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 crisis.
Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, RIP, The Bill
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do not quote that, starts as follows:
In order to protect
ordinary people from monsters, there was created a Bill of Rights:
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
Deeper, darker waters lie
ahead and we seem drawn down into them. For here there be monsters.
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
The Bill's preamble
explained the matter this way: “...in 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:
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):
"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."
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
I skip "Self-Censorship and the Press" (though I recommend you read all of
the piece) and turn to:
Sealed Lips and
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.”
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
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
reports about the over-classification of documents.
Here is another feature of authoritarian government: Secret courts:
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).
The Descent Into
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
This has not gone quite unnoticed, by some, and there has arisen a
But while I agree to the
history", Peter Van Buren is quite right something is missing
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,
surveillance, and offshore
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.
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
Missing Are the
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.”
Most of them, it may be said in excuse, are stupid and
ignorant, but then these make up the majority of the electorate:
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Francis Warns The Global Economy Is Near Collapse
item is an article by Alexander C. Kaufman on The Huffington Post:
This starts as
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
dictatorship based on the NSA, that is presently busy as ever, trying
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.
public wrongly believe rich pay most in tax, new research shows
item is an article by Katie Allen on The Guardian:
This starts as
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
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.
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!