who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Disease of American Democracy
2. Get the F#/k Out of Here Or You'll Be Shot
3. The Terrible Handling of the Economic Crisis Is a Cause of
the Ferguson Riots
4. Where’s the Justice at
slams Obama's domestic spying program
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday,
August 19. It is a crisis log.
1. The Disease of American Democracy
item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
Actually, this is - in
my opinion - a very optimistic piece, because it assumes that
American democracy exists; that it is worthwile; and that it can be
saved from the "monied interests" (I quote Reich) that now control it.
In contrast, here is a reference to an article by Sheldon Wolin
(<- Wikipedia), who taught politics at Princeton, that was published
in 2003 - and I had to do a search to find it, for it
disappeared from Common Dreams, that seems to have revised more than
its site's looks:
This a brief article,
and it is certainly worth reading.
I am not saying it proves anything (and real proofs of
non-trivial things are hard to find in politics) - I just wanted to
show that Reich's article is optimistic.
Now to Reich's article. It starts as follows:
The answer Reich gives
at the end is foreseeable: If you don't bother, then you've lost, but
he does not give an argument that says "if you do bother, you -
probably - have not lost", and indeed that is hard to give, for
reasons he himself outlines.
Americans are sick of
politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near
record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.
A large portion of the
public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters
cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
Put simply, most Americans
feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother?
First, there is a reference to a study by Gilens and Page, which has
been mentioned before in Nederlog, who surveyed 1,799 policy issues in
detail and found that (and I quote Gilens and Page):
of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero,
statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
What lawmakers did
respond to were wealthy individuals and "monied interests" - and the
study considered policy issues from 1981 till 2002, that is, it hardly
or not at all covered the many consequences of 9/11.
Second, Reich quotes Walter Lippman
(<- Wikipedia) who published a book (in 1922) in which he argued that
the broad public
didn’t know or care about public policy. Its consent was “manufactured”
by an elite that manipulated it. “It is no longer possible … to believe
in the original dogma of democracy,” Lippman concluded.
I do not agree that the
broad public doesn't "know
or care about public policy", but I agree the majority doesn't know
much about public policy, that is, except for propaganda.
And that is a major problem for democracy ("government of the
people, by the people, for the people", to quote Lincoln).
Third, Reich considers "interest-group pluralism" that, while it
concedes that ordinary individuals hardly count, insists their
interest-groups may count. There is something to be said for that,
Union membership also
radically fell, and so did the membership in other "countervailing
powers" (that is, those that oppose big money). Also, the political
parties changed character: they became national fund-raising machines,
so as to be able to buy the many advertisements that popularize them
(which itself is an anti-democratic notion: that you win your voters by
rather than by rational and informed arguments).
Starting in 1980,
something profoundly changed. It wasn’t just that big corporations and
wealthy individuals became more politically potent, as Gilens and Page
document. It was also that other interest groups began to wither.
organizations shrank because Americans had less time for them. As wages
stagnated, most people had to devote more time to work in order to
makes ends meet. That included the time of wives and mothers who began
streaming into the paid workforce to prop up family incomes.
The results get summed up by Reich as follows:
We entered a
vicious cycle in which political power became more concentrated in
monied interests that used the power to their advantage – getting tax
cuts, expanding tax loopholes, benefiting from corporate welfare and
free-trade agreements, slicing safety nets, enacting anti-union
legislation, and reducing public investments.
Yes - but even so Reich
ends by saying:
I do not see this
happening. First, "most of us" never were that interested in politics,
and certainly not in an informed and intelligent way; second, which "new countervailing power": those there were have been mostly destroyed; and
third the "monied interests" have shown themselves to make their money
by fraud, deception, corruption and theft - but they still have
the power, and still succeed in deceiving most, and that
is the basic problem.
The only way back toward
a democracy and economy that work for the majority is for most of us to
get politically active once again, becoming organized and mobilized.
We have to establish a
new countervailing power.
The monied interests are
doing what they do best – making money. The rest of us need to do what
we can do best – use our voices, our vigor, and our votes.
I admit I may be too
pessimistic or too cynical, and I agree with the line of argument that
may be summarized as "if you don't do anything, then you're certainly
fucked", but I would like to see a much better argument that outlines
that "if you do something specific, like X, then you probably will not
And I admit that is very hard to find these days (if you want it free
2. Get the F#/k Out of Here Or You'll Be Shot
item is an article by Abby Zimet on Common Dreams, that has a four line
title that I will not copy but that you find by clicking the next link:
This starts as
to implode, with the governor calling in the National Guard even as a
report finds that Mike Brown was shot
six times, including twice in the head. Meanwhile,
reporters trying to document
born of "racial storytelling
that has created all black men (as) dangerous" are likewise being
maced, arrested and threatened just for being there. Jaw-dropping video
of one such encounter,
wherein pointing a finger and shining a light can get you shot.
That video is in the
article, as is another one by John Oliver that I saw, that is quite
Terrible Handling of the Economic Crisis Is a Cause of the Ferguson
item is an article by Washington's Blog, that I picked because of the
There is this
quotation from Voth and Ponticelli to back up the title:
Does fiscal consolidation
lead to social unrest? From the end of the Weimar Republic in Germany
in the 1930s to anti-government demonstrations in Greece in 2010-11,
austerity has tended to go hand in hand with politically motivated
violence and social instability. In this paper, we assemble
cross-country evidence for the period 1919 to the present, and examine
the extent to which societies become unstable after budget cuts. The
results show a clear positive correlation between fiscal retrenchment
and instability. We test if the relationship simply reflects economic
downturns, and conclude that this is not the key factor. We also
analyse interactions with various economic and political variables.
While autocracies and democracies show a broadly similar responses to
budget cuts, countries with more constraints on the executive are less
likely to see unrest as a result of austerity measures.
But this does not
establish what the title says: it may be so, or it may not be so.
Indeed, if I
were asked about causes of the riots in Ferguson, the two most
prominent ones I would mention are (i) the shooting of the black
teenager by a white cop and (ii) the gigantic militarization of the
Also, given the second, I am in some doubt whether this is a "terrible
handling": it is, but it may be quite intentional - the
American people, especially the blacks, have to learn their place,
which is at the foot of the ladder, with their hats in their hands,
smiling politely, while asking for favors from the rich, such as not
being shot six times by a cop.
the Justice at Justice?
item is an article by Maureen Dowd on The New York Times:
This is in fact about
James Risen, who has run out of legal defenses to keep him out of jail,
which he risks because he does not want to reveal his
journalistic sources to the U.S. Department of Justice - as
indeed he shouldn't, but try telling that to Obama.
I generally avoid the
NYT, because I do not trust it and don't like its style, and indeed
this article starts quite ridiculously, in my view:
JIM RISEN is gruff.
The tall slab of a reporter looks like
someone who could have played an Irish Marine sergeant in an old World
War II movie.
Who wants to know how
Ms Dowd looks upon James Risen? What is its relevance or importance?
But OK: she
interviewed him, and here is one of the points of the story (halfway
down the text):
Eric Holder wants to force Risen to testify and reveal the identity of
his confidential source on a story he had in his 2006 book concerning a
bungled C.I.A. operation during the Clinton administration in which
agents might have inadvertently helped Iran develop its nuclear weapon
program. The tale made the C.I.A. look silly, which may have been more
of a sore point than a threat to national security.
The subpoena forcing
Risen’s testimony expired in 2009, and to the surprise of just about
everybody, the constitutional law professor’s administration renewed it
— kicking off its strange and awful aggression against reporters and
By the way: the constitutional law professor’s = (one should always pick the shortest
word, according to George Orwell) Obama's.
And here is the second point (near the end):
So why don’t they back off Risen? It’s hard
to fathom how the president who started with the press fluffing his
pillows has ended up trying to suffocate the press with those pillows.
How can he use the Espionage Act to throw
reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the
intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his
C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to
the senators he spied on about it?
hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some
kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama
wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s
the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
The pillows metaphor
also isn't what I would call good writing (why not rather: the
president who started with being hugely flattered by the press has
ended up trying to kill the free press?), but the rest is OK, and
indeed I think Risen is correct:
Obama really does not
want a free press, even though that is part of the
constitution. He wants a press that is free to write what the
government likes it to write, and that otherwise is silent - and he
seems to have mostly reached that goal.
Jon Stewart slams Obama's
domestic spying program
item today is not an article but a video:
I liked it and it takes
4 m 40 s. Here are two of the logos - and the second one is actually
from the last spying satellite that the NSA got in the air. That is how
they think about being controlled, and how they view themselves - and
yes, it is real:
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: