22, 2014
Crisis: Censorship*2, Human Rights, Racism, Metadata, Unfree Press
  "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

Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the
     Arbiters of What We See and Read?

2. UN human rights chief criticises security council over
     global conflicts

3. Ferguson Exposes America’s Enduring Legacy of White

4. Information Scarce, Warnings Mount as US Expands War
     in Iraq

5. Metadata Collection Reveals Personal Details, Rights
     Groups Assert

. Journalism is Under Attack, and Not Just in Ferguson  

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 22. It is a crisis log.

It gets published some hours sooner than is usual so as to give me the opportunity to do some things.
1. Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read?    

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

This starts as follows:

There have been increasingly vocal calls for Twitter, Facebook and other Silicon Valley corporations to more aggressively police what their users are permitted to see and read. Last month in The Washington Post, for instance, MSNBC host Ronan Farrow demanded that social media companies ban the accounts of “terrorists” who issue “direct calls” for violence.

This week, the announcement by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Crisis: Censorship*2, Human Rights, Racism, Metadata, Unfree Press the company would prohibit the posting of the James Foley beheading video and photos from it (and suspend the accounts of anyone who links to the video) met with overwhelming approval. What made that so significant, as The Guardian‘s James Ball noted today, was that “Twitter has promoted its free speech credentials aggressively since the network’s inception.” By contrast, Facebook has long actively regulated what its users are permitted to say and read; at the end of 2013, the company reversed its prior ruling and decided that posting of beheading videos would be allowed, but only if the user did not express support for the act.

I start with answering the question the title asks: I am against censorship, and certainly also against censorship by the executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Also, I think Costolo's decision was a mistake.

My reasoning is this: I have no doubt Foley's beheading makes an awful video, and I haven't seen it, but surely it also is evidence that those who do these beheadings and make these videos are extremely violent and are - I would say - sick: it is sadistic cruelty to kill a man like that, whatever you think about him.

To prohibit such evidence means that I - a 64 year old philosopher and psychologist - must believe the sayings of executives that they are fit to judge as to what I (and others) am supposed to be fit to judge, and I do not believe anyone else is fit to judge what I am supposed to see and not see, and most certainly not executives of commercial companies I anyway dislike and distrust.

I also do not like violence and I am not a sadist, but surely if someone or some group is accused of being terrorists I want to be able to see the (supposed, accused) terrorists' own evidence of their own violence, including their own propaganda. (And I have not tried to see Foley's execution, because I anyway
think IS or ISIS is a religiously mad and cruel group, and I don't like cruelty.)

Finally, as to those who do not want to be shocked: (1) a lot of what people do to other people (and to animals) is shocking and cruel, and has been so during all of human history, and (2) if you do not want to be shocked, there is a simple way to avoid most shocks: do not watch. (And I mostly don't, indeed as I don't watch most of the press. But I do not want this material to be censored, and certainly not by commercial executives.)

There is a lot more in Glenn Greenwald's article, that is quite good, and that I leave to your interests.

2. UN human rights chief criticises security council over global conflicts

The next item is an article by the Associated Press on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

In her last address to the security council, the UN human rights chief has sharply criticised the body for its ineffectiveness on Syria and other intractable conflicts, saying its members have often put national interests ahead of stopping mass atrocities.

“I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” said Navi Pillay, whose term as high commissioner for human rights ends on 30 August.

Pillay said Syria’s conflict “is metastasing outwards in an uncontrollable process whose eventual limits we cannot predict”. She also cited conflicts in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Congo, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza.

“These crises hammer home the full cost of the international community’s failure to prevent conflict,” Pillay said. “None of these crises erupted without warning.”

There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

I suppose Navi Pillay means well, and she spoke some bitter truths, but the crux of her story is that hundreds of thousands would have lived if the United Nations had acted better than it did, and that the United Nations probably will continue to do too little, because many countries put their national interests first.

Ah well...

3. Ferguson Exposes America’s Enduring Legacy of White Bigotry

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

There is this factual evidence in Bill Boyarsky's article for his title (and there is more than I quote):

Unemployment is higher among blacks, according to the Times analysis. Since the early 1970s, the unemployment rate among African-Americans has been about 2 to 2.5 times higher than that of whites. Among those working full time in 2013, the median weekly earnings for African-Americans were slightly over $600, compared with $800 for whites. When it comes to accumulated wealth—savings; investments; or money to send kids to college, pay for retirement, or as a resource in the event of a layoff or bad health—white families in 2010 had six times the wealth of black families. And, finally, black men are killed at the hand of someone else at a much higher rate than whites. About 76 of every 100,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 34 were killed in homicides in 2010, more than nine times the rate for white men in the same age bracket.

In the intense coverage of Ferguson, television and mainstream websites and newspapers have neglected to cover how these trends affect the mass media itself. The whiteness of the news business shapes the coverage and the way the public sees race relations.

 Yes, indeed. 

4. Information Scarce, Warnings Mount as US Expands War in Iraq

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

This starts as follows:

The U.S. unleashed fresh onslaughts of air strikes on ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) positions in Iraq on Wednesday and Thursday—the latest in an expanding  war campaign where public information about the details and aims of the operation remain sparse.

U.S. Central Command announced that it used that it used drones, fighter jets, and attack aircraft to launch 14 air strikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq on Wednesday, attacks that were followed by six additional air strikes on Thursday. According to the Central Command, this brings the total number of air strikes on Iraq since August 8 to 90—with 57 of them near the Mosul Dam.

One problem with this is that so much of it is effectively secret:

However, as the Associated Press reports, the public information about U.S. military attacks on Iraq by ground and air remain "thin." It is not clear which military branches are carrying out the air strikes, and U.S. Central Command is refusing to publicly disclose which bases are being used to launch attacks. The U.S. also is not disclosing information about civilians and combatants in Iraq killed and wounded in the attacks. Furthermore, an estimated thousands of U.S. military and security contractors remain in Iraq, their total number not publicly known.

This makes it very difficult to judge rationally, but indeed that also is the end of Obama's government's policies towards the free press, on which see item 1 and item 6: As far as I understand Obama & Clapper's words, the press is free to the extent that it prints what the government likes to see printed.

5. Metadata Collection Reveals Personal Details, Rights Groups Assert 

The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

"Metadata is not trivial," Electronic Frontier Foundation legal fellow Andrew Crocker said Wednesday, announcing the filing of an amicus brief in Klayman v. Obama, the high-profile lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's program of mass surveillance. 

The brief, filed jointly by the EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union, declares that "call records collected by the government are not just metadata — they are intimate portraits of the lives of millions of Americans."

Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and founder of the political advocacy group Freedom Watch, filed his lawsuit against the NSA and President Obama in June, 2013. It alleges that the government is conducting a "secret and illegal government scheme to intercept vast quantities of domestic telephonic communications," in violation of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments.

Quite so. And that makes it completely illegal, in spite of the fact that it has been happening and has been protected by the US governments at least since 2007.

The article ends as follows:

In fact, the "vast" quantity of metadata the government collects, the duration for which it does so, and the modern nature of people's phone use, means that such dragnet surveillance "provides a window into the thoughts, beliefs, traits, habits, and associations of millions of Americans," the brief reads. "The Court should reject any contrary suggestion. Given the detailed portrait that can be drawn from metadata alone — and given the especially revealing nature of large quantities of metadata — the collection of this sensitive information receives the highest protection of the Fourth Amendment."

Yes indeed. (But it will be up to the judge - who may be blackmailed by the NSA, though no one but the NSA may know. That is one of the many niceties the NSA has introduced, surveilling all: You do not know whether a judge is fair or gets blackmailed.)

6. Journalism is Under Attack, and Not Just in Ferguson

The next item is an article by Noa Yachot on Common Dreams:

This is in fact by a "communications strategist for the ACLU" - and I am quoting this because I do not know what "a communications strategist" is supposed to do, or indeed whether one can get an M.A. or Ph.D. in it. (It's not, as such, on Wikipedia.) And while I like the ACLU, I do not like nonsense titles that seem to derive from the advertisement and propaganda worlds.

Anyway, this article gets reviewed because I agree with the title and also because I think there just is no democracy and no free and open society without a really free press, while the (real) free press gets to be less and less in the world in which I live, and gets replaced by a "press" that mostly only prints what the government or their chiefs like to see printed (which the government calls "freedom", while it calls the few journalists who print stuff it doesn't like "traitors").

Here are two consecutive paragraphs:

The Obama administration is the most aggressive in U.S. history when it comes to prosecuting journalists' sources for disclosing unauthorized leaks. It has gone after the journalists, too. In just one example, it continues to pursue a Bush-era subpoena of James Risen, a New York Times journalist, to testify against a source accused of leaking information about CIA efforts to derail Iran's nuclear program. In an effort to sever journalists from their sources, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently went so far as to sign a directive forbidding intelligence officials from talking to the press – even about unclassified matters – without securing permission in advance.

Widespread government surveillance, in addition to imperiling the privacy rights of millions of Americans, has also severely undermined the freedom of the press. A recent ACLU-Human Rights Watch report shows that many journalists have found information and sources increasingly hard to come by. To make matters more burdensome, they've had to resort to elaborate techniques to keep their communications secret. The result? We get less information about what our government is doing in our name.

Yes. And less information means that you are treated more as some sort of fool who should not know what the taxes he pays are used for ("in your own best interests"), which in turn gives more power to the few, which again leads to less information, though with more amusement and human interest stories, so at least the less intelligent half of the population will love it, and soon you are living in a completely manipulated propaganda world where you are only free to say "Yes, thank you kindly, most superior people who govern us fools".

It hasn't come as far yet, but that is the tendency.

[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.)

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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