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."
1. The Fun
of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria
2. On terrorism, David Cameron is
reading from the Blair
3. Gaza ceasefire: Israel and
Palestinians agree to halt
weeks of fighting
4. The establishment
uncovered: how power works in
5. Facebook and Twitter users
'more likely' to censor their
6. John Oliver’s Hysterical
Explanation of Why
Getting Paid Less Than Men Is
7. Are We On the Downslope
This is a Nederlog of
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
item 4 although item 5
and item 6 also are quite interesting. The last
is a bit of a poser in a crisis log, but I included it because I am
intelligence and know a fair amount about it.
1. The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Strange, perhaps, that when the awful consequences are now so obvious,
the basics of his approach should linger on.
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
item is an article by Harriet Sherwood and Hazem Balousha on The
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".
establishment uncovered: how power works in Britain
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
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
Civil Service (aka Bureaucracy)
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
Maynard Keynes. But it may be these were simply exceptionally
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
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.
and Twitter users 'more likely' to censor their views offline
item is an article by Stuart Dredge on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I am not at all amazed -
and indeed facts like these, but much earlier, made me a liberal rather
than a socialist:
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 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
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
Oliver’s Hysterical Explanation of Why Women Getting Paid Less Than Men
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.
Are We On
the Downslope of “Peak Intelligence”?
item is an article by Washington's Blog on a theme I have rather often
thought about (as a philosopher and psychologist of considerable
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
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
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
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
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.
 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: