Thursday, Mar 9, 2017

Crisis+ME: WikiLeaks, Post-Truth, C.I.A., Trump, Rationale, Q&A on ME/CFS Research

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. WikiLeaks: The CIA Bugs Everyone's Phones, TVs, Cars...
2. Post-Truth Is Pre-Fascism:
C.I.A. Scrambles to Contain Damage From WikiLeaks

4. The soap opera star’s guide to Donald Trump
5. ICD-11 Beta draft: Rationale for Proposal for Deletion of
     proposed new category: Bodily distress disorder

6. Q&A on ME/CFS Research with Dr. Ron Davis - 7.iii.17

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, March 9, 2017.

Summary: This is a somewhat mixed Nederlog: The first four items are regular crisis items; the last two are about ME/CFS:

Item 1 is in fact a video by The Young Turks, which is here because it is fairly short (10 m) and quite clear; item 2 is about a fairly long interview with Timothy Snyder; item 3 is about an article in the NYT that describes part of the C.I.A.'s reactions to the WikiLeaks publication about them; and item 4 is about a fairly interesting article by a soap opera star on Trump.

The other two articles are about ME/CFS: Item 5 is about a fine article by Suzy Chapman, and item 6 is about the last upload of a Q&A with
Ron Davis (<-Wikipedia), who answered questions about his ME/CFS research.
March 9: As to the updating problem: The Danish site is OK once again (it immediately - within 2 minutes - shows today's NL after uploading); and even the Dutch site was OK today (for me). Where my site on stuck for others I have NO idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. They have been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. WikiLeaks: The CIA Bugs Everyone's Phones, TVs, Cars...

The first item today is by The Young Turks and is a video explaining WikiLeaks and the CIA:
I discovered TYT in 2009 when I got fast internet. I liked them then considerably more than I do now, probably because they were a lot smaller than they are now and a bit more radical.

These days they are rather big and I don't show much of them, in part because I simply do not like news reported in videos or on TVs
. But that may be mostly due to my own differences from the rest (I don't have a TV since 1970, for one example - and see item 4), and sometimes TYT does put up a decent summary, like the above linked one.

That is why it is here. The video takes slightly over 10 minutes and does explain things well. It is also quite frightening, but that seems realistic to me. And see the next item:

2. Post-Truth Is Pre-Fascism:

The second item is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet, with a title that is really too long, so I just give its beginning:

This is a fairly long interview with Yale historian Timothy Snyder, about whom there is more material in previous Nederlogs, namely here, here, here and here.

This article starts as follows:
How close is President Donald Trump to following the path blazed by last century's tyrants? Could American democracy be replaced with totalitarian rule? There's enough resemblance that Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, has written a book warning about the threat and offering lessons for resistance and survival. The author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century talked to AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld.
My own answers to the two opening questions are: Quite and yes (of course).

I gave my references to earlier bits of articles I wrote about Timothy Snyder, and continue with his answer to the question why he gave Americans about a year (say, till February 2018) to save the USA from going fascistic in a similar way as happened to other countries.

Here is Snyder speaking:

The year figure is there because we have to recognize that things move fast. Nazi Germany took about a year. Hungary took about two and a half years. Poland got rid of the top-level judiciary within a year. It’s a rough historical guess, but the point is because there is an outside limit, you therefore have to act now. You have to get started early. It’s just very practical advice. It’s the meta-advice of the past: That things slip out of reach for you, psychologically very quickly, and then legally almost as quickly. It’s hard for people to act when they feel other people won’t act. It’s hard for people to act when they feel like they have to break the law to do so.
I think this is a fair estimate because it is based on knowledge of what happened in somewhat similar situations. This doesn't mean it is necessarily correct, but then very
little in human history can be predicted or explained with certainty: all we have in most cases are more or less well-founded probabilities.

Then again, as the grandson of a man murdered in a Nazi concentration camp and as the son of a man who survived over three years and nine months of imprisonment in such camps, who also got knighted because he designed and partially built what became the National Exhibition on WW II, fascism and concentration camps, this information does quite frighten me: Most people will not act (before others act), and most will not break the law in order to save the Constitution.

Here are some of my reasons to think so: In Holland there were many times more collaborators with Nazism in WW II than there were in the Resistance, which in part explains why over 1% of the Dutch population could be murdered on ridiculous grounds of "race": There were more Dutchmen who approved than opposed this, at least by resisting while it happened, which indeed involved risking one's life. (Then again: Most Dutchmen were "in the Resistance", according to their own proud testimonies, immediateky after WW II, when the majority had grown very brave.)

Then there is this about post-truth and pre-fascism:
SR: Let’s talk about how this evolution takes place. You’ve written about how 'post-truth is pre-fascism.' You talk about leaders ignoring facts, law and history. How far along this progression are we? I’m wondering where you might see things going next.

TS: That’s tough because what history does is give you a whole bunch of cases where democratic republics become authoritarian regimes; sometimes fascist regimes, sometimes communist regimes.
I cut off this answer because I know quite a lot of evidence about post-truth and pre- fascism from my own life, and this considerably alters the case for me:

I was "taught" in August of 1978 (!!!) by the man who was officially elected to do the yearly opening of the academic year of the University of Amsterdam by its Board of Directors that (and I quote him literally, albeit in translation):
  • Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist.
I do not know whether the man who pronounced this was a fascist, a sadist, a moral degenerate, a madman or a true subhuman, but he did say so, and in fact this became the basis of the official ideology of the University of Amsterdam - which was then and until 1995 in the unique position in the world of being in fact ruled by the students until 1995 [1] - and probably also after 1995 (although the structure of the university was radically changed in 1995: Suddenly the Board of Directors got all the power, and the students got none, and thus it has remained so ever since).

I have tried to explain this quite a few times in Nederlog, and will not proceed with this here and now, except by saying this showed me that 95% of the students and the staff of the University of Amsterdam was not interested in real science nor in a good scientific education, but only in the obtaining of degrees to make a lot of money for themselves or by being very well-paid academics.

And this also showed me how many people will resist something on the basis of real and non-egoistic and somewhat rational values, especially if there is some risk involved to themselves: At most 5%.

Then there is this on democracy, and the speaker is still Timothy Snyder:
We think about democracy, and that’s the word that Americans love to use, democracy, and that’s how we characterize our system. But if democracy just means going to vote, it’s pretty meaningless. Russia has democracy in that sense. Most authoritarian regimes have democracy in that sense. Nazi Germany had democracy in that sense, even after the system had fundamentally changed.

Democracy only has substance if there’s the rule of law. That is, if people believe that the votes are going to be counted and they are counted. If they believe that there’s a judiciary out there that will make sense of things if there’s some challenge. If there isn’t rule of law, people will be afraid to vote the way they want to vote. They'll vote for their own safety as opposed to their convictions. So the thing we call democracy depends on the rule of law. And the things we call the rule of law depends upon trust. Law functions 99 percent of the time automatically. It functions because we think it’s out there. And that, in turn, depends on the sense of truth.
I agree more or less, but this also makes me very pessimistic. Here is why:

First, the "democracy" most Americans love to take pride in is for the vast majority only the right to vote. And Snyder is right this is "pretty meaningless", for the reasons he stated.

Second, only a minority believes in the rule of law. And only a minority has a sense
of truth that is stronger than the
"consent" that "is being manufactured all around you all the time" (by endless amounts of propaganda) as Amy Goodman put it three days ago, were it only because to have such a sense of truth is to have some knowledge of
real science, which only a minority has.

In short: democracy, the rule of law, the existence of truth, the practice of rationality and the respect for scientific methods are kept high by only a small minority of the present American adults, and the rest is best considered as either too brainwashed or too stupid or too ignorant or too egoistic to care about anything but themselves, their family and their friends. At least, that is also the result of my - long and thorough - experiences in the University of Amsterdam.

Then there is this on post-truth and pre-fascism:

The second thing about 'post-truth is pre-fascism' is I’m trying to get people’s attention, because that is actually how fascism works. Fascism says, disregard the evidence of your senses, disregard observation, embolden deeds that can’t be proven, don’t have faith in god but have faith in leaders, take part in collective myth of an organic national unity, and so forth. Fascism was precisely about setting the whole Enlightenment aside and then selling what sort of myths emerged.
I really don't think this is "how fascism works". Fascism is an ideology like other political ideologies, and those who adhere to it mostly believe fanatically in its truth.

What is also true is that a fascist conception of truth differs from a rational, a scientific, an empirical or a fact-based conception of truth, but that difference is only of interest to academics, historians and a few philosophers (and that indeed - if twenty years of experiences with the University of Amsterdam teaches anything - only to a small minority).

So I think here Snyder is just confused. Then there is this:
The other pulse of politics is emergency. There’s some kind of terrorist attack and then the leader tries to suspend basic constitutional rights. And then we get on a different rhythm, where the rhythm is not one electoral cycle to the next but one emergency to the next. That’s how regime changes take place. It’s a classic way since the Reichstag fire [when the Nazis burned their nation’s capitol building and blamed communist arsonists].

So in terms of what might happen next, or what people could look out for, some kind of event that the government claims is a terrorist incident, would be something to be prepared for.
I agree, although I like to point out that the legal and political import of the Reichstag fire (<-Wikipedia) was the institutionalizing of Nazi dictatorship and the massive introduction of concentration camps for their political opponents. This is from the last linked Wikipedia article:
The Reichstag Fire Decree suspended most civil liberties in Germany, including habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of free association and public assembly, the secrecy of the post and telephone.These rights were not reinstated during Nazi reign. The decree was used by the Nazis to ban publications not considered "friendly" to the Nazi cause.
Then there is this:
TS: The German Jews then, and people now, don’t understand how quick their neighbors will change; don’t understand how quickly society can change. They don’t understand the fact that a life that’s been predictable for a long time, doesn’t mean that it will be predictable tomorrow.
The second thing that German Jews were not aware of, or Germans were not aware of, was how new media can quickly change conversations.
But here’s the other view. The one that we have that German Jews didn’t have in 1933 is we have their experience. That’s the premise of the whole book; the premise is that the 20th century showed us what can happen, and there’s lots of wonderful scholarship by German historians and others, which breaks down what can happen and how.
I agree with the first two points, but have no trust whatsoever that the "wonderful scholarship by German historians and others" will be of much help.

My main reasons are that I can remember back to at least 55 years of anti-fascism by my family and myself, which included a knighthood for my father, but that effectively moved no more than a few percentages of the Dutch, and also did not prevent that an anti-fascist like myself was put down as "a dirty fascist" and "a terrorist" by the vast majorities of both the students and the staff of the University of Amsterdam (which was effectively ruled by communist students collaborating with corrupt and sadistic thieves from the Dutch social democrats [1]).

And my father tried to warn the Dutch against the dangers of a re-emergent fascism from 1945 till 1980, when he died. He was far more right than he was wrong, and there were a few who listened, but again not more than a few.

And finally there is this from near the end of the article (in which I skipped a lot):

The point of the book is [that] we are facing a real crisis and a real moment of choice. The possibilities are much darker than Americans are used to considering. But at the same time, what we can do is much more important than we realize. The regime will only change if the gamble of the people in the White House is right: That many of us despise many others of us and that most of us are indifferent. If it turns out that there are emotions and values that are more numerous and more vibrant than indifference and hatred, things are going to be okay. That depends on us.
I know from my own experience "That many of us" (Dutchmen as it happens, but they are probably a fair indication of the average reaction anywhere) "despise many others of us" indeed also without any rational reason whatsoever (see groupthinking), and I know from my own experience that around 95% (in the University of Amsterdam, supposedly filled with the most intelligent of the Dutch) "are indifferent" to nearly everything that differs from their own egoistic self-interests.

So I am quite pessimistic, but this is a recommended article. (And you do not need to be quite as pessimistic as I am without my extensive experiences.)

3. C.I.A. Scrambles to Contain Damage From WikiLeaks Documents

The third item is by Matthew Rosenberg, Scott Shane and Adam Goldman on The New York Times:

This starts as follows:
The C.I.A. scrambled on Wednesday to assess and contain the damage from the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of documents that cataloged the agency’s cyberspying capabilities, temporarily halting work on some projects while the F.B.I. turned to finding who was responsible for the leak.

Investigators say that the leak was the work not of a hostile foreign power like Russia but of a disaffected insider, as WikiLeaks suggested when it released the documents Tuesday.
The C.I.A. has refused to explicitly confirm the authenticity of the documents, but it all but said they were genuine Wednesday when it took the unusual step of putting out a statement to defend its work and chastise WikiLeaks.
I say. Incidentally, to someone like me - a liberal intellectual - it seems quite strange that no one in the NYT remarks that the C.I.A. is paid from the taxes and should be subject to external control, at least by the Senate and the House. Does the NYT not do this because they think such control is improper? I am asking, for neither the C.I.A. nor the F.B.I. nor the N.S.A. has been effectively controlled (to my knowledge) since 9/11 (which happened nearly 16 years ago).

This is a summary of what the documents convey:
The documents, taken at face value, suggest that American spies had designed hacking tools that could breach almost anything connected to the internet — smartphones, computers, televisions — and had even found a way to compromise Apple and Android devices. But whether the C.I.A. had successfully built and employed them to conduct espionage remained unclear on Wednesday.
What does the NYT mean by "and employed them to conduct espionage"?! It did spy
on people, and it seems to have spied on very many people, both non-Americans and
Americans. Does the NYT reckon this is not spying because the people the N.S.A. or the C.I.A. spies on are not known to be spies?! Again, I am just asking.

Finally, this seems to be a fact:
The documents indicated that the C.I.A. sought to break into Apple, Android and Windows devices — that is, the vast majority of the world’s smartphones, tablets and computers.
Yes indeed. It would have been a lot nicer if the NYT would have been moved to add "which is a serious crime in nearly every case", but they did not. Maybe they think it is a good thing than everybody is being - illegally - spied upon by the secret services? Again I am just asking.

4. The soap opera star’s guide to Donald Trump

The fourth item is by Jocelyn Seagrave on Salon:
This is by someone who got into TV at about the same time Donald Trump did, in the 1990ies, except that she was an actress in soap operas and TV commercials. But this doesn't mean she is unintelligent, and I found her article interesting enough to review.

It starts as follows:

I didn’t realize that Trump had (and still has) an instinct for how to tap into an infinitely renewable resource: human drama. He sensed what the writers of the soap operas knew and what producers of the then-emerging reality shows were banking on — that friction creates energy, and energy generates power. All you have to do is put two opponents in the same room and let the cameras roll.

By constantly creating controversy, Trump pits people against one another, just like what’s found in a soap opera or, as many have noted, an episode of “Real Housewives” or “The Bachelor.” He’s not so much dividing the country as throwing us all on the same soundstage and executive producing the chaos.

Yes, except that I belong to the small minority who doesn't like "friction" produced by two contending stupid and ignorant persons; doesn't care for the "energy" and the "power" that emerges from watching two morons fighting some non-issue out; and in fact who doesn't have a TV since 1970 because he dislikes stupidities and propaganda far too much to have these sluiced into my living-room for my delectation.

But I suppose Seagrave is more or less correct about the majority. Here is some more:

Whether you voted for Trump or not, you should be concerned about the way this affects you. As executive producers of the show we’re all participating in, Trump and the other billionaires in power are not public servants. They are not even politicians. They are businesspeople, and their current product, under Trump’s leadership, is entertainment.

That’s why Trump doesn’t need to tell the truth. He isn’t talking to us as citizens of the United States. When he tweets or gives a press  conference, his purpose is to create drama — to fire up the fans and bait the detractors.

Ratings are more important to Trump than attending intelligence briefings because his endgame is not “draining the swamp” or peace in the Middle East: It is an even bigger show.
Yes and no: "Trump and the other billionaires in power" are "public servants", and that is a major part of the problem. They also are "politicians", which is another part of the problem. And therefore Trump does "need to tell the truth": He is not there for mere amusement or for the show.

I agree Trump (at least, and some others, such as Kellyann Conway) do seem to "do politics" mostly in the way showpeople do, but I insist that is not what they should do, which is to speak the truth honestly and not try to deceive and defraud his audience as if they are the marks of a TV-show designed to trump Trump's Greatness.

Then there is this:
Trump is president because all of us have sold our souls for entertainment. We wanted to watch the catfights, and we wanted our own 15 minutes of fame, too. Now we are all celebrities on our personal Facebook and Instagram channels, creating episodes out of selfies and Twitter wars.
Not me. I did not sell my soul for entertainment: I banned TV from my home since 1970. I did not want "to watch the catfights", and I did not want the sick and sickening "15 minutes of fame" every moron seems to strive for as The Goal In His Or Her Life: I hated seeing the fools; I did not want to be a "celebrity"; do not and never did have a "personal Facebook" nor "instagram"; I never made a selfie and never owned a cellphone; and I don't engage in Twitter, and like to see all these stupid vain self-advertising messages completely disappear (and don't review articles that quote too many).

But I grant I am one of a very, very small minority. Here is the last bit that I'll quote from Seagrave:
There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. The danger lies in not knowing the difference between entertainment and reality. Trump and the other executive producers know it’s not real, but how many of us understand it?
The more we participate in this alternate reality, the dimmer the real world becomes (..)
Yes, except that I think something is wrong with stupid entertainment, and with "entertainment" that is really advertising or propaganda: That is all entertainment directed at deceiving the stupid in society, which I think is immoral and wrong.

But I agree mostly with the rest.

The remaining two articles are about ME/CFS and are treated fairly briefly here:

ICD-11 Beta draft: Rationale for Proposal for Deletion of proposed new category: Bodily distress disorder

The fifth item is by ... Suzy Chapman on Dxrevisionwatch:

This is somewhat enjoyable and surprising, in that I like Suzy Chapman a lot because she is quite rational and very intelligent, but that I also had to say twice before that she stopped writing about ME/CFS, namely in 2014 and in 2015, and both times I said that I both understood and deplored it. (I understood it because she is very intelligent but got very little support. I deplored it because she is the only one I know who could do the difficult work she did do.)

Also, I suppose (though I don't know) that this is a rare event. In any case, this is a rational slashing of the category "bodily distress disorder" (in the ICD) which indeed is wholly unscientific and quite irrational.

I think the article is quite good, but I also would be rather amazed if it succeeds. But this is not Suzy Chapman's fault, but a consequence of the lack of real medical science that seems to characterize many of the supposed scientists who are dealing with these proposals.

6. Q&A on ME/CFS Research with Dr. Ron Davis - 7.iii.17

The sixth and last item today is a video with Ron Davis (<-Wikipedia):
I have ME/CFS (according to three good medical doctors and myself) for over 38 years now, so I am happy that - at long last - fine and extensive biochemical evidence has been gathered and published by doctor Naviaux and by doctor Oystein Fluge and 16 medical doctors in Norway, that (i) characterizes the illness people with ME/CFS have; that (ii) in some principle explains the failing metabolic pathways that are involved in producing energy; and that (iii) explains the rise of a lot of lactate in people with ME/CFS.

All of this is completely new in principle, although it should be said that Oystein Fluge and some other Norwegian doctors have been busy on ME/CFS since 2004, when they noticed that somebody they were treating for cancer with Rituximab who also had ME/CFS got a lot better also with ME/CFS (which was supported by further experiments with people with ME/CFS and Rituximab).

It is also very much better than anything that was achieved with XMRV, which was in fact a major medical failure that started in October 2009 and ended for me precisely two years later, when it was shown it was all based on contamination.

So I am quite optimistic about this research, and there are two main branches: Oystein Fluge and the Norwegian doctors, plus Ron Davis and his team in the USA, that also comprises doctor Naviaux. The reason for Ron Davis - one of the great living biochemists - to feel much concern about ME/CFS is that he has a son who has serious ME/CFS.

I do expect that more will be produced by either team, or indeed by some others, for there are more now, so that I may at least know the cause of my disease before I die (for I am meanwhile nearly 67).


[1] I have tried to explain this quite a few times.

The briefest adequate explanation is that (1) in 1971 the "Veringa Law" (Dutch: "Wet Veringa") was approved by the National Parliament - after problems with students in 1968 in France and Germany, and in 1969 in Holland and Germany - that totally changed the ways in which the Dutch universities were directed: (2) from 1972 onwards the Dutch universities were ruled by parliaments, both on the university and the faculty-level, that were to be elected every year by everyone who worked for or studied in a Dutch university; (3) by a "1 man = 1 vote" rule that gave everyone from professor, to lecturer, to secretary, to student, to toilet cleaner (if working for the university) all 1 vote; (4) which meant that the universities and the faculties were in fact ruled by the students, because they always were in vast majority; while (5) the students were mostly organized (until 1984) - especially in Amsterdam - by students who were members of the Dutch Communist Party (as they themselves admitted, but only in 1991 after the demise of both the Soviet Union and the Dutch Communisty Party, for these professional revolutionairies were extremely courageous).

In fact, the students were not "owning" the universities in Holland, but they were - in principle, at least - ruling it by sheer majority of votes (thus the commumist and later postmodernistic Asva had the majority from 1972 till 1995 in the UvA), although they had to share the power with the Board of Directors, that served more or less as the daily government in the Dutch universities (and that did have more power and more knowledge than the students, in practice).

There were two major changes in this rule between 1972 and 1995: (i) Around 1984 the Dutch Communist Party was starting to collapse, indeed mostly because of the influx of students in the 1970ies and early 1980ies, which meant that the ideology of the students changed from leftist/communist to "leftist"/postmodernistic, and (ii) in 1995 the National Parliament withdrew the "Veringa Law" and effectively removed all power from the students and gave all powers to the Board of Directors of the Dutch universities.

This is probably the shortest adequate explanation, and it means that in Holland the universities were ruled in a truly unique way in the whole world, between 1971 and 1995.

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