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Nederlog


  August
10, 2014
Crisis: Stakeholder capitalism, Democrats, Wikipedia, Spyware, Ali, Watergate
  "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.
 The Rebirth of Stakeholder Capitalism? 
2. What the Democratic Party Does Well: Doing Itself In
3. Wikipedia isn't perfect, but as a model it's as good as it
     gets

4. Leaked Docs Show Spyware Used to Snoop on U.S.
    Computers

5.
On Ayaan Hirsi Ali
6. The Heinous Crime Behind Watergate

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 10. It is a crisis log.

There are six items with a dotted link each. Most items are mostly regular crisis items, though there are some exceptions.

The first exception here is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, about whom I know a lot more than  by far the most of Americans, where she currently is continueing her money-making career, namely from her years in Holland, whence she was in the end, and quite correctly, excreted.

The other two partial exceptions are the Wikipedia and Nixon's crimes. The Wikipedia article is here because I use the Wikipedia a lot (and there is no real alternative either), while Nixon's crimes are reviewed because I was in my late teens and early twenties when they happened, and I recall them quite well, and it seems to me more people ought to know about Nixon and his crimes than currently do.
 
1. The Rebirth of Stakeholder Capitalism? 

The first item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:

This is from the first third (I skip the beginning) and it poses a quite interesting question, at least to my mind:

Pantagonia, a large apparel manufacturer based in Ventura, California, has organized itself as a “B-corporation.” That’s a for-profit company whose articles of incorporation require it to take into account the interests of workers, the community, and the environment, as well as shareholders.

The performance of B-corporations according to this measure is regularly reviewed and certified by a nonprofit entity called B Lab.

To date, over 500 companies in sixty industries have been certified as B-corporations, including the household products firm “Seventh Generation.”

In addition, 27 states have passed laws allowing companies to incorporate as “benefit corporations.” This gives directors legal protection to consider the interests of all stakeholders rather than just the shareholders who elected them.

We may be witnessing the beginning of a return to a form of capitalism that was taken for granted in America sixty years ago.

The reasons I find this interesting are the following three, which I had worked out by the time I was 20, after having been raised by sincerely communist and intelligent parents [2]:

  • I do not believe in any one comprehensive economic system: they are all ideological and not based on facts - which is to say that I reject doctrinary marxism aka communism, doctrinary socialism, and doctrinary capitalism.
  • I do believe in pluriform non-totalitarian social systems, but two problems with bringing them about are (1) ordinary men are unintelligent and ignorant and (2) ordinary men - who are the vast majority of any electorate - are systematically misled by the politicians whom they trust, who tend to be crooks, deceivers, and immoral bastards, but who do know how to lie and deceive.
  • If mankind can be emancipated at all, it is best emancipated by science, and not by politics or religion: Both politics and religion are best seen as systems of propaganda and deception, from which very little good can be expected (by intelligent and learned scientifically realist atheists like me).

I still believe these points, 44 years later, and will concentrate on the first two, since they also entail some serious difficulties for me and for others who think like me:

  • I do not expect much good from "the masses", and indeed I believe "the masses", although they do most of the fighting and get much of the suffering, are rarely intelligent and learned enough to see through the deceptions or to act rationally rather than emotionally.
  • In terms of political or religious propaganda, the pluriform non-totalitarian
    approach I further is in serious problems: People like me do not insist they know the answers; on the contrary, they say (i) they do not know all or indeed most of the answers and (ii) there probably are no answers that fit all and (iii) answers have to be formulated carefully and empirically, and be tested. In contrast political and religious groups tend to believe or pretend they have all the answers, and all that is required is faith and persistence. This is false, but much easier to popularize.

The above quotation continues as follows - and "Then" = ca. 1954:

Then, most CEOs assumed they were responsible for all their stakeholders.

“The job of management,” proclaimed Frank Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in 1951, “is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly interested groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large.”

Johnson & Johnson publicly stated that its “first responsibility” was to patients, doctors, and nurses, and not to investors.

What changed? In the 1980s, corporate raiders began mounting unfriendly takeovers of companies that could deliver higher returns to their shareholders – if they abandoned their other stakeholders.

Yes - and one of my points is that this was not an ideal system either, but it was more realist in trying "to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly interested groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large".

The reason this was more realist is simply that all these groups are involved, and indeed without "
the public at large" there simply wouldn't be any firm, because there would be no one to sell its products to.

Then there is this:
Since then, shareholder capitalism has replaced stakeholder capitalism. Corporate raiders have morphed into private equity managers, and unfriendly takeovers are rare. But it’s now assumed corporations exist only to maximize shareholder returns.

Yes, indeed - though actually that "corporations exist only to maximize shareholder returns" seems to be a bit of an overstatement: Corporations now exist (1) to maximize the incomes of their managers, rather than of the shareholders, while (2) the shareholder returns are dependent on the standing of the corporation on the stock exchange, which are in turn much dependent, especially in the short run, on the propaganda the managers have put out.

Part of that schema is the conviction that shareholders do not anymore own sales because they trust the managers of a company, whom they together control; they only hold shares to make a profit, and indeed rarely control a company.

To end this, here is the ending of Reich's article:

Only some of us are corporate shareholders, and shareholders have won big in America over the last three decades.

But we’re all stakeholders in the American economy, and many stakeholders have done miserably. 

Maybe a bit more stakeholder capitalism is in order.

Yes, except that shareholders and managers "have won big". But Reich is quite right everyone is a stakeholder in the economy he or she lives in, and almost everyone but shareholders and managers has been screwed financially, indeed collectively out of trillions of dollars since 1980.

Finally, will there be a rebirth of stakeholder capitalism? I doubt it, without a crash, but the ideas are certainly a lot better than those of shareholder capitalism.

2. What the Democratic Party Does Well: Doing Itself In

The next item is an article by Ralph Nader that I found on Common Dreams:

I have two quotes from this, and I agree with the title. Here is the first quote:

The full restoration of the federal minimum wage to make up for the ravages of inflation since 1968 would take it from the present, stagnant $7.25 per hour and beyond the proposed $10.10 to $10.90 per hour. Over thirty million American workers – two thirds of them women and two thirds of them employed by large low-wage companies like Walmart and McDonald’s – would benefit from this wage restoration, and in turn would be able to strengthen the economy by increasing their consumer expenditures. There are a lot of votes out there if the Democrats go beyond lip service and push for a major media and grassroots campaign against the Congressional Republicans who are blocking a vote on this minimum wage bill.

Three of four Americans favor a restored minimum wage.

Quite so. So why do the Democrats not try to win these votes? It seems to me because they are managed by lobbyists, who for the most part serve the interests of the rich few, who also pay them, rather than the interests of the poor many.

And this is the end of the article:

I’ve often said that the Democratic Party cannot even defend the country against the demonstrably cruel, anti-worker, anti-consumer, pro-big business/Wall Street over Main Street Republican Party. The voting evidence in Congress is fully accessible. The Democrats compiled, but did not adequately deploy a report on some sixty outrageous Republican Party House votes during the last Congress that, if really driven home to voters, would have resulted in a landslide Democratic win against the GOP. Instead, the Democrats allowed the GOP to cover its truly vicious tracks with flowery rhetoric that kept their day of reckoning from seeing sunlight (see for yourself).

My message to Democrats is: Dump your corporate consultants. Just campaign for the necessities of the people. And publicize those Republican votes crisply, widely and repeatedly.

He is right, but it is unlikely to happen: Most Democrats are tied by promises to their lobbyists.

3. Wikipedia isn't perfect, but as a model it's as good as it gets

The next item is an article by John Naughton on The Guardian:

John Naughton starts with some details about recent complaints about Wikipedia. I'll skip them, and instead I simply say that I use Wikipedia a lot: There   constantly are at least ten files open (about anything: I am widely curious), and I also often link pages, simply to provide some background for my readers.

Also, I do not think Wikipedia is perfect, and I also know of some pages - e.g. about the disease I have for 36 years now, M.E., which has been much subject to psychiatric bullshit - which I just do not trust, and indeed have seen alter a whole lot, and being altered back, a.s.o.

But by and large it is the only free, general and widely used encyclopedia there is on the internet, and I also should say that it has become more of a success than I expected. [2]

Here is John Naughton's sum-up:

(...) Wikipedia embodies a new approach to the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge in a networked world. The most striking thing about this approach is that it is completely open: the reason Channel 4 was able to uncover what it reported is that the history of every single edit to a Wikipedia is freely available, right back to the first incarnation of the page. So anyone with the time and inclination can see the evolution and transformation of the page over its entire lifetime. Equally, anyone who messes with a page has real difficulty covering their tracks. Likewise, every Wikipedia page has a discussion page associated with it, which allows people to explain or justify changes that they have made.

Wikipedia is a typical product of the open internet, in that it started with a few simple principles and evolved a fascinating governance structure to deal with problems as they arose. It recognised early on that there would be legitimate disagreements about some subjects and that eventually corporations and other powerful entities would try to subvert or corrupt it.

Yes. And here is Naughton's last statement in the article:

Wikipedia may be imperfect (what isn't?) but at the moment it's the only model we have for addressing these problems.

4. Leaked Docs Show Spyware Used to Snoop on U.S. Computers

The next item is an article by Jeff Larson and Mike Tegas on Truthdig, and originally on ProPublica:

This starts as follows:

Software created by the controversial U.K. based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the U.K., Germany, Russia, Iran and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica.

It’s not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer email addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer and the Qatari government.

The leaked files — which were posted online by hackers — are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma’s software to spy on dissidents, journalists and activist groups.

I say - though I am not amazed. Here is some more detail:

Gamma has not commented publicly on the authenticity of the documents. A phone number listed on a Gamma Group website was disconnected. Gamma Group did not respond to email requests for comment.

