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. Merkel urged to press Obama
on NSA scandal ahead of
2. US Govt Can Search Private Emails Stored
3. Inequality hurts everyone apart from the super-rich –
and here's why
4. Welcome to the Piketty
revolution: “Capital in the 21st
Century” is a game-changer
(even if you never read it)
5. (2014) Directors Cut: Chris
Hedges: "The many failures of
US society and how change can
This is the Nederlog of April
28. It is a crisis issue.
There are six items, of which the first five are about the crisis.
Indeed, two are also about Piketty, but both are quite good, and you
will probably learn some from reading them, as you probably will from
The sixth item merely notes that I did not succeed in quite finishing
the Multatuli- materials I want to copy, but I am busy with it.
Merkel urged to press Obama on NSA
scandal ahead of
The first item is
article by Philip Oltermann on The Guardian:
This starts as follows - and
yes, Merkel and Obama are to meet coming Friday:
This is - to be sure -
the opinion of a German opposition politician. It is not said in the
article what is Merkel's position, though it is said that:
should ask Barack Obama to
destroy her NSA file when she meets the American president in
Washington this week, a leading German opposition politician has told
The Greens warn that
failure to address the intelligence monitor scandal would risk
undermining the credibility of the western alliance during the Ukraine
between western allies requires joint values – also in relation to the
activities of our intelligence services," said Omid Nouripour, the
Green party's foreign policy spokesperson.
"Trying to sit out the
NSA scandal won't work: we can't afford to let the remaining open
questions strain relations during on the current crisis," he said,
suggesting that a symbolic act, such as the destruction of Merkel's NSA
file, could help to mend US-German relations.
So far, the US
government has refused to allow Merkel access to her NSA file or answer
formal questions about its surveillance activities, a recent query to the German Bundestag has shown.
According to a report in German magazine Der Spiegel, the NSA kept more
than 300 reports on Merkel in a special heads of state databank.
And it is also said:
But rather than
pushing for a stronger European protection law or a review of the "Safe Harbor" data transfer agreement,
Merkel tried to turn the crisis into an opportunity by getting the US
to sign a "no spy" agreement and allowing Germany to enter the "five
eyes" intelligence partnership between the US, Britain, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand.
This was - it seems -
rejected by officials of the USA government.
Meanwhile, in Germany itself, that it is, outside its politicians, some
things appear to have changed:
Causes such as net
neutrality or open access, for years championed only by "hacktivists",
have gone mainstream and fill the pages even of more conservative
newspapers such as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "In the past, we
were laughed at – but now it turns out that some of the most paranoid
theories were justified", said Martin Haase, a former officer at the Chaos Computer Club network.
Above all, the
Snowden revelations have caused great damage to America's image in
Germany, with NSA surveillance frequently employed as the chief
argument by Germans expressing sympathy or understanding for Russia's
I do not know why
"damage to America's image" would give rise to "understanding for Russia's position", except
if the argument is: At least the Russians do not steal our private and
personal data in great bulk, while the Americans do. That still
does not entail sympathy for Russia, it seems to me, but the premiss
There is considerably more in the article.
2. US Govt Can Search Private Emails Stored
The next item is an
article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
In fact, it
illustrates how considerable parts of the US legal system have grown
corrupt. For consider:
In the first decision of
its kind, a federal judge ruled
this week that the U.S. government has the authority to force
cyber-companies to hand over customers' emails and other digital data,
even when that data is stored overseas.
Issued by U.S. Magistrate
Judge James Francis in New York, the decision pertained to a case in
which Microsoft was given a warrant to search the email account of one
of its clients whose email data is stored in a server located in
Microsoft challenged the
warrant on the grounds that the U.S. government does not have
jurisdiction to search client data held outside of the U.S.
Francis ruled that if the
U.S. government were forced to coordinate with other countries and
follow their laws when obtaining such data, "the burden on the
government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be
seriously impeded," Reuters reports.
Less than a year ago,
private mail and letters were protected - formally and legally - by the
Fourth Amendment; now anything anyone has written anywhere may be
seized by the US government on the ground that this makes things easier
for them, for that is what the judge said, with the bullshit deleted.
There is also this:
Yet, Microsoft released a
arguing, "A U.S. prosecutor cannot obtain a U.S. warrant to search
someone's home located in another country, just as another country's
prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a
search in the United States."
The corporation vowed to
appeal the decision.
Quite so - except
that hitherto Microsoft has cooperated a lot with the US government.
Inequality hurts everyone apart from the super-rich – and
The next item is an
article by Chris Huhne on The Guardian:
This is from the
From the 1970s onwards,
the intellectual and political current has run strongly against
equality. The Reagan-Thatcher consensus on low taxes, and their
suspicion of redistribution, has been remarkably powerful. The
Blair-Brown government had a lower top rate of income tax for all its
13 years than Thatcher did for nine.
Well... the "low
taxes" and "their
suspicion of redistribution"
were basically a propagandistic
swindle for the masses, and really meant - "Taxes are what we pay for
civilization", Supreme Court judge Holmes Jr. - that they were against
civilization, and worked for the rich exclusively, although they never
admitted that in politics (where everybody lies anyway, as if that is a
But I did not know
that the horrible hypocrite Blair worked even harder for the
rich (which Blair now also belongs to: "There is a new dawn for you")
than did the very conservative Thatcher, judged by taxes, which are
very important, and show that Blair and Brown were even more
anti-civilization than was Thatcher.
Huhne sees "two important pieces of evidence weighing in
for the egalitarians" and
the first is Piketty's book, about which he says:
Piketty has written a
marvellous, persuasive book that breaks with modern economics' love
affair with mathematics. It is in the same literary tradition as JM
Keynes's The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money and
Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, with an impressive sweep and grasp
of economic history. Most important, it is rooted in the facts of
inequality that cry out for explanation.
I have read Keynes
and Smith (for the most part) but not Piketty, about whom Huhne writes:
He challenges the
conventional postwar view that capitalism was developing in a balanced
way so that "growth would float all boats". This complacent assumption
was true of the postwar reconstruction, but only as a "consequence of
war and of policies adopted to cope with the shocks of war".
No, I do not think it
was limited to that: at least in Holland, Germany and Scandinavia there
were genuine and widespread movements to emancipate all, or at least
most, and many, also from various political directions, were in
favor of "capitalism with a human face", that also seemed quite
possible and feasible.
Next, Piketty is
summarized to the following effect, that I also do not quite agree to:
I agree that the "figures are breathtaking", but I disagree that "the economy" is the source,
reason and motivator of everything: In fact, I do not care much that
returns on capital are larger than growth of incomes (in fact, that
seems rather normal to me) - the main points are the laws that
are in place to tax the rich and everybody else, in order to protect
those poorer than the rich are, and to take care there will be
a considerable redistribution, and money for public works and
Piketty shows that in
rich countries at the frontier of technology and skills, the growth of
incomes is between 1% and 2% a year. Meanwhile, the rate of return on
capital averages about 4% to 5% a year. So those who draw their income
from capital returns will outstrip wage earners and "inherited wealth
grows faster than output and income".
In the period since 1970,
aided by the Reagan-Thatcher consensus, inequality has returned to the
pre-1914 levels of France's belle époque and the US robber barons. The
figures are breathtaking.
But this is true, I think:
Piketty says of
the United States: "From 1977 to 2007, the richest 10% appropriated
three-quarters of the growth. The richest 1% alone absorbed nearly 60%
of the total increase of US national income in this period." The
squeezed middle does not enter into it. A democratic society will not,
and cannot, tolerate such trends.
What this proves, to
someone of my cast of mind, at least, is that in these forty years the
American tax-schemes have been grossly ineffective, and
indeed there were less and less taxes (civilization) to be paid by the
rich, and more and more loopholes for them to escape paying most of the
taxes they still had to pay.
And that seems to me mostly a quite evident piece of corruption:
the rich had to pay less and less taxes, and got more and more
loopholes, simply because they paid the legislators (Congress) to do
so. They may not like the term "corruption", but there were and are very
many lobbyists in Washington, the last forty years, who all offer money
The other "important
piece(.) of evidence weighing in for the egalitarians" according to Huhne is an IMF-report -
yes, from the International Monetary Fund - called "Redistribution, Inequality and Growth", which is summarized
by the IMF as follows (with my boldings):
The Fund has recognized in recent
years that one cannot separate issues of economic growth and
stability on one hand and equality on the other. Indeed, there is a
strong case for considering inequality and an inability to sustain
economic growth as two sides of the same coin. Central to the
Fund’s mandate is providing advice that will enable members’ economies
to grow on a sustained basis. But the Fund has rightly been cautious
about recommending the use of redistributive policies given that such
policies may themselves undercut economic efficiency and the prospects
for sustained growth (the so-called “leaky bucket” hypothesis written
about by the famous Yale economist Arthur Okun in the 1970s). This SDN
follows up the previous SDN on inequality and growth by focusing on the
role of redistribution. It finds that, from the perspective of the
best available macroeconomic data, there is not a lot of evidence that
redistribution has in fact undercut economic growth (except in extreme
cases). One should be careful not to assume therefore—as Okun and
others have—that there is a big tradeoff between redistribution and
growth. The best available macroeconomic data do not support such a
That is to say: Redistribution
works - keeping a financially healthy middle class in fact is more
profitable than destroying it; again, redistribution works - for it
pays for civilization and public works everybody, except
perhaps the extremely rich, needs.
