16, 2014
Crisis: Van Buren, Chomsky, Pope Francis, British taxes, Updates
   "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. Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, RIP, The Bill of Rights
2. American Socrates
3. Pope Francis Warns The Global Economy Is Near Collapse
4. British public wrongly believe rich pay most in tax, new
     research shows

5. British updates on Blair and Cameron 

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of June 16. It is an ordinary crisis log.

The only thing I say by way of introduction is that I uploaded a few things of my autobiography, and also an improved version of June 14, 2014. See here - today and yesterday - for more information.

Now to today's items on the

1. Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, RIP, The Bill of Rights

The first item is an article by Peter Van Buren on Tomdispatch:
Peter Van Buren's (<-Wikipedia) article, which is introduced by Tom Engelhardt, but I do not quote that, starts as follows:

America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one. In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process, or privacy when it came to protecting his power.

In the second, the principles of the Enlightenment and an armed rebellion were used to push back the king’s abuses. The result was a new country and a new constitution with a Bill of Rights expressly meant to check the government's power. Now, we are wading into the shallow waters of a third era, a time when that government is abandoning the basic ideas that saw our nation through centuries of challenges far more daunting than terrorism. Those ideas -- enshrined in the Bill of Rights -- are disarmingly concise. Think of them as the haiku of a genuine people's government.

Deeper, darker waters lie ahead and we seem drawn down into them. For here there be monsters.

In order to protect ordinary people from monsters, there was created a Bill of Rights:
A balancing mechanism was required. In addition to the body of the Constitution outlining what the new nation's government could do, needed was an accounting of what it could not do. The answer was the Bill of Rights.

The Bill's preamble explained the matter this way: “ order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of [the government's] powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.” Thomas Jefferson commented separately, "[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth."

In other words, the Bill of Rights was written to make sure that the new government would not replicate the abuses of power of the old one. Each amendment spoke directly to a specific offense committed by the king. Their purpose collectively was to lay out what the government could never take away. Knowing first-hand the dangers of a police state and unchecked power, those who wrote the Constitution wanted to be clear: never again.

But then the Bill of Right was repealed, not constitutionally nor legally, but practically, and by both the Bush and the Obama governments, because it served their own interests and those of the very rich:

The First Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The First Amendment was meant to make one thing indisputably clear: free speech was the basis for a government of the people. Without a free press, as well as the ability to openly gather, debate, protest, and criticize, how would the people be able to judge their government's adherence to the other rights? How could people vote knowledgeably if they didn’t know what was being done in their name by their government? An informed citizenry, Thomas Jefferson stated, was "a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."

That was how it was seen long ago. In Post-Constitutional America, however, the government strives to "control the message," to actively thwart efforts to maintain a citizenry informed about what’s done in its name
This very soon got this far, as if this were normal, in a democratic country (which it is not: it is normal in an authoritarian state):

Sealed Lips and the Whistleblower

All government agencies have regulations requiring employees to obtain permission before speaking to the representatives of the people -- that is, journalists. The U.S. Intelligence Community has among the most restrictive of these policies, banning employees and contractors completely from talking with the media without prior authorization. Even speaking about unclassified information is a no-no that may cost you your job. A government ever more in lockdown mode has created what one journalist calls a “culture where censorship is the norm.”

I skip "Self-Censorship and the Press" (though I recommend you read all of the piece) and turn to:

Government Efforts to Stop Journalists

Reporters need sources. Increasingly, the government is classifying just about any document it produces -- 92 million documents in 2011 alone. Its intelligence agencies have even classified reports about the over-classification of documents.
Again, that only happens in authoritarian governments, not in a real democracy: There may be a few classified documents, for several reasons also, but not thousands, hundreds of thousands or indeed 92 million a year. That is not done in a democracy, and since it is done, Obama's government is not a democratic government.

Here is another feature of authoritarian government: Secret courts:

The Descent Into Post-Constitutionalism

As with the King of England once upon a time, many of the things the government now does have been approved in secret, sometimes in secret courts according to a secret body of law. Sometimes, they were even approved openly by Congress. In constitutional America, the actions of the executive and the laws passed by Congress were only legal when they did not conflict with the underlying constitutional principles of our democracy. Not any more. “Law” made in secret, including pretzeled legal interpretations by the Justice Department for the White House, opened the way, for instance, to the use of torture on prisoners and in the Obama years to the drone assassination of Americans. Because such “legalities” remain officially classified, they are, of course, doubly difficult to challenge.

Yes indeed - and no: those "laws" are not democratic laws: they are authoritarian laws, also clearly seen as such by those who hide behind secret "laws" endorsed or controlled by secret "courts": Again purely authoritarian. No democrat and no lover of free and open societies would do this or would want this, except in very few cases (not: 92 milion, only in 2011).

This has not gone quite unnoticed, by some, and there has arisen a "critical history":

The usual critical history of our descent into a post-constitutional state goes something like this: in the panic after the 9/11 attacks, under the leadership of Vice President Dick Cheney with the support of President George W. Bush, a cabal of top government officials pushed through legal-lite measures to (as they liked to say) “take the gloves off” and allow kidnapping, torture, illegal surveillance, and offshore imprisonmentindefinite detention without charges or trial. along with

Barack Obama, elected on a series of (false) promises to roll back the worst of the Bush-era crimes, while rejecting torture and closing America’s overseas “black sites,” still pushed the process forward in his own way. He expanded executive power, emphasized drone assassinations (including against American citizens), gave amnesty to torturers, increased government secrecy, targeted whistleblowers, and heightened surveillance. In other words, two successive administrations lied, performed legal acrobatics, and bullied their way toward a kind of absolute power that hasn’t been seen since the days of King George.
But while I agree to the "critical history", Peter Van Buren is quite right something is missing in it:

Missing Are the People

One key factor remains missing in such a version of post-9/11 events in America: the people. Even today, 45% of Americans, when polled on the subject, agree that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.”
This may be widened: A large proportion of the American public, and of other publics, does not care much for democracy or the rule of law: they are perfectly wllling to give up liberties as long as they get their brand marked commodities.

Most of them, it may be said in excuse, are stupid and ignorant, but then these make up the majority of the electorate:

Yet there is no widespread, mainstream movement of opposition to what the government has been doing. It seems, in fact, that many Americans are willing to accept, perhaps even welcome out of fear, the death of the Bill of Rights, one amendment at a time.

We are the first to see, in however shadowy form, the outlines of what a Post-Constitutional America might look like. We could be the last who might be able to stop it.

Yes indeed. I must say, I fear "We" will not be able to stop it, at least not without a radical deepening of the crisis: "We" are not intelligent and knowledgeable enough, or indeed the intelligent and knowledgeable are far too few.

Of course, there are intelligent and knowledgeable people, and they still can write, some times (!), in the press. But the press is dying, and much of what was a tolerable press has been replaced by willing and eager mouthpieces and puppets for the rich, who feed the public mainly bullshit and plain lies.

Not everyone is stupid. Not everyone is ignorant. Not everyone is an egoist. Not everyone is taken in. But in a country where the law gives a vote to every adult, they are in a minority of the voters, and one that gets smaller and smaller as the risks of being a freely speaking but dissenting individual with a conscience become larger and larger.

As I have said repeatedly before: I am glad I made it to 64 (which itself is a bit of a miracle, given I am 36 years seriously ill without this being acknowledged by any authority since 1993, and without any help since 1993), glad I haven't been personally involved in a war, and very glad I have no children.

Anyway - you are adviced to read all of the above last dotted link: it will not make you happier, but it is well reasoned and well written.

2.  American Socrates

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This is - of course, I think I can fairly add - about Noam Chomsky, who does deserve the title. Here is the beginning of the article:

Noam Chomsky, whom I interviewed last Thursday at his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has influenced intellectuals in the United States and abroad in incalculable ways. His explications of empire, mass propaganda, the hypocrisy and pliability of the liberal class and the failings of academics, as well as the way language is used as a mask by the power elite to prevent us from seeing reality, make him the most important intellectual in the country. The force of his intellect, which is combined with a ferocious independence, terrifies the corporate state—which is why the commercial media and much of the academic establishment treat him as a pariah. He is the Socrates of our time.

In his talk with Chomsky, Chomsky started with Ernst Mayr, who believed we see no extra-terrestrial civilizations because they all (or most) kill themselves, rather in the way humans are doing this at present.

I agree humans - at least the rich and the powerful, who make almost all decisions - are doing their effective best to destroy the climate and many species, and I also agree there are far too many human beings for a finite earth, but I do not know about extra-terrestrials, nor do I see good reasons to speculate about them.

He also quotes Chomsky on a point I do agree with:

“We can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “The Industrial Revolution took off right around here in eastern Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system. Men and women—women left the farms to be ‘factory girls’—bitterly resented it. This was also a period of a very free press, the freest in the history of the country. There were a wide variety of journals. When you read them they are pretty fascinating. The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings being forced into what they called ‘wage labor,’ which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact this was such a popular mood it was a slogan of the Republican Party—‘The only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for the wage is supposed to be temporary.’ ”

Note this was also the time Thoreau and Whitman lived in the United States, and yes, I agree with the - then - Republican Party that "wage labor" is not very different from chattel slavery - for which reason I am glad I did not do that since 1975, as one of the very, very few indeed (without any riches, to be sure).

Since that is very rare, I make a personal remark: As to the jobs I aspired to in the academy, namely becoming a professor of philosophy or logic: I certainly had the qualifications and the knowledge, but I was and am ill, which voids every expectation, and indeed I also was definitely not of the - by far - dominant type of quasi-radical academic, who is capable of pretending anything, but almost always chooses for the powers-that-be if it comes to real choices. Also, the work of an academic is rather different from that of a wage slave: I would have done it well and with pleasure, if only I had been healthy.

Then there is this (on page 2 from 2):

The rise of powerful populist movements in the early 20th century meant that the business class could no longer keep workers subjugated purely through violence. Business interests had to build systems of mass propaganda to control opinions and attitudes. The rise of the public relations industry, initiated by President Wilson’s Committee on Public Information to instill a pro-war sentiment in the population, ushered in an era of not only permanent war but also permanent propaganda. Consumption was instilled as an inner compulsion. The cult of the self became paramount. And opinions and attitudes, as they are today, were crafted and shaped by the centers of power.

“A pacifist population was driven to become war-mongering fanatics,” Chomsky said. “It was this experience that led the power elite to discover that through effective propaganda they could, as Walter Lippmann wrote, employ “a new art in democracy, manufacturing consent.’ ”

Democracy was eviscerated. Citizens became spectators rather than participants in power.

As a potted history, this will do, but it doesn't mention several things, and one of the most depressing but true ones is that "Democracy was eviscerated. Citizens became spectators rather than participants in power" because on average people wanted that, and they wanted that in majority because they are not intelligent and not knowledgeable - and indeed could, therefore, be easily moved by propaganda/"public relations", and were thus moved.

Then Chomsky says:

“The public is frightened into believing we have to defend ourselves,” Chomsky said. “This is not entirely false. The military system generates forces that will be harmful to us. Take Obama’s terrorist drone campaign, the biggest terrorist campaign in history. This program generates potential terrorists faster than it destroys suspects. You can see it now in Iraq. Go back to the Nuremburg judgments. Aggression was defined as the supreme international crime. It differed from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows. The U.S. and British invasion of Iraq is a textbook case of aggression. By the standards of Nuremberg they [the British and U.S. leaders] would all be hanged."

Yes, indeed. Or if perhaps not hanged, at least they should be in a public court. But no: they are free, they are honored, and they still influence the public debate - which I agree is quite crazy for anyone who knows something about the Nuremberg trials (which alas is again a small minority).

Here is my final quote:

Today’s elite schools and universities inculcate into their students the worldview endorsed by the power elite. They train students to be deferential to authority. Chomsky calls education at most of these schools, including Harvard, a few blocks away from MIT, “a deep indoctrination system.”

I agree, but I also note that at least part of the reason this indeed happens is again that many of those educated there are not very intelligent: They do not think or study for themselves, but only for a degree.

There is considerably more there, and I advice you to read all of it. Also, I think Chomsky sounds depressed, and probably is, and if so, I agree: There is little evidence that more than a few care, are intelligent and knowledgeable, are rational, and are opposed to the government and the corporations - and indeed, these may track, trace and surveil them in all manner of secret ways.

3. Pope Francis Warns The Global Economy Is Near Collapse

The next item is an article by Alexander C. Kaufman on The Huffington Post:

This starts as follows:

The global economic system is near collapse, according to Pope Francis.

An economy built on money-worship and war and scarred by yawning inequality and youth unemployment cannot survive, the 77-year-old Roman Catholic leader suggested in a newly published interview.

“We are excluding an entire generation to sustain a system that is not good,” he told La Vanguardia’s Vatican reporter, Henrique Cymerman. (Read an English translation here.) “Our global economic system can’t take any more.”

I wonder whether the pope got it from his special connection with the Catholic God, but I believe he may be quite right about "the global economic system" - which I, these days at least, consider one of the few realistic last chances for mankind, rather than as a serious threat: It is either a collapse or a dictatorship built by the NSA for the rich few, that may last centuries, at least judging by the U.S. (I agree there are more countries, but the NSA really upset my earlier  calculations, and I certainly want to avoid an absolute dictatorship based on the NSA, that is presently busy as ever, trying to control absolutely everyone everywhere by stealing all the data they can steal, which is nearly everything.) 

He is also quoted to the following effect:

Pope Francis is gaining a reputation for pointed comments on the global economy. In April, amid feverish media coverage of French economist Thomas Piketty's bombshell book on income inequality, he made clear his stance on the widening wealth gap with a tweet saying: "Inequality is the root of social evil."

Actually, I think he might better have said: "Stupidity and egoism are the roots of all vice", but OK - he is 77, he is the pope, and he has only 140 characters. And while I insist we are all unequal, I agree with the pope that inequalities of power and income must be diminished a lot, in the interest of all.

4.  British public wrongly believe rich pay most in tax, new research shows

The next item is an article by Katie Allen on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The British public dramatically underestimate what the poorest pay in tax and wrongly believe the richest face the biggest tax burden, according to new research that calls for a more progressive system.

The poorest 10% of households pay eight percentage points more of their income in all taxes than the richest – 43% compared to 35%, according to a report from the Equality Trust.

The thinktank highlights what it sees as a gulf between perceptions of the tax system and reality. Its poll, conducted with Ipsos Mori found that nearly seven in ten people believe that households in the highest 10% income group pay more of their income in tax than those in the lowest 10%.

The survey of more than 1,000 people also found a strong majority – 96% – believe that the tax system should be more progressive than is currently the case.

Quite interesting! There is a nice graphic in illustration, which you will have to find yourself if interested, and Duncan Exley from the Equality Trust is quoted as follows:

"The public are misled about this country's tax system. They think households with the highest incomes pay more than those with the lowest, whereas the opposite is the case. Even more concerning is how little our current system matches people's preferences on tax. There is clearly strong support for a system that places far less burden on low-income households," he said ahead of the "Unfair and Unclear" report.

"We're calling on all parties seeking to form the government from 2015 to commit to the principle that any changes in tax policy are progressive."

I think he is quite right, and I also think he will find that David Cameron, the man of "British values" will not change the very unfair tax system.

But OK - it is nice to see how very well the few rich have misled the many poor: The rich pay 7.5% less tax than the poor. Vote Cameron! Vote Blair! Equally creepy, equally pro rich, both millionaires!

5.  British updates on Blair and Cameron 

Yesterday I wrote - copying articles - about Three Modern Democratic Political Leaders (all millionaires, of course): Blair, Clinton (Hillary), and Cameron
. I heartily dislike all of them and detest and despise Tony Blair.  As I expected, there were reactions to both the aricles about Blair and about Cameron.

Here they are. The first is by the Press Association, and the second by Owen Jones, and both are on The Guardian:
I will not quote from them or discuss them (though I like Owen Jones), because it is not very relevant to my theme of the crisis, but I reproduce them here because these are answers to Blair and to Cameron that I dealt with yesterday.
[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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