Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog


  April
3, 2014
Crisis: US democracy much weaker, Donald Rumsfeld, 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. The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign
     Finance Law. Here’s What Happened.

2. In 'Blow to Democracy,' SCOTUS Strikes Down Campaign
     Contribution Limits

3. 
Disaster: What You Need To Know About Today's
     Supreme Court Ruling

4. Errol Morris on Rumsfeld, the truth and “The Unknown
     Known”

5. The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld
6. More on Usher's Syndrome

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of April 3. It is another crisis issue.

It is a bit abnormal, in that it has just three subjects: The death of American democracy, and the opinions of Donald Rumsfeld, to which I added a bit late in the day an update on Usher's syndrome.

Then again, the first subject has three items devoted to it, and the second no less than five, although the last four of these are a four part series that I liked but that may be a bit too philosophical for others.

I think the first subject is quite important, and it has happened now, thanks to the last decision by the US Supreme Court, that handed the United States on a platter to the plutocrats, allowing them to invest billions into politics to get their desires satisfied, and the second is interesting, though not as much as the first, but also I should add that today I found nothing else in the morning, which means that probably there will not be much later in the day either.

In any case, I have served it up in six sections, though the fifth one contains four dotted links.

1. The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign Finance Law. Here’s What Happened.

The first article today is by Andy Kroll on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the blockbuster money-in-politics case of the current term. The court's five conservative justices all agreed that the so-called aggregate limit on the amount of money a donor can give to candidates, political action committees, and political parties is unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, conservative justice Clarence Thomas went even further, calling on the court to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that concluded it was constitutional to limit contributions to candidates.

In their dissent, the court's four liberal justices called their colleagues' logic "faulty" and said it "misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake." The dissent continues, "Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today's decision eviscerates our Nation's campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."

The decision is a boon for wealthy donors, a potential lifeline for the weakened Democratic and Republican parties, and the latest in a series of setbacks dealt by the Roberts court to supporters of tougher campaign laws.
After this, there is a considerable amount more, in which Andy Kroll explains the decision. This I'll leave to you, but it is well done.

2. In 'Blow to Democracy,' SCOTUS Strikes Down Campaign Contribution Limits 

The next item is an article by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams, and the subject is that of the previous item:

This starts as follows:

In a boon to the role of big money in politics, the Supreme Court on Wednesday narrowly struck down overall limits on the amount of money individuals can contribute to candidates, parties and political action committees during the federal two-year election cycle.

The decision left the cap of $2,600 per election that an individual can give to any single federal candidate but removed the limit on the grand total that can be contributed to all federal candidates.

The ruling means that a single person can write a $5.9 million check for expenditure by candidates, political parties and political committees, according to Public Citizen.

"This is truly a decision establishing plutocrat rights," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, slamming the ruling as a "devastating blow at the very foundation of our democracy."

There is more under the last dotted link that I leave to you, also since I have one more comment on the Supreme Court's decision:

3.  Disaster: What You Need To Know About Today's Supreme Court Ruling 

Next, a video by The Young Turks of 16 min 51 sec:

According to Cenk Uygur this decision marks the death of democracy in the United States, and he explains this fairly well. The main reason is that this decision gives big money far more power over politics than it had hitherto.

I have made the beginning of the title today "US democracy much weaker", which seems to me certainly true.

And I must add one consideration that I have not heard or read so far, which is that a major part of the blame should go to the stupidity, whether due to native lack of intelligence or proudly acquired ignorance, of the average Americans.

My reasoning here is that the millions or billions of the rich will be spend mostly on advertisements, and advertisements only convince fools or ignoramuses. Also, I am willing to agree that there are more ignoramuses than there are fools, but this does not make it nicer: it makes it only more bitter.

4.  Errol Morris on Rumsfeld, the truth and “The Unknown Known” 

Next, an article by Andrew O'Hehir on Salon:

I should start with quoting the subtitle, because it does clarify:

Our greatest interviewer meets the Bush era's great bullshit artist, who has no doubts, no regrets and no questions

The "greatest interviewer" refers to Errol Morris (<- Wikipedia), whom I have written about before in Nederlog, namely on March 29 and December 10 of 2011, both in the context of a discussion of Thomas Kuhn and his opinions, a philosopher of science who is much despised by Morris, for good reasons, and indeed also by me, who thinks he was a major bullshitter.

Here is a bit of what I wrote on March 29, 2011:

In 1972 - when I already had decided Kuhn was mostly a fake and phony, who used ideas from others, notably Popper and Polanyi, with a personal twist and some highly pretentious terminology of Kuhn's invention, at least in the contexts in which he used them, namely "paradigm" and "incommensurability" (*) - Mr Morris was a graduate student at Princeton, studying with professor Kuhn, then quite famous as a philosopher because of his "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"; fell into debate with professor Kuhn about Kuhn's pet ideas, that Mr. Morris felt unable to swallow, for rather palpable good logical reasons; and in reply got thrown an ashtray at him by professor Kuhn, that missed Mr. Morris, after which professor Kuhn also took additional steps to remove Mr. Morris from Princeton, in which he succeeded.
Indeed, that seems the main reason why Errol Morris became a film maker rather than a philosopher, which seems to have unpacked quite well. Here is a bit more of what I wrote in 2011:

I may return to the series later, and then lift some quotes from it, because it seems to me to discuss one of the bases of postmodernism and its dangers quite well, which is the false thesis that there is no independent reality against which we can compare our ideas, statements and terms, and that all there is are only texts, pretensions and propaganda, and no truths or facts of the matter - and indeed this is true, but it is true of bad philosophy, of postmodernism, of fairy tales, of political and religious superstitions and of pseudoscience only, but is not true of real science and not true of rational natural philosophy.

But then that is the strength and attraction of postmodernism: It reduces everything to propaganda, and it insists nothing can be refuted, since nothing can be true or false, except metaphorically, for which reason postmoderns are capable of supporting any doctrine, making any career, in any way, and do so, for while they are relativistic about everything that does not touch their own personal interests, they are absolutists about their excellencies, authenticities, and rights on tenure, fame, money, and media-exposure.

Indeed, as Frankfurter wrote in On Bullshit:

 "For the bullshitter (...) is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose."

That's what Kuhn produced, and by this indeed he produced a paradigm of bullshitting in and around philosophical topics of all kinds.

The three basic reasons this happens are: Personal greed for tenure or status; lack of talent; lack of character (the last link is in Dutch). See my lemma Academic philosophy in my Philosophical Dictionary and my Spiegeloog-columns (that I wrote as a student: Now you ought to know why I am not a tenured professor: I am smart and honest).

All of this is quite relevant to Donald Rumsfeld (<- Wikipedia) because he was a high official who glorified in postmodernistic bullshit, which he had mostly taken from others, like "the known unknown and the unknown known", and "the absence of evidence that is not evidence of absence".

The present article, under the last dotted link, is a good interview with Morris, on the occassion of his having made a film about Rumsfeld. I'd certainly recommend you read it if you are interested in Morris (who is an interesting man).

5.  The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld

Next, four articles by Errol Morris (<- Wikipedia), that form a series, and are on The New York Times:
Originally, Morris tells in the interview in item 4, this was called "Philosophy" rather than "Certainty", but on reflection Morris - correctly - decided that "Philosophy" would be too much praise.

The three reasons these are here, apart from the fact that I read all of them with some pleasure, is that (1) Rumsfeld is a good example of postmodernistic thinking in politics, which indeed also explains his total lack of remorse: if there is no truth and no falsity, and in the end everything is merely bullshit and propaganda aka "public relations", together with "interests" that desire, make or finance these, indeed you need to have no remorse for anything; (2) the stolen bullshit he got famous with; and (3) the lack of any depth, conviction, feeling, remorse, or indeed any real rational thinking, on the part of one of the architects of the Iraq war.

Then again these files are mostly here to back up the previous item, and to clarify my insistence on the continuing importance of postmodernism, which I also agree is less prominent than it was 20 years ago, but in part this is so because it got widely accepted, both as a recipe for bullshit, and as a way of speaking, writing and thinking about many things, and notably about politics.

6. More on Usher's Syndrome

Finally, an update on an item of March 29, when I linked a brief video of a woman with Usher's Syndrome, who first heard when she was 40. That video went viral, and indeed is quite moving, and here is Jo Milne's - the woman who has Usher's Syndrome - own story on The Guardian:
It is a nice and clear article, and it also explains she found out that she has Usher's Syndrome when she was 29. I found out I was ill when I was 28, on 1.1.1979, since when I have not been healthy, but I have to grant that was, in my case, considerably less bad than having Usher's Syndrome, which means that one is or will be deafblind.
---------------------------------
P.S. Apr 4, 2014: Added a link to Kuhn.
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)



       home - index - summaries - mail