different from them (and knew their pretended leftism a hundred times better than they did themselves, because my parents and grandparents were real communists and real anarchists).

And no: I would never have believed there is at most 1 in 10.000 who tries to speak scientific truth on rational grounds before trying to do so in the quasi-marxist, quasi-socialist University of Amsterdam, but having done the experiment, and having been removed in 1988 as "a fascist" and "a terrorist" from the University of Amsterdam, my own fear is that I grossly underestimate the number of Dutchmen who are capable and willing
to speak scientific truth on rational grounds: Nobody defended me, nobody cared, everybody had more
urgent things to do than even think about what happened to me.

Also, I once again had the same experience in Amsterdam when I tried to protest against illegal drugsdealers who were protected and installed by the mayor in the house where I lived
: Nobody defended me, nobody cared, everybody had more
urgent things to do than even think about what happened to me.

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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