who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Make History, So Hollywood’s War Stories Need To
2. Ed Miliband: I will not
back down on tax avoidance
Grow to Reject AUMF That Permits 'Waging War All
Critical to Human Freedom': Snowden, Poitras,
and Greenwald Talk NSA
One of Psychology's Most Infamous
This is a Nederlog of
February 14, 2015.
This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about films and propaganda by films; item 2 is on Ed Milliband's not backing down on tax
avoidance; item 3 is about Obama's vaguely worded
proposal to have (minor?) wars everywhere, without Congressional
approval, also; item 4 is about a recent interview
with Snowden, Poitras and Greenwald that seems quite good but that
I so far have not been able to find; and item 5
is about one of the very few
experiments in social psychology that made much sense and also got
quite famous (but that these days is "critiqued" by some, mostly - it
seems to me -
by far dumber academics than Milgram was, and to ease their own
Make History, So Hollywood’s War Stories Need To Be True
The first item
article by Peter Maass on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
I agree with A.O. Scott,
though I also agree with Peter Maass's ending:
When the Academy Awards
are handed out, history will be made.
I’m not referring to the
Oscars that particular films might win, but our embrace of their
narratives of history. If “American Sniper” gathers a fistful of
statues, even more people will see a film that presents a skewed
view of the Iraq war. If the “Imitation Game” gets lucky, a lot
more people will watch a movie that erroneously
portrays Alan Turing as a social idiot. If “Selma” catches some of the
limelight, more people may believe that Lyndon Johnson wasn’t
entirely supportive of Martin Luther King.
This year’s controversy
over films and history has led to a dismissive shrug from cultural
critics who wearily
tell us that movies are just movies, you shouldn’t take their
versions of truth to heart, just enjoy the show. “Going to a Hollywood
movie for a history lesson is like going to a brothel for a lecture in
philosophy,” wrote Esquire’s Stephen
Marche. “You’re in the wrong place.” A.O. Scott,
the New York Times film critic, tweeted for the hard of
understanding, “FEATURE FILMS ARE NOT HISTORY. THEY ARE HISTORICAL
By all means, let
movies engage history — this is a wonderful thing — but their
narratives of violence should not be spared a confrontation with the
Indeed, Peter Maass's
article is more subtle than its title, with which I disagree, again
because “FEATURE FILMS
ARE NOT HISTORY. THEY ARE HISTORICAL FICTION.”
That this comprises the case of quite a few out-and-out propaganda
films that sing the song of Our War in which Our Very Own Superheroes
commit all kinds of Heroic Acts - that also are believed as true
by many who saw these movies, and especially if they themselves
are neither intelligent nor well educated (which comprises the
majority, I'm very sorry to say), is quite evident and quite
But since that is less a consequence of the dire deceptions planned by
bad film directors or scriptwriters (although these are quite possible)
as it is of the wide lack of intelligence and the conformable
presence of lots of ignorance, I disagree with the title.
2. Ed Miliband: I will not back down on tax
item is an article by Patrick Wintour on the - mostly destroyed,
formerly quite fine, presently very ugly and very bad
website of  - The Guardian:
This starts as follows (and
you are supposed to know who Ed Milliband
(<- Wikipedia) is):
Well... I agree, and I
also think Milliband would be a less bad leader of Great
Britain than David Cameron, who simply is for the rich and against the
poor, but that is about the extent of my agreement, because I also
dislike Labour, though less so than the Conservatives.
Ed Miliband is to promise that regardless of
how much he is attacked, he will not back down in his campaign against
tax avoidance, saying that in government he will insist that the rich
play by the same rules as the poor.
In a speech to the Welsh Labour conference on Saturday, he will claim
that the HSBC scandal is much more than a row that has shaken the world
of finance and politics and argue that it has also crystallised a deep
sense of injustice about how Britain is run and who it is run for. He
will say that the episode has threatened the fabric of a society that
depends on all sections abiding by the same rules.
I also agree with this:
argue that these disputes are not about who is up or down at
Westminster, but about the risk of a country divided, with one rule for
the rich and powerful and another for everybody else. The government
has failed to take action on tax havens, tax transparency, profit
shifting and aggressive tax avoidance, he will claim.
But I do not trust either Milliband or Labour,
although upon the whole, and without Blair and Brown, they are a bit
less bad than the Conservatives, but hardly more credible, though that
is more due to Blair and Brown than to Milliband.
Grow to Reject AUMF That Permits
'Waging War All
The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. There is
considerably more in the article, including this:
Opposition to President
Barack Obama's request to authorize another endless war in the Middle
East continues to build, with progressives charging that the draft
resolution is far too broad and anti-war activists mobilizing to defeat
As Common Dreams
the proposed authorization for use of military force (AUMF) gives
approval for open-ended and geographically limitless military
operations. Its vague
wording leaves the door open to use of ground troops, which the
administration has previously vowed to avoid, and does nothing to
repeal the sweeping 2001 AUMF, which is still being used to justify
ongoing military actions in various regions around the world.
"This Resolution sets a
dangerous precedent," said
Francis Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College
of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions.
"Up until the 2001 AUMF, all War Powers Resolutions had been adopted
with respect to a State, not alleged terrorist organizations that can
operate anywhere in the world as defined by the President."
But "[t]his Resolution
continues in that dangerous path, basically substituting ISIS for
al-Qaeda and continuing to wage a global war on terrorism," Boyle
continued. "So if Obama cannot plausibly invoke the 2001 Resolution
because there is no connection to 9/11 as required therein, he will
simply invoke this Resolution. Between the two resolutions you can have
the U.S. government waging war all over the world."
But so far Sanders is
one of the few to oppose the AUMF. I think he is right,
Sen. Bernie Sanders
(I-Vt.) is one of the only U.S. senators to have offered a firm
position on the AUMF.
"I oppose sending U.S.
ground troops into combat in another bloody war in the Middle East," he
Wednesday. "I therefore cannot support the resolution in its current
form without clearer limitations on the role of U.S. combat troops."
but with the present Congress Obama's awfully vague ruling will
And so there will be lots more wars and lots more war profits (except
that you may not call them wars and you should not
think anyone makes a profit from them).
'Privacy Critical to Human
Freedom': Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald Talk NSA
The next item is an
article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as
During a unique conversation
hosted by the New School and the New York Times on Thursday, the three
people most responsible for bringing the story of mass global
surveillance programs orchestrated by the U.S. National Security Agency
were brought together for the first time since they first met in a Hong
Kong hotel in 2013.
Filmmaker Laura Poitras
and journalist Glenn Greenwald sat with the New York Times media
columnist David Carr on stage while the whistleblower himself, Edward
Snowden, appeared via videolink from Russia where he remains under
I should start with
saying that - so far - I have not been able to find any
viewable copy from the interview. This may in part be due to my decision
odd that this Common Dreams article ends with this:
Watch the conversation:
After which there is no
link of any kind, also not in the html for the site.
So all I can do is
quote from this article. To start with, here is Glenn Greenwald:
Greenwald, who along with
his colleagues at the Guardian, won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting
on the Snowden documents, said during the talk, "The realm of privacy
is critical to human freedom, to political activism and is something
that we've always sought out."
Rejecting the idea that
"only people who have something to hide" should be worried about
government surveillance, Greenwald continued by arguing that what those
people are saying "is that 'I've agreed to turn myself into such a
submissive, pliant, uninteresting person that I actually don't think
the government is interested in me.' That in itself is an extraordinary
damage—that you accept that bargain or that that bargain even exists.
But I think for all of us, just the knowledge that we might be watched
at any given moment is very psychologically damaging," for individual
people and for society as a whole.
Yes, I quite agree.
And as I have said before - first on December
25, 2012, before knowing anything about Snowden or about his many revelations
- I think (with a father and a
grandfather locked up as "political terrorists" by the Nazis, which
my grandfather did not survive) this is in fact the start of American
fascism, for (1) only extremely evil governors insist on knowing
everything about anyone (and all in secret, done by anonymous people,
shielded by secret courts, whose decisions often are secret) and (2)
spying on everyone is fundamentally undemocratic, extremely
bad and very dangerous, and is also fundamentally
This is also why I am
less optimistic than is Edward Snowden:
(...) Snowden said, "The
reality is that people care about our ability to communicate and
associate without being monitored and judged based on private
activities. And as long as we have that, we will win regardless of the
efforts against us."
He continued, "When it
comes down it—and, yes, governments possess extraordinary powers—but at
the end of the day there are more of us than there are of them. And as
long as we work together and as long as we value our rights, we will be
able to protect them and assert them."
I doubt it, but I
have lived more than twice as long as Snowden, and I probably also have
lower opinions than he does about ordinary men
(the link is quite revealing).
But I agree with his concluding words - we need to work
together and we need to value our rights, specifically - and
can only hope for the best.
One of Psychology's Most Infamous Experiments
The next and
last item today is an
article by Cari Romm on The Atlantic:
This starts with the following
In the 1960s,
Stanley Milgram's electric-shock studies showed that people will obey
even the most abhorrent of orders. But recently, researchers have begin
to question his conclusions—and offer some of their own.
And that indeed is the
subject. To start with, here is a link to Stanley Milgram
(<- Wikipedia), who got to be only 51, and a link to Christopher
R. Browning, whose book "Ordinary Men" taught me rather a lot about ordinary
men in a state of war or under a totalitarian
government, and who was - among other things - inspired by Milgram.
The article itself starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. It also
explains why my father and grandfather were not ordinary men, for they were some of the very
few Dutchmen who went into resistance against the Nazis who occupied
Holland from May 1940 - May 1945; who opposed the maltreatment of the
Jews (of which more than 116,000 were murdered, in part thanks to the collaboration
of the rich Jews David Cohen and Abraham Asscher with the
Nazis); and who were arrested in July of 1941, and convicted by
collaborating Dutch judges as "political terrorists" to German
concentration camps, where my grandfather was also murdered.
In 1961, Yale University
psychology professor Stanley Milgram placed an advertisement in the New
Haven Register. “We will pay you $4 for one hour of your time,” it
read, asking for “500 New Haven men to help us complete a scientific
study of memory and learning.”
Only part of that was
true. Over the next two years, hundreds of people showed up at
Milgram’s lab for a learning and memory study that quickly turned into
something else entirely. Under the watch of the experimenter, the
volunteer—dubbed “the teacher”—would read out strings of words to his
partner, “the learner,” who was hooked up to an electric-shock machine
in the other room. Each time the learner made a mistake in repeating
the words, the teacher was to deliver a shock of increasing intensity,
starting at 15 volts (labeled “slight shock” on the machine) and going
all the way up to 450 volts (“Danger: severe shock”). Some people,
horrified at what they were being asked to do, stopped the experiment
early, defying their supervisor’s urging to go on; others continued up
to 450 volts, even as the learner pled for mercy, yelled a warning
about his heart condition—and then fell alarmingly silent. In the most
well-known variation of the experiment, a full 65 percent of people
went all the way.
Until they emerged from the
lab, the participants didn’t know that the shocks weren’t real, that
the cries of pain were pre-recorded, and that the learner—railroad
McDonough—was in on the whole thing, sitting alive and unharmed in
the next room. They were also unaware that they had just been used to
prove the claim that would soon make Milgram famous: that ordinary
people, under the direction of an authority figure, would obey just
about any order they were given, even to torture. It’s a phenomenon
that’s been used to explain atrocities from the Holocaust to the
Vietnam War’s My Lai massacre to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
There is a lot more in the article, in part about criticisms of
Milgram, that I mostly, as a philosopher and a psychologist with
excellent degrees, and a specialization in methodology, cast aside as
trivial, not relevant or mere fame-
hunting by my esteemed academic colleagues.
So here I am one of "the many":
psychologists argue that even with methodological holes and moral
lapses, the basic finding of Milgram’s work, the rate of obedience,
still holds up.
I agree. For more, see
the article, that is quite interesting and good.
 I will write an article about it next week, but all
I say for the present is that at The Guardian it seems, at least for
me, as if most act as if nothing happened, nothing
needs any discussion, and everything with their 1992
text style in their 1935 lettering is quite fine. It is not,
but I will explain this next week, and then leave it alone, mostly
because I am not British, and because I have seen Dutch dailies
being destroyed as well, and also could not do a thing to stop the
destruction and the - quite intentional! - stupification.