30, 2014
Crisis: UK terror, Capitalism, Taxation, Rendition, Gaza
  "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

UK terror threat raised from substantial to severe
2. It's socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest of us
     in Britain

3. Should Companies Have to Pay Taxes?
4. US rendition survivors urge Obama to declassify torture

5. Gaza

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, August 30. It is a crisis log.

There were five items that I found, and you may be especially interested in item 2 and item 5.

1. UK terror threat raised from substantial to severe

The first item is an article by Alan Travis on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The level of threat from international terrorism to Britain has been raised from substantial to severe, Theresa May, the home secretary, has announced.

This means that an attack is "highly likely", though May said there is no evidence to suggest an attack is imminent.

She said the decision to raise the official threat level is "related to developments in Syria and Iraq, where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the west".

The home secretary said some of the plots were likely to involve foreign fighters who had travelled to the Middle East from Britain and Europe to take part in the conflicts there.

I say.

Let me first add that there is a graphical image in the article that shows that in the last eight years, that is, since 2006, the "threat level" has never been less than "substantial"; has been "severe" five times; and "critical" two times.

Second: What was it all about? Not much, which means, also in view of the fact that everyone is secretly spied upon by the GCHQ (or the NSA, after which materials get exchanged), again something that is supposedly "justified" by "terrrorism" (though I deny it), that I take it that the real aim is simply to create a climate of fear, as outlined by Goering's Principle.

So my question is: What new level of illegal rot is Cameron's government preparing? For that is the real function of "terrorism": To expand the role of the government, indeed to a new level of authoritarianism that is not compatible with real democracy or a real open and free society (but is very easy for governments).

In case you wonder: No, I do not trust the English government. I see no reason whatsoever to trust them (beyond the level of doing the things that are required to keep the economy running, more or less, and within the fairly crazy Tory ideology, that subsidizes the rich and steals from the poor [2]); I know they are gross liars; I know they do all manner of things that are illegal by my lights, and that are also deeply immoral and dishonest.

So I distrust them, and the question I posed is a sane one, although indeed I do not know it will be answered.

2. It's socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest of us in Britain 

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

This starts as follows (and is the beginning of a fairly long good article):

Socialism lives in Britain, but only for the rich: the rules of capitalism are for the rest of us. The ideology of the modern establishment, of course, abhors the state. The state is framed as an obstacle to innovation, a destroyer of initiative, a block that needs to be chipped away to allow free enterprise to flourish. "I think that smaller-scale governments, more freedom for business to exist and to operate – that is the right kind of direction for me," says Simon Walker, the head of the Institute of Directors. For him, the state should be stripped to a "residual government functioning of maintaining law and order, enforcing contracts".

Yes, except that the "ideology of the modern establishment" does not call it "socialism" and indeed I wouldn't call it "socialism" either: I call it "theft by the rich and powerful from the non-rich and non-powerful", for that is simply what it is - and "theft" is a good, brief, and clear term for it.

I do not see my factual terminology adopted soon, but the reason for that is that anything a modern government says, especially in the U.S. and Great Britain, is these days propaganda and ideology, tends to be served by what are lyingly called "public relations professionals", and is very far removed from the supposed facts and "facts" it is about: It all is designed to create a mood and expectations in an electorate, all without any real relations to any facts.

Indeed, that is also true of most of the - more or less - factual things the government's bureaucrats publicly say that do have a basis in fact: These also are played out as if it were ideology rendered by propaganda. (This is mostly of the last 25-35 years. Governments weren't more honest before, but they were considerably less devious and posturing and intentionally misleading and bullshitting.)

Next, the state. It also is mostly lied about and depicted as what it is not, indeed not at all: It is not small and indeed cannot be small, as long as it is supposed to rake in the taxes that are used to bail out, fund, and much increase the managerial salaries of the banks.

Indeed, this is how the banks were saved:

And yet, when the financial system went into meltdown in 2008, it was not expected to stand on its own two feet, or to pull itself up by its bootstraps. Instead, it was saved by the state, becoming Britain's most lavished benefit claimant. More than £1tn of public money was poured into the banks following the financial collapse. The emergency package came with few government-imposed conditions and with little calling to account.

Here is a contrast:

Banks may have been enjoyed state aid on an unprecedented scale, but their bad behaviour just got worse – and yet they suffered no retribution.

Contrast this with the fate of the unemployed, including those thrown out of work as a result of the actions of bailed-out bankers. In the austerity programme that followed the financial crisis, state support for those at the bottom of society has been eroded. The support that remains is given with stringent conditions attached.

Yes, indeed. There is a whole lot more in the article, all of which is good, and that I recommend you to read. I only quote the last paragraph, and indeed answer the last question(s):

When it comes to rhetoric, the modern establishment passionately rejects statism. The advocates of state interventionism are dismissed as dinosaurs who should hop in a time machine and return to the discredited 1970s. And yet state interventionism is rampant in modern Britain: but it exists to benefit the rich. No other phenomenon sums up more starkly how unjust modern Britain is. Social security for the poor is shredded, stripped away, made ever more conditional. But welfare for large corporations and wealthy individuals is doled out like never before. The question is not just whether such an establishment is unjust: the question is whether it is sustainable.

I would have written "propaganda" instead of "rhetoric", for that is considerably more correct - it is really prose meant to deceive, mislead, and divert from the real issues, and it is not just exaggerated prose. It is far more crafty, far more considered, and also far more intentional and meant to mislead than is mere rhetoric.

Also, it is all ideology, and it is only ideology, that has nothing to do with the real facts, indeed for the reason Owen Jones gives: The rich are getting enormously richer, and do so by means of the state.

As to the question or questions Jones poses at the end: Clearly it is unjust, though indeed you need to pull off the propaganda to see it as it is. It is stealing from the poor to subsidize the rich (the complete inverse of Robin Hood), and it works quite well, in considerable part because there are very few papers like The Guardian in Great Britain.

And no, I do not think it is sustainable, which I do not think because it is unjust (there has been a lot of injustice, and much was successful for a long time), but because it is greed-driven propaganda with no relation to the facts. And while I think many are driven by greed and many are driven by propaganda, rarely have the levels been so high, and have been so far removed from what is really the case.

But I do not have a time scale, and my own expectation is that it is most likely to explode first in the U.S., where a very similar schema of greed and propaganda has been maintained since 9/11/01, also combined with no attempt whatsoever to tame or regulate the banks.

Anyway, as I said: This is another good article by Owen Jones, that deserves full reading.

3. Should Companies Have to Pay Taxes? 

The next item is an article by David Sirota on Truthdig:

The question the title asks is not wholly unjustified, nor wholly serious in David Sirota's mouth. I'll explain. This is mostly though not only about Microsoft:

According to the SEC documents, the company [Microsoft - MM] is sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore. That amount of money represents a significant spike from prior years.

To put this in perspective, the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.

The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers—although often legal—threaten to significantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.

Before answering some possible questions, first a clarification about Microsoft: It has not - yet? - been made into a Liechtensteinian or Dutch company:

Microsoft has not formally declared itself a subsidiary of a foreign company, so the firm has not technically engaged in the so-called “inversion” scheme that President Obama and Democrats have lately been criticizing. However, according to a 2012 U.S. Senate investigation, the company has in recent years used its offshore subsidiaries to substantially reduce its tax bills.

And if you do not call $29.6 billion "substantial", you must be dreaming. Next, to turn to two possible questions about the first quote:

No, it is not fair. And yes, it could be easily stopped by changing the laws (though it may be hard or impossible to get this done through Congress).

Also, it is not just Microsoft:

Microsoft, of course, is not alone. According to a report by Citizens for Tax Justice, “American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of ‘permanently reinvested’ profits offshore.” The report also found that “28 corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.”

So, given these facts, the question in the title is raised, and answered:

With the U.S. tax code now permitting companies to use brazen tax avoidance schemes in true tax havens, the real question is more fundamental than what the proper corporate tax rate should be. Instead, the question is now whether corporations should have to pay any taxes on their profits at all?

The answer should be obvious. Companies enjoy huge benefits from operating in the United States—benefits like (among other things) intellectual property protection, government provided security (police, firefighting, etc.) and publicly financed infrastructure. Those services and assets cost money.

Yes, of course. And indeed paying for these services and assets never was a major problem for the big corporations - but it is also true that in the present political atmosphere one should not be too amazed if the Supreme Court were to vote (5 against 4) that such human beings as corporations are, according to them,
they should have the right to be anywhere and should not be taxed at all (while clearly deserving all the tax support they require).

It would be totally crazy, but it may well happen.

4. US rendition survivors urge Obama to declassify torture report

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Abou Elkassim Britel can’t sleep, or he sleeps too much; it varies. He backs out of commitments. The Islamic website he wants to publish from his Italian home remains unfinished.

“I would add,” he said through translation, “that I cannot think of the future.”

The doctors tell Britel that he has post-traumatic stress disorder, after a decade-long ordeal of imprisonment without charge or transfer and abuse. It began in 2002, when the United States packed him onto a contractor’s Gulfstream V in Pakistan and flew him to Morocco.

Britel survived what the US calls rendition, an extrajudicial process of transferring a detainee for “interrogation” in a foreign country. Allies of the US beat Britel with a cricket bat, shoved a bottle into his anus, denied him access to lawyers and Italian diplomats and unceremoniously released him in 2011, as if nothing ever happened.

Clearly, the "interrogation" was torture, and one can be pretty sure that Abou Elkassim Britel will have post-traumatic stress disorder for the rest of his life. [3]

In any case, ten of the victims of renditioning now demand that the Senate's report on torture (sorry: "enhanced interrogation") by the CIA gets released, and gets released in full:

“It’s disappointing that the government is seeking further delay, but, given Senator Feinstein’s assurances, we’re hopeful that all of the documents will be released with very limited redactions in September.”

Neither Feinstein’s committee nor the Obama administration ever intended to release the report in full. In April, the Senate panel voted to release only its findings, executive summary and recommendations. It has negotiated censoring the public report within those self-imposed limitations, and reportedly agreed to remove names and specific identifiers for both torture perpetrators and victims.

The 10 rendition survivors object.

“We, some of the torture program’s targets, have real stories, and families, and lives. Americans deserve to know who we are,” they wrote to Obama on Thursday.

I agree with them, but I consider it quite unlikely, and very unfortunate, that the full report will ever be known, at least within 75 years. (But they did well to ask.)

5. Gaza 

The last crisis item is an article by Jonathan Wallace on his site:
This is from the beginning:

A Dead Child

I want to begin with my most important point. The photograph in the New York Times of the child lying dead on the beach in Gaza was unbearable. There are hundreds just like him in the present conflict, though not all left so photogenic by bullet or explosion. Do a Google Image search on “dead child Gaza” and you will see.

I am writing these words in my beautiful home in Amagansett, N.Y. I can see the Atlantic from one window and Napeague Harbor from the opposite one. At the closing at which I bought my home in 1997, imagine if the attorney had shown me something like the Times photograph and said “You will have much pleasure in your beautiful new house, but you must know something. In order to own and enjoy this house you are going to have to kill this child, and a few thousand like him, and possibly a few hundred thousand, and maybe, depending on how long you want to stay in your home, a few million”.

The person I want to be, who I hope I am, would have said: “I can’t go through with the closing if I have to be a child killer.” And I hope I would have said that without asking, “Under what circumstances? What will be my justifications and excuses?” Because, just as Thoreau eschewed any enterprise requiring new clothes, I want to stay out of the child-killing business, period.

I like this for two reasons (at least):

First, it clearly is not a fully rational argument - but then almost no important ethical argument is, or indeed can be, fully rational. In fact, while I have not seen the picture, my own argument is similar: I do not think the Israeli goverment has the right to kill civilians and children they anyway have mostly locked up. (In contrast, most Israelis - not: all - seem to think that the Israeli government is justified to do whatever it deems necessary to protect Israel and Israelis.)

Second, it is written by an American Jew. In fact, I do not know whether he is religious, but he identifies himself as one, and no doubt has a Jewish background. [4] In any case, and though he is not by far the only American Jew who opposes Israel in the present matter of killing Gazans, it is somewhat courageous, because he is likely to get into some trouble.

This also holds for the following, with which I also agree (but not "as a Jew" nor as someone "with a Jewish background" [5]):

I believe that if I had been sitting at a table in 1947, participating in a debate about whether to form Israel, I would have voted against, for these exact reasons: that, before you get into the minutiae of who did what to whom, and how horrible the adversary is, etc., too much bloodshed will result, and we will be made monstrous by it even if on (relatively) the moral high ground.

There is considerably more on this at the end of the article, but the brief of it is that Jonathan Wallace is not happy with Israel's existence.

Again, that is courageous, and indeed I agree, though I also agree this is a lot easier for me than for him. Here is as I see it:

The problem with Israel and the reason it exists is that the Torah made God promise the Jews that Israel was theirs, and many Jews (of religious background) believed it, and especially in 1947, briefly after the murder of 6 million Jews because they were supposed to be "of inferior race".

So Israel exists mostly because of a combination of Torah and Shoah. In my own - completely irreligious eyes - it would have been much better if the Jews in
1947 had decided that the U.S. is their favorite place.

But they did not, and instead went to live in the desert next to Mohammedan countries - which constituted and constitutes a great risk for them, and for the rest of the world.

It is too late to change that, but it will probably cause the violent deaths of many more persons, and indeed may cause another major war.
[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] I think there really needs to be drawn a substantial difference between "conservative" and "Tory": Conservatives want to preserve a society; modern Tories want to preserve and increase the level of exploitation of the poor, which they also tend to call "freedom". If you want to see a real conservative, you'll have to watch Sir James Goldsmith: He was a credible, sane and smart conservative - but he was one of the last.

[3] Why can one be "pretty sure"? I am because my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days as a political prisoner in German concentration camps, in which he also was tortured, and he had post-traumatic stress disorder for life, as
indeed did anyone else I know who survived concentration camps. Such systematic gross injustice is too much to bear for almost anyone.

[4] I tend to call people with the religion "Jews", and people without the religion (of which I have known quite a lot) "of Jewish background", because I think that is fair and because I do not agree with either Goebbels or religious Jews that they are a race. But the distinction is not very important here.

[5] Actually, while I never was a Jew (in my sense of the term), I am not certain whether I have no Jewish background. One reason is that my father's mother may have been a Jew in Goebbel's sense (though she always was very Christian), which I do not know because my father was estranged from his family since WW II. And my mother's family also may have been partially Jewish in that sense, except that they were anarchists and atheists since the 1850ies, and may well have kept it secret to avoid discrimination (of which there was a lot in Holland). So I really don't know, and I don't much care either, because I am totally non-religious.

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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