16, 2013
Crisis: Markets, Drones, Capitalism, Internet, Quotation-marks
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

  1. Is There Anything You Can’t Buy in America? Should
       There Be?

  2. Anti-Drone Movement Speaks: 'End the Secrecy, No to
       Kill List'

'Sleepwalking to Extinction': Capitalism and the
       Destruction of Life and Earth

  4. Court Orders DHS to Release "Internet Kill Switch"

  5. Chomsky’s right: The New York Times’ latest big lie
About ME/CFS


This is another crisis issue. Possibly because it is a Saturday, there was not really much on the crisis, but I found five articles, although I disagree with two, as I will explain.

1.  Is There Anything You Can’t Buy in America? Should There Be? 

To start with, an article by Lynn Parramore on AlterNet:

Actually, this is not a very good or clear article, but I am not sure whose fault that is. In any case, it discusses the views of Matthew Sandel, who teaches philosophy at Harvard, and who seems to have some sensible ideas about markets, about which he also wrote a book, entitled "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets", and it starts like this: 

If you’ve got the money, there’s hardly anything you can’t buy in America. You can purchase a cushy upgrade to your prison cell, an internship at a famous magazine, or a fast-track through airport security. You can even buy someone’s virginity in an online auction.

It was the same 2000 years ago in Rome, for example, so that cannot be quite the problem. Then again, there are some important questions implied here, and Lynn Parramore gives two:
What’s the downside of moving toward a society where everything’s for sale?

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had much serious public discussion about what a market-based mentality costs us.
Then again, these are not precise questions: At least most things have been for sale in several economical systems, though the conditions varied, and "what a market-based mentality costs us" seems to depend on who is "us".

But OK - there's more:
[Sandel - MM] points out that in a society where everything is for sale, things get much harder for those who have fewer resources, and that markets may “crowd out” values that are worth caring about, like loyalty and duty. If we set up a society where people act only out of economic self-interest, then our “muscles” for other concerns will tend to atrophy. Sandel pointed to the emptiness of our public discourse as a sign that this is happening.
But that again is rather vague, for several reasons, one of which is that it is simply not true that "people act only out of economic self-interest": In fact, that seems an ideal only the rich have - and besides, the more intelligent of the rich  only pretend to believe this.

Then we get a point that seems mostly true:
For a long time, economists have tried to pretend that their field is value-neutral. Baloney, says Sandel, and it’s high time economists reconnected their work to moral and political philosophy.
It depends how long "a long time" is, but this seems mostly correct, and I also agree it is a mistake, and a major one: Economics is not and never was like physics, and clearly it relates to values and morality, and to pretend it doesn't only makes one's economics disjoint from the real facts.

Then we get this:

Members of the audience called upon liberals and progressives to stop shying away from questions of values and morality, and that is a good thing. One member accused postmodernists of blighting the public conversation of rights and morals, presumably through their emphasis on relativism.

I hear that a lot. As someone who studied in an English department in the 1990s, I can certainly acknowledge the excesses of postmodernism.
Ms Parramore, who holds a Ph.D. "in English and Cultural Theory" thinks it isn't fair, and postmodernism at least learned her to question things. But that is baloney: The issue is whether postmodernists were relativists (yes, they were), and whether their influence took away academic interests in questions of value and morality (yes, they did, except if these values were precisely those of the postmodernists who were involved).

And the readers are told - and I do not know whether this has anything to do with what Sandel said - that:
The real foe of progressive and liberal morality is not Jacques Derrida but Ayn Rand (and her acolyte Alan Greenspan), whose celebration of self-interest as the desirable motivator of human behavior is among the most repugnant ideas ever to attain widespread acceptance in America, giving Calvinist predestination a run for its money.
I'm sorry, but I disagree: Both Rand's "philosophy" and Derrida's idem are awful products, mostly because they do not have to do anything with the facts and are very obscurantistic, albeit in different ways, although I know philosophically uneducated folks think these are "deep thinkers".

There is a little more in the article, but this is about it (as you can check for yourself), and I do not know either the answer to the question in the title or what Matthew Sandel thinks - and I suspect the main reason I do not know is Ms Parramore's postmodernistic education, that has not learned her to think clearly, or at least not to formulate clearly.

2.  Anti-Drone Movement Speaks: 'End the Secrecy, No to Kill List' 

Next an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Activists from across the globe kicked off the largest-ever anti-drone summit Friday with a boisterous White House rally then march to the headquarters of one of the most notorious weapons manufacturers in the world.

