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Nederlog


  August
27, 2014
Crisis: Empire, Terrorism, Gaza, Establishment, Conformism, Oliver, Intelligence
  "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 Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria
2. On terrorism, David Cameron is reading from the Blair
     script

3. Gaza ceasefire: Israel and Palestinians agree to halt
     weeks of fighting

4. The establishment uncovered: how power works in
     Britain

5. Facebook and Twitter users 'more likely' to censor their
     views offline

6. John Oliver’s Hysterical Explanation of Why Women
     Getting Paid Less Than Men Is Outrageous

7. Are We On the Downslope of “Peak Intelligence”?

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, August 27. It is a crisis log.

I first should say I today added a link to yesterday's Nederlog, which I had forgotten. Today there are seven items, of which you certainly should read
item 4 although item 5 and item 6 also are quite interesting. The last item
is a bit of a poser in a crisis log, but I included it because I am interested in
intelligence and know a fair amount about it.
 
1. The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria

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

Actually, this starts with four quotes, from 2011, 2012 and 2013, that quite well show the changing of support for "Syria" (in which there are several forces fighting) by the U.S. government, and then opens with this paragraph:

It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” –  Tony BlairAnne-Marie SlaughterNicholas Kristof and Samantha Power - issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

Here is Glenn Greenwald's initial conclusion, also from the beginning:

Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.

It’s as though the U.S. knew for certain all along that it wanted to fight in the war in Syria, and just needed a little time to figure out on which side it would fight.

And this is his second conclusion:

Nobody disputes the brutality and extremism of ISIS, but that is a completely different question from whether the U.S. should take military action against it. To begin with, the U.S. not only ignores, but actively supports, all sorts of brutal and extreme parties in the region.

More important, what are air strikes going to accomplish? All one has to do is look at the horrific chaos and misery in Libya - the Successful Humanitarian Intervention™ - to know that bombing Bad People out of existence accomplishes little in the way of strategic or humanitarian value.

There is considerably more there, and it (almost) ends like so:

It seems pretty clear at this point that U.S. military action in the Middle East is the end in itself, and the particular form it takes – even including the side for which the U.S. fights – is an ancillary consideration.

Yes, indeed. And see the Wikipedia's "military-industrial complex" for some relevant background e.g. about the relevant question "Cui bono"?

2. On terrorism, David Cameron is reading from the Blair script 

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

This is from near the beginning of the article:
(..) at the core of our politicians’ reaction to events in Syria and Iraq and the recruitment of British-born fighters, there are the remains of a familiar script: the one written by Tony Blair 13 years ago, when the events of 11 September 2001 began the disastrous phase of geopolitical history in which the then prime minister believed his moment had arrived.

Strange, perhaps, that when the awful consequences are now so obvious, the basics of his approach should linger on.

There is a lot more on specific British laws and policians, which in my eyes tends to show most British policians, whether Conservative, Liberal or Labour are in fact doing and thinking mostly the same, and are the enemies of any rational, fact-based, democratic policy, that indeed have been set aside by Tony Blair.

But I leave that to your interest, and only quote the ending:
(...) equally, if western societies are to present any coherent alternative to the horrific ideology currently defining headlines about the Middle East, they will have to display a lot more confidence in their own essential principles. “Civil rights, democracy, pluralism and the rule of law are the source of progress and a key component of lasting security,” Cameron said in 2007, which mightn’t be a bad start. We might also think again about a simple question, first heard back when Blair was in his pomp and we were being pushed down such a disastrous road: how is it that people can harp on about threats to the British way of life, while frantically chipping away at its very foundations?
I will not answer the last question here, but I agree with the notion that no one can do both: Preserve "civil rights, democracy, pluralism and the rule of law" while insisting on the "rights" to spy on everyone, deny habeas corpus, deny civil rights, undo democracy, and be a pluralist only in propaganda.

Yet that is what the British governments since Blair have been trying to do, the first as propaganda, and the second as policy.

3. Gaza ceasefire: Israel and Palestinians agree to halt weeks of fighting 

The next item is an article by Harriet Sherwood and Hazem Balousha on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and is from Gaza):

The war in Gaza ended on Tuesday after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic loss of life and destruction, but on terms which are likely to leave many on both sides of the conflict wondering what was achieved.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad – the main militant groups in Gaza – the Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed on an open-ended ceasefire beginning at 7pm on Tuesday evening, bringing relief to civilians on both sides of the border. The Israeli army said in a statement on Wednesday that there had been no reports of violence since the ceasefire began.

There is rather a lot more in the article, but the above is the basic information - o yes, and both sides claim "victory".

4. The establishment uncovered: how power works in Britain

The next item is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:

Actually, this is an extract from Owen Jones's (<-Wikipedia) new book called "The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It".

It starts as follows:

Definitions of "the establishment" share one thing in common: they are always pejorative. Rightwingers tend to see it as the national purveyor of a rampant, morally corrupting social liberalism; for the left, it is more likely to mean a network of public-school and Oxbridge boys dominating the key institutions of British political life.

Here is what I understand the establishment to mean. Today's establishment is made up – as it has always been – of powerful groups that need to protect their position in a democracy in which almost the entire adult population has the right to vote. The establishment represents an attempt on behalf of these groups to "manage" democracy, to make sure that it does not threaten their own interests.

Yes, that seems correct to me, although I agree more with the left (which has been mostly betrayed and falsified by personal careerists the last thirtyfive years or more) than with the right, as indeed does Owen Jones.

Here is a precisification of what Owen Jones means with his "establishment":

The interests of those who dominate British society are disparate; indeed, they often conflict with one another. The establishment includes politicians who make laws; media barons who set the terms of debate; businesses and financiers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law that is rigged in favour of the powerful. The establishment is where these interests and worlds intersect, either consciously or unconsciously. It is unified by a common mentality, which holds that those at the top deserve their power and their ever-growing fortunes, and which might be summed up by the advertising slogan "Because I'm worth it". This is the mentality that has driven politicians to pilfer expenses, businesses to avoid tax, and City bankers to demand ever greater bonuses while plunging the world into economic disaster. All of these things are facilitated – even encouraged – by laws that are geared to cracking down on the smallest of misdemeanours committed by those at the bottom of the pecking order – for example, benefit fraud. "One rule for us, one rule for everybody else" might be another way to sum up establishment thinking.

In fact, the opening of the article shows Scrabble letters to this effect: It is the intersection of the tops and their followers from those who have to gain most in this society:

Business
Politics
State
Law
Banking
Police
Elite(s)
Civil Service (aka Bureaucracy)
Church
M
edia
Wealth
Monarchy
Education

with the red bold letters spelling "establishment" (and I added "(s)" because there are quite a few different elites).

The folks who together form the establishment have currently the following ideology:

Often described as "neoliberalism", this ideology is based around a belief in so-called free markets: in transferring public assets to profit-driven businesses as far as possible; in a degree of opposition – if not hostility – to a formal role for the state in the economy; support for reducing the tax burden on private interests; and the driving back of any form of collective organisation that might challenge the status quo. This ideology is often rationalised as "freedom" – particularly "economic freedom" – and wraps itself in the language of individualism. These are beliefs that the establishment treats as common sense, as being a fact of life, just like the weather.

Not to subscribe to these beliefs is to be outside today's establishment, to be dismissed by it as an eccentric at best, or even as an extremist fringe element. Members of the establishment genuinely believe in this ideology – but it is a set of beliefs and policies that, rather conveniently, guarantees them ever growing personal riches and power.

Yes - though I question the honesty of the beliefs of the establishment, although I agree that, as with everyone's ideology, these beliefs are mostly dictated by self-interest. (I may be mistaken, but am thinking of previous members of the elites who were far more rational, such as Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. But it may be these were simply exceptionally intelligent.)

Also, it should be pointed out that it is all thoroughly false from the start: There are no "free markets" as envisaged by neo-liberals, for these are in fact maintained and regulated by states (and cease to be markets when totally free: then it simply becomes plunder by the rich and powerful).

Indeed, Owen Jones - who describes himself as "a fourth generation socialist" - sees this:

Yet there is a logical flaw at the heart of establishment thinking. It may abhor the state – but it is completely dependent on the state to flourish. Bailed-out banks; state-funded infrastructure; the state's protection of property; research and development; a workforce educated at great public expense; the topping up of wages too low to live on; numerous subsidies – all are examples of what could be described as a "socialism for the rich" that marks today's establishment.

Yes - and "socialism for the rich" is a fair term to describe the effects of "neo-liberalism": the rich are bailed out, their taxes are much lowered, and they are protected by the police and military, all from the general taxes, and all at the cost of the poor and the middle classes.

Anyway - there is a lot more in the article, and Owen Jones, who is 30, makes a lot of sense (though I am not a socialist myself: I am a classical liberal, where "classical" refers back to the 19th Century, and especially to Mill and De Tocqueville). And I merely selected some of the more general parts of the article.

5. Facebook and Twitter users 'more likely' to censor their views offline

The next item is an article by Stuart Dredge on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Americans have been self-censoring their discussions about state surveillance in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, researchers have found.

Approximately 86% of adults were “very” or “somewhat” willing to discuss the findings in person with family, friends or work colleagues or at public meetings, yet only 43% said they would discuss the issues on Facebook.

The Pew Research Centre surveyed 1,801 US adults in August and September 2013, and also found that only 41% of people would be willing to discuss surveillance on Twitter which is a more visible, public medium than Facebook.

I am not at all amazed - and indeed facts like these, but much earlier, made me a liberal rather than a socialist:

I found already in my late teens, as the oldest son in a genuine marxist family, that the large majority of almost any group does not wish to state their own opinions if these do not conform to the majority of their groups. And indeed also not in the most free of the free societies: self-interest prevails always with the majority, even if the risks are very minor.

Here is professor Keith Hampton on the topic:
“It has been well documented since before the internet that a “spiral of silence” descends when people think their opinions are in the minority when compared to those around them – they don’t want to speak out if they think they hold unpopular views,” said Prof Keith Hampton, one of the report’s co-authors.
Quite so. There is rather a lot more in the article, but I will quote just one more bit, and as it happens the last paragraph:
When asked whether they favoured or opposed “a government program to collect nearly all communications in the US as part of anti-terrorism efforts”, 13% said they were strongly in favour, 24% somewhat in favour, 22% somewhat opposed and 30% strongly opposed.
Well, that is some relief - though at most half is willing to admit to being against surveillance. (This explains much about Nazism and Fascism, by the way: Groupthinking, and the lack of intelligence of most, for which see item 7.)

6. John Oliver’s Hysterical Explanation of Why Women Getting Paid Less Than Men Is Outrageous

The next item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

In fact, this is just an introduction to an excellent video by John Oliver, which you can see for yourself (7 m 17 s) by clicking the last dotted link.

7. Are We On the Downslope of “Peak Intelligence”?

The last item is an article by Washington's Blog on a theme I have rather often thought about (as a philosopher and psychologist of considerable intelligence):

This starts as follows, with the colors and links in the original:

Is Modern Life Making Us Dumber?

Scientists say that we have much smaller brains than our ancestors had 20,000 years ago … and we might have gotten stupider since agriculture became widespread.

Huffington Post reports that we’ve probably gotten dumber than even our Victorian ancestors:

A provocative new study suggests human intelligence is on the decline. In fact, it indicates that Westerners have lost 14 I.Q. points on average since the Victorian Era.

******

As for Dr. te Nijenhuis and colleagues, they analyzed the results of 14 intelligence studies conducted between 1884 to 2004, including one by Sir Francis Galton, an English anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin. Each study gauged participants’ so-called visual reaction times — how long it took them to press a button in response to seeing a stimulus. Reaction time reflects a person’s mental processing speed, and so is considered an indication of general intelligence.

***

In the late 19th Century, visual reaction times averaged around 194 milliseconds, the analysis showed. In 2004 that time had grown to 275 milliseconds. Even though the machine gauging reaction time in the late 19th Century was less sophisticated than that used in recent years, Dr. te Nijenhuis told The Huffington Post that the old data is directly comparable to modern data.

Other research has suggested an apparent rise in I.Q. scores since the 1940s, a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect. But Dr. te Nijenhuis suggested the Flynn Effect reflects the influence of environmental factors — such as better education, hygiene and nutrition — and may mask the true decline in genetically inherited intelligence in the Western world.

Yes. There is more in the article, but I want to make a few general points.

Being a psychologist, I was told about the Flynn effect (<- Wikipedia) in the early nineties, and my immediate response was that I could not believe it, since everything I had seen strongly suggested the opposite: people were growing dumber rather than more intelligent.

I still think so, and one point to keep in mind is that IQs are not a very good instrument to study real intelligence, although they are the best we have; another is that they tend to be adjusted so as to keep the average at IQ 100.

Next, I agree with Te Nijenhuis that "better education, hygiene and nutrition" are important factors, and I also would like to suggest another source for seeing the decline in real intelligence: The questions posed, e.g. in England, at the 11+ tests, and the O and A level examinations. (See the excellent little book "The Cult of The Expert" by Brian J. Ford. It is from 1982, but it still is quite relevant, and includes some comparisons of tests of the Victorians, the Thirties and the 1970ies.)

If you compare these you will find, just as you will find in Holland, that the levels of these questions declined dramatically over the last 150 years or so, which means that ever more students have succeeded in their exams, because these exams were simplified to make ever more students succeed.

In conclusion: Yes, I think both general and peak intelligence have declined and are declining, and I also think part (not: all) of the reason is that there are far more children who survive childhood, largely because of improved medicine. Also, part (again: not all) of the reason that there seem to be fewer peak intelligences is that the universities have been made much easier and less demanding to pass.

---------------------------------
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.)


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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