29, 2014
Crisis: Sen. Warren, Bonuses, Class, Tax Scam, Torture, Sanders, Cellphones
  "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

Elizabeth Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza, Sounds
     Like Netanyahu

2. UK bonuses rise 5% to above £40bn
3. I want my rulers chosen on merit, but care more about
     how they rule

4. The Biggest Tax Scam Ever: How Corporate America
     Parks Profits Overseas, Avoiding Billions in Taxes

5. Modeling CIA Torture, ISIS Waterboarded Those It
     Captured: Report

6. Bernie Sanders: I Want To Know If Ordinary People Are
     Ready to Stand and Fight

7. Your Cellphone Company Says Your Location Info Is
     Private. Think Again.

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 29. It is a crisis log.

I think you should not miss item 4 (and read the original article): This is quite good on what indeed must be by far the biggest tax scam ever. Also, I like item 6
though it isn't certain yet Sanders will run. (He is one of the very few credible candidates, I'd say.)

1. Elizabeth Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza, Sounds Like Netanyahu

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept (that changed its site design a bit):
This starts as follows:

The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering. But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.

One voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . .  The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”

But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.”
After that, there is a short review that shows she does have a “pro-Israel” vote (which I think also holds for most American politicians), and then Glenn Greenwald explains:

During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions. Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.

But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard.

There is more in the article. As I said, I think Warren's attitude to Israel is much like most U.S. politicians (which does not make it correct).

2.  UK bonuses rise 5% to above £40bn

The next item is an article by Julia Kollewe on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Bonuses paid out across the economy rose nearly 5% from last year to more than £40bn, which means they now make up the biggest proportion of workers' pay packages since before the economic downturn.

The official figures are further evidence of a two-track economy: falling wages are masking booming pay deals for white-collar construction employees and other professional jobs, one of Britain's biggest recruiters, Hays, said on Thursday.

Total bonus payments climbed 4.9% to £40.5bn in the year to April compared with a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said. Around £14.4bn was paid out by banks and insurers, up 2.9% over the year, where the average bonus was £13,300, up £700. Another £26.1bn of bonuses were paid in the rest of the economy, up 6.1%.

The main reason the article is here is that I am against bonuses: They are a typically capitalist means to reward the few, usually the best paid anyway,
and to deny solidarity: Surely, a pay rise of everyone takes more money than a bonus to the the few, and also would have wider consequences, and might even lower instead of enhance inequalities of payment.

So for me the bonus system is an expression of deregulated capitalism, and it will benefit few, while harming many, indeed just as the lower taxation on the rich. 

3. I want my rulers chosen on merit, but care more about how they rule 

The next item is an article by Simon Jenkins on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Surprise, surprise, Britain is ruled by an elite of like-minded people from the same middle-class backgrounds. According to the commission on social mobility and child poverty, this should be a “wake-up call”. Something must be done urgently “or nothing will change”. Merit is outgunned by class. Elite recruitment must be “background blind”.

I take it this is mostly ironical, but it seems to me to be false or quite misleading to say that "Britain is ruled by an elite of like-minded people from the same middle-class backgrounds":

Britain is ruled mostly by folks with parents who are rich enough to pay for the private education that the British call "public", and these belong to the 10% of the richest persons. And these are not "middle class" and indeed few are "upper middle class" - at least as I use these terms.

But then I know nearly everyone wants to be "a member of the middle class", from the poor to the rich, and this is likely the explanation.

As I use terms, the "middle class" does neither comprise the poor nor the rich. And they generally cannot afford to send their children to Eton or Westminster, and then to Cambridge or Oxford. This is also why the English elite still is an elite of the rich (the upper 10%, at most), as it has been for hundreds of years.

Oh yes: Sir Simon Jenkins - knighted because of journalism in 2004 - was educated at Mill Hill School and St John's College, Oxford. I suppose he thinks he is "middle class". I do not.

4. The Biggest Tax Scam Ever: How Corporate America Parks Profits Overseas, Avoiding Billions in Taxes

The next item is an article by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

As Burger King heads north for Canada’s lower corporate tax rate, we speak to Rolling Stone contributing editor Tim Dickinson about his new article, "The Biggest Tax Scam Ever." Dickinson reports on how top U.S. companies are avoiding hundreds of billions of dollars by parking their profits abroad — and still receiving more congressionally approved incentives. Dickinson writes: "Top offenders include giants from high-tech (Microsoft, $76 billion); Big Pharma (Pfizer, $69 billion); Big Oil (Exxon­Mobil, $47 billion); investment banks (Goldman Sachs, $22 billion); Big Tobacco (Philip Morris, $20 billion); discount retailers (Wal-Mart, $19 billion); fast-food chains (McDonald’s, $16 billion) – even heavy machinery (Caterpillar, $17 billion). General Electric has $110 billion stashed offshore, and enjoys an effective tax rate of 4 percent – 31 points lower than its statutory obligation to the IRS."