"After ten years of using drones it is about time that American citizens demand accountability from our government," said organizer Medea Benjamin of Code Pink in an interview with Common Dreams. "Our government has been getting away with a covert program killing innocent people in our names. It is high time we react and say no to killings, no to secrecy, and no to a kill list."

I think I agree, and my reasons are that these are weapons, whether or not they are manned, or are directed from Utah, and that one should not use weapons to kill thousands of foreigners, without a declaration of war.

3. 'Sleepwalking to Extinction': Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth

Next, a fairly long article by Richard Smith on Common Dreams:
This is concerned, nominally at least, with the following facts:

For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.

Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3˚C or 4˚C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher and jungles covered northern Canada; Florida, meanwhile, was under water along with other coastal locations we now call New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others.
Of course, the fear is these situations of - say - 4 million years ago may rapidly recur. I have to say that personally I doubt it, not because I deny facts, but because it seems more likely civilization will end before it is 4 degrees hotter, simply for lack of fuel and food, and because of wars.

Then again, Richard Smith has another idea:

Why are we marching toward disaster, “sleepwalking to extinction” as the Guardian’s George Monbiot once put it? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we ride off the cliff to collapse? I’m going to argue here that the problem is rooted in the requirement of capitalist production. Large corporations can’t help themselves; they can’t change or change very much. So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes, and that the only alternative — impossible as this may seem right now — is to overthrow this global economic system and all of the governments of the 1% that prop it up and replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an eco-socialist civilization.

But this - apart from Smith's correctly identifying that his alternative is "impossible as this may seem right now" - seems to me a gross exaggeration:

The problem is not capitalism: the problem is deregulated capitalism. I agree that there also need to be big changes to introduce good regulations, but this seems to me to be more likely successful than an "
overthrow [of - MM] this global economic system and all of the governments", which anyway is a wild and unpredictable notion, that is most unlikely to bring what its proponents want it to bring.

But anyway - I've warned you, and you can read all of the article.

4. Court Orders DHS to Release "Internet Kill Switch" Plans

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
A federal court this week has ordered the Department of Homeland of Security to disclose details about the so-called "internet Kill Switch," that would allow the agency to "deactivate wireless communications networks" if it determined a localized or national crisis demanded such an action.

In the classicly-rendered case, DHS has argued that shutting down entire communication networks might be necessary in order to prevent the detonation of radio-controlled bomb or explosive device.
In fact, the U.S. government will probably appeal, although it seems to me that the whole notion of an Internet Kill Switch is odd and sick, since all that it will do is make people dumb and voiceless: it will very probably not stop any attack.

But it is a bit nice to know that the U.S. government, and indeed also the Dutch government, do believe that they do have this right.

5. Chomsky’s right: The New York Times’ latest big lie

Finally, an article by Patrick L. Smith on the NYT in Salon:
This starts as follows:

Never before have I written a column concerning nothing more than a pair of quotation marks. Then again, never until now have I seen the power of punctuation so perniciously deployed.

It is not a new trick. Very popular in hackdom during the Cold War decades. Enclose something in quotation marks and all between them is instantly de-legitimized; no argument or explanation need be made. Here, try it:

“… the Cuban ‘doctors’ sent to Angola…”

Or: … Soviet-made ‘farm equipment’ in Portugal since its 1974 revolution…

Well, they were doctors and it was farm equipment. In the latter category I sat in a Soviet tractor out in the Portuguese vineyards, and damn it if the camponÍs did not find it useful.

Yes, quite so!

In fact, this kind of sick and sickening degenerate trickery has been plaguing me for decades, for especially the "postmodernists" put "everything" that "might" be "somehow" "problematic" between "quotatation"-marks, thereby effectively declaring that nothing meant anything like the quoted words would mean if they were not "quoted". (Yes, I may have overdone it.)

Anyway... here is what Patrick L. Smith protests against:
Here is the lead in the Times report from the City of Diplomacy:

The Iranian government’s insistence on formal recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle,  diplomats said Sunday.

In fact, he protests against more, but as to " “right” ": It simply is a fact that Iran does have that right, without any quotation-marks, and whether American diplomats like it or not, and to pretend that they merely lay claim to a “right” that they have not is to trick the readers of the New York Times.

I agree.

Also, this kind of trickery these days is extremely widespread, and anyone who uses more than a pair or a few pairs of quotation-marks in an article either is a very vague and uncertain and useless thinker or is a fraud.

Finally, quotation-marks should be used only if one quotes, and not to signalize that the meaning is not what the word would have were it unquoted: If that is what you mean, you should spell out the alternative meaning(s) you have in mind, instead of both misleading your readers and leaving them baffled about what you do mean.


[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

       home - index - summaries - mail