January 26, 2014

Crisis: No Outcry, GOP against NSA, Law, "Citizens United", Dr. Strangelove

   "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

Why There’s No Outcry
Look Who's Talking: Republicans Denounce NSA Spying
3. Law as Farce: From Putin to POTUS the Rule of Law is on
     Life Support

4. Four Years After ‘Citizens United,’ There Is Real
     Movement to Remove Big Money From Politics

Almost Everything in “Dr. Strangelove” Was True

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, and it has seven main links in five sections. I suppose the second and fourth item are the most important, and they also give some hope.

The last item is not about the crisis but is about Dr. Strangelove, which on January 29 will have been first released 50 years ago. I do not know whether I saw it first in 1964 or in 1966, but it was in one of these years. I also saw it several times later, and the reason is that it is one of the best films I've ever seen.

1. Why There’s No Outcry

To start with, an article by Robert Reich on his site that - more or less - tries to answer the same question as I did in
Crisis: Why are so many so apathetic?
Actually, I gave ten answers, that I here summarize, and that you may check out:
In brief: Bad education, stupefying media and especially 50 years of TV, natural languages poisoned by public relations and advertisement figures of speech, and the relativization of all values, all knowledge, all aspirations to what the democratic masses, manipulated by propaganda and public relations, approve.
Reich begins as follows:
People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.
This at least is good in admitting there is a rather large problem: Why do so few protest?!

Here are Reich's three reasons, which I give to you without his explanations, that  you can find under the last dotted link:
First, the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has.
Second, students don’t dare rock the boat.
Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible.
The first two are mainly economical arguments: it's too risky, or these groups are too scared. I agree these reasons apply, but I do not know myself they are very important, although my arguments are only fairly schematic: Other people are less well off and do revolt and have revolted. (But Reich may have one or two points.)

The third I reject, not because there are no cynics, but because I do not think they are very important: As long as the ordinary news is watched, and is tolerated, people are in majority not cynical.

Then again, Reich ends his piece by expressing his confidence that there will be major changes:
At some point, working people, students, and the broad public will have had enough. They will reclaim our economy and our democracy. This has been the central lesson of American history.

Reform is less risky than revolution, but the longer we wait the more likely it will be the latter.
I don't know. I hope they will, but I do not have Reich's confidence in what he calls "the central lesson of American history". (Then again, I am not an American.)

2.  Look Who's Talking: Republicans Denounce NSA Spying 

Next, an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Denunciations of the National Security Agency are officially coming from all corners now as leaders of the Republican party passed a resolution Friday calling for an investigation into the “gross infringement” of Americans’ rights.

The resolution calls the vast dragnet operations, namely the collection of phone data records, "an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment" and is "contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment."

The measure, the "Resolution to Renounce the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program," passed by an “overwhelming majority," according to Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus, as party leaders took a voice vote on a package of RNC proposals.

"Not a single member rose to object or call for further debate, as occurred for other resolutions," MSNBC reports.

I agree, as a matter of fact, and I certainly do with the first two paragraphs.

Also, as I have repeatedly argued before, this is one issue, perhaps the only issue, apart from the Constitution, on which the Republicans and the Democrats ought to agree: it is a
"“gross infringement” of Americans’ rights" and it is "an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates" their constitutional rights.

At this point, there are two criticisms possible: (1) the Republicans started the spying, and where much in favor of it during Bush Jr.'s years as president, and (2) the Republicans need a popular theme, and this may be it (and when elected, their president will be as forgetful of his promises as Obama).

I (mostly) grant the points, but even so I am glad about the position taken.

There is also another article I found that is about the same problem, by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

He starts (and ends) his article thus:
This is easily the most remarkable story of the year so far.
He also quotes, more or less what I have above, without clear attribution.

But he is right this is "remarkable".

3. Law as Farce: From Putin to POTUS the Rule of Law is on Life Support 

Next, an article by William Cohn who is a lecturer at law:

This starts as follows:

After reading Thursday's NYT report which revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court legitimized NSA metadata collection for more than seven years without providing a legal rationale I thought of: The Emperor’s New Clothes; The torture memos from Bush 43’s Office of Legal Counsel; Putin’s release of his high profile foes from prison; and light vs. dark (aka Snowden et al. vs. secrecy).

I think he is right that much of the law now works as a farce, and also that the main reason, in the West at least, is the executive branches' liberties with its meaning, that the executives reinterpret as fits their political purposes, generally without this having been tested in real courts.

In any case, the main reason to list this is the title.

4. Four Years After ‘Citizens United,’ There Is Real Movement to Remove Big Money From Politics

Next, an article by John Nichols on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Four years after an activist majority on the United States Supreme Court struck down barriers to the buying of elections by multinational corporations—with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that signaled an intention to dismantle remaining restraints on money in politics—a broad-based movement has emerged to undo the damage done by the Court.

This is a coalition that refuses to tinker around the edges of the crisis.

It is boldly demanding that the US Constitution be amended—a reform sufficient to prevent the High Court from transforming American democracy into a dollarocracy.

“I’ll grant that it’s not easy. Amending the Constitution should not be easy,” says Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which has been a key player in the movement. “But in just four years, we’ve brought what many deemed a pipe dream into the mainstream.”

That is good news. And not only that:

That movement has accomplished more than all but the most optimistic reformers could have imagined on January 21, 2010.

Sixteen American states have formally demanded that Congress recognize that the Constitution must be amended in order to re-establish the basic American premise that “money is property and not speech, and [that] the Congress of the United States, state legislatures and local legislative bodies should have the authority to regulate political contributions and expenditures…”

I quote one more bit:

As such, the fantasy that says reform is impossible persists.

Just imagine if the movement to amend big money out of politics got as much attention, say, as the wrangling over IRS “targeting”—a classic money-in-politics controversy—or Chris Christie’s latest scandal.

Just imagine if all Americans knew that calls for an amendment are coming not just from traditional progressive reformers but from Republican legislators and honest conservatives at the state and national levels.

True, as the article proceeds to explain. There is considerably more in the article, and the issue is very important - and this is another issue on which honest Republicans and honest Democrats ought to be able to agree about: Money should be out of politics (or else the few rich will win every election).

5.  Almost Everything in “Dr. Strangelove” Was True 

Finally, an article by Eric Schlosser on Common Dreams, that is not about the crisis but about one of the best films I ever saw, that was 50 years ago first released, namely on January 29, 1964:

This is a competent article that does explain its title, and ends like so:

In retrospect, Kubrick’s black comedy provided a far more accurate description of the dangers inherent in nuclear command-and-control systems than the ones that the American people got from the White House, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media.

“This is absolute madness, Ambassador,” President Merkin Muffley says in the film, after being told about the Soviets’ automated retaliatory system. “Why should you build such a thing?” Fifty years later, that question remains unanswered, and “Strangelove” seems all the more brilliant, bleak, and terrifyingly on the mark.

Since I like it so much, for quite a few different reasons such as excellent acting, fine story, good approach, factual correctness, and excellent imaging, and since I believe Kubrick was the greatest or one of the greatest film makers, this also stimulated me to view this:

That is from 2000 and gives in 46 minutes a good overview of what went into the making of Dr. Strangelove.

In any case, if you can see the whole movie (again), don't hesitate: it's very funny. And as Schlosser relates, it also is far more true than the White House, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media told the people.



[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 machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)[2]

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
Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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