who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Can you put a price on
the beauty of the natural world?
2. Welfare cuts drive UK's poorest families deeper into
poverty, says Oxfam
Obama’s and David Brooks’ Manhood Problem
4. Clinton’s Advisory Team
Pressed for Wall Street
Deregulation, Documents Show
5. Raising Taxes on Corporations
that Pay Their CEOs
Royally and Treat Their
Workers Like Serfs
Level of Inequality
This is the Nederlog of April
22. It is a crisis issue.
There are six items today, and I could have selected some more, and
also some less, but what's there is interesting enough, and indeed
covers eight dotted links.
Here are the subjects: Monbiot asks a question about values (rather
than prices) in the first item, and indeed so does Reich, in the fifth,
and Washington's Blog in the sixth; Oxfam points out that Cameron's
government's policies have now increased the poverty of 1.75
million households; there is an item about the NYT sadistic
freak Brooks (who this time diagnoses "a manhood problem" in Obama);
and there also is a bit on Clinton's deregulations.
1. Can you put a price on the beauty of the natural world?
The first article today is by George
Monbiot on The Guardian, who asks a perfectly natural question, of a
kind that deserves more asking:
This starts as follows:
There is a rather a lot more
there, and it will not make you happier, although I fear it is all
George Orwell warned that
"the logical end of mechanical progress is
to reduce the human being to something resembling a brain in a bottle".
This is a story of how it happens.
On the outskirts of
Sheffield there is a wood which, some 800 years ago, was used by the
monks of Kirkstead Abbey to produce charcoal for smelting iron.
For local people, Smithy Wood is freighted with stories. Among the trees
you can imagine your way into another world. The application to plant a
motorway service station in the middle of it, wiping out half the wood
and fragmenting the rest, might have been unthinkable a few months ago.
When the environment
secretary, Owen Paterson, first began talking about biodiversity offsetting – replacing habitats you trash
with new ones created elsewhere – his officials made it clear that
it would not apply to ancient woodland. But in January Paterson
said he was prepared to drop this restriction as long as more trees
were planted than destroyed.
His officials quickly
explained that such a trade-off would be "highly unlikely" and was "very hypothetical".
But the company that wants to build the service station wasn't slow to
see the possibilities. It is offering to replace Smithy Wood with
"60,000 trees ... planted on 16 hectares of local land close to the site".
Who cares whether a tree is a hunched and fissured coppiced oak,
worked by people for centuries, or a sapling planted beside a slip-road
with a rabbit guard around it?
One reason it is listed here is that it shows that the English
conservatives and lib dems pretend to be able to calculate everything
and anything, while actually most of their calculations are intentional
that arises out of arbitrarily excluding or pricing things that in fact
have no price, or a very much higher one - and are a value
rather than a price - than is entered, that is also in large part not
economical, at least not of the kind that only considers profits and
losses on a yearly basis.
This you can read for yourself.
Another and related reason is that it seems to me that the whole
reckoning schemes that are now popular with many governments and many
corporations, on which everything has some economical price, that is
usually related to annual profitability, and only reckoned in one or
five year terms, are grundfalsch, as the Germans say it:
utterly wrong, false from the ground up.
The main reason is that everything in those scheme is subject to "the
economy", which itself is mostly an illusory abstraction, and that
everything is considered as if it can be valued only in terms
of monetary profit, that again only is considered for brief periods.
Both of these assumptions are flat out wrong, false, mistaken, and
There is very much more in a society than "the economy" (which
anyway tends to be misunderstood), or "economical values and prices",
and in fact short-term profitability is only dominant for marketing
types who want to make a fast buck without considering any consequences.
Anyway... here is my answer to the question in the title: If you think
you can, you are out of your mind, and if you think that what has no
"economical price" "therefore" is without value, you must be
But OK - that is the type of rulers we have: they have
outvalued all values, and reduced everything to short term economic
monetary profits. It is true that this makes policy-making a lot
simpler, and the few rich a lot richer, and it is also true that it
makes policies surreal, and completely out of touch with anything of
Welfare cuts drive UK's poorest families deeper into
poverty, says Oxfam
The next item is an
article by Katie Allen on The Guardian:
This starts as
The coalition's welfare cuts have pushed
1.75 million of the UK's poorest households deeper into poverty, leaving more
families struggling to cover food and energy bills, according to a
The report by Oxfam and the New Policy Institute highlights
a drop in the overall value of benefits, which rose by
less than inflation, as well as changes to housing benefit and council
tax support that have forced some families into paying housing costs
they were previously deemed too poor to pay.
It finds that together
those changes mean about 1.75 million of the poorest families have seen
an absolute cut in their income in the past three years.
The report warns that the
shape of welfare support has changed dramatically just as people have
struggled with rising living costs, and that many jobseekers, carers,
single parents and those with disabilities unable to work have become
I guess this will
cause great glee in the Clubs of Cameron and Clegg: "Cut the proles to
fund the rich", is their policy, although indeed they put it not that
way, but tend to do so in terms of "freedom" and "the need for
austerity", for those who are the poorest anyway, to be sure, though
that is hardly ever added.
Here are the last two
The report found that
300,000 households have experienced a cut in housing benefit, 920,000 a
reduction in council tax support and 480,000 a cut in both.
In the past year 400,000
households have been pushed further into poverty by cuts to housing
benefit or council tax support and households affected by both of those
cuts typically lose about £18 per week.
Vote Cameron! Vote
Clegg! They will force you to the foodbanks! In your own interests!
3. Obama’s and David Brooks’ Manhood Problem
The next item is an
article by Juan Cole that I found on Truth Dig but that originates
on Cole's webpage. Recall David Brooks?
I think he may be
fairly characterized as a sadist (and yes, I am a psychologist). Part
of the reason is his - totally ignorant - stance on Snowden, and part
of it is this report:
Brooks attacked President Obama on Sunday, saying:
“Basically since Yalta
we’ve had an assumption that borders are basically going to be borders,
and once that comes into question, if in Ukraine or in Crimea or
anywhere else, then all over the world … all bets are off . . .”
… “And let’s face it,
Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a — I’ll say it crudely —
but a manhood problem in the Middle East. Is he tough enough to stand
up to somebody like Assad or somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the
rap is unfair, but certainly in the Middle East there is an assumption
that he’s not tough enough.”
Brooks is an intellectual
bully who likes bullies.
Yes, indeed. He also
is a coward, by smuggling in phrases like "whether deservedly or not" and "I think a lot of the rap is unfair" and "in the Middle East there is an assumption" - but "basically" Obama is not a man,
and he has no balls (and besides he is black), in David Brooks' world.
is the kind of man that is David Brooks - and Juan Cole also links to a
The Young Turks video on Brooks, which is nice, but the clip is from
2008. Here are The
Young Turks from yesterday, on David Brooks saying Obama has "a manhood
Team Pressed for Wall Street Deregulation, Documents Show
The next item is an
article by Donald Kaufman on Truth Dig:
This is here mostly because I
said so before, and this gives some evidence:
Also, since indeed the main
reason this item is here is to provide evidence, here is an article by
Dan Roberts on The Guardian:
Newly released documents
from the Bill Clinton presidential library show two separate attempts
by advisers, in 1995 and 1997, to hurry the president into supporting a
repeal of Wall Street regulation. Clinton responded to the pressure
with the Financial Services Modernization Act in 1999. The legislation,
which tore down the Depression-era Glass-Steagall banking rules, has
been blamed with helping to bring about the near-collapse of the
banking industry in 2008 and creating the subsequent economic trouble
that has cost taxpayers billions.
The memos show that Treasury
Secretary Robert Rubin, his deputy Bo Cutter and senior advisers,
including John Podesta, gave Clinton three days to decide whether to
back a repeal of Glass-Steagall. Little discussion of the risks of
deregulation appear in the notes. Rubin, who is credited with
spearheading the changes, benefited handsomely from the new rules when
he joined the board of Citigroup the same year the rules were initiated.
There is considerably
more evidence in this article.
5. Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their
CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs
The next item is an
article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed - and Reich is
right that these are fundamental social, economic and
moral problems, and they are problems of moral or ethical
values much rather than "economical" problems of
"profit": What society do you want to live in? One were the highest
paid get 30 times of what the lowest paid have, say, or one were the -
very few - highest paid get 350 times of what the lowest paid have?
Until the 1980s,
corporate CEOs were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical
worker was paid. Since then, CEO pay has skyrocketed
to 280 times the pay of a typical worker; in big
companies, to 354 times.
Meanwhile, over the same
thirty-year time span the median American worker has seen no pay increase
at all, adjusted for inflation. Even though the pay of male workers
continues to outpace that of females, the typical male worker between
the ages of 25 and 44 peaked in 1973 and has been dropping ever since.
Since 2000, wages of the median male worker across all age brackets has
10 percent, after inflation.
This growing divergence
between CEO pay and that of the typical American worker isn’t just
wildly unfair. It’s also bad for the economy. It means most workers
these days lack the purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable
of producing — contributing to the slowest recovery on record.
Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives use their fortunes to fuel
speculative booms followed by busts.
That indeed is the question, but it is also true that
the richest have so much money these days that they can propagandize
quite a few of the poorest into supporting the rich.
There is considerably more in the article.
6. Level of Inequality
last item today is an
article by Washington's Blog, that has a title of three lines, which is
too long for me, but which is about the following topic:
This starts as follows:
Actually, I am not quite
convinced, for I have read about the working poor in England in the
1840ies, about the starving poor in Ireland in the 1850ies, and indeed
also about the rich and the poor in Roman times, circa 100 AD.
Inequality in the U.S. is
now the highest ever recorded in the country.
Inequality in America
today is twice
as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in Tsarist Russia, Gilded
Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics
in Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in
1774 colonial America.
Economist and inequality
expert Thomas Piketty notes that – according to an important measure –
inequality in America today is the worst
in world history:
For those who work for
a living, the level of inequality in the U.S. – writes Piketty – is “…
probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past,
anywhere in the world …”
In other words, there
might have been some squalid country in the distant past where the
disparity between people without any job and the king was
higher than between a jobless American and the top fatcat in the U.S.
But the spread between
the minimum wage American worker and the American
oligarch is the greatest in world history.
Then again, I have not yet read Piketty's book (which I may never read:
I think 700 pages is a lot of economy, and I did get the main message,
and do not have much health or much money), and also I do not really
care whether an income difference of 350 : 1 for the rich incomes :
poor incomes is "higher
than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world".
My main reason is that I find that difference obscene, unjustified
and immoral anyway - and see the previous item.
Finally, I should also say something about this passage:
in America has become so extreme that the “99% versus the 1%” meme is
grossly inaccurate … because it’s really the .01%
versus the 99.99%.
No. That is merely
First, the 1% versus the 99% is a mere slogan, that correctly, albeit
implicitly, draws attention to the few rich and the many poor. As a
slogan it is a correct one, because there is such a
difference, namely between the few rich and the many poor, and this is
a fairly striking way of referring to it.
Second, nobody knows what is the social difference - and not all the
rich are conservatives, nor are all the poor leftist leaning, although
it again is fair to say that the rich, whoever they are, precisely,
live in a somewhat different world than the non-rich, simply because
they have much more money.
Third, to whittle this down 1/100th of 1% - 1% of 1% - is to make a whole
lot of implicit judgments that just cannot be made with that
Fourth, it is both quasi-mathematics and wishful thinking: Surely, the
rich, whoever they are, have more than 1 in 10,000 defenders in the US,
So no: "the 1%" is a good and adequate slogan, but anything more
precise is just bullshitting yourself and others, and pretending a
degree of preciseness that just cannot be attained when
speaking about societies. Besides, it vastly underrates the support the
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: