June 11, 2015
Crisis + "The Miller-Durrell Letters"
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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


News Flash: Washington Post Caters to the Powerful
Proposed Torture Ban Includes New Transparency and
     Oversight Mechanisms

3. Why Personhood Matters
4. Continued absence of the ICD-10 G93.3 terms from the
     ICD-11 Beta drafting platform

5On  "The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935-1980"

This is a Nederlog of Thursday June 11, 2015.

This is a crisis blog, but not a quite normal one: I have little time on the moment, did not sleep enough, and had decided anyway to throw in a book review of a clearly non-crisis related book.

These are today's items: item 1 is about an article by Dan Froomkin about the recently bought Washington Post; item 2 is about a fairly good item (they also
occur, once in a while): there is a proposed torture ban for the U.S. military;
item 3 is about an article about corporate personhood; item 4 is about an
article by Suzy Chapman about the lacking of terms for M.E. and CFS the last three years in the proposed new WHO-rules; and item 5 is a brief review of mine of a book of letters by Durrell and Miller (from 1988).

Here goes - maybe there is more tomorrow:
1. News Flash: Washington Post Caters to the Powerful The first item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

A fascinating sociological experiment unfolds before our eyes starting this morning, as the Washington Post unveils its new “PowerPost” vertical, subtitled “Intelligence for Leaders.”

Post publisher Fred Ryan, in a memo to the Post newsroom leaked to Politico, said the new project would focus “on the subjects that matter most to the people at the center of power.”

What we can learn, therefore, is what the editors of the Washington Post, themselves of course among the powerful, think their fellow powerful people are interested in.

If I had a captive audience of powerful people, mind you, I would expose them relentlessly to the stories of the powerless — the people being squashed by their precious status quo, the people scraping by at wrong end of the playing field the powerful have tilted so steeply, the people going to schools to which the powerful would never dream of sending their children.

But of course the Washington Post’s goal here is not to bum out the powerful, or teach them humility; it is to attract them, coddle them and fulfill their needs.

There is considerably more in the article (and yes, The Washington Post was recently bought by Amazon owner, billionair Jeff Bezos).

2 Proposed Torture Ban Includes New Transparency and Oversight Mechanisms

The next item is an article by Sam Sacks on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The Senate is poised to vote on a measure imposing a government-wide ban on torture — a prohibition that would be bolstered by provisions to bring detainee interrogation policy out of the shadows.

The move, proposed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would require the Pentagon and all federal agencies to conduct interrogations in accordance with the Army Field Manual, which forbids the worst of the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” techniques documented last year by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the post-9/11 torture program.

Senators could vote on the legislation, an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as early as Wednesday, as they consider a long list of related proposals.

The measure includes transparency and oversight mechanisms that would subject the field manual’s section on human intelligence to public scrutiny, and would compel the army to publicly release proposed changes to the guidelines 30 days before they take effect.

The White House-created High Value Detainee Interrogation Group would be required to determine “best practices” for interrogation. And the Pentagon, Justice Department, Director of National Intelligence and FBI would be required to reassess the field manual every three years.

I say! This is fairly good news.

3.  Why Personhood Matters The next item is an article by Tamara R. Piety, who professes law, on Truth-out:

This is basically a reflection on the concept of a person in American law, in which I learned that, in some sense at least, corporations are persons since 129 years now.

Then again, none of this justifies the recent decision of the Supreme Court, which allowed billionaires to fund politicians as they please. Besides, as the article also makes clear, the legal decisions of the Supreme Court about corporate personhood
are almost completely unmotivated.

Here is the last paragraph:

Voters do not need to be legal sophisticates to know that something is wrong when corporations have more rights than people do. Santa Clara laid the foundation for this "corporate civil rights movement," which in turn facilitates "oligarchic capture," a situation in which government serves the interests of money over people. That is bad for democracy. It may ultimately be bad for business as well. The time has come to reassert common sense in the treatment of corporate "persons." That may require more focus on the personhood concept, not less.

Perhaps. But I do not think law is a science, and I also do not think that anything other than a physical body can be a person, while the advantage of prosecuting
a corporation can be had without making such an aggregation a person.

Then again, indeed I am not a lawyer.

4. Continued absence of the ICD-10 G93.3 terms from the ICD-11 Beta drafting platform: Letter to key Revision personnel

The next item is an article by Suzy Chapman on dxrevisionwatch:

This is only relevant for people with M.E. (as I am):

Yesterday Suzy Chapman published a letter (based on a mail to various medical doctors involved with the WHO) which starts as follows:

At the end of May, a frozen release was posted for the ICD-11 Beta draft.

I remain extremely concerned that there are still no entries in the public Beta, within any linearization, for the three ICD-10 G93.3 legacy entities:

Postviral fatigue syndrome
Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis
Chronic fatigue syndrome

As you are aware, these three entities (plus a dozen or so synonym terms) were removed without explanation from the Diseases of the nervous system chapter of the public version of the Beta draft, in early 2013.

For considerably more, click the last dotted link.

5. On  "The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935-1980"
The last item is not about an article and also not about the crisis, but about a book that I bought in the end of May of this year and finished yesterday:

The book was published in 1988 (and as usual I bought my copy second hand,
simply because that is cheaper, and the bookshop is a very good one, since 1978 also). The link is to a review by Vivian Gornick, "Masters of Self-Congratulation".

I did not like that review very much (it is mostly about Miller and Durrell on women and on Jews) so here is my bit.

In fact, this is about the first book I've read since June 2012 that I read with few  problems with my eyes. They are still not OK, but they are a lot less painful than
they were for 2 1/2 years, and also I do not have many difficulties with seeing anymore.

So all in all this is the first book of over 500 pages that I've read in the last three years, and indeed I also read it rather fast, both of which are considerable steps

As to the book: What did I think of it? I liked it, but it is not great prose nor great literature, and it will be mainly of interest to people who have some personal interest in Miller or Durrell.

I do have a personal interest in Miller since the late 1970ies, when I first read him, though my interest is a bit abnormal, I guess: I am especially interested in Miller on individualism and on mysticism (and on the last subject he tends to be obscure).

Also, I don't have much of an interest in Durrell, although I have read around 1980 most of his "Alexandria Quartet" and all of "The Black Book": He was a decent writer, but his themes are less interesting, and he also has the setback
for me that his writing often sounds a bit artificial. (I may be mistaken about
this, but that is what I think, indeed also without disliking Durrell.)

There were four things that struck me about the book.

A. Both Durrell and Miller are rather interested in being famous (that also
    brought them money, even though for Miller this took to his seventies),
    and for both fame is mostly problematic (many unknown visitors
    and uninvited letters, for example). But both were interested in being found
    interesting, even if both, and especially Miller, are convinced that in the end
    only a few really understand them.

I do not have this, but indeed I never was famous or well-known, at least
outside the confines of the University of Amsterdam. But apart from better finances, I am not at all interested in being found interesting by people who
do not understand me, and especially not on literary grounds.

Indeed, that is one of the main reasons, next to being Dutch and being in
the dole since I was 34, that kept me from trying to become famous by
writing literature: Dutch writing is generally awful, and being in the dole
made publishing virtually impossible. [1]

B. After 60 or 65 both writers wrote less, and not at all as much as in
    their 40ies, even though they kept up writing letters to each other.

This is not to say they stopped publishing, but it did get considerably less.
As for me: I guess I wrote the most since 2001 until now, mostly for the
website. (But that is a great lot: 500 MB of which I wrote more than 250 MB.
And a decent sized Penguin Classics has around 700 Kb of text. [2])

C. Both lacked a university degree, and had little experience of universities.

This may seem like a strange remark, but I make it because of their interests:
Miller is much interested in many swamis and other mystics, and Durrell is interested in the Templars, and by and large I find those interests - and in spite of sharing a strong interest in mysticism with Miller - difficult to make sense of.

Then again: (1) the only thing that might have stopped them was a study of physics, mathematics or philosophy of science, and neither had the head for it,
and (2) I also think "a university education" rarely comprises much, so in that
sense they very probably did not miss much.

D. The last ten years of Miller's life - from 1971-1980 - must have been
    considerably less pleasant than it seemed to be: Around 1976 he had
    half an ear (one deaf, one with a hearing aid); one none to good eye (the
    other had died); a bad right leg and a bad left hip.

I didn't know that because there is little to be seen about it from his writings or from such correspondence as I saw. On the other hand: He was quite healthy,
in spite of considerable smoking and drinking, until he was 80, which are more
healthy years than most get.


[1] The same holds for publishing in philosophy or psychology. Besides, I dislike "the academic world".

[2] It is true that a good part is html-formatting, but even if that were half of it (and it very probably isn't) then still I wrote texts that fill about 125 medium sized Penguin Classics. (Well... a lot was quoted, since 2013. Then again that probably also is less than 25 MB. So a mere 100 medium sized Penguin Classics.)

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