26, 2013
Crisis: Deaths, phones, Snowden, lost generation, economy, NYT, kill switch
  "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. Winter deaths rose by almost a third in 2012-13
  2. Are smartphones causing a bonking crisis?
Edward Snowden a 'hero' for NSA disclosures, Wikipedia
       founder says

  4. Statistics: The Real Lost Generation
  5. Good-bye Milton Friedman, Hello Joseph Stiglitz!
       Progressive Economists Can Help Save Working America

  6. The New York Times Uncovers Conservative Attacks and
       Then Prints One; Both Are on the Front Page

The Government's Secret Plan to Shut Off Cellphones
       and the Internet, Explained
About ME/CFS


This is another crisis item, that I hope will not disappear into thin air after I wrote it and before I uploaded it, as happened yesterday. In any case, it has seven sections with seven articles, and it is over 40 Kb.

1. Winter deaths rose by almost a third in 2012-13

To start with, a bit about David Cameron's country, in a piece by Patrick Butler in the Guardian: 

This starts as follows:

There were an estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales last year – up by almost a third on the previous winter, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figure represented the highest excess winter mortality (EWM) since 2008-09, when 36,450 excess deaths were recorded.

There are, it seems, lots of statistical reasons to deny that the high enery prices and the low pensions, both of which are David Cameron's responsibility, are an important factor ("Look, things fluctuate!", "Look, it was quite a bit worse in 1950!", "Look, these oldies don't isolate their homes well enough!" etc. etc.).

But to me it seems that if you must choose between getting sufficient to eat and getting sufficient warmth, then these are the main factors.

Then again, I am an awful cynic, to blame such a kind and caring man as is David Cameron, who will never suffer from the problem.

2. Are smartphones causing a bonking crisis?

Next, an article in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland:

This starts as follows:

Britons are having less sex than they used to, says the latest medical research published in the Lancet: down to just under five times a month for the 16-44 age group and three times a month for the overall adult population. This represents a 20% decline since 2000. 

I say - 20% is a lot. There are several explanations, such as unemployment, but Freedland has what he calls a "more intriguing suggestion": It's the smartphone.

He has several reasons, such as that the same holds for Japan, and that 1 in 10 people having sex (?!) use their smartphone also, perhaps for making sexy selfies, and also the general fact that computers, internet and phones are changing lives a lot.

I do not know, but 20% is a lot.

3. Edward Snowden a 'hero' for NSA disclosures, Wikipedia founder says

Next, an article by Adam Gabbatt in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has called on Barack Obama to rein in the National Security Agency as he described the whistleblower Edward Snowden as "a hero" whom history will judge "very favourably".

In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Head to Head show, Wales called for a "major re-evaluation" of the NSA, adding that the public "would have never approved this sweeping surveillance program" had it been put to a vote.

The revelations, Wales said, had been "incredibly damaging and embarrassing to the US".

Indeed - quite so, and note that Wikipedia is the most popular website in the world, which I think is nice. He says more sensible things:

"It’s difficult to have a judgment in such a short period of time on a person I don’t know, and where we don’t know what might appear in the future. But, given everything that I know today, he is a hero," Wales told Head to Head host Mehdi Hasan and a live audience at the Oxford University Union.

"He is a person that has been very careful in the materials that he has leaked … they have been in the abstract, he has never leaked anything that would put any particular agents at risk, and so forth. He has exposed what I believe to be criminal wrongdoing, lying to Congress and certainly a shock and an affront, in America, an affront to the fourth amendment. I think that history will judge him very favourably.”

I agree, although it is a bit difficult to understand the partial scepticism about Edward Snowden, because large amounts of people are rated as "heroes" while those who do know extremely little about their persons or their motives, but I take it this is mainly for publicity's sake. 

4. Statistics: The Real Lost Generation

Next an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

“American teens and young adults have never, since record-keeping began, done worse in the job market than in the past decade,” writes economist Jeff Madrick in Harper’s Magazine.

New Orleans has it worst, Madrick writes. There, 23 percent of 18-to 24-year-olds are out of school and without jobs. The national number is 17 percent. Experts figure there are 6.7 million young people nationwide who are in this fix.

That is, roughly 1 in 5 of the 18-24 year olds are without work. That is an enormous number, but the government doesn't care much, as the article proceeds to explain:

American policymakers were once determined to have it otherwise. “A lot of this determination had to do with fears of social unrest stirred up by the racial violence of the Sixties and, several decades later, the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles,” Madrick writes. “One of the federal government’s responses was to create hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for teenagers at parks, construction sites, and nonprofits. But these programs mostly ended in the early years of the George W. Bush Administration, after a decade of falling crime.”

That, of course, is also true of the Obama government. In fact, the article ends as follows:
“With an estimated 6.7 million [members of] Opportunity Youth [a group helping people under 24 who don’t have jobs and are not enrolled in school] in America right now, the total lost wealth will be well into the trillions of dollars.”
Since the very few very rich who deserve so very much did not loose these trillions of dollars, things are quite OK in the US, I suppose, also as the stock-markets are rising again...

5. Good-bye Milton Friedman, Hello Joseph Stiglitz! Progressive Economists Can Help Save Working America

Next, an article by Henry M. Banta, that I found on AlterNet but that seems to originate in the Huffington Post:

This starts as follows:

For more than four decades the debate on economic policy has been dominated by an ideologically driven theory originating in economics departments of several major universities, most notably the University of Chicago. This simplistic neoliberal economic philosophy relentlessly taught that there was no problem that could not be solved by a reliance on market forces. All that was needed was for the government to get out of the way. President Reagan summed it up with the mantra: "government is not the solution; government is the problem."

The reason is that in a democracy the government has to take care of everyone - which was anathema for Reagan, and for Reaganites, and for Friedman. However, according to Banta, there now is a change:

The last several years have witnessed an utter collapse of this fundamentalist free market ideology, or at least its intellectual underpinnings, in the precise place where it all began -- academia. Since at least 2008, it has become impossible to subscribe to the "efficient market hypothesis," which is central to the free market ideology. Those economists who had some credibility left in the aftermath of the Great Recession were in agreement that the economy was not going to get out of its downward spiral on its own. A Keynesian solution was required: an aggressive monetary policy and an expansive fiscal policy. And now they see the slow recovery and persistent unemployment as a matter of too little "aggregate demand." This is a wonkish way of saying that the middle class is not spending enough to keep everyone employed. The obvious reason why they are not spending enough is that they don't have the money to spend.

And that again is, Banta says, because of the steep decline in the labor movement and the unions. There is considerably more in the article, that also has a message: Unionize for else you perish (in my words).

I broadly agree, but (1) I am not so sure of Academia; (2) getting labor unions to work again is quite difficult; and (3) there also are other reasons for the lack of unions.

6. The New York Times Uncovers Conservative Attacks and Then Prints One; Both Are on the Front Page

Next, an article by George Lakoff (a linguist) in Common Dreams:

From the beginning:

For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly. The NY Times finally began reporting on this effort on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in a fine piece by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

I skip a paragraph and arrive at

It's a start, and it's about time. What the Times missed was the far deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideology covering dozens of issues that have been served by these efforts. The Times also missed the reason why the attack on the ACA is more than just anti-Obama politics, but rather part of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about. The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states -- all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans.

Yes, indeed - and for Lewis Powell see the Wikipedia link (although that was probably written by his friends and admirers).

Anyway, I agree that the NY Times missed some forty years of history, that were started by Powell, and that made for a steady growth of conservative thinking, and I also disagree with most of that thinking.

Then again, there is quite a lot more in the article, but Lakoff mostly lost me there in linguistic technicalities, which I am quite capable of comprehending, but that to me do not matter much because one can state quite well what's wrong with conservative propaganda without a considerable amount of linguistics.

But you can judge for yourself.

7. The Government's Secret Plan to Shut Off Cellphones and the Internet, Explained

Finally, an article by Dana Liebelson in Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:
This month, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must make its plan to shut off the internet and cellphone communications available to the American public. You, of course, may now be thinking: What plan?! Though President Barack Obama swiftly disapproved of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak turning off the internet in his country (to quell widespread civil disobedience) in 2011, the US government has the authority to do the same sort of thing, under a plan that was devised during the George W. Bush administration. Many details of the government's controversial "kill switch" authority have been classified, such as the conditions under which it can be implemented and how the switch can be used.
And of course you and I are not supposed to know all this, and we should very much trust that noble man Obama, who classified more than 90 million documents, because that is how his kind of democracy works.

But OK - this was just an interjection of me. Dana Liebelson proceeds to explain what she knows about the kill switch, which is quite a lot, and concludes that the US government can stop the cellphones and the internet, quite legally also, but with some difficulty, and that they probably will not do it, except partially.

Indeed she quotes experts who argue that the idea of a kill switch is stupid:
Critics contend that activating any kind of kill switch will do more harm than good. "I find it hard to imagine why an internet kill switch would ever be a good idea, short of some science fiction scenario wherein the network comes alive a la Terminator/Skynet," Feld says. "At this point, so much of our critical infrastructure runs on the internet that a 'kill switch' would do more harm than anything short of a nuclear strike. it would be like cutting off our own head to escape someone pulling our hair." The same argument applies to smothering cellphone service. "The benefit of people being able to communicate on their cellphones in times of crisis is enormous, and cutting that off is in and of itself potentially very dangerous," argues Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Yes indeed. She ends with this (partially quoted):
What don't we know about the kill switch plan? A lot. We don't know the "series of questions" that help DHS determine whether it should activate a kill switch, how DHS will go about implementing the kill switch, how long a shutdown will last, and what the oversight protocols are.
There's a lot more, and it is an interesting article. Also, I agree that the idea of using a kill switch, especially a large one, is quite silly.
P.S. Apr 13, 2014: I corrected two minor mistakes.

[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)

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