17, 2014
Crisis: Civilization, Britain's rich, untaxed Americans, LIBOR-fraud, Obama
   "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

1. NASA-Funded Study Sounds Alarm for Civilization
2. Britain's five richest families worth more than poorest

The Untaxed Americans: The Speculators, Hustlers, and
     Freeloaders of Wall Street

4. Bill Black: The Most Dishonest Number in the World:

5. Think You Understand Obama? You Don't, But You Will
     After Watching This

 About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of March 17. It is again a crisis issue and it has five items with seven dotted links.

1. NASA-Funded Study Sounds Alarm for Civilization

The first article is by
Alexander Reed Kelly on Truth Dig:
This article starts as follows:

A new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center confirmed the prospect that worldwide industrial civilization could collapse in the coming decades under “unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution,” Dr. Nafeez Ahmed reports at The Guardian.

The study dismissed the notion that warnings of “collapse” should remain fringe or controversial, citing the history of the fall of previous civilizations to show that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.”

Actually, I don't think previous collapses of civilization are very relevant, apart from the fact that they show a collapse is possible. What is relevant is the evidence one has, and there I am in the side of dr. Nafeez Ahmed: I think there is good evidence that a collapse is nigh or indeed has happened.

In fact, Alexander Reed Kelly's source is this article by dr. Nafeez Ahmed in The Guardian:
Ahmed explains that there is a HANDY model, that is, a Human And Nature DYnamical model that has been put together by a team
led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists.
They found that Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy are the most salient interrelated factors that explain the collapse of civilizations, after which dr. Ahmed says
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
I say - and now we have most Western governments insisting on a much greater difference between the elites and the commoners than there has been since the previous crisis, which is that of the nineteenthirties, and we have an extremely rapidly increasing temperature, for one factor of many that could be mentioned, and both started circa 2000.

Then dr. Ahmed says:

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

There is another scenario with the same outcome (collapse), after which dr. Ahmed says about the elites:
In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."
Finally, dr. Ahmed - after considerably more that I leave to your perusal - concludes as follows:
Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative.
What should one make of this? I note three points.

First, I have seen quite a few doom scenarios since the late nineteensixties. One important one was the Limits to Growth report of 1972, and another, not long before that The Population Bomb, from 1968, by Paul R. Ehrlich.

I have read both books when they came out and was not convinced, and indeed many of the prophecies of the latter book have turned out false. However, empirical science is always uncertain ("If it is certain, then it is not empirical" - Einstein), and books also may be wrong in many predictions, yet may turn out to be right overall (which is what Ehrlich claims about his book).

Second, one of the things I did conclude in the early nineteenseventies, that has remained the same since, is that if there occurs a great natural crisis, e.g. through temperature rise, then the present societies are not capable of stopping it, for lack of money, lack of understanding, lack of man power, and lack of any adequate technology.

Note that politicians will rarely conclude this is so, and still mostly don't, but I think that stance of mine has been validated by all that happened since the early nineteenseventies - for that is mostly nothing (other than enriching makers of windmills and solar panels, that certainly are not enough), indeed except enormous masses of political talk that led to very little.

Third, another thing I
did conclude in the early nineteenseventies also still holds: it seems that the only realistic hope there is, is of a very rapidly developing real science, in all fields, but especially as regards to fusion power, that may resolve at least the energy crisis.

Note that the research into the possibility of
fusion power started in the nineteentwenties, which means that it is nearly a hundred years old. There have been some breakthroughs, but so far there is nothing like a working, safe and stable system that produces a lot more energy as output than is required as input.

2.  Britain's five richest families worth more than poorest 20%

The next article is
by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The scale of Britain's growing inequality is revealed today by a report from a leading charity showing that the country's five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.

Oxfam urged the chancellor George Osborne to use Wednesday's budget to make a fresh assault on tax avoidance and introduce a living wage in a report highlighting how a handful of the super-rich, headed by the Duke of Westminster, have more money and financial assets than 12.6 million Britons put together.

The development charity, which has opened UK programmes to tackle poverty, said the government should explore the possibility of a wealth tax after revealing how income gains and the benefits of rising asset prices had disproportionately helped those at the top.

I agree with Oxfam, but do not see it happening with the present British government, that works for the rich, at the cost of the poor.

Here, by the way, are some figures:

In a report, a Tale of Two Britains, Oxfam said the poorest 20% in the UK had wealth totalling 28.1bn – an average of 2,230 each. The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth 28.2bn.

There is a lot more in the article.

3. The Untaxed Americans: The Speculators, Hustlers, and Freeloaders of Wall Street

The next article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Purchases of American products generally come with a sales tax, and often an excise tax, and possibly state and local add-on taxes. A consumer can avoid all this by limiting purchases to food and prescription drugs, or by shopping online. There's one more way—by visiting a nearby financial exchange and buying a million dollars worth of derivatives.

There is currently no U.S. tax on the purchase of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments. The rest of us pay up to a 10 percent sales tax on the necessities of daily life. A tiny financial transaction tax of perhaps a tenth of a percent on the trading of financial securities would begin to correct this inequity, while generating billions of dollars of revenue.

There are at least five good reasons why our country is ready for such a financial transaction tax (FTT).

He also lists five reasons that follow, but without the text in which he defends them, which you can check out yourself, if interested:

1. The Top Four "Freest Economies" All Have FTTs
2. The Top "Sin Tax" Candidate is Not Taxed At All
3. Quadrillion-Dollar Trader CME Has the Highest Profit
     Margin in the Corporate World

4. The Wall Street 'Liquidity' Argument is Bull Roar
5. Stocks Gained $4.7 Trillion in 2013 while Schools and
     Food and Libraries Were Cut

There also is sixth one, although that seems covered by several of the foregoing five: The more you earn, the more you should be taxed (simply because you made the most from the rest of society, or at least more than most). As it was said: "If I pay taxes, I buy civilization" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr - I think).

This is simple fairness, at least in an open and free society. I know this does not hold anymore, but that is mostly because the very rich have taken over both politics and the press (not completely, yet, but for a considerable part, and not personally, but by employing well paid eager servants), and have increased their own riches enormously by propaganda and deception.

4.  Bill Black: The Most Dishonest Number in the World: LIBOR

Next, an article by Bill Black that I found on nakedcapitalism, but that originates at New Economic Perspectives:

This starts as follows (with links by me, to Wikipedia, that are probably necessary):

The FDIC has sued 16 of the largest banks in the world plus the British Bankers Association (BBA) alleging that they engaged in fraud and collusion to manipulate the London Inter-bank Offered Rate (LIBOR).  BBA called LIBOR “The most important number in the world.”

LIBOR is actually many numbers that depend on the currency and term (maturity) of the loan.  The collusion involved manipulating most of these rates.  A vast number of loans and derivatives are priced off of these “numbers.”  Estimates of the notional dollar amount of deals affected by the collusion range from $300-550 trillion in deals manipulated at any given time.  The LIBOR frauds began no later than 2005 and continued through 2011.

The BBA and the banks claimed to the world that LIBOR was simply the prices (interest rates) set by the market for what it cost the world’s largest banks to borrow from each other.  The banks would report to the BBA those interest rates and, after excluding outliers, the average reported cost to borrow for X days in Y currency would be reported as the LIBOR “number.”

The system was not regulated.  The theory was that the banks self-regulated.  LIBOR was the City of London’s “crown jewel” and theoclassical economics predicted that the elite banks’ self-interest in their reputation and the value they gained from having LIBOR as the global standard would ensure that the banks would report honestly.  As my readers know, any discussion of the “banks’” interests is dangerously misleading.  The key question is the interests of the banks’ officers, particularly those that control the banks.  The “unfaithful agent” (bank officer) is the leading threat to the banks.  Theoclassical economists assumed away the “agency” problem.

Note "theoclassical" seems to be a term of Black's (who is right that most economics I know is thinly veiled ideology). And this continues:

The fact that the FDIC “only” sued 16 of the largest banks in the world does not indicate that the other elite banks were run honestly.  The other elite banks were not part of the group that set LIBOR so they could not join in the cartel.  The LIBOR conspiracy could only succeed and persist if none of 16 elite banks was controlled by honest officers and no regulator acted to end the collusion once they became aware of the collusion (which happened no later than April 16, 2008).  We ran a real world test of the ethics of the leaders of 16 of the world’s most elite banks.  The scorecard according to the U.S. government agency that investigated the matter (the FDIC) reports that each of the leaders failed.  Our twin emergencies are financial and ethical.

And that is the problem: the rich are fraudulent - and not just a few or some of the rich: ALL of the heads of the largest banks are fraudulent.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link. Here is part of the ending of the article:

This should have led the criminal justice authorities to prosecute large numbers of senior officers of these banks – but none of them have been prosecuted.  It obviously poses a grave threat to the “safety and soundness” of the entire financial system.  The endemic frauds led by elite CEOs demonstrate such a pervasive failure of integrity and ethics by the leaders of the finance industry that there is a moral crisis of tragic proportions.

Yes, indeed. And next, a video plus an article on the man who was supposed to stop this (also according to himself, before he was elected):

5. Think You Understand Obama? You Don't, But You Will After Watching This

Finally, a video by The Young Turks that aims at explaining US president Obama:

It takes 11 minutes and 15 seconds, and its main problem is to explain why president Obama says many progressive things and then succeeds in doing those things that led John Boehner to say he gives the Republicans 98% of what they like (which Obama then calls "compromises").

In fact, the source of the video is this article by David Bromwhich, who teaches literature at Yale, in the Huffington Post:
Here is part of Bromwhich's sum-up on Obama:
The law journal editor without a published article, the lawyer without a well-known case to his credit, the law professor whose learning was agreeably presented without a distinctive sense of his position on the large issues, the state senator with a minimal record of yes or no votes, and the U.S. senator who between 2005 and 2008 refrained from committing himself as the author of a single piece of significant legislation: this was the candidate who became president in January 2009.
There is a lot more in the article, most in line with the above: the president hardly did anything definite or characteristic, but he did all he did very handily, and I can sum it up by my own points, all of which can be supported:
  • Obama always is very much middle of the road, everywhere.
  • Obama has no political characteristics or principles, except for being a vague democrat.
  • Obama is always willing "to compromise", especially on the side of the strong.
  • Obama has no principles, he only has "preferences".
Which is to say, in a word, that he is spineless, although he is so in a - seemingly - very sympathetic way to everyone, and he also is a good, though not a great, speaker, who very much likes his own words.

I think that may very well be true, and I do not myself expect anything good from his government, and mostly because of the type of leader he is.

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that 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 one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the 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 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[2]
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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