29, 2014
Crisis: Snowden * 2, Growth, Prince Charles, Inequality, On the crisis
   "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

1. Edward Snowden: breaking law was only option, says

2. The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic

3. Prince Charles: Climate Crisis Demands 'Fundamental
     Transformation of Capitalism'

4. The Head of the IMF Says Inequality Threatens
     Democracy. Here Are 7 Charts Proving She's Right.

5. Snowden's Lawyer: 'Mutually Agreed Solution with US
     Would Be Most Sensible'

6.  On the crisis series - 2

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of May 29. It is an ordinary crisis log.

Also, the sixth item is about the crisis series, and continues the similarly titled item of May 26, last.

1. Edward Snowden: breaking law was only option, says whistleblower

The first item today is an article by Tom McCarthy on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

One year after revealing himself as the source of the biggest intelligence leak in US history, Edward Snowden appeared in a long network television interview on Wednesday to describe himself as an American patriot and to make the case that his disclosures were motivated by a desire to help the country.

In his most extensive public comments to date Snowden sought to answer critics who have said his actions damaged US national security or that the threat from the secret government surveillance he revealed was overblown. Snowden was interviewed by the NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who travelled to Moscow for the meeting.

Snowden defended his decision to leak documents to the press, instead of making his complaints via internal channels, and explained why he had decided for the moment not to travel back to the United States to face criminal charges.
I have not seen the interview yet, apart from a few bits from it. In the present interview Snowden is - among other quotations - quoted to this effect:

“I take the threat of terrorism seriously. And I think we all do. And I think it’s really disingenuous for the government to invoke and sort of scandalize our memories, to sort of exploit the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up and our constitution says we should not give up.”

Snowden said he did not consider himself blameless. “I think the most important idea is to remember that there have been times throughout history where what is right is not the same as what is legal,” he said. “Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to break a law.”
Yes, indeed. There is considerably more in the article and also a bit more on Snowden in item 5.

2. The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on Common Dreams:

This is connected to the fact that growth is non-linear if constant (x% growth this year, will be more growth next year even if the x remains the same, more again next year and so on). Also, this concept seems very difficult for most human beings, who tend to consider things linearly.

Considering this fact leads Monbiot to the following conclusion:

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained(3). But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

Note that the argument in the first paragraph is at least as old as the 1972 Limits to Growth report of the Club of Rome that incidentally was updated in 1994 and in 2004. Also, the present issue is not whether the reports were correct; the present issue is that exponential economic growth on a finite earth will fairly or very rapidly get to be impossible.

The second paragraph explains how economic growth was, in fact, possible.

There is a lot more there that I skip. I only quote the last two paragraphs of the article:

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st Century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

I would not have formulated it in this way, but it is a fact that the most obvious problems are massively denied; it also is a fact that the present economical system is bound to fail, and will fail spectacularly if unchecked; and finally it is a fact that the problems are not only mostly unchecked but seriously aggravated.

As I've said before: The only possible "solution" I see is a source of energy that is plentiful, cheap and not dangerous, and the only two directions I know that may be effective are man-made fusion energy and artificial photosynthesis.

3. Prince Charles: Climate Crisis Demands 'Fundamental Transformation of Capitalism'

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

Let me start with saying that I sort of like Prince Charles, who is a mere two years older than I am, but who looks 25 or 30 years older than I am: At least he thinks about serious problems, and some of his ideas make sense. Both are quite rare for princes of the royal blood, it seems.

Also I should say that my liking of Charles dates back to 1989: I am sensitive to architecture, and I intensely dislike almost all modern architecture, so I was glad to see Charles thought the same, and indeed published a book about it in 1989, which he also knew would not be popular.

Anyway...the article opens as follows:

Perhaps irrelevant to some—coming from a man who owes both his wealth and prestige to the antiquated (though persistent) privilege of being born into a royal family—Prince Charles of England again waded into quasi-radical polemics on Wednesday as he told a crowd of financiers and global elites that the "current form of capitalism" must come to an end if humanity wants to save itself from the perils of global warming and climate change.

In a speech to a "stratospheric group of financial, economic and business experts” at the Inclusive Capitalism Conference in London on Tuesday—and an audience that included IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and former U.S. President Bill Clinton—The Prince of Wales pushed for those gathered to accept the need for what he called the "fundamental transformation of global capitalism." 

"We can choose to act now before it is finally too late, using all of the power and influence that each of you can bring to bear to create an inclusive, sustainable and resilient society," he said. "There will, of course, be hard choices to make, and, take it from me, in the short term, you will not be popular with your peers, but if you stand firm and take the kind of action that is needed, I have every confidence the rewards will be immense."

Again I say that he is basically right about a serious problem, which is quite rare for a man in his position.

There is more in the article.

4. The Head of the IMF Says Inequality Threatens Democracy. Here Are 7 Charts Proving She's Right.

The next item is an article by Erica Eichelberger on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama promised to devote 2014 to tackling inequality. When French economist Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century was released in March, it pushed the problem of growing income disparity further into the global spotlight. In April, Pope Francis tweeted, "Inequality is the root of social evil." Now Christine LaGarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund—best known for lending money to developing countries on the condition that the those states make policy changes—is taking on inequality too, warning in a speech Tuesday that rising inequality is threatening global financial stability, democracy, and human rights.

"One of the leading economic stories of our time is rising income inequality, and the dark shadow it casts across the global economy," LaGarde said.

The richest 10 percent of people in the world hold 86 percent of the world's wealth, and just 0.7 percent own 41 percent of global riches, according to the Credit Suisse 2013 Global Wealth Report.
After that, the charts get displayed, which I think are quite effective: This is a good article that you should check out yourself.

5. Snowden's Lawyer: 'Mutually Agreed Solution with US Would Be Most Sensible'

The next item is an article by Hubert Gude and Jörg Schindler on the English version of Der Spiegel:

First note that "Snowden's lawyer" is in fact Snowden's German lawyer. The interview, which is a good one, starts as follows:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Kaleck, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, described Edward Snowden as a lawbreaker during recent discussions with United States government representatives in Washington. Did that surprise you?

Kaleck: It did not surprise me, but I do find it shocking. Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, someone who followed his conscience and went public with a scandal that is global in nature: the threat intelligence services represent to all Internet freedom. The issue should be approached with more seriousness.

SPIEGEL: Are you suggesting that the interior minister hasn't done so?

Kaleck: I consider it scandalous to say, in some kind of gesture of submission to the United States, "We understand that you are treating him as a criminal and we view things similarly" -- when, at the same time, an investigative committee is conducting work in parliament that would have been inconceivable without Snowden. I am hopeful that there are people sitting on the parliamentary committee and also in the German government who will approach the problem in a more responsible way.

Yes, indeed. There is rather a lot more that I will leave to your interests, but I will quote one more brief bit:

SPIEGEL: Your client's temporary asylum in Russia expires in July. What will happen then?

Kaleck: We assume that it will be extended. There is still enough time.

I do hope he is right, but my guess is that he is, for the present year.

6. On the crisis series - 2

This last item continues the similarly named item of May 26, that tries to bring together some reflections on the crisis series, that started on September 1, 2008, and meanwhile took over 500 Nederlogs.

Fifth, about the titles, the articles and the mistakes.

One of the things that I do not like about the crisis series, and especially lately, is that my titles are hard to comprehend. The main reason is that I use only one line for titles while I generally cover at least 5 subjects, that all come with their own titles. The only possibility to avoid that is to split it over as many Nederlogs as there are titles (as indeed originally planned in 2006, when I started the Nederlog series, that extended the subject-matters of Nedernieuws, that I wrote in 2004 and 2005), but (1) this would be considerably more work, and I do not have much energy because I am ill and (2) this would very probably make the items less well read. So the net result is that my titles remain rather obscure, simply because there is not enough space. I'm sorry, but this will continue.

Then the articles. I have meanwhile reviewed thousands of articles relating to the crisis, and I think I have done that fairly, for the most part: I have always listed the writers and provided a link; I have almost never quoted all of the article and rarely most; what I have quoted I have quoted because of the content and generally because I had something to say about it; and as I have said before: (1) I am more interested in the crisis than in journalism: I am not a journalist but a philosopher, in the first place, but (2) journalism is almost the only way for me to get informed about the crisis.

Finally the mistakes. There are three kinds of mistakes that I may make and indeed occasionally have made. Firstly, I may simply miss interesting stuff. This definitely happened, but I am human, I am ill, I've checked over 40 internet sites daily and looked at hundreds of articles daily, and I do not think I have missed very much on the 40+ sites I do check daily. Secondly, I may be mistaken in my judgments. This happens occasionally, but - presupposing my general values, that are best described as classic liberalism informed by a lot of knowledge of the left, of politics, of history, and of real science - I do not think I have made many mistakes. Thirdly, I may be mistaken in what I write, and limit this here to writing and linking errors. This certainly happened: I never use spelling correctors because I hate the intrusion, and my links sometimes do not work mostly because the html-editor I have to work with made mistakes or did not get set properly. I do not think I can do a lot about either: I will not use a spelling corrector, and there is only one WYSIWYG html editor on Linux, which is a serious fault, but not mine but of Linux. (I like Linux a lot more than MS Windows, but it has its weak sides.)

Sixth, about the spreading of the crisis items.

If you look at the present three indexes for the crisis, you will find it is not regularly spread: In 2008 and 2009 there were resp. around 30 and 50 Nederlogs about the crisis, but in 2010 and 2011 together there were 15. The main reason is that I wrote a lot about ME/CFS and XMRV, and had little or no time or health left to write about other things. But in 2012 it picked up again with nearly 50 items, and from June 10, 2013 there are over 300 items, which were mostly caused by Snowden's revelations, which I said in the previous item was the worst political news I've ever heard.

Seventh, on the future of the crisis series.

This is a bit uncertain. Three important reasons for me to write the series are that it charts the development of the worst political event that happened during my life, in the West at least, for it means the West is turning into an authoritarian police state, where the government spies on everyone, and does so for itself and for the big corporations; I am ill, which means I cannot do more than small bits each day; and nobody else does it, to my knowledge, and certainly not as I am doing it. Also, I have more readers than I had before, so I suppose it reaches some.

Then again, for me it is at best philosophical journalism, and at worst journalism, which is not where my prime interests lay, and which also means that I am dependent on what journalists wrote.

I have several times said that I may stop it, and there are several possible reasons why I may:

My health may get worse; journalism may get even worse than it is now; or I may either have to give it up because I need to spend what little energy I have on other things or because I've come to the decision that it is mostly senseless for me to continue writing about the crisis.

At present, I simply do not know, but indeed the main reasons to continue it is that I lack the health to do what I like, and nobody else does it to my knowledge, while this also has provided me more readers than I had.

Eight, on giving explanations.

As I said, I am not a journalist but a philosopher, and the task of a philosopher is to explain things. Also, I think I can give explanations for the crisis or for aspects of it that few men give or think of, and I will try to give some more in the next year (counting from today), though indeed I do not expect to get more popular or to be more read because of it.

So...these were some reflections on the crisis series.

[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)

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)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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