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Nederlog


  April
9, 2014
Crisis: Snowden * 2, Greed, Minimum Wage, CIA, Personal
   "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. Edward Snowden: US government spied on human rights
     workers

2. Edward Snowden Says NSA Spied on Amnesty
     International and Other Human Rights Groups

3. Greed Is Good: A 300-Year History of a Dangerous Idea
4. WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD REALLY BE RAISED TO
     $15 AN HOUR

5. It’s Time the CIA Gets Some Serious Oversight
6. Personal

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of April 9. It is another crisis issue.

There was a bit more than yesterday, but I did again select five articles, that I serve below. There also is a personal section at the end, in which I say a bit about Multatuli and Frank Zappa.

And since it occurs in the first two items, and has happened quite a few times earlier, here are my reasons why I fairly often report on several journalists' renderings of the same events or facts in several items, which I do sometimes on the same day, sometimes on different days.

The basic reason is that I know from my own experience, and also from my father's experience, that if you know the events or facts that are reported rather well, you also know that the journalists who report it very often missed certain things, misreported other things, and simply do not know what you know.

Also, while there certainly is a lot of bad journalism, this is wholly unavoidable: A journalist seldom has more than a few hours and a superficial acquaintance with the facts he or she reports - and that is apart from the bias he or she may also feel about the facts he or she reports, that may also shine through (which I generally do not mind: I'd rather see that someone states what he thinks, also when I disagree, than that he or she pretends to be "quite objective", which is hardly possible in journalism, and also is not what journalism is for).

So this is no complaint against journalists: it is a fact of life, and usually the only way you can have some more or less adequate representation of facts you did not see yourself is - if you want to know - by reading several interpretations by several persons in several papers or journals.

1. Edward Snowden: US government spied on human rights workers

The first article today is by Luke Harding on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The US has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organisations, Edward Snowden has told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe's top human rights body.

Giving evidence via a videolink from Moscow, Snowden said the National Security Agency – for which he worked as a contractor – had deliberately snooped on bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He told council members: "The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations … including domestically within the borders of the United States." Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged.

The assembly asked Snowden if the US spied on the "highly sensitive and confidential communications" of major rights bodies such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, as well as on similar smaller regional and national groups. He replied: "The answer is, without question, yes. Absolutely."

I am not amazed at all - but it's noteworthy that, once again, the former spies are not so much spying as doing politics, in secret.

Snowden also makes a logical point I have made several times before:
He added: "Look at the language officials use in sworn testimony about these records: 'could have,' 'may have,' 'potentially.' They're prevaricating.
Yes, precisely - and propagandizing, knowing that they do not know but pretending they know, and covering it all up by strategic uses of "may" and "could" - which, to repeat myself, when suitably placed in a sentence, make any statement that does not state a flat contradiction seem truth-like. (For it "could" be true, usually conveniently "forgetting" this means it just as well "could" be false.)

And since what were once spying institutions, which now have moved into being the secret police that does secret politics:
The XKeyscore program amounted to an egregious form of mass surveillance, Snowden suggested, because it hoovered up data from "entire populations". Anyone using non-encrypted communications might be targeted on the basis of their "religious beliefs, sexual or political affiliations, transactions with certain businesses" and even "gun ownership", he claimed.
There is rather a lot more under the last link, but I have another report on the same event:

2. Edward Snowden Says NSA Spied on Amnesty International and Other Human Rights Groups  

The next item is an article by Kasia Anderson on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows, and is much briefer than the previous item:
Former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower Edward Snowden made a virtual visit to a Council of Europe summit in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday to claim that the American security agency had spied on human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.
Most of the rest is copied from The Guardian though what was not copied was one of Luke Harding's descriptions of Edward Snowden: "The exiled American spy", though indeed Harding also describes Snowden as "The 30-year-old whistleblower".

3. Greed Is Good: A 300-Year History of a Dangerous Idea

The next item is an article by John Paul Rollert on The Atlantic:

This begins as follows:

Among MBA students, few words provoke greater consternation than “greed.” Wonder aloud in a classroom whether some practice might fairly be described as greedy, and students don’t know whether to stick up for the Invisible Hand or seek absolution. Most, by turns, do a little of both.

Such reactions shouldn’t be surprising. Greed has always been the hobgoblin of capitalism, the mischief it makes a canker on the faith of capitalists. These students' troubled consciences are not the result of doubts about the efficacy of free markets, but of the centuries of moral reform that was required to make those markets as free as they are.

It is here because of its title, and I have read the article, by "an adjunct associate professor of the University of Chicago's Booth Business Schools", but I must admit that while Rollert writes fair amounts about Adam Smith and Bernard Mandeville, I doubt he has read them well (which I have).

In any case, one of the things that is missing in this article is a definition of greed. Here it is, from my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, still the best dictionary I know of:

Greed (..), sb. Orig, Sc.1609. [f. GREEDY.] Inordinate or insatiate longing, esp. for wealth; covetous desire.

This means that etymologically greed is bad, and those MBA students who are feeling doubtful about this simply do not know grammar, which includes clear definitions of the terms one uses - and this is also why Oliver Stone's "greed is good" is an evidently self-refuting statement, and for that reason a good piece of satire.

This also means that people who desire other people's wealth, by whatever means, simply will not describe their desire as greed - if they know English properly well.

Ayn Rand was originally a Russian (she arrived in the US aged 21 and was called Rosenbaum originally) and seems not to have learned English very well. Here I am judging from my recall of her work, that I partially read circa 1972, because it was recommended by some Americans I knew, and that I found simply awful: the literature was stupid, wooden, schematic and dull, and the philosophy was grandiose, quite unsubtle, not well-informed and rather stupid.

I still think I was quite right in my assessments, but of course these do not hinder her popularity in the least, and indeed may have helped her to gain it.

Anyway - here is a last quote from the article:

“Implicitly, uncritically, and by default, political economy accepted as its axioms the fundamental tenets of collectivism,” she declared in a sweeping indictment of the Invisible Hand tradition. “The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve ‘the common good.’” That may be so, but it is “merely a secondary consequence.” Instead, capitalism is the only economic system in which “the exceptional men” are not “held down by the majority” and in which (as she said elsewhere) the “only good” that humans can do to one another and “the only statement of their proper relationship” are both acknowledged: “Hands off!”
(...)
Her aim was simple: To relieve greed, once and for all, of any moral taint.

For me, that means she simply did not really understand English: When you use a term like "greed" for a particular desire, it means you disapprove of it, and when you approve of it or are indifferent, you do not use "greed". 

It is as simple as that.

Also, having quoted her: (1) "political economy" has not accepted "the fundamental tenets of collectivism": it is very much more diverse than that; (2) it has often been argued in favor of capitalism that it is "the best way to achieve ‘the common good’" (although I disagree: there certainly are better schemes, but I also agree these may be impractical given the characteristics of most men); and (3) Rand wrote especially for "exceptional men", and rather like a very bad Nietzschean: Nietzsche without style and without wit, for self-aggrandizing American plutocrats and bank managers.

Anyway - there is a lot more in the article, but it did not enlighten me.

4. WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD REALLY BE RAISED TO $15 AN HOUR 

Next, an article by Robert Reich, on his site:

I have retained the capitals, although I do not like them. This article starts as follows:

Momentum is building to raise the minimum wage. Several states have already taken action  — Connecticut has boosted it to $10.10 by 2017, the Maryland legislature just approved a similar measure, Minnesota lawmakers just reached a deal to hike it to $9.50. A few cities have been more ambitious — Washington, D.C. and its surrounding counties raised it to $11.50, Seattle is considering $15.00

Senate Democrats will soon introduce legislation raising it nationally to $10.10, from the current $7.25 an hour.

All this is fine as far as it goes. But we need to be more ambitious. We should be raising the federal minimum to $15 an hour.

I agree. Reich proceeds by giving 7 reasons, but these he well explains in one of his videos, with his drawings, and in under 2 minutes 41 seconds:

 

This is well worth seeing, especially for Americans: it is brief and to the point, and well done, whether you agree or not.

5.  It’s Time the CIA Gets Some Serious Oversight 

Finally, an article by Katrina vanden Heuvel, that I found on Common Dreams but originates on The Nation:
This begins as follows:
Every once in a while, the CIA’s “Because I said so” club lets loose with a bit of preposterous condescension that reminds us why, along with extraordinary rendition and drone strikes, we’re also a nation of transparency and checks and balances. In this case, the crowing comes from Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., former head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the administrator of that agency’s post-9/11 enhanced interrogation (i.e., torture) program. We shouldn’t believe the “shocking” results of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation, Rodriguez says, especially those that lay bare the lies and exaggerations promulgated by the CIA and the ineffectiveness of the program itself.

Why not? Because Rodriguez was there, and you weren’t.
Yes indeed - that's what almost everyone who wants to keep the Senate's report from being published wants you to believe: "Trust them, it wasn't shocking or painful; trust them, it wasn't torture; trust them, they meant well, but above all: TrustTM them, for you shall not read the Senate's report."

Or as Vanden Heuvel says:
If we ever want to know the truth about what atrocities were committed by our government in our name under the umbrella of the “Global War on Terror,” then we need to not only conduct investigations into them but also release the results—however sickening they might be—with as little redaction as possible. We need to re-establish the precedent (exemplified by the Church Committee of the 1970s) that accountability matters. Not only will we as a nation not abide torture, but we won’t stomach erstwhile torturers, either.
And as she also asks:
Indeed, what is the point of congressional oversight if the committee charged with it allows itself to be pushed around by the agency it oversees?
Anyway - this is a good article with which I agree.

6. Personal

Finally, two notes that relate to other things than the crisis:

I have re-uploaded all of Multatuli's Ideen 7, with my comments, because I saw that not all backgrounds were displaying (most were not), and also I had not correctly numbered after Idee 1260d. Both problems have been repaired.

And in case you want some nice music by Zappa: I liked the following, which
is a video of
Actually, these are 10 musicians, involved in "Zappa plays Zappa" (which is a project led by Zappa's son Dweezil, that has been going on for quite a few years now). I do not know from what year this is, but this is good, at least if you like Frank Zappa's music.

In fact, I think
"Zappa plays Zappa" is often better than Frank Zappa's own recordings, because the apparatuses are better, and the musicians also are either better or are better trained.
---------------------------------
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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