Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog


  December
7, 2014
Crisis: Pentagon, NSA+GCHQ, Awful writing, Credit Cards, Taxes, Animal addicts
  "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
Sections
Introduction

1.
 The New Pentagon Chief, Ashton Carter, and the Beauty
     of DC Bipartisanship

2. Forget North Korea – the real rogue cyber operator lies
     much closer to home

3. People Rise Up: The Streets Are Alive with the Sound of
     Movement

4.
Ten Reasons Why I Don’t Have a Credit Card
5. Forget austerity – what we need is a stronger state and
     more taxation

6. Animal Addicts: How Monkeys, Elephants, Dolphins, and
    Cats Get High, And How It Could Change the War on Drugs


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 7. It is a crisis log.

There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about the new Pentagon chief; item 2 is about the NSA and the GCHQ; item 3 is an example of how not to argue and not to write; item 4 is Ralph Nader on 10 reasons why he does not have a credit card; item 5 is for a stronger British state in which there are more taxes (and I agree); and item 6 is not about the crisis but about the facts that most
mammals get high on similar substances as humans do, while the animals do so because they really like it.


And here goes:

1.The New Pentagon Chief, Ashton Carter, and the Beauty of DC Bipartisanship    

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

This starts as follows:
At a White House ceremony, President Obama today introduced his nominee to head the Pentagon, Ashton Carter. The first paragraph of the New York Times article on this event describes Carter as someone “who may advocate a stronger use of American power.” For a country at war for 13 straight years with no end in sight, and which more or less continuously bombs multiple countries simultaneously, what would a “stronger use of American power” look like?
Here is a (partially) quoted answer of Glenn Greenwald to his own question:

Carter also “believed the U.S. should have left a robust residual troop force in Iraq and believes the military has been asked to swallow dangerously large budget cuts.” Similarly, he was furious when Obama “decided at the last moment to call off military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.” Moreover, “he was one of the legal architects of the administration’s policy on targeted killings using drone strikes.” And for good measure, he said this in May at a panel discussion at Harvard: “We had a cyber Pearl Harbor. His name was Edward Snowden.”

It’s no wonder, then, that – as the Times article put it – “Mr. Carter, 60, is expected to face smooth confirmation hearings from Senate Republicans, who say they foresee no opposition to him.”
Indeed.

2. Forget North Korea – the real rogue cyber operator lies much closer to home 

The next item is an article by John Naughton on The Guardian:

This starts with the question whether North Korea was responsible for the problems Sony recently had, to which the answer is: Very probably not, and then considers a far more interesting thing:

But the really big cyber story of the past two weeks is less glamorous but rather more worrying in the longer term. It concerns Regin, a piece of malware that has only recently come to light, although it’s been around for years. The security firm Symantec describes it as “a complex piece of malware whose structure displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen. Customisable with an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target, it provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organisations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers and private individuals.”

It also turned out that Regin - which masks itself as if it were a regular MS Windows program - was used to spy on a Belgian phone and internet services provider and on EU computer systems, and it seems as if Regin was developed by the NSA and/or the GCHQ. Why? To spy on people. Which people? Anyone, basically, for reasons of "cybersecurity".

Here is Naughton's last paragraph:

“Cybersecurity” actually means two things: first, national security, and second, that the only corner of cyberspace that we care about is our own. We can exploit every other virtual inch of it for our own (national) purposes. This gives us carte blanche to, for example, undermine everybody’s online security by weakening the encryption used for commercial transactions; purchase “zero-day exploits” from hackers for use against targeted organisations; and spread malware such as Regin anywhere we goddamn please. Welcome to our networked world.

Yes. Also: This will continue and continue, unless it gets radically destroyed, but that needs new governments with radical plans and a considerable amount of power. Until then, the "networked world" is a heaven for secret spies, who abuse and may abuse anything in any way, in the deepest secrets, all - they say, and I completely disbelieve since 2005 - "because of terrorism".

Or rather: it is
"because of terrorism" - but not to stop the terrorism of some disgruntled Muslims, without territory, without trained professional armies, without atomic bombs, and without billions of dollars to spend as they please, but to introduce the state-terrorism of the NSA and the GCHQ on anyone, and to get to know anything anyone does, in order to fix anyone who deviates too much of what the governments/corporations dictate is the right opinion.

3. People Rise Up: The Streets Are Alive with the Sound of Movement

The next item is an article by Randall Amster on Common Dreams:

Really? Millions protesting they are spied upon as if they are criminals, for unknown reasons for unknown governments or secret organizations? Tens of millions protesting their incomes get lower? Tens of millions protesting the
content of the news the modern mass media provide?

I haven't seen any evidence for that, though I think each theme is worth the anger of tens or indeed hundreds of millions of Americans - who are not criminals, nor terrorists, whose incomes do get lower, and who are lied to, quite systematically also, by the mass media. Yet perhaps I haven't seen much, while Randall Amster claims he has, and starts his article thus (and I am sorry if you find this hard to digest: it is hard to digest):

In an era rife with pop-culture trivialities juxtaposed with escalating calamities, we find ourselves at a remarkable moment that poses profound existential questions for the soul of the nation. Systems that have claimed the mantle of “justice” (while practicing little of it) are being exposed to an unprecedented level of scrutiny, demonstrating in stark terms that tragic episodes from Ferguson to New York are not exceptional but instead constitute the baseline norm of official behavior. The message is not that this system is broken, but rather that it is working exactly the way it was designed. The primary difference now is that people are paying attention.

Really now?

"In an era rife with pop-culture trivialities juxtaposed with escalating calamities, we find ourselves at a remarkable moment that poses profound existential questions for the soul of the nation."?!

If that is good writing, I am a cucumber. I am a philosopher, and have read philosophy since 50 years, much of which was not great prose (and some that was, although rarely from the 20th Century) but who can tell me what this means? I mean: I can impose some clarity, sort of - but why this jargon of long and vague words? Why this vague mishmash: "pop-culture trivialities", "escalating calamities", "a remarkable moment", "profound existential questions",  "the soul of the nation"?

Here is some more:

"Most significantly, analytical consternation has focused more on the seemingly uncoordinated mayhem of the demonstrations than on the coordinated violence of the systems they oppose. "

Really now?! And some more:

"The lessons we can take from this are instructive. Just as legislative brushstrokes were incapable of ending institutionalized racism in the nation, we can surmise that contemporary reforms such as police body cameras and civilian review boards will not sufficiently address the deep-seated issues being raised..."

I suppose this means: "The law did not end racism and neither will police body cameras and civilian review boards", but again: Why not say it?

And there is this (quoted from much more equivalent stuff):

"In this sense, what is often taken as the American mythological “norm”—i.e., a level societal playing field defined by equal opportunity, mobility through merit, and justice for all—is undeniably inflected with our unchecked historical baggage and a set of unquestioned values that reflect the requisite power, property, and privilege of an entrenched ruling class consciousness."

Again I do not know what is meant - and no: I can read Shakespeare and Dr Johnson and William Hazlitt, and have, indeed all or most each of these wrote, and none of whom was a simple writer, and I did so with great enthusiasm, understanding, and liking. But this is just extremely bad writing.

And to end, here is an enlightening bit from the last paragraph:

"On the cusp of pivoting from protest to resistance, movements for justice can sustain by leveraging resistance into persistence, and ultimately prevail through persistence for the continuation of our very existence."

I say. Well... this was a demonstration how not to write (and I could have quoted a great lot more).

4. Ten Reasons Why I Don’t Have a Credit Card

The next item is an article by Ralph Nader on his blog:
I say. I do have one, since several decades also, but I always have had very little money and have trained myself to live within my means (and save some).

Also, I do pay most by cash or by paper check, and still cannot make any payment on the internet, which I also want to avoid as long as I can, while the main reason to have a credit card is that it is the only feasible means to get the cash that is put on my bank account.

But indeed I do not like credit cards, and I like Ralph Nader's piece, that also is not long.

5. Forget austerity – what we need is a stronger state and more taxation

The next item is an article by Will Hutton on The Observer: This starts as follows:

If the Conservative party forms the next government, by 2020 the state will probably be the smallest it has been – in relation to GDP – for 80 years. So declared the Office for Budget Responsibility last Wednesday, in the wake of the autumn statement. By 2020, spending per head of population will have fallen by around a third in 10 years. In some areas – in our cities and our criminal justice system – the reductions will be even more draconian. This is the most dramatic change in state capability that any British government has ever engineered.

The chancellor may complain about the “hyperbolic” tone of some BBC reporting. But surely only in a one-party state would this dramatic plan not be discussed in appropriately dramatic terms. Britain is to become the site of a massive experiment in economic and social libertarianism whose authors have never fessed up to the sheer audacity and scale of what they are doing.
I agree, except for the end: I think Cameron and Osborne etc. know quite well what they are doing - stealing from the poor to give to the rich, while denying that anyone who is not rich should have almost any right - for this is what they
are doing, and clearly they enjoy it, as indeed I would, if I were a British Tory
who had decided to make the rich richer, by stealing from the poor, and by obfuscating that through blaming it on "austerity" (for the poor, not the rich).

There is a lot more in explanation, that I will forego, but here is where it will and indeed has ended:
(...) when a chancellor refuses to consider raising taxes as the tax base collapses it is a recipe for disaster. It results in a minimal state, with implications for prisons, schools, courts, policing, legal aid, care, security and defence that are profound.
(...)
But the bigger truth is that if Britain wants the scale of public activity congruent with a civilised society, it has to be paid for. The reaction will be hysterical, but lifting taxes by 3% of GDP to 38.5% to find the missing £54bn will still leave Britain below the crucial 40% benchmark, thus undertaxed by comparison with most advanced countries.
Yes, but the first paragraph is what the Tories want: They want the rich to exploit the poor; they do not want the poor to have almost any protection by the state; and they certainly do not want the rich - themselves - to pay more taxes.

Then again, Hutton is quite right that an increase in taxes by 3% would alleviate many financial problems and still would mean that Great Britain is "
undertaxed by comparison with most advanced countries". (But this is anathema to the Tories.)

This is the last bit:
Reducing spending on schools further is surely short changing our children. How much smaller should the army, navy and air force become? Is the welfare system to return to a system of discretionary poor relief? Do we share the libertarian view that the state is worthless – and there is no co-dependency between public and private? What role do we want the state to have in our civilisation? The right would have it that none of these questions can be asked because all involve an increase in taxation: our only future is a 1930s scale state.

There is a different future, and our politicians of the centre and left have to argue for it, but they must accept it has to be paid for. This has become an existential divide. Politics and political argument have never mattered more.

Yes, I agree - but I am quite pessimistic, since Labour has turned to a Tory-lite
party under Blair, just as the U.S. Democrats turned to a Republican-lite party under Clinton, and while all of that was massive deception, it worked.

6. Animal Addicts: How Monkeys, Elephants, Dolphins, and Cats Get High, And How It Could Change the War on Drugs

The next and last item is an article by Daniel Genis on AlterNet, that is not here because of the crisis, but because it amused me:
I should note also why it amused me: I am at the moment rereading "Moksha", which is a selection from Aldous Huxley's writings on drugs, edited by Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer, first published in 1977 and bought by me and first read in 1984, a little over 30 years ago.

There is much I agree with and much I disagree with in
"Moksha". But it is an interesting collection anyway, which I will not discuss here. Here I will just briefly discuss two quotations from the above article, of which this is the first:

Australians wallabies, so cute and fuzzy, seek out poppy plants to indulge in the opiates within. Dogs who live by cane fields learn to harass certain toads that inhabit them until they release their glandular bufotenin, a form of the hallucinogen, DMT. This is the same psychoactive substance enjoyed by humans who lick toads and drink ayahuasca. 

And it turns out that dolphins eat the poisonous pufferfish for its psychoactive venom—to become inebriated on the small portion of poison. The dolphins are careful, as well. They bite off as much as they need and not enough to hurt themselves. And then they pass the fish around the pod to share the experience—much like teenagers with joints in stairwells.
There is considerably more, but one main line of argument is this: Many mammals seem to get high for the same or similar reasons, and on similar substances, as humans do (who are, after all, another species of mammal);
many mammals also seem to like it a lot to get high (even to the extent of rats who work themselves to death in order to get cocaine); while there is no typically human reason - such as: traumas, diseases, human unhappiness - for them to get high: They get high simply because it feels nice.

I think that is established, as indeed it also is established that most of the things that get humans high were discovered by them very long ago. (For this, you need Huxley's text rather than this one, but he was right about that.)

Then there is also this:
The litany of substance use in animals is interesting and conjures up a question that should make legislators, drug warriors and addiction specialists very uncomfortable. In the “disease model” of addiction, the user is suffering from trauma that he is medicating with the drug. Entire rehabilitation centers are built around this model and people are put through a lot of unpleasantness to force them to face their emotions rather than medicate them. The success rates are abysmal (...)
Yes, indeed. In fact, I would argue that most psychotropic drugs are taken because people are curious or because they know they like them, and that the main problem with taking many - not: all - psychotropic drugs (such as: hashish, marijuana, mescaline, LSD) is that they are legally forbidden, while in fact those mentioned are less dangerous than alcohol. (This is not true for cocaine and heroine and opium.)

Anyway, I think myself (and since 1969) that legalizing all drugs is the best way
to deal with their dangers: some are not dangerous at all; some are dangerous to some, but are best dealt in a medical and not a legal way; and some may hook most, but this still is best dealt with
in a medical and not a legal way. [2]

---------------------------------
P.S.: Dec 8, 2014: Made two small corrections.
Notes
[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] Having lived in Amsterdam nearly all of my life, I got plenty of chances to try plenty of drugs since 1967. Here is a summary: I never got drunk on alcohol, because I dislike alcohol (I don't know why: I just do); I never tried heroin or opium because I did not want to get hooked; I once tried - good - cocaine, and it did not do anything for me (I don't know why, except that the cocaine was good); I tried marijuana, hashish, mescalin and LSD and liked them (never had a negative experience), and never got hooked, and I also never believed that mescalin or LSD would give me true mystical experiences; and that is about it. As I said, I never got hooked to anything; I never considered psychotropic drugs as anything but a means to have nice experiences; and - apart from alcohol and cocaine, for which I may be atypical - it seems my sort of experiences are quite like many more people in Amsterdam of my age - thousands or tens of thousands - have had (though it is true that I was probably more careful than most, and also more skeptical and more scientific than most).


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)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



       home - index - summaries - mail