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Nederlog


  June
7, 2014
Crisis: Snowden, Greenwald, Ignorance, Tax Reform
   "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. How Snowden Changed the World
2. Encouraging Words of Regret From Dean Baquet and
     Weasel Words From James Clapper

3. The Results Are In: America Is Dumb and on the Road to
     Getting Dumber

4. How Tax Reform Can Save the Middle Class  

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of June 7. It is an ordinary crisis log.

But it is a Saturday today, and there wasn't much crisis news. I do have four items, though, which follow below. Also, while I thought there might be a personal section, I skipped it today, because it is pretty late already, and the present article is over 45 Kb, and also I am tired. Possibly there is a theoretical item on the crisis tomorrow, but I am not certain since I did not sleep enough last night.

1.  How Snowden Changed the World

The first item is an article by Annie Machon - who worked for MI5 in the nineties, before falling out with them - on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

A year ago I stumbled across a story about a troubling new surveillance program developed by the National Security Agency: Prism. While nobody was identified as the source of the disclosure, I was awestruck by the bravery of this unknown person who had made this information available to the public.

At the time the Obama administration had been waging an aggressive war on whistleblowers even as U.S. officials responsible for actual aggressive war on Iraq and the torture of “war on terror” detainees were escaping accountability.

Ex-CIA officer, John Kiriakou, who helped expose the CIA’s torture program, was languishing in prison; Kirk Wiebe, William Binney and Thomas Drake of the NSA had narrowly escaped prosecution for exposing NSA malfeasance. Indeed, despite having gone through all the approved channels, Drake had faced a 35-year prison sentence.

This is mainly a background article. Here is some more from it:

Against this background, fully aware of the hideous risks he was taking and the prospect of the rest of his life behind bars, a young man stepped forward. Four days after the initial Prism disclosure, Edward Snowden announced to the world that he was the source of the story and many more to come. He was clear then about his motivation and he remains clear now in the few interviews he has done since: what he had seen on the inside of the NSA caused him huge concern.

The American intelligence infrastructure, along with its equivalent agencies across the world, was constructing a global surveillance network that not only threatened the Constitution of the United States, but also eroded the privacy of all the world’s citizens.

According to another disclosure, the global surveillance state wanted to “master the Internet,” a project headed by the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ, the NSA’s British counterpart. As increasing numbers of us conduct aspects of our lives over the Internet (be it banking, health, social lives, organizations, activism, relationships) this growing lack of privacy strikes at the very root of democracy.

Privacy was enshrined as a basic human right in the United Nations Declaration in 1948 precisely because without it we are vulnerable to the encroachments and abuses of the state. What Snowden has disclosed would fulfill the Stasi’s wildest dreams and has the potential to go beyond the dystopic horrors of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Yes, indeed - and for those who do not know the United Nations Declaration in 1948: It is here, on the site. This is its relevant article:

Article 12.

    • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
But not anymore in the the United States or Great Britain: Their governments, the present and the previous ones, may well use the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as inspiration as to which articles they can break and destroy (because they limit the freedoms of the rich and very rich, to become even richer):

The present US government has broken, willfully broken, in hundreds of millions of instances in several articles, the following: Article 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29 and 30. (Check out
the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights!)

Indeed, if I want to give my political ideals, I think one of the best statements of it is the
United Nations Declaration of Human Rights:

I would very much like to live in a state in which all the articles of this 1948 Universal Declaration were kept, but I do not know of any state that ever did, although it is also true that the first 25 years of its existence, these articles were much better kept than they are today.


And Annie Machon is quite right:
this growing lack of privacy strikes at the very root of democracy.
Also, so far no Western government has done anything decent to guarantee that the privacy of its hundreds of millions of civilians, nearly all of whom are not terrorists and are not involved in crime, but all of whose private details have been hoovered up and stolen by the NSA, the GCHQ and the rest of the Five Eyes, at least in so far as computers and cell phones are concerned.

Here is something about the British response:

The British response has been largely muted, with politicians immediately assuring the grateful citizens of the UK that everything done by the spies is legal and proportionate, when in fact it was manifestly not. Nor is this any consolation for the rest of Europe’s citizens – after all, why should the British Foreign Secretary be able to take it upon himself to authorize intercept programs such as Tempora that sweep up the communications of an entire continent?

Press discussion of Snowden’s disclosures in the UK has been largely muted because of a censorship notice slapped on the media, while the Guardian newspaper that helped to break the story had its hard disks smashed up by GCHQ.

The same willfull breaking of nearly all of the articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds for the British government which, like the present American government, and their predecessors, resemble very much more a gang of always lying crooks out to destroy the laws than a cooperation of well-intentioned people trying to maintain the laws.

Here is the conclusion:
The European Parliament needs to take action now and show its 500 million citizens that it is serious about protecting their rights rather than pandering to the demands of the U.S. government and its corporate sponsors.

So, on this anniversary, I want to salute the bravery of Edward Snowden. His conscious courage has given us all a fighting chance against a corporate-industrial-intelligence complex that is running amok across the world. I hope that we can all find within us an answering courage to do what is right and indeed take back our rights. His bravery and sacrifice must not be in vain.

I agree - but I am not certain that his bravery was not in vain: There is a whole lot that I have learned the past year that go back to Snowden's bravery, and indeed he has made international headlines quite a few times, but I have not seen any real reigning in of governmental spying on each and anyone, and I find that both quite sickening and quite disappointing, especially since the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nearly all of which have been willfully raped by the US, English and Dutch governments, is two years older than I am, and is one of the best known documents in the world.
2. Encouraging Words of Regret From Dean Baquet and Weasel Words From James Clapper

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

NPR’s David Folkenflik has a revealing new look at what I have long believed is one of the most important journalistic stories of the last decade: The New York Times‘ 2004 decision, at the behest of George W. Bush himself, to suppress for 15 months (through Bush’s re-election) its reporters’ discovery that the NSA was illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Folkenflik’s NPR story confirms what has long been clear: The only reason the Times eventually published that article was because one of its reporters, James Risen, had become so frustrated that he wrote a book that was about to break the story, leaving the paper with no choice (Risen’s co-reporter, Eric Lichtblau, is quoted this way: “‘He had a gun to their head,’ Lichtblau told Frontline. ‘They are really being forced to reconsider: The paper is going to look pretty bad’ if Risen’s book disclosed the wiretapping program before the Times“).

As Folkenflik notes, this episode was one significant reason Edward Snowden purposely excluded the Times from his massive trove of documents.

I must say that since (1) the story is ten years old now, and (2) I do not know how Dean Baquet is going to perform as executive editor of the NYT, I am not very much interested in it - though I agree that it was a very bad decision that the NYT took in 2004, when it sided with the government rather than with the journalistic principle (which the NYT still sports as its motto) that it contains "All The News That's Fit To Print" - provided of course that it doesn't these days mean rather that it contains "All The News That's Fit To Print According To Our Gracious Government".

But there are related more interesting questions, such as this one:

(...) what has changed as a result of the last year of disclosures?

One should not expect any change to come from the U.S. government itself (which includes Congress), whose strategy in such cases is to enact the pretext of “reform” so as to placate public anger, protect the system from any serious weakening, and allow President Obama to go before the country and the world and give a pretty speech about how the U.S. heard their anger and re-calibrated the balance between privacy and security. Any new law that comes from the radically corrupted political class in DC will either be largely empty, or worse. The purpose will be to shield the NSA from real reform.

Yes, indeed. Glenn Greenwald lists some measures - including encryption - that he considers more successful, which you have to check out yourself, if thus inclined, and then continues:

But beyond surveillance and privacy, one of the goals of this NSA reporting (at least from my perspective) was to trigger a desperately needed debate about journalism itself, and the proper relationship of journalists to those who wield political and economic power.

OK, and I agree. Noting Greenwald's "Obviously, that debate is far from resolved" I'd say that real journalism all over the world has much declined for several reasons, one important one being the arisal of the internet plus the falling of advertisement revenues in papers, and another important one being the rise of folks like Rupert Murdoch, while a third important one is broached in the next item: the massive ignorance of the (American) public.

Anyway - there is considerably more under the last dotted link.

3. The Results Are In: America Is Dumb and on the Road to Getting Dumber

The next item is an article by C.J. Werleman on AlterNet:

I merely quote two bits, to support my thesis that, in democratic majority, the U.S. population stands on a medieval level (see the quotation after the next one).

To start with, here is Werleman's explanation for the low levels of scientific knowledge in the U.S.:

America remains a scientifically ignorant nation for two reasons: the resurgence of fundamentalist religion during the past 40 years, and secondly, the low level of science education in American elementary and secondary schools, as well as many tertiary colleges.

I do not know, and there are other or more explanations, such as the inordinate amounts of time spent on watching TV, plus the amounts of sheer bullshit and awful nonsense on TV, but the stated reasons are important.

Now to the medieval level of the ordinary American citizen:

This week, Gallup released a poll showing 42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. Last week, the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire published a study showing only 28 percent of Tea Party Republicans trust scientists.

It gets worse. More than two-thirds of Americans, according to surveys conducted for the National Science Foundation, are unable to identify DNA as the key to heredity. Nine out of 10 don’t understand radiation and what it can do the human body, while one in five adult Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth.

A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously.

Note "one in five" - that is: 20% - "adult Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth" and "25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously" and indeed "42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago".

In fact, similar facts moved me in 1971 to stop voting: For everyone who is as highly educated as I am, there are, in Holland (!), several stadiums full of highly opinionated folks with almost no education, who know hardly anything except, in Holland at least (!), that absolutely no one has the right to believe or say he or she is in any respect better than they are, and they all have one vote, just like me and the small minority of highly intelligent highly educated persons.

But OK - see my democracy plan, which I did not propose in the belief that it will ever be voted in by a democracy half of the members of which have IQs below 100, but simply because it seems to me a fairly rational and reasonable idea. (I know such ideas have little chance of being successful simply because the vast majority is neither rational nor reasonable, and for the most part quite proudly so. Even so, I still may state them.)

4.  How Tax Reform Can Save the Middle Class

The next item is a fairly brief bit on Common Dreams, without a stated author, that is about an interview Bill Moyers had with Joseph Stiglitz:

This starts as follows:
A report out today finds that over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies use offshore tax havens to avoid paying US taxes.
Note that the Fortune 500 "is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 U.S. closely held and public corporations as ranked by their gross revenue after adjustments" - and so this means that over 350 of the 500 richest companies do not pay the taxes they should pay in the US.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz tells Bill that such lucrative loopholes are contributing to America’s inequality problem and persistent unemployment rate. In fact, corporate greed, combined with a tax code too biased toward the very rich, is hurting our economy and reducing public investment at a time when we really need it.

Stiglitz says it doesn’t have to be this way. He has a new plan for overhauling America’s current tax system, which he believes contributes to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries.

Here is Stiglitz's plan:

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz tells Bill that such lucrative loopholes are contributing to America’s inequality problem and persistent unemployment rate. In fact, corporate greed, combined with a tax code too biased toward the very rich, is hurting our economy and reducing public investment at a time when we really need it.

Stiglitz says it doesn’t have to be this way. He has a new plan for overhauling America’s current tax system, which he believes contributes to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries.

“We can have a tax system that can help create a fairer society,” Stiglitz tells Bill in the second part of their conversation. “Only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share. It’s not asking a lot. It’s just saying the top 1% shouldn’t be paying a lower tax rate than somebody much further down the scale – [they] shouldn’t have the opportunity to move money offshore and keep it in an unlimited IRA account.”

Well... there is over 22 minutes of video under the link, which I saw about ten minutes of, but Stiglitz is not a good speaker, and I stopped watching.

And it may therefore be the case that I missed something, but
I feel pretty certain that “Only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share" will not work:

Of course the rich and the very rich know that they are not paying their fair share, but that is because they do not want to pay their fair share ("because ...", and here any number of lies, damned lies and silly equivocations fit in).

So I do not think this will work, and I also do not think Congress - most members of which are millionaires - will return to the Keyenesian tax schemes that did work quite well for thirty years, indeed also without removing the rich, but with enough tax money to guarantee a welfare state for nearly everyone - 40 and more years ago, when productivity was far less than it is now.

It follows that tax reform may work - but you will not get it by asking the rich: they must be forced, somehow, though I agree that with a grossly corrupt Congress, most of the members of which are millionaires anyway, while each of the members is daily lobbied by lobbyists for the rich few, it is difficult to see how once can reform the taxes without a collapse or a revolution.
---------------------------------
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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