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  Aug 12, 2012                     
Crisis: More Gore Vidal + some notes by me 

The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who tell them the truth.
 -- H.L.Mencken







Sections

    1. Introductory remarks
    2. A long 1999 interview with Gore Vidal
   
3. Notes on Gore Vidal on politics 

1. Introductory remarks

This continues yesterday's
Crisis: Gore Vidal explains some backgrounds, where you find a selection from Youtube videos with him, all from between 2000 and 2011. My reason to be interested in the man - whom I did not know much about until he died, twelve days ago - is that I found that he had a fine mind and a lot of relevant knowledge plus the personal background to understand the current crisis, that may be said to have started with the thoroughly mistaken decision of the US Supreme Court to award the presidential election to the person who lost it, rather than with 9/11/2001: Another president and vice-president would have reacted in a quite different way.

However that may be, late yesterday I consumed the sound, though not the visual part, of a fine interview + session of answering questions with Vidal in 1999, that I'll provide the link for below, where I also will add some notes.

Here all I need to remark is that I avoided the visual part, because my eyes still give me trouble - which is also why today you get the present text, rather than another, for which I lack the eyes to write.


Then again, the interview that I give the link to and my Notes on Vidal are also quite interesting - or so I think for else I would not put them on my site. And my reason to provide links and comments on Gore Vidal on politics is that I do not know of any other "public intellectual" who says similar things as well.

2. A long 1999 interviews with Gore Vidal

The following is a link to what it says:
It is in fact a video of 82 minutes, in three parts: 10 minutes of introduction, and about 35 minutes of talk between Vidal and Wasserman, nearly all by the former, and some quite witty, followed by about 35 minutes of good questions with good and witty answers by Vidal.

Hav
ing trouble with my eyes, I switched off the screen, so I did not see much of it, but I heard nearly all of it, and found it quite interesting in itself, also because most of the subjects that then got discussed - such as health care, bad education, the imperialist ambitions of the US governments - still are quite relevant, and Vidal was a witty man.

Then again, if you are not much interested in politics, or not fairly knowledgeable about the U.S., neither the above interview, nor the notes that follow, will be of great interest to you.

But if you are thus interested or knowledgeable, then you may find the interview quite  interesting to listen to, if you have the time and like speakers with courage, style, wit and relevant knowledge, which are characteristics that all apply to Vidal on U.S. politics.

As to relevant knowledge of politics: The following is a link to a commented list of books concerned with politics (in a wide sense), that I first prepared some 10 years ago, and that often gets downloaded:
And perhaps I should remark, in praise of my own selection, and because you may not be much interested in politics or indeed may be thoroughly bored by it (I admit I tend to be, when listening to politicians, political parties etc.: Usually far too stupid to wish to hear or read): Most items on the list I provide are good or very good reading (for intelligent people), for some of the brightest minds have thought and written about it.

3. Notes on Gore Vidal on politics

The originals of these notes were handwritten on August 11, 2012, and triggered by the videos linked in
yesterday's Crisis: Gore Vidal explains some backgrounds, and the above linked interview: 1999 Gore Vidal interview about Smithsonian Institution.

I reproduce them here with a number of links, mostly to Wikipedi lemmas, which do really belong to the text: If you don't grasp the main points in my references, either by reading them or by having read sufficient to know them, you probably don't understand my text:
-----------------
 
Gore Vidal (GV) turns out to have been a sensible man who had wit and insight. Short summary of much:

The military-industrial complex has won the battle about who rules Western society: Not the people, not the parliament, not the judiciary, not the government, but those with the greatest power in the richest corporations, who form the ruling elite, that is mostly hidden and not public, and that works indirectly, through lobbying, public relations for corporations, propaganda in the media, and meetings and conferences that happen mostly behind the scenes.

Or rather: This coalition of the rich and powerful has won if they can contain the current economic crisis, which means that probably either there will be a collapse of cilivization or there will be a police-state.

These are my words and phrasings (like the rest of this text) as it also is my summary of points Vidal raised, discussed, touched on, but probably also what Vidal thought. He also mentioned, already in 1999, in the linked interview - though indeed the main concerns, processes, and struggles can be traced much further back - quite a few of the important points of the present:
  • bad education ("U.S. of Amnesia": most US citizens have no historical knowledge)
  • bad health care
  • bad government (Bush Jr. is a moron, the effective real president was Cheney)
  • the - executives or owners of the rich, large, powerful - corporations rule the US
  • 2000 elections was a coup d'état (with help from the Supreme Court)
  • after that there were many bad appointments
  • "magna charta is gone"
  • habeas corpus is gone
  • Bill of Rights is being throttled
  • there is illegal government: the US military has been used against US citizens - legally forbidden since 1865 (also with drones)
  • there is effectively a dictatorship (Quote from Wikipedia: "In contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.")
  • there is just one party that comes in two flavours that are both right wing: See e.g. The Party-System, and also see Chesterton
  • there is no conspiracy, for there is no need: the members of the ruling elite think alike (and come from the same small group that were educated in the same universities and fraternities)
  • the (members of) elite despises the (members of) people (privately, not publicly, of course)
  • "internet will be taken over by the government - 10, 20, 30 years" (1999)
There is more I could list that Vidal mentioned or touched upon (in some of the videos that I saw the last days) but one interesting point about him is this patrician background: He knew JFK, he was Jackie K's cousin, and idem Jimmy Carter and Al Gore; GV is son of a senator's son who was son of a senator; GV had a rich background; was well educated (but did not go to college: He went soldiering in 1943-45). He knows the rich and the powerful. About the Clintons he remarked: His was "a _____ watch": I forgot the ____ term: an equivalent of not good, careless; the Clintons had not grasped by 1999, according to GV, that in real fact they were and are placemen - lawyers acting for the real holders of power, the rich with large corporations.

Anyway - GV insisted that it are that kind of rich folks who effectively rule the US and also that they cannot be beaten without a major collapse of society. Indeed, like me, he thinks it's too late to turn back to the past: You can't undo what has (been) broken down (list of above points, and more) - "it'll take 25, 50 years to undo what the Bush-years" - 2000-2008 presumably - "have ruined". Which is optimistic. (Compare my argument that you need properly educated folks to produce properly educate folks: The condicio sine qua non is now almost wholly extinct. Interestingly, GV said that until ca. 1940 public education in the U.S. was quite good.)

So the future, socially, economically, politically in the West, is bleak, in all probable variants, and indeed in others: Too many people; too few resources; the apparently derailing (for human beings) climate - and much more specifically and here & now, more or less: Greece, Spain, Italy are going down economically; Syria is in civil war; Egypt, Libyia, Tunisia are in considerable internal trouble. It is a major mess & there are hardly competent governors/leaders/politicians. (If any of the countries of the European Union collapses economically, the rest may collapse, and what happens then is anybody's guess, but it won't be pleasant, and it may be horrific.)

There is another factor GV did not much mention: The public power elite - exemplified by e.g. Bush Jr of the US or Balkenende of the Netherlands - consist of fools: incompetent ignoramuses (both spouting talking points of GOP thinktanks, by the way, one of which is "norms and values").

Also - not a GV point - those who are competent, say Cheney, are blinded by ideology or by specific greed (oil, often, though Royal Dutch Shell now desires to drill for water under the sea: scarce resource).

Then again, this is a bit of a problem: Why are the public holders of power so often idiots, morons, incompetents, fools, ideologues, fools? It comes with careerism in political parties, is no doubt a major part of the explanation:

Those (political) funxctions attract those (human) types. And if most of them are incompetent, for various reasons, that may be summarized by saying that almost none of the leading politicians have the kind of mind to be leading academics, leading artists, or leading writers or philosophers, then that is because there aren't any better, at least usually: Among the formally qualified candidates for political leadership usually all or most are incompetent - and see Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly", how that unpacks in practice, as soon as "the going gets tough".

This incompetence is no major problem in ordinary times, but it is a major problem in extra-ordinary times. (In ordinary times, most social processes keep hanging together, and keep working together, also with incompetent helmsmen.)

Further question: Is the real elite also mostly incompetent? Well... however competent they are, the public frontmen they get are rarely first class. Also, these elite folks - Vidal mentioned the Mellons and the Rockefellers - probably excel at their kind of being a leading industrial tycoon of a certain type (Maxwell, Murdoch, say) but not at other things, as indeed is normal, also for excellence: Nobody excels at many things.

Another possibility to consider, amidst all the bleak forebodings of police-states: One variant is the muddling through one, where incompetent elites remain in power because the other elites are also incompetent, and errors may balance other errors, but most things keep working, if on a lower level.

Also, another relevant consideration:

The conflict is between Left and Right and is very old in principle (at least as old as the French Revolution and the 18th Century) and in the present form, in the US, arose in the Reagan years, when the power of the media became really clear and also corruption of politicians was started on a large scale: Lobbying and Public Relations (PR), the former mostly secret, the latter mostly public, but often tricked.

Something GV did not remark upon is that it seems to me
PR has learned from postmodernism and also has tricks that are often used and rarely seen: Taking the moral vocabulary and ends of the opposition, verbally ("of course we want jobs for the poor as much as you do, that's why we support not taxing Our Jobcreators!"), and using loaded catch-phrases and cant terms ("Job creators", "Obamacare", "evidence based medicine" for pseudo-science etc.), and only admitting sloganized issues phrased in cant terms as talking points in the media, and no others.

But that was an aside:
PR is massive - nearly all men get in the media is propaganda/advertisement or amusement/sport, while nearly all men get nearly all there general information from the media. "We The People" can be foxed about almost any issue, in democratic majority, all of the time. See Freedom is Slavery

Lobbying is also massive: Most politicians are bought or owned, if perhaps only for some subjects. This results in legislation, planning, contracts and practices that the large corporations want, and lobby and pay for. From Wkipedia:
An important (but not universal) contemporary feature of a corporation is limited liability. If a corporation fails, shareholders may lose their investments, and employees may lose their jobs, but neither will be liable for debts to the corporation's creditors. Despite not being natural persons, corporations are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like natural persons ("people"). Corporations can exercise human rights against real individuals and the state,[2][3] and they can themselves be responsible for human rights violations.
That corporations can be "responsible" while the core principle of corporations is limited liability (legalized irresponsibility, as far as possible) must happen by miracle: Responsibility of an abstract entity that has been created to make the humans that are members of it not liable for infringements of the law is a contradiction in terms, or as close to it as does not matter in practice and in law - I'd infer.

Finally there is no independent judiciary or legislature, and so no trias politica: Even if judges or lawyers wanted - which they rarely do - to be a countervailing force against political corruption, they have no financial power, no social support, and no police force or army, while also whatever opposes the interests of the large corporations will probably get overruled in a higher court.

--------------------

So far for the notes I made:  You may not agree, and I might have written differently had I written on another time or at another place or in another condition of life, but at least the above is fairly informed and cogent - while, as before, I do hope I am mistaken in being pessimistic (*)

Notes
(*) I am not a dogmatic person, and I don't like seeing people in misery, but I should add that I have been right about many things most Dutchmen disagreed with me about, and did not see, notably the corruptions of civilization in Holland that were brought in with the leveling of education, and the "legalized" illegal dealings of drugs, for which also see here.

                                   
                             P.S.     Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
                      -- Aug 13, 2012: Made some corrections and added some links and fixed the images for the arrows.
 

 

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

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 of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
10.
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understa, but nds ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A  space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.



See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

 


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