Huhne sums it up as
For liberals, Piketty is
a wedge between the classical and the new liberals: he makes it hard to
argue that government should only be concerned about equality of
opportunity rather than equality of outcome. When outcomes become so
divergent, equality of opportunity is bound to follow. Meritocracy is
dead. Birth matters far more.
One of the biggest
battles in most developed countries' politics turns out to be wrong.
The right was meant to be nasty and selfish, but good for growth. The
left was soft and kindhearted, but a threat to prosperity. However, the
evidence strongly suggests that the only people who win from
low-redistribution policies are the super-rich. The rest of us lose.
Yes, indeed: Greed is
not good - or only good for the very few. Being nasty and selfish is
not good - or only
good for the very few. And it may perhaps be not wise to be soft and
kindhearted, but redistribution works, gives people jobs and decent
incomes, and pays for civilization.
In brief, this is a
fine article, that you should read all of.
Welcome to the Piketty revolution: “Capital in the 21st
Century” is a game-changer (even if you never read it)
The next item is an
article by Sean McElwee on Salon:
Yes, I know it is
another article on Piketty. But it is a good one, and explains things
fairly well, and also says
That seems true, as does
the following paragraph, that also makes a point that I so far mostly
missed in others' prose about Piketty:
Is Piketty’s book more
likely to be purchased and sat on a coffee table than read? Certainly.
The same can be said of “Das
Kapital,” though no one would attempt to deny its immense political
impact. Keynes’ “General
Theory of Employment” — the ur-text of modern economic policy —
also wasn’t widely read by the masses, but no book has had a more
potent or prolonged influence on the world economic program. The idea
of a dense, academic tome setting the public alight is not
extraordinary, but rather quite ordinary. The list can certainly be
expanded. It’s unlikely that public fully understood the “Origin of the
Species,” the Pentagon Papers, “Silent Spring,” “The Kinsey
Report,” “Democracy and Education” or “The Course of Positive
Philosophy” at the time of their publications, but their impact on
society, because of the movements they either fomented or supplemented,
“Capital in the 21st
Century” is such a book. For decades, Americans have
been aware of the fact that “growth” was no longer benefiting them
and their children. We have noticed that the benefits of new technology
and of our labor have been flowing to a very few, and that those same
people then dictate policies to consolidate their wealth even further.
Our voices are not heard, as both political parties, to differing
extents, have become subservient to those
If nothing else,
“Capital” will finally bring questions of “who gets what” back to the
center of economics. Economists will no longer be able to couch tax
cuts for the rich behind a veil of jargon, disguising power relations
as mere economic efficiencies. We forget, if we ever knew, that the
earliest economists were philosophers and historians first — and that
economics was always considered to be a question of politics.
Yes, indeed: It depends
in the end - apart from war - on politics and on the laws
politicians frame and retract, and that holds true of economics as well.
Anyway - I have quoted the easier bits from this article, but this also
is a good article that I recommend reading all of.
5. (2014) Directors Cut: Chris Hedges: "The many
failures of US society and how change can occur"
Finally for today (apart
from the brief Personal bit that follows), not an article but a video
of 28 min 33 sec made by Leigha Cohen, that is mostly about Chris
Hedges, with a short appearance of Eugene Jarecki:
As I've said several
times: I like Chris Hedges, for he is intelligent, brave, knows a lot,
can write, and has his heart in the right place, even though I do not
always agree with him.
Also, I like this director's cut: it concentrates things by cutting out
many of the irrelevancies that happen in meetings and talks.
So this is again a recommendation - and yes, it is about what the title
says; it is not overly long; it is well spoken and clear; and you very
probably will learn from it.
I have said the Dutch Multatuli-excerpts
would be all on
line over the weekend, but I did not make it. I did get as far as 1254,
but there are 1282 numbered ideas (in 7 volumes, that I put on line and
commented between 2001 and 2006, mostly, and quite well, also).
It will probably happen this week (and then there is still more to
happen) but now you know: I have been busy on it, but didn't finish it
 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: