January 11, 2015
Crisis: Salman Rushdie, Lords of Secrecy, Greece, Cohen, M.E.
  "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


1. “Go f**k yourself”: Bill Maher and Salman Rushdie
     discuss Charlie Hebdo, free speech and radical Islam

2. Q&A: On the Untouchable ‘Lords of Secrecy’
3. EU Showdown: Greece Takes on the Vampire Squid
Paris attacks: unless we overcome fear, self-censorship
     will spread

5. Prof Ronald Davis: I don't think people understand how
     horrible this disease is


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, January 11, 2015.

This is a crisis item. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a brief piece with an interesting video; item 2 is another interesting piece on secrecy (and totalitarianism, but less explicitly so); item 3 is about Greece, with some interesting facts on the enormous powers of Goldman Sachs; item 4 is a piece on the Guardian I did not like, except for the conclusion; and item 5 is a piece on the disease I have now for the 37th year (all without any help except for sleeping pills and minimal dole).

1. “Go f**k yourself”: Bill Maher and Salman Rushdie discuss Charlie Hebdo, free speech and radical Islam

The first item today is an article by Joanna Rothkopf on Salon:
  • “Go f**k yourself”: Bill Maher and Salman Rushdie discuss Charlie Hebdo, free speech and radical Islam
This starts as follows [1]:

On Friday evening’s edition of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” host Bill Maher discussed freedom of speech, radical Islam and the Charlie Hebdo massacre with author Salman Rushdie. The two did not mince words in their defense of free speech.

In his monologue, Maher noted that some people just can’t handle being on the wrong end of a joke. “These assholes in Paris who shot cartoonists this week, they don’t like it,” he said. “And as a jokester, I just have to say, the world needs to stand as one and — to quote the immortal Dick Cheney — say, ‘Go fuck yourself.’”

There is also this:
“It’s very important to note that what happened in France this week was an enormous, I mean people are always saying that Muslims have to stand up against terrorism, well this week they did,” Rushdie later said. “And all over France, there were French people, French Muslims standing up and saying, ‘We are French, this is not our team, not in our name.”
And there are two videos attached, of which I show one:

One reason to show this is that it is clearly said, by Salman Rushdie, that (1) the real fight is inside the Islam, namely between the tolerant (<- good points! [2]) and the intolerant branches and (2) there were many French muslims who stood up against the terrorists and said "this is not our team".

I think both points are correct.

2. Q&A: On the Untouchable ‘Lords of Secrecy’

The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
  • Q&A: On the Untouchable ‘Lords of Secrecy’

This starts as follows:

Powerful, unaccountable, and operating far in the shadows, the Lords of Secrecy, as author Scott Horton calls them, are real, and they are in charge of our national security state.

Horton, a lawyer, journalist and human rights advocate, makes the case in his book, Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy, that because the public is allowed to know so little, it has effectively been cut out of national security decisionmaking.

Yes - and "our national security state" is not meant to help save your security, unless you are very close or inside the government, and indeed it also cannot help the security of the hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans.

As to the "Lords of Secrecy": The overlord is Dick Cheney, and the lords are "the heads of the NSA, CIA and various other agencies". The reasons - I must surmise - for this are that these get a great amount of tax dollars; they use these tax dollars to make dossiers on any American and everybody else (which is a practice typical for totalitarian countries, and only these); and they also are completely beyond almost any accountability, in fact also not accountable to Congress.

This is a good interview that deserves full reading, but I will quote and comment a few pieces. First on accountability (and unless I say otherwise, the speaker is the interviewee, Scott Horton):
You’re asking what is the question: Are the people at the CIA who implemented and oversaw the dark sites and torture program untouchable? And the answer appears to be yes.
Well, yes - and I think one can say more: Since Bush took over the government these "lords of secrecy" are not accountable anymore, and this continued (or indeed got worse) under Obama.

Horton is claimed to have written in his book - "Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Foreign Policy" - that bureaucrats love secrecy [3], and admits that this is true of all manner of bureaucrats, but especially of state bureacrats, for this reason:
(...) the state bureaucracy [and - MM] especially the national security bureaucracy (...) can threaten to arrest and lock away someone who betrays secrets, who can destroy their lives, seize their homes, cancel their pensions. They have much greater power to enforce their secrecy.
Yes, indeed. And these powers have been used.

Next, there is this on the very many secrets the American governments since Bush claim:

One thing that just amazes me about the Beltway culture in Washington is the way these claims of secrecy are just accepted. There doesn’t seem to be any will or spirit to fight back and challenge that. And that’s true for most of the press that covers it.

When you look back and ask: Why are they trying to keep this secret? What’s the rationale for it?
There are several answers:

First, keeping much secret that one does (the good, if any, and the bad and the indifferent) makes governing (and lying about it) a whole lot easier; second, it makes it possible to introduce all kinds of legislation, indeed often secret legislation, as the TPP; third, it makes it a whole lot easier to protect the people who break the laws from having to face the law; and fourthly it makes it possible to indulge in and further all manner of effectively totalitarian practices: hardly anybody knows, until they become "laws", and then everybody has to submit to the laws that Congress has never approved in a rational way.

Horton also says:
There’s no consideration given to how this subverts the democratic process of the United States.
But I think he is mistaken: Since Bush Jr. the American government is effectively totalitarian, at least as regards war, security, spying and military spending, were it only because much of these are secret, in a nominal "democracy"; it wanted to be totalitarian; and it has done everything it could do to be totalitarian, e.g. as regards the TTP (trade treaties that effect the lives of many hundreds of millions, but that are compiled completely in secret) and as regards the NSA (that is busy compiling dossiers on everyone, for the benefit of future governments, again completely in secret).

Since this has been going on since 2001, and since this is done by both Republicans and Democrats, this was all quite intentional, perhaps not immediately after 2001, but surely since then.

There is this on the role of the American press:
The media is a big part of the problem. I think we have to say, of course, that there are really excellent topnotch reporters out there who risk their careers and do terrific work. But increasingly we have a corporate media culture that does not encourage or meaningfully support such journalists. And instead it tends to cultivate and support a different kind of journalist: not the watchdog but the lapdog.
Yes, indeed - and one of the things I am concerned about is: How did this happen? I know one or two reasons why the free press did get in serious difficulties, namely (1) the rise of the personal computer and the fall of advertisements in the papers, and (2) the rise of Rupert Murdoch, but is
this sufficient to kill most of the free press [4], also in TV?

Anyway... this is an interesting interview you may read all of using the last dotted link.

3. EU Showdown: Greece Takes on the Vampire Squid

The next item is an article by Ellen Brown that I found on Truthdig but that was first published on Web of Debt:
  • EU Showdown: Greece Takes on the Vampire Squid
This starts as follows:

Greece and the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the EU, and the European Central Bank) are in a dangerous game of chicken. The Greeks have been threatened with a “Cyprus-Style prolonged bank holiday” if they “vote wrong.” But they have been bullied for too long and are saying “no more.”

A return to the polls was triggered in December, when the Parliament rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ pro-austerity candidate for president. In a general election, now set for January 25th, the EU-skeptic, anti-austerity, leftist Syriza party is likely to prevail. Syriza captured a 3% lead in the polls following mass public discontent over the harsh austerity measures Athens was forced to accept in return for a €240 billion bailout.

Austerity has plunged the economy into conditions worse than in the Great Depression. As Professor Bill Black observes, the question is not why the Greek people are rising up to reject the barbarous measures but what took them so long.

And there is this that justifies the phrase "the Vampire Squid" in the title, that refers to Goldman Sachs and its employees and former employees (working for the moment in the government, to be rehired again later) - and this starts with a quotation of Matt Taibbi, and then fills in some of the details:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

Goldman has spawned an unusual number of EU and US officials with dictatorial power to promote and protect big-bank interests. They include US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who brokered the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 and passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000; Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who presided over the 2008 Wall Street bailout; Mario Draghi, current head of the European Central Bank; Mario Monti, who led a government of technocrats as Italian prime minister; and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, chair of the Financial Stability Board that sets financial regulations for the G20 countries.

I say. There is a lot more in the article (that takes two pages).

4. Paris attacks: unless we overcome fear, self-censorship will spread

The next item is an article by Nick Cohen on The Guardian:
  • Paris attacks: unless we overcome fear, self-censorship will spread
This starts as follows:
We have a blasphemy law. No electorate has approved it. No parliament has passed it. No judge supervises its application and no jury determines guilt beyond reasonable doubt. There’s no right of appeal. And the penalty is death. It is enforced not by a police bound by codes of conduct, but by a fear that dare not speak its name; a cowardice so total it lacks the courage to admit it is afraid.
No, I think this is exaggerated: There is neither "a blasphemy law" nor "a cowardice so total it lacks the courage to admit it is afraid". There is a small minority of fanatics willing to murder and be killed for their fanaticism, and there is a very large European majority of civilians, who do not like these fanatics, but who also cannot defend themselves, for one thing because they are not allowed to buy guns.

I think those are the relevant facts, and I take here and now no position on the question whether guns should be made easier to get, nor on the question whether, if they were, this would make much of a difference.

Nick Cohen continues:
The British are the world’s worst cowards. It is one thing to say you don’t approve of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. But the BBC, Channel 4 and many newspapers won’t run any images of Mohammad whatsoever.
Again, no. I don't think the British are more cowardly than other people I could mention, and indeed I also do not think "cowardice" or "cowards" is the right term. In fact, it seems as if this is Nick Cohen's position:
(...) most journalists have lived a lie for years, as have many in the arts, academia and comedy. We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – if, and only if, the powerful are not a paramilitary force that may kill us.
I can't see what's wrong with that - I mean with not taking on the powerful if one knows these are a paramilitary force that may kill one. For one thing, one is not a paramilitary force oneself; for another, one cannot legally buy one's own guns if one wanted to be heroic; for yet another thing, the police and the military only arrive on the scene after most murders have happened - and indeed would Nick Cohen put forward his own home address and invite anyone who wants to kill him to go and kill him (and his family)?

I mean: I tend to like people who are not cowards; who run risks; and who are difficult to intimidate (note I am not saying I necessarily agree with their causes!), but in my 65th year I also know that this comprises only a small minority, and indeed I do not see what anyone without arms could do, with much of a chance of success, against someone with arms and a strong desire to kill him or her.

Nick Cohen does say one thing I agree with, and does it last:
Fear of radical Islam is not only driving support for the National Front in France and Ukip here, but providing an excuse for more attacks on civil liberties, including, despite David Cameron’s pious words after Charlie Hebdo, attacks on freedom of speech.

I hope I am wrong, but I cannot see a culture shift on this necessary scale happening. I fear we must look forward to a lying and frightened future.

5. Prof Ronald Davis: I don't think people understand how horrible this disease is

Finally today, an article by Miriam Tucker that I found on the Niceguidelines, but that originates on Medscape. Also, it is about the disease I have now for the 37th year:
  • Prof Ronald Davis: I don't think people understand how horrible this disease is
This starts as follows:

The condition is tragically real for Ronald W. Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and genetics at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, whose work with genetic linkage mapping enabled the Human Genome Project. His 31-year-old son developed ME/CFS 3 years ago and is now completely bedridden and unable to speak.

"I don't think people understand how horrible this disease is. They don't look that sick. Even my son, who is incredibly debilitated, doesn't look sick," Dr Davis told Medscape Medical News.

In his new position as ME/CFS scientific advisory board director of the Open Medicine Institute, Dr Davis has recruited Nobel laureates James D. Watson, PhD, and Mario R. Capecchi, PhD, and other esteemed scientists as advisors to create what he envisions as a collaborative ME/CFS research effort akin to the Human Genome Project.

"I think it will yield if we get sufficient funding, quite frankly. It may be a tough nut to crack... I'm looking at this long-term. I don't like the long-term because my son is ill, but I'm realizing this won't be temporary," Dr Davis told Medscape Medical News.

In fact, this is Good News, for me: That someone who teaches biochemistry and genetics at Stanford University has a son who fell ill like I did, on the same age also as I did (28), with the disease I have (according to at least 4 medical persons), which is M.E. (not "chronic fatigue syndrome": that is a name thought up by pseudoscientific psychiatrists with the express end to trivialize the disease
and to prevent any real medical research).

I realize it is not at all Good News for Ronald Davis and his son, but his son is ill (and more seriously than I ever was, though indeed - apart from paleness - I also don't look ill, and never did) - and someone like Davis has the friends and the influence to make a real difference in the amount of money that gets invested in
finding the cause of M.E. while I agree with his stating that
"I think it will yield if we get sufficient funding, quite frankly."
But as I said: Thanks to the untiring pseudoscientific efforts of psychiatrists (all of whom get very well paid), very little research money has gone into finding the cause of M.E., even though some 17 million persons have it.

As this is my 37th year of having the disease, I take it I may be forgiven for being a little glad. There is more in the article, but it is all medical (but yes, I
do have increased probabilities of having or getting the illnesses mentioned).


[1] Incidentally ... I must say - as an atheist born from atheists - that I very much doubt any liberalization of attitudes in a country, with a free speech right, where the title of a piece about free speech, needs "f**k". (But this is an aside.)

[2] Actually they are my own, so I will quote a part for your consideration (and this is quoted from "Toleration")

The basic reasons for toleration are these

1. There are bound to be many beliefs, practices and facts in every extended more or less free society that will not be liked by any member of that society - whoever the member is; whatever the beliefs, practices or facts are; and whatever the  reasons for dislike.
Every human being may know that he does not know much, and that he often has made mistakes, however carefully he may have tried not to, and that the same holds for everybody else.
Every human being may know that all human progress, however conceived, has been the result of extended discussions and speculations during many generations, during which it was often unclear, and often undecidable for lack of relevant knowledge, what the truth about some thing was.
Every human being may know that in nearly all circumstances he is much helped by the continued existence of a peaceful society, in which he is free to think and say and do what he pleases, within the compass of the law - and where accordingly it must be fair to accept that others think differently than one, provided others leave one free to think and speak and do as one desires, within the same legal limits for all.
A society in which there are many different beliefs, practises and opinions tends strongly to produce higher civilization - more and better art, science and technology - than a society in which one faith or belief has been imposed on all, and where all must conform to one standard of belief and behavior.

[3] Yes they do, also in my experiences in Holland: I have been thrown out of the philosophy department of the University of Amsterdam and I have been gassed and threatened with murder for four years, but no Dutchmen cared, did anything for me, or even wanted to listen. The mayors of Amsterdam meanwhile were making millions - I think - through extremely obvious illegal drugsdealing (so obvious that most non-Dutch believe marijuana and hashish are legal in Holland, which is a mistake: it is just that the politicians, judiciary, press and the people are grossly corrupt), but again no one cared, even though at least the mayors, politicians, judiciary and press were paid to see to it that these corruptions did not happen.

[4] Indeed I do think most of the free press is dead. It certainly is in Holland:

There are enormous differences between the present editions of the Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad, compared with - say - ten to forty years ago, and these differences are all negative: Hardly any well-known journalists, who seem to have been all replaced by dumb and totalitarian youths, who you can see making intentional clown's faces on the website of their supposedly "academic paper" or "paper for academics" in order to pull readers for their very ill-written ever conformist stupid baloney - but again, hardly anyone seems to care, and indeed it also seems as if hardly anyone since the 1970ies or 1980ies got a decent education (with 3 or 5 foreign languages and mathematics, and physics, and chemistry, and 16 examined subjects, including history and geography .... for this is all totally gone, and since a long time: "the computer will do it for you", as I and many others were told sickeningly many times in the 1980ies).

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