The leaked files contain more 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material including software code, internal memos, strategy reports and user guides on how to use Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets’ computers and cell phones.

A price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million.

Note that it seems that Gamma sells its wares to anyone willing to spy on others.

5. On Ayaan Hirsi Ali 

The next item is an article by Janet Allon on AlterNet:

AlterNet has every week this type of lists, which I do not like, not having a propaganda-fueled type of mind, so I leave this to mostly to you. The reason it is here at all is because the first item is about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who this time is quoted as saying
“I really think [Netanyahu] should get the Nobel Peace Prize,” she continued, unperturbed by the hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed in Israel's recent war on Gaza. “In a fair world he would get it.”
If you really think Ali really thinks so, you must be very naive, but then many Americans are. In my opinion - which dates back to 2004, when she lived in Holland - she is merely a halfly clever personal intriguer who does and says anything for money and for personal prominence. This is just another bid to remain (in)famous and thus earn more money.

In case you are interested: Here is an English mail I sent to Ophelia Benson in November of 2005, outlining my reasons for disliking and distrusting her - which Ophelia Benson did not like at all, convinced as she was at that time of having discovered, all the way from the other side of the globe, an exemplary leftist atheist feminist - in which she was quite mistaken.

Here is a link to my English article (except for a brief Dutch introduction) of 2005:
I still think it is quite good, but it is about 2005, which is relevant in so far as Ms Ali's position then was different from what is is now, although it never was rational or honest, as indeed the Dutch found out, eventually, circa 2008.

The brief of it all is: She is a mere careerist, capable of saying anything, and when watching her sayings the best guide is to ask oneself 'how would this serve her own interests?'.

6. The Heinous Crime Behind Watergate

The next and last item today is an article by Robert Parry on Consortium News:
This has the following introduction:
The mainstream media’s big takeaway from Richard Nixon’s Watergate resignation is that “the cover-up is always worse than the crime.” But that’s because few understand the crime behind Watergate, Nixon’s frantic search for a file on his 1968 subversion of Vietnam peace talks, reports Robert Parry.
Yes, indeed - and I agree this is not a real crisis file, but it is a good article about a previous crisis, which eventually led to Nixon's impeachment and his leaving office.

Here is the beginning of the article:

To fully understand the Watergate scandal, which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation 40 years ago, you have to know the back story starting in 1968 when candidate Nixon took part in a secret maneuver to scuttle the Vietnam peace talks and salvage a narrow victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

In essence, what Nixon and his campaign team did was to contact South Vietnamese leaders behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back and promise them a better deal if they stayed away from Johnson’s Paris peace talks, which President Nguyen van Thieu agreed to do. So, with Johnson’s peace talks stymied and with Nixon suggesting that he had a secret plan to end the war, Nixon edged out Humphrey.

After his election, Nixon learned from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that President Johnson had amassed a detailed file on what Johnson called Nixon’s “treason,” but Nixon couldn’t locate the file once he took office and ordered an intensive search for the material that explained why the Paris peace talks had failed. But the material stayed missing.

That meant four more years of fighting in Vietnam and an engineered win for Nixon as president. Nixon's main problem was that he learned Lyndon B. Johnson had found out about "what Johnson called Nixon’s “treason"", indeed already in 1968, before the elections, but that Johnson had not acted upon his knowledge, while Nixon did not know what Johnson knew or would or might do.

Also, it is noteworthy these four more years of war cost the lives of 20,000 American soldiers and "possibly a million" Vietnamese men, women and children.

It is especially this that moved Nixon to try to get or at least destroy Johnson's files on him, with such niceties as:

In a series of tape-recorded meetings beginning on June 17, 1971, Nixon ordered a break-in (or even a fire-bombing) at the Brookings Institution where some Nixon insiders believed the missing material might be hidden in the safe.

“I want it implemented,” Nixon fumed to his senior aides, Henry Kissinger and H.R. “Bob” Haldeman. “Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

So now you probably know more than you did about Nixon, his heinous crime (that lead i.a. to over a million unnecessary deaths), and the reasons behind Watergate.

This is a really good article that you should read all of if you are interested in Nixon or in Watergate.

---------------------------------

P.S. 11 aug 2014: Corrected some typos.

Notes
[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.)

[2] My reasons to say that my parents were sincere and intelligent, and also communists (of some 30 to forty years, ca. 1975), are that they were, and that I have known very many more quasi-marxist, quasi-communist, insincere careerists, generally also more stupid than my parents, who pretended to being marxists, especially in the University of Amsterdam between 1975 and 1990, because that was locally fashionable and promised them careeers, which indeed many got and made. They were all phonies. My parents were not.

[3] Let me also say that I do know of quite a few semi, quasi and fake intellectuals who claim to be much abhorred by Wikipedia. I merely observe that I am a real intellectual of 64; that I do not say Wikipedia is perfect; that I admit it is probably misleading on some very popular or very rare themes; but that overall it works for me. 


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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