27, 2014
Crisis: Google etc., just terrorism, CIA-chief, Lessig & Hedges, Orwell
  "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

Google doesn't want you to limit its ability to follow you
     around the internet

2. If we can have just war, why not just terrorism?
3. ‘Ex-Chief of C.I.A. Shapes Response to Detention Report’
Lawrence Lessig Tells Chris Hedges About His Project to
     Seize Control of Politics from Corporations

5. Learning from Orwell

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of July 27. It is a crisis log.

It is a Sunday, and I found four items today. Believing this is a bit little, and feeling tolerably well, while it is less warm, I decided to throw in a bit about George Orwell at the end.

Here it all is:

1. Google doesn't want you to limit its ability to follow you around the internet

The first item is an article by Dan Gillmor on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Every now and then, when I try to read an online article, I see nothing but a blank space where the article should appear. Because I run software to block third-party tracking cookies, the publication blocks my access to the article. When I give such sites – and there are a number of them – full permissions on my browser, the articles become visible.

My inability to read one article isn't just annoying – it's part of a global effort to end internet users' "free lunch" of content. Behind our screens, there is a technological race to extract a price for what we read and watch on the web: our personal information and browsing habits. And as Silicon Valley and the advertising industry continue to merge, the incentives to collect and use that information will only grow.

Yes, I have the same experience, indeed with the same causes, which Dan Gillmor explains thus:
In my case, I use blocking software to prevent third-party advertising networks – firms most people don't even realize are watching – from installing "cookies" to monitor my activity elsewhere on the web. Those cookies "watch" as you surf in order to, their designers insist, put more relevant ads in your face.
Well... for me "ads" are always carefully crafted lies and deceptions, for even if they contain only "the truth" (which is extemely rare these days) they distort it, exaggerate it, enlarge it, beautify it, and photoshop it, and I just do not want to see any advertisement that does not pay me at least an English pound to read these lies. Advertisements these days are sick and parasitic lies. Period.

In any case, there is a lot more, and it ends (almost) with this:
So what's an angry – or worried – internet user to do? Check out tools like Privacy Badger, Ghostery, AddBlock Plus, BetterPrivacy and Disconnect, which offer a variety of approaches to restore some privacy to your web browsing, even if you aren't a particularly advanced computer programmer.
These are good and true tips, amd indeed I use several of these myself. Also, I never use JavaScript: I like the language, but do not want it used against me, and I simply avoid sites where I "have" to switch on JavaScript: No, I have not and I will not - I much rather avoid you if you have these antics.

2. If we can have just war, why not just terrorism? 

The next item is an article by Giles Fraser on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

For decades now the United Nations has been unable to agree a definition of terrorism. Even our own supreme court recently concluded that there is no internationally agreed definition. The stumbling block has been that western governments want states and state agents to be exempt from any definition. And a number of Islamic counties want some national liberation movements exempt.

Or, to put it in terms of today’s news: the Israelis won’t have any definition that would make them terrorists for bombing old people’s homes in Gaza, and West Bank Palestinians won’t have any definition that will make them terrorists for fighting back against occupation with petrol bombs.

This is true, but then again these are political organizations. According to my own definition of terrorism, this is terrorism (and it is quite simple):

The attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder.

That seems clear and true enough to me, although I can see why no state wants to subscribe to such a definition - and I quote myself again:

One of the functions of the state is to protect its population from terrorism, which often happens by denying the population the right to bear arms. The great danger of states is that state-terrorism has been by far the most dangerous and succesful form of terrorism: Hundreds of millions of individual human beings were murdered in the 20th C alone by state-terrorism. (Fascism, Communism).

The states just do not want to admit that they are or may behave like terrorists, and that they do command a large amount of soldiers, policemen and weapons of all kinds, that may very well be seen as terrorist by those who are their victims.

Giles Fraser asks:

If we can have just war, why not just terrorism?

It is nonsense to think that being a state grants some sort of blanket immunity from the charge of terrorism – and certainly not from the moral opprobrium we attach to that term.

As to the first question: Yes - except that "just terrorism" tends to be called "freedom fighters" or something similar: For more see the beginning of my On The Logic Of Moral Discourse: In general those we oppose we call "terrorists" and those we do not oppose we call "freedom fighters", "liberators" etc. even if both effectively do the same: kill their enemies.

And Fraser is quite correct that in fact states are the typical terrorists much rather than groups of people without a territory, without a professional army, but with serious griefs.

To say or suggest that states cannot be terrorists flies in the face of all historical evidence: Very many more people have been murdered by persons acting in the name of some state than by any other means, and it is just not sane to suggest the people murdered were terrorists while those murdering them cannot be terrorists because they are employed by some state.

States are terrorist organizations, among other things, if only because they have to oppose terrorist organizations. The one difficulty is what you like: Violence you like, you call "freedom fighters"; violence you dislike you call "terrorists" - and without knowing what the real facts are and what your real values are both terms are real, though the "terrorist" term scares more.

3.  ‘Ex-Chief of C.I.A. Shapes Response to Detention Report’

The next item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

A tentatively titled and reported New York Times article glimpses former agency director George Tenet’s efforts to suppress and discredit a report accusing “former C.I.A. officials of misleading Congress and the White House” about the agency’s detention and interrogation program.

The article is tentative because the enormous question at its center—whether CIA officials tortured people in the course of the agency’s counterterrorism work—appears only in passing and well into the piece.

The source is a New York Times article (<-link) that is quoted i.a. as follows, and refers to the Senate's report on the CIA, that still has not been published:

The detention and interrogation program was conceived on [Tenet’s] watch and run by men and women he had put in senior positions. After virtually disappearing from public view since leaving the C.I.A. in 2004 except for a brief period promoting his memoir, Mr. Tenet is working behind the scenes with many of the same people to develop a strategy to challenge the report’s findings. And he is relying on his close relationship with Mr. Brennan to keep him apprised as the report moves through a glacial declassification process. Mr. Brennan rose to the C.I.A.’s senior ranks during Mr. Tenet’s tenure, and served as one of the former C.I.A. chief’s most trusted advisers during the post-9/11 period.

Will it ever be published? And if it ever is published, will it only be in a heavily redacted form, in which almost anything bad about the CIA has disappeared?

4.  Lawrence Lessig Tells Chris Hedges About His Project to Seize Control of Politics from Corporations

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on AlterNet and The Real News Network:

Actually, this is from July 16, and I missed it. This is a long interview with Lawrence Lessig, who teaches law at Harvard.

This is from the beginning, with Lessig talking about his project, that gets discussed in the rest of the interview:
And the work that I'm doing right now with this thing called the Mayday PAC--where "Mayday" comes from the distress call mayday, a mayday on this democracy--is to build, really, a super PAC that will engage in the election cycle of 2014 and in 2016 with the ultimate objective of getting a Congress in 2016 committed to fundamental reform.
There is a whole lot more, and at the end there also are three videos of nearly 19 minutes each that contain the whole interview. I read all of it and found it interesting, but I realize this is mostly for politically interested Americans.

In any case, this also is a real debate, because Hedges and Lessig do not agree (Hedges is more radical than Lessig). Here is just one remark of Hedges:

HEDGES: How do you handle candidates like Barack Obama who did talk about public financing in 2008, along with many other issues, including closing Guantanamo and revisiting NAFTA, etc., etc., protecting--rolling back the egregious violations of civil liberties under Bush, and then, once he got into office, these turned out to be, you know, essentially lies, public relations gimmicks in order to win an election, but he had no intention, we know, because he immediately brought in Larry Summers and others? How do you deal with the fact that so often in an election cycle, because of the polling, because they take the pulse of the American public, because they're very good at feeding back to us what they know we want to hear, that as soon as they get into Congress they do the bidding of corporate lobbyists?
Lessig is aware of the problem - say: that of natural born liars and power seekers of considerable personal charm and intellectual talents - and thinks he can circumvent it. I do not know, but I think Lessig is right that he at least has to try.

For more, click on the last dotted link.

Learning from Orwell

George Orwell (<-Wikipedia) is in the news, although he died over 64 years ago.
The main reasons for his being in the news are the activities of the NSA (and the Five Eyes), which tend to making the USA an authoritarian police state, plus the great rise in economic inequalities between the few rich and the rest, plus the persistence of the crisis for over six years now. (The stocks are up on the moment, but that serves only the people who trade stocks, which is a small and usually rich minority.)

I welcome the interest in Orwell, because Orwell is one of my favorite writers, certainly in the 20th Century, and he is so ever since I read "
Nineteen Eighty-Four" in my (communist) teens, in the late Sixties, although I had been told several times, always by persons who had not read him, that I should not read him because he was "a traitor" and "a liar". (He did contribute to my giving up communism, though he was not the main reason: The main reason was science.)

In fact, I have read almost all of his published works, and this also is the subject of the present piece, that has the following theme: while I like
"Nineteen Eighty-Four" and love "Animal Farm" and "Homage to Catalonia", I really believe Orwell's best work is the Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism of George Orwell.

This is in four volumes, and was published between 1968 and 1970 by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus. I bought these volumes in the Penguin edition on 8.viii.1978 and read them immediately, which I have done several more times since.

Now I should start with saying that it seems that literary editors hold that this four volume edition has been overtaken by The Complete Works of George Orwell in twenty volumes, revised and printed between 2000 and 2002.

That may be so, in some sense at least, but (1) I have never seen that edition (2) I probably do not have the money to buy it, and also (3) "The Complete Works" of any dead writer tend to be read only by literary folks, which means that far fewer will have read these than have read the four Penguins, while (4) I also tend to take the sayings of Literary Editors of anything and anyone with considerable doses of salt: They do tend to exaggerate. (This is not to say the Complete Works is not well done; it is only to say that I did never see them, and I also do not think very many have read very much in it: it may be the definitive edition, but it rarely is the most widely read one.)

So I refer to the edition I know well, that also has been widely read and bought, and will now try to explain briefly why I like these four books better than any of the other books Orwell wrote.

My main reasons are these: Orwell was more of a journalist, a pamphletist, and a thinker, than he was a novelist; much of his best work consists of relatively short pieces and essays, that are mostly in the Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism; and also these four volumes are quite varied as they are ordered by date, so you do get essays, letters and journalism in considerable abundance, thrown together in these four volumes, which benefits a realistic and political writer like Orwell, whose life also was in one piece, for he did try to live as he wrote, which is something very few really do.

As I said: I really love Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia and I like Nineteen Eighty-Four, but I also have to grant that I did not much like Orwell's earlier novels, and indeed have not read all of them: He really was a realist and a political activist much more than a novelist, and in fact the three books I just mentioned are all inspired by real events and real themes, although two are fantasies.

And again,
the Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism stand out because they contain and capture many more aspects and ideas of the real Orwell than any of his novels, and also because many of the essays still are quite alive and quite relevant.

To illustrate this last point, I take just one of his London Letters to Partisan Review, which were written during WW II for American readers. I take nr. 83 in volume III, p. 335-341, which is a bit special and reflective because, after nearly four years of writing these London Letters Orwell says, in December of 1944:
(..) I have told you several times that I would like to write one letter whcih should be a sort of commentary on the previous ones. This seems to be a suitable moment.
He begins by admitting that while "I have tried to tell the truth in these letters" and believes himself to have rendered a more or less correct picture of what happened, he also wrote the first two years from a quite mistaken perspective:
In 1940 I had written, 'Either we turn this into a revolutionary war, or we lose it', and I find myself repeating this word for word as late as the middle of 1942.
That is:
(..) I fell into the trap of assuming that 'the war and the revolution are inseparable'. There were excuses for this belief, but still it was a very great error.
Yes, indeed - but this kind of honest statement of his earlier errors is one of the things that makes Orwell rather unique: most politically engaged people either do not do this at all, or do this several decades after the facts [2] and even then in a half-hearted manner that's full of excuses for themselves.

That is, more precisely:
It seems to me very important to realize that we have been wrong, and say so. Most people nowadays, when their predictions are falsified, just impudently claim that they have been justified, and squeeze the facts accordingly.
Yes. But in fact what people then did, which is what the vast majority now does, even though they are called differently, is this:
Appeasers, Popular Fronters, Communists, Trotskyists, Anarchists, pacifists, all claim - and in almost exactly the same tone of voice - that their prophecies and no others gave been borne out by the events. Particularly on the Left, political thought is a sort of masturbation fantasy in which the world of facts hardly matters.
This is also what removed me so radically from communism in 1970 [3], though I was the only one of my generation and background who did so: I had acquired a vast respect for the facts, whatever they are; I had acquired a scientific world view rather than a political one; and I found that everyone with political interests only cared for such facts as they might distort to support their positions, and acted as if the rest did not exist.

Orwell comes to this conclusion:
The most one can say is that people can be fairly good prophets when their wishes are realizable. But a truly objective approach is almost impossible, because in one form or another almost everyone is a nationalist.
In fact, what he means by "a nationalist" is better rendered as totalitarianism (as he himself not much later realized):
Totalitarianism or totalitarian state is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible.
That is the Wikipedia, and these days we see it in the actions and the very many secrets of the U.S. government and the NSA, and we see it also in Great Britain. In neither case it has progressed as far as in the Soviet Union or Hitler's Germany, but surely there is a strong kinship and the same motives (power and money).

To return to Orwell. What most people do in fact is this:
In looking at any situation, they do not say, 'What are the facts? What are the probabilities?' but, 'How can I make it appear to myself and others that my faction is getting the better of the rival faction?'
I did write the present tense - "do" - advisedly: It was so then, in 1944; it is so now, in 2014, and it has always been so all the years inbetween, for almost anyone with an active political agenda, of any kind, whether Left, Right or Center.

Indeed, this makes politics still extremely difficult for me, for I do not have such a mind, while the great majority does - and also does not want to admit they do, which makes it all even more difficult.

Again, there was then and there is now the following:
What is worse, to me, is the contempt even of intellectuals for objective truth so long as their own brand of nationalism is being boosted.
Precisely - and Orwell never saw whole universities, and nearly all intellectuals employed there (on very good conditions, also) turn into  quasi-marxists and semi-totalitarians, all in peaceful circumstances, and mostly by public voting, as I saw happen in Holland from 1971-1995.

So... I think there still is a whole lot to be learned from Orwell, but I really do fear that the only ones who may learn it must be, as Orwell himself was, uncommonly gifted intellectually
, for that is my lesson from nearly 45 years of trying to speak the truth to persons who told me, without knowing anything of me, that I was "a fascist terrorist" simply because I had different ideas, and a better command of language than they had, and also was ill nearly all the time.

This is also what makes me pessimistic for the coming decades, although I likely will not see much of them: There are far too many people, also and especially intellectuals, of far too little real talents of any kind, and this makes communication, planning, and rational thinking extremely difficult, rare and also usually discriminated.

[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] As did the many myriads of Dutch quasi-marxists, quasi-communists and quasi-leftists, who had ruled the Dutch Left and the Dutch universities from the late Sixties till the early Nineties, when they realized, after the fall of Gorbacev,
that it had become time for them to become neo-conservatives, which they nearly all did, with a despicable booklet called "Alles moest anders" i.e. "Everything had to be different".

[3] While my parents and grandparents were either communists or anarchists, it should also be mentioned, who had behaved quite heroically (and quite uncommonly!: people are not "equivalent", as the lying Dutch quasi-lefties had it for more than 25 years) in the Dutch resistance against Nazism, which I agreed with and admired.

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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