I'd say if you're looking for traitors (which is what Edward Snowden gets called), here they are: The CEOs of America's big corporation, who nearly all park their profits in Holland, Liechtenstein or the Cayman Islands, simply because this makes them, literally, trillions of dollars:

TIM DICKINSON: Well, so the inversion trend is just the tip of a very destructive iceberg that’s seen the hollowing out of our corporate tax base. And so, the inversions, you know, is just basically a legal scam that lets a company technically offshore itself for a lower tax rate. And it goes sort of hat in hand with companies shipping massive quantities of corporate profits overseas through sort of elaborate accounting schemes. And while it’s overseas, it sits there tax-free, accumulates tax-free kind of like a 401(k) does. And so, right now there’s about $2 trillion in corporate profits that are stockpiled overseas, on which the U.S. government is technically owed something like half a trillion dollars. So, at the same time that we’re cutting food stamps, that we’re cutting home heating aid to the elderly, you know, there’s literally a jackpot of half a trillion dollars that politicians on both sides of the aisle just won’t go after, because there’s just an imbalance of power there. The corporate power has grown much greater than state power in this case.

Also, this seems to be legal (!) - and indeed there are 1800 tax lobbyists working on Congress who have made it so, while both the Republicans and the Democrats do not seem to see anything much wrong with this. (Also, Apple is one of the worst companies doing this.)

There is a lot more in the interview, which you should read yourself.

5. Modeling CIA Torture, ISIS Waterboarded Those It Captured: Report 

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows (with a spelling mistake corrected by me):
The Washington Post reports on Thursday that at least four individuals taken captive by the Islamic State were tortured and that the group—also known as ISIS—appeared to be modeling the CIA's use of torture as it employed waterboarding as one of the painful techniques they used.

Worldwide condemnation followed revelations that in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration approved the CIA to torture suspected terrorists during interrogations conducted at secret 'Black Sites' – or clandestine holding facilities. 

Among those subjected to the brutal treatment by ISIS, according to sources quoted in the Post's reporting, was American journalist James Foley who was subsequently executed by the group.

I am not amazed: One of the major risks of allowing torture to be used on prisoners (also if you call it "enhanced interrogation") is that those you do battle with will use it on those they take as prisoners from your side.

To be sure: I do not know this is the reason in this case. But it may be, since especially in war, the barbarisms allowed by one party are easily followed by the same barbarisms of the party they oppose. 

6. Bernie Sanders: I Want To Know If Ordinary People Are Ready to Stand and Fight

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (with some typos repaired by me):

The Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders has a hunch about the American electorate, but he says the only way to be sure is to go out and meet them.

It's called the 'Fight For Economic Justice Tour,' but it's really what the self-identified Social Democrat described earlier this year as his attempt to travel the country in order to gauge the country's hunger for a grassroots 'political revolution'—couched in a possible presidential bid—to challenge the economic inequality and corporate malfeasance that have severly wounded the nation's democracy and are strangling its promise of shared prosperity.

That seems both interesting and sensible - and yes, I think myself it is high time for such a political revolution, but I am neither a member of the American electorate nor an average person.

Here is some more:

So what's the purpose of all this travel?

"This is about seeing whether ordinary people are prepared to stand up and fight and create a political revolution in the sense of what we have not seen in a very long time," Sanders declared on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday, Sanders stated his position that economic inequality and the everyday suffering of ordinary people is at the core of his thinking on the country's current situation. "The main issue that I have is that in America today the middle-class is disappearing while the gap between rich and poor is growing wider," he said. "We need more people in politics working for ordinary people and not just the top 1 percent."

Yes, indeed. And there is this:

Sanders said that even in predominantly Republican-controlled states like South Carolina and Mississippi, he believes people there want to hear politicians willing to say, "Enough is enough-- the Billionaire Class can't have it all. The middle class has got to get some of it."

Getting specific, he continued, by saying people are reading to hear his message: "That we need to change our trade policies so that American corporations invest in this country, not in China; That it is wrong that Burger King and other large corporations are fleeing America because they don't want to pay their fair share of taxes; That we need to fix our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of jobs; That, yes--the scientists are right: Climate change is real and that we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. I believe that theses are not radical ideas. In fact, I believe that on every one of these issues, that a vast majority of the people agree."

I think he may be right. Anyway, this is quite interesting, and the article is good, and contains an interesting video. 

7. Your Cellphone Company Says Your Location Info Is Private. Think Again.

The final item today is an article by Dana Liebelson on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

On Sunday, the Washington Post published an exposé revealing that private companies are peddling surveillance systems to foreign governments that track the location of cellphone users in the United States and abroad. The report raised a basic question: How can this be happening when cellphone companies generally promise not to disclose their customers' location information without their consent? The main problem is that location information is available on a global network that can be accessed by thousands of companies. And in the wake of the Post story, US cellphone companies are refusing to discuss how this squares with their privacy policies, or say what they are doing to keep their customers' whereabouts confidential.

Here's what's going on: Carriers collect location information from cellphone towers and share it with each other through a global network called SS7. This allows a US carrier to find a customer even if she hops a plane to India. But according to the Post, surveillance systems makers have gained access to SS7 and are using it to grab location data, allowing these firms to pinpoint people within a few city blocks.

There is considerably more in the article. My own guess is that the cellphone companies simply do it, even though they are not allowed to, quite as the NSA gathers data, indeed also with their help.
[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)

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)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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