12, 2014
Crisis: Snowden, Fracking, No-Fly List, English Slang, Marijuana, Books
  "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

The Snowden documentary shows that only government
     transparency can stop leaks
'Global Frackdown' Aims to Slay Myths and Force End to
     Fracking Bonanza

3. Government's Secretive "No-Fly List" Regime Crumbling,
     says ACLU

4. The absurd history of English slang
5. Marijuana Study Reports Positive And Negative Findings
6. Personal: Two rather good books

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 12. It is a
crisis log.

However, since it also is a Sunday and there were not many crisis items (three, in fact) I decided to add two other items that I found interesting, and also added a sixth section on two rather good books I read recently.

Of course, you can skip the last three items, if you only read this because of the crisis. And there very probably will be more crisis items tomorrow.

1. The Snowden documentary shows that only government transparency can stop leaks

The first item is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Transparency is coming, whether the government likes it or not. The only question is whether they decide to bring it to the public before whistleblowers do it for them.

That’s the underlying message of Laura Poitras’ mesmerizing new documentary, Citizenfour about Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency that debuted at the New York Film Festival on Friday night.

Others have hinted in the past that the government better act fast to stem the tide of unnecessary secrecy or have a revolt on its hands.
I haven't seen Citizenfour (and will have to wait until it gets shown in Amsterdam), and also I am not, as Trevor Timm is (or at least was till recently), the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, but I am fairly skeptical about two of the above propositions, namely (1) "Transparency is coming, whether the government likes it or not" and (2) "the government better act fast to stem the tide of unnecessary secrecy or have a revolt on its hands".

Let me start with the second. I have closely followed the press about surveilling ever since I became aware of Edward Snowden's existence, on June 10, 2013, basically because I find it a sickening and obscene idea that a few hundred thousands of people who secretly work for the government can spy on anything one does with a computer and anything one says in, or indeed around, a cell-phone, and I also think that if this kind of spying is continued, very soon there will be no democracy left in the West.

Now you may disagree with both of my points - but one of the things I have definitely learned in the course of 16 months of following the press on surveillance and Snowden, and indeed on many more things, is that only a minority of those surveilled seem to care that they are being surveilled, it seems to me because they do not understand much about computers and do not know much about politics and history.

So I do not expect any revolt over being surveilled as if one is some sort of criminal who has no right on privacy: I really have seen no evidence of any kind that suggests that the majority seriously objects, let alone that it will revolt. (There is a very small chance I am wrong, but relatively few can have a better idea than I do about what has been published in the English speaking world about surveilling - and I simply do not and did not see any major unrest.)

As to the first point: This seems mostly wishful thinking. From the rest of the article it seems as if Timms is convinced transparency is coming mainly because he thinks that if the government doesn't give it, more Snowdens will stand up and provide the transparency, but that does seem mostly wishful thinking, that mostly seems to forget the many billions the U.S. government has invested in
the NSA.

To be sure: I would like it much better if I thought Timms were right.

But I do not know any evidence that suggests he is, and much evidence that, at least for now, the U.S. government is much concerned to keep the NSA spying on anyone, and I also can understand why they would be: it gives them more power and more insight than any person ever had, and it will enable them to eventually arrest anyone they claim is "a terrorist", regardless who it is, and regardless of his real status.

2.  'Global Frackdown' Aims to Slay Myths and Force End to Fracking Bonanza

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Anti-fracking activists all over the world turned up their megaphones and took to the streets of their communities on Saturday to partipate in the "Global Frackdown" as they demanded an end to the destructive practice of hydraulic-fracture drilling that the oil and gas industries are aggressively trying to expand in regions across the planet.

“Across the globe a powerful movement is emerging that rejects policies incentivizing fracked natural gas as a bridge fuel to as sustainable future. Any initiative claiming to promote sustainable energy for all must stimulate energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, not foster fracking for oil and gas,” said Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of  U.S.-based Food & Water Watch, which spear-headed the day of action.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, including further opposition to the TTIP and two other international trade deals.

But again, my own judgement is that while I would much like to believe these actions will be successful, I have seen over 40 years of environmental actions, and while they did have some small successes, none saved much nature.

3. Government's Secretive "No-Fly List" Regime Crumbling, says ACLU

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Marking the first major victory against the U.S. government's secretive 'No Fly List' on Friday, seven people who challenged their inclusion on the list were finally cleared and told they can once again enjoy the right to board an aircraft and fly commercially over domestic airspace.

Responding to a federal court order that resulted from a challenge brought by the ACLU on behalf of thirteen American citizens placed on the list, Friday's announcement by the Department of Homeland Security was described by one attorney involved with the case as the first ever significant blow to the "unfair and unnecessary secrecy regime" that surrounds the government list that now contains thousands upon thousands of names.

That is a good result - but note that this applies to thirteen persons, while there are very many more who are denied the right to fly. Besides, of the thirteen seven are allowed to fly again, but six are not.

Even that last fact is some step forward, as Yachot from the ACLU explains:
"Yesterday’s milestone isn’t only significant for the seven American citizens who can finally resume their lives," wrote Yachot on the ACLU's blog on Saturday. "It also makes clear to the six other clients in the case that they’re still banned from flying. And while that may not seem like good news, it’s the first time the government has confirmed – albeit through negative implication rather than a direct confirmation – that people are on the No Fly List. It’s also a very basic victory for due process, because under our Constitution, the government can’t watchlist people and deny them basic freedoms without then telling them they’re blacklisted and why."
For that is part of the totalitarian approach that the U.S. government prefers: it does deny basic freedoms, indeed quite secretly, for it also does not tell them they have been placed on a No Fly List, nor why this was done.

In any case, this is a small success for the ACLU - but there are at least 47,000 persons (according to The Intercept) on the No Fly List, of which 800 are Americans, so there stiill is a considerable way to go.

4. The absurd history of English slang

The next item is an article by Jonathan Green on Salon:
In fact this is an excerpt from a book Green wrote "The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang", and it is here because I have been interested in English and American slang since 1970, and indeed I bought then a dictionary of - American - slang.

And no, this is definitely not part of the crisis - it is here because I like the subject and there were not many articles on the crisis today.

For those who want a taste, here is a quotation:
A prostitute is variously an apron, baggage, bangtail,  belfa, blowse, brimstone, commodity, crack, doxy, Drury Lane vestal, flap-cap, jilt, ladybird, lechery-layer, mumper, night walker, petticoat, quean, socket, suburb-jilt, tickle-tail and tickle-tail function, trugmoldy, trull and wagtail. He notes their male accomplices the town stallion, town-bully, town trap, or cock-bawd (all pimps) and the bully-huff, who specializes in intimidating the client, the cully. The flogging-cully is a fan of modern ‘fladge’. Intercourse is almost as well represented: the verbs bounce, bum-feague, clip, have, pump, shoot, sink, tread, plus nouns basket-making and the buttock-ball (an orgy).

There is a whole lot more under the last dotted link.

5.  Marijuana Study Reports Positive And Negative Findings

The next item is not an article but a video by The Young Turks:

This takes 6 m 22 s, and is a fairly brief review of a long and thorough study: This one took over 20 years, and was published in Addiction. As far as marijuana is concerned, the finding is quite like my own judgement, which is based on knowledge about 45 years of extended usage of marijuana and hashish in Amsterdam (for there was already a 'house dealer' in the Amsterdam Paradiso in 1969), which is briefly that it is not dangerous at all, and indeed a lot less dangerous than is alcohol. (This study gives a dose of 15 to 75 grams as possibly lethal, which is an amount no smoker ever smokes in a day.)

However, the item is here mainly because Ana Kasparian - one of the presenters - seems to have the same idea as I have (since a very long time, in my case: at least since 1970): Decriminalize all drugs, including heroine, cocaine and speed,  namely for the very good reason that this gives much better opportunities to help those who are hooked on them (for these are serious and dangerous drugs, but forbidding their usage doesn't help much, while it seriously hinders all help).

Since currently there are some American states in which marijuana can be bought and sold freely (which in fact is sooner than I expected), there is a chance that eventually all drugs will be decriminalized (which means that one could get one's heroine from a doctor, provided one also accepts help to stop using it), which will be a large step forward, though I expect this not to happen during my life.

6. Personal: Two rather good books

Since there weren't many crisis materials today (when I looked, fairly early in the morning) here is something about my reading and about two rather good books I read recently.

I have read a great lot ever since I started reading aged 5, though this really started around 7, when I became a member of an Amsterdam public library. In fact, the pattern I set then, reading five or more books a week, was taken up again when I was around 15 and persisted till I was 62. This means that I must have read over 10,000 books, which is probably correct, though I did not read all of all of them, and especially not of library books (most of which I read for my studies).

Of course, it also helped that I am ill since I was 28 (starting on 1.1.1979); that I do not have a TV since I was 20; that I have a very high intelligence; and that I read 7 languages easily.

This reading went on at a rather great pace until I was 62, when it was almost wholly stopped by my getting a rather serious and quite painful case of kerato-
conjunctivitis sicca
, aka "dry eyes", which prevented most of my reading for some 1 1/2 years, simply because I could not read by far as much nor as easily as the foregoing fortyfive years.

But by the end of 2013 I bought a bicyle (which I didn't have since the late 90ies), which meant that I could reach my preferred second-hand Amsterdam bookshop again ("The Book Exchange", which I have been visiting since 1978), and in this year I picked up again some of my reading habits, though my eyes are still not good enough to return to the five books - of any kind, from literature to mathematics and logic - a week.

Here are two brief and partial reviews of two books I recently bought and read, that seemed rather good to me.

First, there is "The Chrystal Spirit - A study of George Orwell" by George Woodcock which was published originally in 1966, while the copy I bought is a Penguin from 1970.

Two reasons this is a rather good book is that Woodcock was a Canadian anarchist, who also lived in England for quite a while, and who wrote several books about anarchism, of which I read one in the 1970ies, and who also knew George Orwell personally, and was befriended with him.

Both are good reasons to make a book about Orwell more interesting: It surely helps to have known him in person, and while Orwell was not an anarchist - I think - it does help to judge his leftist politics if one is an anarchist, not only formally, as regards leftist politicis, but also personally, for it helps to have an individualist point of view of one's own to judge the individualist point of view of Orwell.

Also, this really is a study of Orwell's books, mostly, and though it starts with a part "The Man Remembered" it does not contain a real biography, in part because Orwell had forbidden that, and in part because Woodcock thought he might have been too close to Orwell.

In any case, I liked the book, also without (quite) agreeing with it. If you are seriously interested in Orwell and know most of his writings, this is a good start to
try to find a general picture of the man, indeed in part because it is written by someone who was not a lit.crit. and who was in some respects like Orwell.

Second, there is "How to live or A Life of Montaigne" by Sarah Bakewell. This is recent: it is from 2010. I like Montaigne a lot, ever since I first read him in my twenties, and I have read several books about him, that were mostly a disappointment, but this is both a good life and a decent discussion of how to live. 

Bakewell combines both themes in 20 chapters, that each contain the question "How to live?" with twenty different answers, and she succeeds quite well, except for one complaint, that may be mostly mine: I think she is too friendly to post- modernism. Then again, I am a philosopher who has seen much of the harm it did in the university and the faculties where I studied, while I grant that the fashion is now mostly over - but it still seems to me too stupid to take seriously the vain imaginations that postmodernists find or attribute to texts, but Bakewell takes it seriously, and seems to enjoy it, and I did not.

That definitely is a blemish, but the rest of the book stands up quite well.

P.S. Oct 13, 2014: I supplied the dotted link to item 2, that somehow did not appear.
[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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