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Nederlog


  March
29, 2014
Crisis: Sanders, Obama * 3, Usher's Syndrome
   "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
Sections
Introduction

1. Sen. Sanders: ‘Will This Nation Become an Oligarchic
     Form of Society?’

2. US Takes a Break From Condemning Tyranny to
     Celebrate Obama’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

3. 
Barack Obama: The Least Transparent President in
     History

4. 5 Things You Need to Know About Obama's NSA Proposal
5. Here Is a Wonderful Video of a 40-Year-Old Deaf Woman
     Hearing for the First Time


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of March 29. It is another crisis issue.

It also is a Saturday today, on which there tend to be less crisis items, but I do have four items, and a fifth one that indeed is a wonderful video of a deafblind woman who hears for the first time. (I must say that the speech therapist - I presume - has a wholly professional British reaction, but OK.)

Also, in the first item I have done something I do not do normally: I printed a whole speech by Senator Bernie Sanders, which I did because I got it supplied in capital letters only, which makes it a lot more difficult to read. In order to read it, I converted it to proper English again, and then thought that my readers, if they want to read the speech, would want to read it in proper English, rather than in the teletype format of the 1920ies.

1.  Sen. Sanders: ‘Will This Nation Become an Oligarchic Form of Society?’

The first article today is by
Donald Kaufman (I think) on Truth Dig:
This starts as follows (and I quote with some omissions, indicated by "(...)")
In an address to the U.S. Senate this week, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders testified to the basics of wealth and income inequality and described how it distorts the U.S. political process.
(...)
Sanders says political power is no longer divided between the Republican and Democratic parties, but instead is held by a billionaire party in which candidates on both sides of the aisle depend on the “financial speech” of a few extremely wealthy donors. Those donors are capable of outspending the entire U.S. middle and lower classes. The exemplars of these superrich working to shape politics are the Koch brothers, currently the second-wealthiest family in this country. The Kochs to date have spent hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars on extreme right-wing Republican candidates and causes. Their efforts have paid off. Thanks to tax cuts and other measures passed by their politicians, their wealth in the last year alone increased by $12 billion to some $80 billion altogether.
(...)
Sanders concludes his speech by asking, is “this nation ... going to become an oligarchic form of society?”
Now I have to make a brief intermission, namely about capitalization, I mean CAPITALIZATION. For the article continues as follows
An unofficial transcript of the address provided to Truthdig by Sanders’ office appears beneath the video.
And then it displays the whole speech in capitals only, that is IT DISPLAYS THE WHOLE SPEECH IN CAPITALS ONLY. I do not know who did this, but it makes it a lot harder to read.

Since I think this was a good speech, I find that quite deplorable, and therefore have recooked the whole speech back again to proper English, with some capitals and mostly undercast letters (all the while thinking: which idiot capitalized it? And are journalists these days so incredibly stupid or lazy that they can't or won't undo it?!).

Here is the whole speech as it was meant to be read - and you can skip it, and go to the next item, but it is a good speech, and should at least be presented to readers in a normal way, with small letters and initial capitals in sentences.

The speech is between two lines, and item 2 is under the link:

Sen. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you very much. As the longest serving independent in the history of the U.S. congress, I want to address a—an issue that i think does not get the kind of discussion that it should from either political party but certainly not from our Republican colleagues, and that is the moral, economic and political dimensions of the kind of income and wealth inequality which we have in our country today. In my view, this is the most important issue facing the United States because it impacts on virtually every aspect of our lives. It is an issue that we must be discussing thoroughly and one in which the American people have got to be engaged.

The fact of the matter is that while we often speak of the United States of America being the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, that is only partially true because within the context of total wealth is the reality that the middle class, the great middle class of this country is disappearing. The reality is that we have more people living in poverty today than at any time in the history of the United States of America. The fact of the matter is that we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major industrialized nation on earth. So if you add it all together, yes, we are the wealthiest nation on earth. But the reality is that the people on top own a huge amount of that wealth while the middle class is shrinking and poverty is increasing. And I want to bore you, Madam President, although I think you already know this issue, but i do want to speak to our colleagues and the American people about some of the realities out there in terms of income and wealth distribution.

Today, Madam President, the top 1% owns 38% of the financial wealth of america, 38%. And I wonder how many Americans know how much the bottom 60% own. They want people to think about it. Top 1% own 38% of the wealth. What do the bottom 60% own? The answer is all of 2.3%. Top 1% owns 38% of the financial wealth. The bottom 60% owns 2.3%. Madam president, there is one family in this country, the Walton family, the owners of Wal-Mart, who are now worth as a family $148 billion. That is more wealth than the bottom 40% of American society. One family owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of American society. Today the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million people. That’s distribution of wealth. That’s what we own. In terms of income, what we made last year, the latest information that we have in terms of distribution of income is that from 2009-2012, 95% of all new income earned in this country went to the top 1%. Have you all got that? 95% of all new income went to the top 1%, which tells us that when we talk about economic growth, which is 2%, 3%, 4%, whatever it is, that really doesn’t mean all that much because almost all of the new income generated in that growth has gone to the very, very, very wealthiest people in this country.

Madam President, the top 25 hedge fund managers made last year over $24 billion. 25 hedge fund managers made over $24 billion last year. That is enough to pay the salaries of more than 425,000 public school teachers. 24 hedge fund managers and 425,000 public school teachers. over the past decade, the net worth of the top 400 billionaires in this country has doubled, up by an astronomical $1 trillion in the last ten years. We have heard—I will be talking about this in a moment – the extraordinary political power of the Koch brothers, a family that is investing very, very heavily in the political process, spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to elect right-wing candidates who will protect the interests of the wealthy and the powerful. To give you some idea of what is going on in this economy, everybody should understand that Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers, they are the second wealthiest family in this country. In the last year alone, that one family saw a $12 billion increase in their wealth. $12 billion in one year, bringing their total wealth to up to $80 billion.

The other day in “The Washington Post,” madam president, you may have seen an article talking about the aid he wills on—the Adelson primary. Now, when we talk about a political primary, what it means is you have candidates in the Democratic party, candidates in the Republican party competing against each other to get the support of the people in their respective parties. Well, forget about that. That’s old news. Now the goal is to appeal to one multibillionaire so that that can’t—that individual can contribute hundreds of millions of dollars into your campaign, and that is what is going on right now in the republican parties.

Now, while the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well, while the United States today has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth and while that income and equality is worse today than at any time since 1928, what we are also seeing is the collapse of the middle class and an increase in poverty. Madam president, since 1999, the typical middle-class family has seen its income go down by more than $5,000 after adjusting for inflation. The typical middle-class American family earn less income—earned less income last year than it did 25 years ago back in 1989. And in fact, you’re probably the last person in the world I have to explain this to because you wrote several books on this subject. What we are also looking at is that typical male workers—and I want people to hear this. Do you want to know why people are angry in this country? Typical, that’s the median male worker in this country, made $283 less last year than he did 44 years ago. So the question—and I should say in terms of the typical female worker, she earned $1,700 less than she did in 2007. So the question that I think every American should be asking is how does it happen that when we have a huge increase in productivity, everybody has a cell phone, everybody has a sophisticated computer, we have robotics in all of our factories, we have a huge increase in productivity. Where is all of the wealth going that increased productivity has created? And the answer is pretty clear. It has gone to the top 1%. So the moral issue that we have got to address as a nation, are we comfortable as a nation in which in recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires while at the same time we have more people living in poverty than we have ever had before. Madam president, this is just to me an incredible fact.

As an aging nation, more and more people are reaching retirement. Half of the american people have less than $10,000 in their savings account and have in many ways no idea as to how they are going to retire with dignity. So the first issue that we have to deal with is a moral issue. Are we comfortable living in a nation when so few have so much while so many have so little and so many of our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans, are struggling economically every single day. Today we are addressing the issue of extending long-term unemployment benefits, and what that means is there are millions of workers right now, including people who have worked their entire lives, who no longer can find a job. They have virtually no income coming in. They are struggling to survive. You have got single moms out there trying to raise families with very limited income. Is that the nation that we are comfortable being, and the answer is I don’t think we are.

But it is not just an issue of individual income. Today corporate profits are at an all-time high while wages are near an all-time low. And then when you look at issues about how can we fund early childhood education, how can we make sure that every American has health care as a right, how do we make sure that when people lose their jobs, they are going to get the unemployment that they need, we should remember that every single year, corporations, large multinational corporations avoid paying at least $100 billion a year in taxes because they stash their cash in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens, and the result is that one out of four American corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes. In fact, over the last five years, huge companies, profitable companies like General Electric, Boeing and Verizon paid nothing, zero in federal income taxes even though all of those companies made a combined profit of $78 billion since 2008.

Now, here is the irony of all ironies. It is one thing to understand that the very wealthy are becoming wealthier while everybody else is becoming poorer, but it is another thing to understand that the people who had the money, the billionaire class, is going to war against working Americans. You would ask yourself if you had $80 billion, do you really need to invest in the political process so that you can elect candidates who will give you even more tax breaks? Do you really have to invest in right-wing candidates who are out there trying to cut social security, medicare, medicaid, the environmental protection agency, nutrition, food stamps, education? Why if somebody has $80 billion are they working so hard for more tax breaks for themselves and for more cuts for the middle class and working class in terms of programs that people desperately need? Frankly i think this is not an economic issue. I think it’s a psychiatric issue. I think it is an issue that suggests that people are simply power hungry, they need more and more and more, and I think that that is a very sad state of affairs.

Mr. President, the struggle that we are engaged in now is stopping the billionaire class from cutting social security, from cutting medicare, from cutting medicaid, and from preventing us from creating the millions of jobs that our economy desperately needs. But at the end of the day, what we are really talking about is whether or not this nation is going to become an oligarchic form of society. And what that means, what an oligarchic form of society is about, and has existed in many countries throughout the world, historically many countries in Latin America although that has recently changed—is you have a nation in which both the economics and politics of the nation are controlled by a handful of billionaire families. Very, very wealthy. And it doesn’t matter what party is in power because the real power, economically and politically, rests with a billionaire class. And, mr. president, it seems to me very clearly that unless we act boldly to reverse that trend, we are seeing this country moving in exactly that direction. and one of the reasons for that is that as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court ruling which regards corporations as people and allows the superwealthy to spend as much as they want on elections, the billionaire party which is obviously aligned with the Republicans, is now, in fact, the major political force in this country. It’s not the Republican party per se, it is not the Democratic party per se. it is the billionaire party led by people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. and they are the dominant political force in this country because they can spend unbelievable sums of money on elections, they can spend as much money as they need setting up think tanks and all kinds of organizations which will support their extreme right-wing point of view.

Mr. President, in the last election for president, Barack Obama’s campaign spent I believe a little over a billion dollars, Mitt Romney somewhere around there, maybe a little bit less, about a billion dollars. Koch bureaus’ wealth—brothers’ wealth increased by $12 billion in one year. Is there any reason to doubt that in the future this one family will be able to spend more money on a campaign than the presidential candidates themselves receiving donations from hundreds of thousands of people. And that is where we are today. Where we are today is the very foundations of American Democracy are being threatened by a handful of incredibly wealthy people who are saying you know what? 80s are billion dollars—$80 billion is not, I made $12 billion last year, not enough for me. I have to have more and I’m going to get more tax cuts for myself and in order to do that we may have to cut social security, we may have to to cut medicare, we may have to cut medicaid, we may have to cut education for middle-class families.

You know, in a debate, Mr. President, as you well—we are in a debate, Mr. President, as you well know about whether we raise the minimum wage. My view and I know your view is we should raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour so every working person in this country at least, at least can have a minimal — minimal standard of living. I have to say and many Americans don’t know it, it is not just that virtually all Republicans in the Congress are opposed to raising the minimum wage, the truth of the matter is is that many of them want to abolish the concept of the minimum wage. The theory of the minimum wage is that nobody should work for below a certain wage and for many of my extreme conservative friends, they think it would be perfectly fine if in a high unemployment area we abolish the minimum wage and people today were working in this country for $3 an hour, they were working for $4 an hour. But it is not only economics. Many of these billionaires are involved, as the Koch brothers are, in energy, in oil. And what they want to do is abolish agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency so they can pollute more and more and more. The scientific community tells us in an almost unanimous fashion that climate change is real, that climate change is made by human activity, that climate change is already causing severe problems in our country and around the world and if we don’t get our act together and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions the problems will only become worse. Yet you have families like the Koch brothers and other billionaires spending huge sums of money trying to confuse people about the reality of climate change.

So, Mr. President, to my mind, the issue that we have got to focus on as a Congress, the issue that we have got to focus on as American people is what kind of nation do we wish to live in. Do we want to live in a nation where a handful of billionaires own a significant amount of the wealth in this country while the middle class has less and less, where families can’t afford to send their kids to college or get decent child care for their little ones, where people are reaching the age of 65 with virtually nothing in the bank in order to provide a dignified retirement, is that the country we want to live in or do we want to see the middle class grow and have a more equitable distribution of wealth and income, a fairer tax system where the millionaires and billionaires and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. And then from a political point of view which is equally important, do we want to have a nation in which the concept is one person, one vote, that we’re all equal, that you have as much say about what happens in government as anybody else, or do we want to have a political system where a handful of billionaires can sit around the room and say okay, put $100 million into that state, let’s put $50 million into that state, where a handful of billionaires will determine who gets elected president, who gets elected senator, who gets elected governor, and have members of congress go crawling up to these billionaires, what do you need Mr. billionaire, how do I get the hundreds of millions of dollars you can give me? Is that really what American democracy is supposed to be about?

So we have some very, very fundamental issues that we have got to address as the United States Congress. So I would suggest that we put right on the agenda the issue of distribution of wealth and income, and the implications of that grossly unfair distribution of wealth and income that we have right now.

And with that, Mr. President, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


As I said, that was Senator Sanders' speech in a readable form, and as I also said, it was a good speech. I may return to it, but now go on with the rest of Nederlog.

2. US Takes a Break From Condemning Tyranny to Celebrate Obama’s Visit to Saudi Arabia   

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
Selecting the year’s single most brazen example of political self-delusion is never easy, but if forced to choose for 2013, I’d pick British Prime Minister David Cameron’s public condemnation of George Galloway. The Scottish MP had stood to question Cameron about the UK’s military support for Syrian rebels. As is typical for Western discourse, criticizing western government militarism was immediately equated with support for whatever tyrants those governments happened to be opposing at the time: “Some things come and go,” proclaimed the Prime Minister, “but there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway].”

What made Cameron’s statement so notable wasn’t the trite tactic of depicting opposition to western intervention as tantamount to support for dictators. That’s far too common to be noteworthy (if you oppose the war in Iraq, you are pro-Saddam; if you oppose intervention in Libya, you love Ghaddafi, if you oppose US involvement in Ukraine, you’re a shill for Putin, etc. etc.). What was so remarkable is that David Cameron – the person accusing Galloway of supporting every “brutal Arab dictator” he can find – is easily one of the world’s most loyal, constant, and generous supporters of the most brutal Arab despots.
Yes, indeed. There is a lot more in the article, e.g. about Tommy Vietor, but that I leave to you. (There were this time no Snowden-related bits.)

3. Barack Obama: The Least Transparent President in History  

Next, an article by Amy Goodman on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” So wrote President Barack Obama, back on Jan. 29, 2009, just days into his presidency. “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” Now, six years into the Obama administration, his promise of “a new era of open Government” seems just another grand promise, cynically broken.

As the news industry observed its annual “Sunshine Week” in mid-March, The Associated Press reported that “[m]ore often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act [FOIA].” The AP report continued, “The government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.”

Indeed. There is rather a lot more in the article, that ends as follows:

In 2008, when campaigning, Barack Obama was often touted as a constitutional-law professor. As such, we can assume he studied writings of one of that document’s authors, James Madison, the fourth president of the U.S., considered the “Father of the Bill of Rights.” Madison wrote, in 1822, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both.” With Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive NSA spying and surveillance, and the administration’s abysmal record on transparency, President Obama has tragically moved well beyond farce.

Yes - which means: into tragedy. I agree.

4. 5 Things You Need to Know About Obama's NSA Proposal 

Next, an article by Dana Liebelson on Mother Jones:
As a rule, I tend to not mention or quote from articles that are composed as lists, because I think that is quite impolite and masks that the journalist can neither write nor think.

But I like Ms Liebelson and I know she can write, so I make an exception today. Here are the five things she lists, but without her discussions, that are indicated by "(...)", but with the start of the article:

On Thursday, the White House released its proposal to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection program, which hoovers up the phone records of millions of Americans. Currently, the NSA stores Americans' phone metadata (which doesn't include the content of calls) for five years. Under the President's new proposal, phone companies will instead be tasked with holding onto this data, which will they will store for 18 months. Additionally, the government would only be allowed to query these records if it gets approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, though the president's plan includes an exemption for as-yet-unspecified "emergency" situations. Here are five more things you need to know about the President's proposal:

1. It only addresses the bulk collection of phone records. (...)
2. Phone companies aren't too psyched about Obama's plan, so the administration might compensate them.
(...)

3. The plan is still missing a lot of key details.
(...)

4. Obama could end the program now if he wanted to, but he's waiting for Congress to act.
(...)
5. There are competing bills to end the program. Privacy advocates hate one of them.
(...)

Which all supports my own reasoning of the past few days: Obama rather wants the NSA spying on everyone, and he is bullshitting the public.

5.  Here Is a Wonderful Video of a 40-Year-Old Deaf Woman Hearing for the First Time

Finally, a brief article by Ben Dreyfuss on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows - and I have added a Wikipedia link to Usher Syndrome:
Joanne Milne was born deaf and began to go blind in her 20s thanks to a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome. Last month, at the age of 40, she underwent surgery to have cochlear implants installed. This video of her hearing for the first time in her entire life is the reason I can't get any work done this morning.
This takes only 2 minutes 41 seconds from your life:


As I said, I find the reactions of the speech therapist typically British professional (I've lived in England) but clearly it must be wonderful and miraculous to hear for the first time in forty years.

Anyway - a moving video, that shows medicine can and does help.

As an aside: I am rather amazed this syndrome has not been sorted as Somatic Symptom Disorder by professor Sir Simon Wessely and his psychiatric mates: Surely not everything is known about it, and genes are in the head as well? And that tends to be more than sufficient proof for a psychiatrist to insist it must be SSD? But perhaps it is because there are far too few patients with Usher's Syndrome to make this profitable...
---------------------------------
Note

[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)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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