20, 2013
Crisis:  Obama, Clapper, Reich, Corporatism, Th. Roosevelt, webcams
  "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. Obama Wrongs the Bill of Rights
  2. Huge majority wants Clapper prosecuted for perjury
  3. The Meaning of a Decent Society 
Yes Virginia, Obama and the Democrats Are Mussolini-
       Style Corporatists, Just Like the Republicans

  5. the roosevelt principle…
  6. Is Your Webcam Off? Not If The FBI Is Watching
  7. Personal
About ME/CFS


This is another crisis report, with six items, plus a very brief personal remark.

1. Obama Wrongs the Bill of Rights  

To start with, an article by Amy Goodman - from Democracy Now! - that I found on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

President Barack Obama proclaimed Dec. 15 Bill of Rights Day, praising those first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution as “the foundation of American liberty, securing our most fundamental rights—from the freedom to speak, assemble and practice our faith as we please to the protections that ensure justice under the law.” The next day, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon called Obama’s surveillance policies “almost Orwellian” in a court order finding the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata very likely unconstitutional. If that was not enough, the president’s own task force on the issues, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, delivered its report, which the White House released, with 46 recommendations for changes.

I have to say that I am not impressed by "the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications", as I explained yesterday, but I may be mistaken. Then again, I think the probability is low, simply going by Obama's track record, that is quite awful, and that seem directed at laying the fundaments of a totalitarian police state - in the words of Wlliam Binney - rather than maintaining the Bill of Rights, though I agree Obama is a very good and very plausible performer.

Then again, Amy Goodman is aware that the Review Group is far too closely tied to Obama, who is an effective proponent and protector of what the NSA does and did.

In any case, there is considerably more in Amy Goodman's article, but these things mostly were treated in Nederlog. She ends thus:

Adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights comprises the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. While praising it last week and ticking through “our most fundamental rights,” President Obama failed to mention the Fourth Amendment. It reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Perhaps President Obama, the erstwhile constitutional-law professor, should go back and reread that amendment.

I don't think so: He knows very well what he is doing, and I very much doubt he will stop anything unless he is legally forced to.

2. Huge majority wants Clapper prosecuted for perjury 

Next, an article by David Sirota on Salon:

This starts as follows:

There is no longer any doubt that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress. Likewise, there is no doubt that his lie runs afoul of federal law. And, of course, there is no doubt that in terms of its implications for oversight, constitutional precepts and privacy for millions of Americans, his lies were far more serious than those that have gotten other people prosecuted for perjury. The question now is whether his brazen dishonesty will become a political issue — or whether it will simply disappear into the ether.

As evidenced by President Obama this week attempting to promote Clapper to head an “independent” NSA reform panel, the White House clearly believes it will be the latter. But a set of new polls out today suggests such a calculation may be wrong.

I agree James Clapper should face a judge, but I doubt he will, simply because he implements president Obama's program, and Obama is against whistleblowers, or more precisely: against anyone who blows the whistle against his government, and he is very much for bank-managers and NSA-directors.

Then again, Sirota gives evidence of a poll that has the following outcomes:

In the Democratic states of California and Hawaii, 54 percent and 58 percent of voters, respectively, want him prosecuted. In middle-of-the-road Iowa, it’s 65 percent. And in Republican Texas and Kentucky, it is 68 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

I doubt it will make any difference, for quite a few reasons, one of which is that the president, and the previous president, and the president before that, are not at all interested in polls, unless this concerns precisely that very small part of the electorate in a swing state that may help them get a majority.

These then will be promised absolutely everything, is true, though if the move succeeds, the voters will not be rewarded, for then, in president Obama's words, that might equally well have been Bush Jr.'s or Clinton's words, "We Should Look Forward, Not Backward!" (for all evidence of our misdeeds is in the past).

The US as are only nominally "a democracy". In fact, big money rules, and it does so by paying those who do its bidding. And see the next item:

3. The Meaning of a Decent Society 

Next, an article by Robert Reich, that I found on his site:

From the beginning:

Although it’s still possible to win the lottery (your chance of winning $648 million in the recent Mega Millions sweepstakes was one in 259 million), the biggest lottery of all is what family we’re born into. Our life chances are now determined to an unprecedented degree by the wealth of our parents.

That’s not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches – with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone – was once at the core of the American Dream.

And equal opportunity was the heart of the American creed. Although imperfectly achieved, that ideal eventually propelled us to overcome legalized segregation by race, and to guarantee civil rights. It fueled efforts to improve all our schools and widen access to higher education. It pushed the nation to help the unemployed, raise the minimum wage, and provide pathways to good jobs. Much of this was financed by taxes on the most fortunate.

I somewhat agree, but the American Dream always was nothing but a dream, and it never was possible that "anyone could move from rags to riches", not even if you qualify "anyone" by "with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone" (say: with an IQ over 140, a nice exterior, and unending politeness to everyone, plus a very good command of language, and the ability to do a whole lot of boring work).

My reason is that American society always was pyramidical, and there always were few at the top and many at the bottom, and besides it is far less plain intellectual talent that helps one move upwards, as a combination of conformism with a penchant for being a real bastard for Number One i.e. oneself (but - of course - sugarcoated with real charm, that may give a totally different appearance to the things one does).

Also, while "equal opportunity" may have been part of the faith, it was never practised, and especially not for blacks, hispanics, and most other "minority groups".

Then again, I agree that there was this American Dream, and 'equal opportunity for all' was part of that faith, and I also agree it is no longer practisable even to the small extent in which it was practiced, namely for this reason:

America is now more unequal that it’s been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

In my terms: It always was mostly a pipe dream, but now much more so than before, when it did deliver for some, to some extent, and that especially in the Sixties and the Seventies of the previous century, though not much before and after (apart perhaps from the G.I. bill immediately after WW II, that allowed quite a few to study).

As Reich says:

Taxes have been cut on the rich, public schools have deteriorated, higher education has become unaffordable for many, safety nets have been shredded, and the minimum wage has been allowed to drop 30 percent below where it was in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

And indeed all of this happened to favor the rich few, who have been favored a whole lot the last thirty-three years.

There is considerably more, but  I just give you the ending:

The supply-side, trickle-down, market-fundamentalist views that took root in America in the early 1980s got us fundamentally off track.

To get back to the kind of shared prosperity and upward mobility we once considered normal will require another era of fundamental reform, of both our economy and our democracy.

Yes, though I do not see how this reform could start without a major collapse preceding it - I really don't, which is a great pity, and has a lot to do with the next item, that is one variation on the "Get Money Out Of Politics!" theme.

There are many reasons why I think so, but I only give here a minor one, that is caused by the word "Decent" in Reich's title - with which I agree. I recall that over thirty years ago, Stefan Themerson (<-Wikipedia) gave the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, with the title "The Chair of Decency".

I must have been one of the very few who liked the title and who had read books by the lecturer: Themerson - a friend of Bertrand Russell - was mostly reviled by the Dutch press, precisely because he appealed to the "old-fashioned", "moralistic" concept of decency, that was just "ludicrous ridiculous nonsense" in the eyes of the Dutch press.

Most of the present Dutch press still think the same, but for other reasons. They are still wrong, but because they serve their paymasters well, they remain in charge of the Dutch opinions.

"And so it goes".

4. Yes Virginia, Obama and the Democrats Are Mussolini-Style Corporatists, Just Like the Republicans

Next, an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This is a fairly long article that reacts to an article by Mike Konczal, who wrote an article entitled "Corporatism” is the Latest Hysterical Right-Wing Accusation: The secret history of a smear".

I will leave it mostly to you, but I agree with the title of the dotted link, and I also started the crisis series in September 2008 precisely with an article, in Dutch, on corporations and on corporatism, that seemed and seems to me the basic cause of the crisis, also because it got and it gets help by leading politicians from the left and the right, who all lie to the public, while implementing the policies that benefit the large corporations and the rich, which generally - also in Holland, these days, for the leading political players - includes the politicians.

But here is a bit from the beginning:

I’m actually a bit miffed that Konczal treats the “corporatism” appellation as the sole property of the right wing (in the style sheet of the Vichy Left, calling them “hysterics” is redundant but necessary for the rubes), since I have a prior claim. And what is particularly rich is that Konczal apparently regards the allusion to Mussolini to be unfair:

Right-wing critics have a new favorite word to malign President Obama’s economic policies: corporatism. Naturally, it’s an ugly word. Whether it evokes Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy or just an image of the rich growing richer through government collusion, it’s a vision nobody would defend. Nobody is for corporatism.

“Nobody is for corporatism”? Huh? Why does Konczal think K Street and “think tanks” which for the most part the arms and legs of corporations, exist? There is an entire large, well funded, and extremely effective business apparatus that extracts lucrative programs, explicit subsidies, guarantees, and various other gimmies from government bodies at all levels. Tom Ferguson has been meticulously documenting since the early 1980s how campaign finance in America works, which he calls he calls the “investment theory of politics“: that political parties in the US respond not to popular will or the interests of broader society, but the patronage of large money blocks, with certain industries preferring one party to the other.

Quite so. And it also turns out that Yves Smith has been saying so, that is, specifically "Mussolini-style corporatism", since September 28, 2008, and repeated it quite a few times.

I think Yves Smith is right, and that is another reason I fear a collapse is necessary before anything changes fundamentally: The Republicans and the Democrats both work for the rich, and the main difference between them is the sort of propaganda they choose to do so.

5. the roosevelt principle…

Next, a switch to the world of medicine and an article by 1 boring old man (who is a psychiatrist, who is not boring):

This starts with a quotation from the British Medical Journal, that I repeat in part. The article quoted is by Sidney M. Wolfe, and it has the title "Escalating criminal and civil violations: pharma has corporate integrity? Not really" - and note it is behind a pay wall:

Are criminal and civil penalties of hundreds of millions of dollars an important deterrent to law breaking by international drug companies? Further, would external monitoring in the form of US government mandated corporate integrity agreements [CIA] to prevent recurrences of such illegal activities, lasting five years after being signed, be an additional deterrent? Yes in both cases, but only if the size of the penalties outweighed the companies’ gains while violating the laws and only if enforcement of the CIAs were effective. Unfortunately, neither is the case. This evaluation is based on the recent, sharp escalation in the frequency with which many giant multinational drug companies repeatedly engage in illegal criminal and civil activity after previously paying enormous fines and despite monitoring under CIAs. It seems that for some companies, commission of such criminal and civil violations has become part of their business models.

Again, this is "my" analysis, except that originally it is not: I agree with the analysis, but I certainly did not originate it. The reason to repeat the above quotation here is precisely because others, many of whom are medical doctors, say the same.

For example, here is 1 boring old man himself, who is a psychiatrist (who started out as an internist, rather long ago), right under the above quotation plus some more:
There’s a really big question on the table these days. The misbehavior of the Pharmaceutical Industry is becoming public – the stuff of legends: jury-rigged ghost-written clinical trial reports, marketing off-label prescribing, direct payola to physicians. The sins have been industry-wide, focused primarily on lifestyle and psychoactive drugs, but spilling over into most areas of medicine.  Recently, they’ve made a number of initiatives aimed at clearing up their public image: signing on to the AllTrials petition; tempering their stand on data availability; discontinuing paying doctor speakers. Are these trojan horses? wolves in sheep’s clothing? signs of a change of heart? or an admission of defeat? There’s a non-dichotomous choice in here as well, signs of internal differences within these companies?
And note, in case you missed it:
The sins have been industry-wide, focused primarily on lifestyle and psychoactive drugs, but spilling over into most areas of medicine.
There is rather a lot more in the article. I mostly agree, though again I must say that I am skeptical about how it is going to be realized, and that especially because of Obama's government, that seems to favour these deals very much more than prosecuting persons for the serious misdeeds they clearly committed:

It is much more profitable to let them buy off prosecution and get themselves whitewashed by surrendering a part of their profits to the government: They still profit; the government profits; "win-win". ("And fuck the law!")

6. Is Your Webcam Off? Not If The FBI Is Watching

Finally, not an article but a video by The Young Turks of 5 min 54 seconds:

I quote a part of the blurb that is under it to show you what it is about:
"Is your webcam recording you right now? If that little green light is off, you'd probably think the camera is, too. But think again. Wednesday, the Washington Post highlighted an unnerving study published at Johns Hopkins University which found that a laptop webcam can function in relative secrecy—a slightly subtler Eye of Sauron. Matthew Brocker and Stephen Checkoway's paper, regrettably (though inevitably) titled "iSeeYou: Disabling the MacBook Webcam Indicator LED," exposes the flaw in many Apple laptops built before 2008. But PC users shouldn't rejoice—MacBooks are not the only devices at risk.

Webcam-spying—particularly the variant that involves disabling LED indicator lights—takes quite a bit of effort, but the practice isn't limited to the realm of benevolent academics."
I merely add that I have briefly used a webcam, but since that insisted on making a picture of me whenever I started the computer, and then sent it got knows where, I have definitively given up on webcams, already in May or June 2012.

Those who haven't should seriously consider the possibility that they are spied on and that anybody using their computer will get photographed or filmed, for someone's secret delectations, somewhere.

7. Personal

This is just to say that I suppose there will be less crisis related items in the weekend, which will give me the opportunity to write about what I want to write about next year, among other things.

[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