13, 2014
Crisis: NPR, Guantánamo, Torture, ICC, Israel, Munchausen
  "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

NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points to Make You Scared
     of NSA Reporting

2. Guantánamo prisoner to publish 'harrowing' memoirs
3. The Rear-Guard Defense of Torture
4. Three Reasons Why the ICC Hasn’t Taken Action on Gaza
In Midst of War, Israel Clamps Down on Internal Dissent
6. Doctor Munchausen and Sense about Science

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, August 13. It is a crisis log.

Incidentally, I updated the latest crisis index (the third) until yesterday.
1. NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points to Make You Scared of NSA Reporting

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman on The Intercept:

In case you don't know, "NPR" = "National Public Radio". Here is the beginning of the article (with some reformatting by me):

On August 1, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a story by NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston touting explosive claims from what she called “a tech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” That firm, Recorded Future, worked together with “a cyber expert, Mario Vuksan, the CEO of ReversingLabs,” to produce a new report that purported to vindicate the repeated accusation from U.S. officials that “revelations from former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden harmed national security and allowed terrorists to develop their own countermeasures.”

Actually, it didn't, according to Greenwald and Fishman, and they quote reasonable evidence to the effect that Recorded Future is funded with millions of dollars by the CIA and the U.S. intelligence community.

As Greenwald and Fishman say (and I am skipping the evidence for the previous paragraph: see the article)

If one wants to argue that a government-mimicking report from a company that is funded by the CIA, and whose board is composed in part of its investment arm, and which centrally relies on research from another CIA partner is somehow newsworthy—fine, one can have that debate. But to pass it off as some sort of independent analysis without even mentioning those central ties is reckless and deceitful—especially when, as is true here, the reporter doing it clearly knows about those ties.

Clearly, the U.S. government and its secret services are doing their best to smear Snowden.

Therefore it is quite relevant that Greenwald and Fishman give evidence that al-Qaeda and other groups have been using sophisticated encryption techniques (said to be "uncrackable" in 2001) since the mid 1990ies (when Snowden was in his teens).

This stands to reason anyway, and I again skip the evidence, that you may read yourself in the above dotted link.

What I do not skip is this, and I added bolding:

As has long been clear, “the terrorists” did not need Snowden reporting to know that the U.S. and its partners are doing everything possible to monitor their communications. It is certainly possible that some extremists, like ordinary users all over the world, are more conscious now than before about the need to secure their communications—just as some extremists became aware of interrogation techniques they may face if detained by virtue of reporting on American torture (which is why torture advocates argued that such reporting also helped terrorists). But the key revelation of the Snowden reporting is that the surveillance system built in secret by the NSA and its partners is directed at hundreds of millions of ordinary people and entire populations rather than “the terrorists.”


There is a lot more in the article, which is also accompanied - at the time of my writing this - by 239 comments that I did not read: I do not read comments by anonymous authors. (But you may.) [2]

2. Guantánamo prisoner to publish 'harrowing' memoirs 

The next item is an article by Alison Flood on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian who has been detained in Guantánamo since 2002 despite never having been charged with a crime by the US, is to publish an account of his experiences next year, detailing the multiple forms of torture to which he has been subjected and "shatter[ing]" the secrecy that surrounds the Cuban prison.

Slahi's book, which has just been acquired at auction, is the first diary to be released by a still-imprisoned Guantánamo detainee, said publisher Canongate. Written in 2005, in his segregation cell, it started out as letters from the author to his lawyers, who fought for seven years to have the manuscript declassified. Parts still remain redacted.

Here are some details - and Siems is a human rights advocate:

An extract published by Slate last year reveals harrowing details of Slahi's ordeals, from sexual humiliation to the freezing cold cell in which he was imprisoned. "The cell – better, the box – was cooled down so that I was shaking most of the time," he writes. "I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day. Every once in a while they gave me a rec time in the night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. I don't remember having slept one night quietly; for the next 70 days to come I wouldn't know the sweetness of sleeping. Interrogation for 24 hours, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off."

Siems, the lead writer on The Torture Report, which sets out to document the Bush administration's torture programme, said that Slahi's ordeal "almost defies the imagination". The Mauritanian, said Siems, "endured one of the most stubborn, brutal, and deliberate interrogations on record", despite never having been accused of any crime by the US.

There is considerably more in the article, and it is noteworthy (indeed this is the third time it is being said) that Slahi is not accused of any crime, and has been a prisoner since 2002.

3.  The Rear-Guard Defense of Torture

The next item is an article by Ray McGovern (<- Wikipedia) on Consortium News:

This starts as follows:

John Rizzo, the CIA’s former Acting Counsel General, is feeling the heat for his role in blessing what President Barack Obama has now admitted was “torture” during the Bush/Cheney administration. Rizzo went on friendly Fox News to charge that the (still withheld) Senate Intelligence Committee investigation report on torture reflects a “Star Chamber proceeding” and accused some lawmakers of “craven backtracking,” claiming that they had been briefed on the interrogation program years ago.

Rizzo also revealed that he and other former CIA officials implicated in the torture scandal have found an ally of sorts in current CIA Director John Brennan, who was a senior aide to CIA Director George Tenet when the torture practices were implemented and who is now leading the rear-guard defense against the Senate report.

“He’s been with us ‘formers’ during this period. He has been the honest broker,” Rizzo told Fox News. “He has done the best he can. He is in an extraordinarily difficult position.”

Rizzo’s audacity in defending torture should have prompted some kind of reaction like the one that finally called Sen. Joe McCarthy to account: “Have they no sense of decency, at long last? Have they left no sense of decency?” But Rizzo, like other defenders of the “war on terror” torture policies, have yet to face any meaningful accountability. Rather, some like Rizzo remain respectable figures.

Incidentally, a "Star Chamber proceeding", that pro-torture lawyer Rizzo accuses his opponents of, generally went with torture, which Rizzo has not at all been subjected to.

There is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link, that I will leave to your interest. Here is the ending of the article:
If moral reasoning is a shambles, so is a pitiful legal profession that cannot find its institutional voice amid gross violations of the Constitution and other legal and moral norms. It strikes me that this amounts to a petri dish in which the celebrity virus can grow and flourish – and law students can be given scandal. What was it that Jesus said about giving that kind of scandal? Something to do with millstones and necks, I think.
In case you are not strong on the Bible (I had to look it up as well) here is Jesus on millstones and necks:
"Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones."
Incidentally, in case you are interested: I saw some 15 lawyers in order to instruct them to do my cases, but most of them turned out to be incompetents or idiots (and in the end I won my own cases). I suppose that the finding of one good one and one half good one is a fair indication that at most 1 in 10 of lawyers are both intelligent and moral.

4. Three Reasons Why the ICC Hasn’t Taken Action on Gaza

The next item is an article by Bill Blum on Truthdig:

This starts with a good and appropriate question:

As the war in Gaza enters its second month, quelled for the moment by another 72-hour cease-fire, the question arises: Why hasn’t the International Criminal Court initiated a formal inquiry into the carnage?

To answer the question, I spent part of last week corresponding and speaking with representatives of the court, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which consists of some 2,500 groups drawn from 150 countries whose mission is to strengthen international cooperation with the ICC and whose steering committee includes a who’s who of prominent human rights groups, including both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. I’ve also spent a good deal of time studying the Rome Statute, the name given to the ICC’s founding and governing charter.

Bill Blum comes up with three reasons, all of which sound plausible to me. I list them without the text that follows each of them, which I leave to your interests:
1. Neither Israel Nor the United States Wants an ICC Probe
2. The Structure of the ICC Militates Against Swift Action
3. The Palestinians May Not Want an ICC Probe as They Too
     Have Unclean Hands

Here is Blum's ending:
With such crude and vicious sentiments pervading the narratives of both sides to the conflict, an effective intervention by the ICC becomes less likely by the day even as it remains as vitally necessary as ever.
5. In Midst of War, Israel Clamps Down on Internal Dissent

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

This starts as follows:

As a tenuous ceasefire takes hold, the besieged Gaza strip must contend with the path of death and destruction left by Israel's month-long military assault, including 1,939 Palestinian lives lost, 9,886 wounded, over 200,000 displaced, and more than 10,000 Palestinian housing units severely damaged or completely ruined.

Israeli critics of the "Operation Protective Edge" and occupation say the attacks have also unleashed a fury of pro-war, ultra-nationalist sentiment within Israel, escalating intimidation and violence towards those who dissent: from the firing of journalists to the beating of protesters to the harassment of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

"There has been a feeling in the air: it is dangerous to be outspoken against the war," said Haggai Matar, an Israeli journalist for +972 Magazine and a longtime activist against the occupation, speaking over the phone with Common Dreams from Tel Aviv.

I say - but indeed I am not amazed. If the first victim of war is truth, the second is reason. And indeed reason is far to seek:

Knesset member Haneen Zoabi—a Palestinian citizen of Israel—has been suspended from most parliamentary activities for six months due to a statement she made about the still-unidentified kidnappers  of three Israeli teen residents of West Bank settlements who were found dead in June. She said of the kidnappers, "they are people who see no other way to change their reality, so they are forced to use these means…at least until Israel wises up, and until Israeli society opens up and feels the pain of the other."

Meanwhile, numerous Knesset members calling for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza and murder of Palestinian civilians have faced no formal censure from within Israeli government or the U.S. This includes Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin from the Likud party who called in late July for the "conquest of Gaza" and "elimination of all armed enemies from Gaza."

Bar-Ilan University professor Mordechai Kedar stated in July on an Israeli radio program that to stop the "terrorists" it is necessary to rape their "sister or their mother."

There is a lot more in the article.

6. Doctor Munchausen and Sense about Science

The last item of today is an article by Dr David Healy on his site:
In fact, this is the fifth in a series about Doctor Munchausen, and is also preceded by four articles about the British Sense about Science, as Dr Healy tells the reader at the beginning.

The reasons I am writing about this is the following:

I like Dr Healy, because he is one of the very few psychiatrists I know who has consistently and for a long time argued against psychiatrists and medical doctors, mostly on the basis of their not being scientific enough, in a correct sense. Also, he has questioned the morality of some doctors, and he has done a lot to outline the risks people run when they take psychiatric and other medicines, which most psychiatrists and pharmacologists have denied or played down, incorrectly in my view.

And I agree with these three points, without always agreeing with Dr Healy (which indeed would be rather odd,
at least for a man like myself):

He is one of the few doctors of medicine who acted like a real doctor of medicine, to my knowledge, which is quite extensive, because I have been ill 36 years now, while my illness - which is real and serious according to the World Health Organization all the 36 years that I have it - generally has been pooh-poohed, and I have gotten extremely little help, not from medical doctors, with some exceptions; not from bureaucrats; not from politicians; and not from people in general (other than my family).

But I also am a philosopher and a psychologist (with excellent academic degrees) and I cannot agree with the following bit, that seems a reworking by Healy of some philosophical opinions by the writer J.G. Ballard:

The balance between fiction and reality has changed in the past decades.  Their roles are reversed.  We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind – mass-merchandizing, advertising, politics conducted as a brand of advertising, the pre-empting of any original response to experience by the television screen.  We live inside an enormous novel.  It is now less and less necessary for the writer to invent fictional content.  The fiction is already there.  The writer’s task is to invent reality.

In the past we have always assumed that the external world represented reality, however confusing or uncertain, and that the inner world of our minds, its dreams, hopes, ambitions, represented the realm of fantasy and the imagination.  These roles have been reversed.  The most prudent and effective way of dealing with the world around us is to assume that it is a complete fiction – conversely, the one small node of reality left to us is inside our heads.

The outside world is now the dream.  If we are to understand what is going on, we now need to apply Freud’s classic distinctions between the latent and the manifest content of dreams to the external world of so-called reality.

No - this is far too postmodernistic for my taste, indeed from the start with the attribution that "we" do these things. I don't, even if I - sort of - agree that many people live in some sort of fictional world (but this has always been the case: a really scientific and realist world view has been the property of at most 1 in a 100, ever and always), and also if I - sort of - agree that these days there is much more "mass-merchandizing, advertising, [and] politics conducted as a brand of advertising".

Those tendencies are respectively disappointing and sickening, but none of this implies that there is no reality or that it is not knowable, at least in broad outlines and mostly without definite certainties, and never in full, and it certainly does not mean that anyone has "
to invent reality", at least if he or she is not a novelist, who is writing fiction.

Next, since reality is still there, quite as it was for Aristotle, Lucretius, Montaigne, and Russell, even though it is not well understood, the roles of fantasy and reality have not "reversed", and it is baloney that "
the most prudent and effective way of dealing with the world around us is to assume that it is a complete fiction":

It is not, and it never has been, and we all live and die in one and the same world, even though each of us has his or her own private version of it. But ice still melts at 0 degrees and higher; Paris still is the capital of France; copper still conducts electricity; magnets still attract iron; your nose still belongs on your face; and so on and so forth.

Also, it is false that "
the one small node of reality left to us is inside our heads": Firstly, we all are different, and we need to cooperate to get much of any understanding of anything, and that cooperation happens in the real world;
second, we all know things by using our fantasies and such data as we have learned, but the things we know (or hold with high probability) are generally not about what is in our heads but about aspects of reality, and if our guesses are scientific indeed what we suppose or guess is testable in reality.

Furthermore, it is simply false to claim that "the outside world is now the dream":

No, it is not; it is still there, indeed beyond all advertising and propaganda, and beyond human guesses and fictions, but visibly and sensationally given and shared in our ordinary direct sensations of things we see and hear and smell and touch.

I mean: I see a kitten, you see the same kitten, and so does he; I see it is black with a touch of white on its paw; so do you and so does he - and this is all from now on supposed to be fiction and a dream? Come on!

So I am sorry, but I quite disagree with this, and indeed I am a philosopher, who knows as much more of philosopy than Dr Healy does as he knows as much more of medicines and drugs than I do.

I do hope this was a mere brief excursion into the philosophical fictions of the novelist J.G. Ballard, who indeed never studied philosophy (but medicine and literature, both not finished).

P.S. Aug 14, 2014: I removed a few typos and added a brief paragraph ("I mean:" etc.)
[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 reason I refuse to read anonymous comments on articles - of which I have read a great lot in 2010 - is that I believe in personal responsibility and personal accountability, which is impossible with a completely anonymous author, and I also want to know at least some things about commenters, such as age and education (the true ones, in both cases), other than their complete avoidance of any identifying information, simply to be able to judge their comments.

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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