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Nederlog


  September
2, 2014
Crisis: Labor, Money (?), Merkel, Israel, College, Overworked U.S.
  "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
















Sections
Introduction

1.
The New York Times Speaks in Defense of Labor
2. Council on Foreign Relations: It’s Time to Rain Money on
     Main Street

3. Warning Merkel on Russian ‘Invasion’ Intel
4. Is Israel Bad for the Jews? 
5. Back to College, the Only Gateway to the Middle Class
6. Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your
     Blood Boil

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 2. It is a crisis log.

This contains 6 items and 6 dotted links, and some are quite interesting, notably item 2 and item 4 (and item 6 if you are an American).

This is uploaded earlier than usual: The weather is fine, and I may cycle (which still is a treat for me).

1. The New York Times Speaks in Defense of Labor

The first item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

On the eve of Labor Day, the editors of The New York Times called for a federal “full-employment agenda that regards labor, not corporations, as the center of the economy.”

Wages, salaries, and the number and quality of jobs remain in a state of neglect five years into a recovery that has taken spectacular care of corporations. As a share of the economy, for example, after-tax profits for corporations in 2013 were as large as they ever have been, while the share of compensation for labor dropped to its lowest point since 1948.

“Worse,” the editors continue, “the recent upturn in growth, even if sustained, will not necessarily lead to markedly improved living standards for most workers. That’s because the economy’s lopsidedness is not mainly the result of market forces, but of the lack of policies to ensure broader prosperity. The imbalance will not change without labor and economic reforms.”

The paper points to new research from the Economic Policy Institute that reveals hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, fell for nearly everyone between the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2014. The exceptions include a small gain for the bottom 10 percent of earners—a difference attributed to increases in the minimum wage in 13 states.

Happily, there is Wikipedia for I - an European - believed Labor Day is (or perhaps was [2]) on May 1. But no, in the U.S. and Canada it is on the first Monday of September, which was yesterday. (It was also placed there for political reasons: See the link in this paragraph.)

Having solved that problem. I agree with the NYT (and thank you, Obama!) but I do not expect much from it. But the ideas are fine. It's just that most members of Congress are millionaires, while there are 1800 tax lobbyists alone, in Washington. (And see item 6, especially if you are American.)

2.  Council on Foreign Relations: It’s Time to Rain Money on Main Street

The next item is an article by Ellen Brown on Truthdig (originally on Web of Debt):

This starts as follows (and I could not resist the Churchill quote):

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.              —Winston Churchill

When an article appears in Foreign Affairs, the mouthpiece of the policy-setting Council on Foreign Relations, recommending that the Federal Reserve do a money drop directly on the 99%, you know the central bank must be down to its last bullet.

The September/October issue of Foreign Affairs features an article by Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan titled “Print Less But Transfer More: Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly To The People.” It’s the sort of thing normally heard only from money reformers and Social Credit enthusiasts far from the mainstream. What’s going on?

The Fed, it seems, has finally run out of other ammo. It has to taper its quantitative easing program, which is eating up the Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities needed as collateral for the repo market that is the engine of the bankers’ shell game. The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) has also done serious collateral damage. The banks that get the money just put it in interest-bearing Federal Reserve accounts or buy foreign debt or speculate with it; and the profits go back to the 1%, who park it offshore to avoid taxes. Worse, any increase in the money supply from increased borrowing increases the overall debt burden and compounding finance costs, which are already a major constraint on economic growth.

Meanwhile, the economy continues to teeter on the edge of deflation. The Fed needs to pump up the money supply and stimulate demand in some other way. All else having failed, it is reduced to trying what money reformers have been advocating for decades — get money into the pockets of the people who actually spend it on goods and services.

That is the basic argument. There are three pages, so this is just the beginning. It seems to me the argument is sound (indeed, it sounds Keynesian to me: Keynes more or less seriously argued for burying money in coal mines and letting people dig it up, again to get out of the slump), but I do not know it is going to be heeded.

I will leave these to you, if interested, but I quote something from the beginning of page 3, because it signals another problem with how finances are really managed in the U.S.:

There is another reason for handing the job to the Fed. Congress has been eviscerated by a political system that keeps legislators in open battle, deadlocked in inaction. The Fed, however, is “independent.” At least, it is independent of government. It marches to the drum of Wall Street, but it does not need to ask permission from voters or legislators before it acts. It is basically a dictatorship. The Fed did not ask permission before it advanced $85 billion to buy an 80% equity stake in an insurance company (AIG), or issued over $24 trillion in very-low-interest credit to bail out the banks, or issued trillions of dollars in those glorified “open market operations” called quantitative easing. As noted in an opinion piece in the Atlantic titled “How Dare the Fed Buy AIG”:

It’s probable that they don’t actually have the legal right to do anything like this. Their authority is this: who’s going to stop them? No one wants to take on responsibility for this mess themselves.

There is a third reason for handing the job to the Fed. It is actually in the interest of the banks – the Fed’s real constituency – to issue a national dividend to the laboring masses. Interest and fees cannot be squeezed from people who are bankrupt.
Indeed.

3. Warning Merkel on Russian ‘Invasion’ Intel  

The next item is an article by VIPS - Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity - with seven signatories, of whom William Binney and Ray McGovern are best known to me:

This is an open letter. It has the following introduction:

Alarmed at the anti-Russian hysteria sweeping Official Washington – and the specter of a new Cold War – U.S. intelligence veterans took the unusual step of sending this Aug. 30 memo to German Chancellor Merkel challenging the reliability of Ukrainian and U.S. media claims about a Russian “invasion.”

And it starts thus:

MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Ukraine and NATO

We the undersigned are long-time veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on Sept. 4-5.

You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq. In our view, you should be appropriately suspicious of charges made by the U.S. State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There is considerably more, and I tend to trust VIPS a lot more than the NSA, the FBI or the CIA. Whether this will make a difference only time will tell.
4. Is Israel Bad for the Jews? 

The next item is an article by Lawrence Davidson on Consortium News:

This has the following editorial introduction:

Israel’s new plan for appropriating nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land for more Jewish housing underscores the trend toward accelerated ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, a strategy that is stirring revulsion in much of the world and tarnishing the noble principles of Judaism, as Lawrence Davidson observes.

In fact, I gave my answer to the question on August 30, 2014, which is like the answers of Wallace and Davidson, but I also should like to raise another question: "Is Israel Bad for the non-Jews?" - and by "non-Jews" I do not mean anti-semites, while this seems to be, apart from anti-semitism, a quite sensible question, in as much as Israel's existence very well may cause a major war, and especially with leaders like Netanyahu.

But let's first consider Lawrence Davidson's article. It starts as follows:

If you are over 50 and were raised in a Jewish household, you either heard the question — “but is it good for the Jews?” — explicitly asked numerous times or were subtly encouraged to think the question to yourself.

It reflects a group-centered concern born of the memory of anti-Semitic hostility and a seemingly unending vulnerability, and it can apply to almost any public action: federal or local legislation, cultural trends, foreign policy decisions, etc.

I do not know how many of the younger generation of American Jews, known to be very secular and prone to religious intermarriage, still ask this question, but there can be no doubt that it is still there on the tips of almost every Jewish tongue of that generation for whom World War II is still well remembered.

After World War II, most Jews assumed that the Zionist movement and the Israeli state were good for the Jews. Indeed, they assumed that they were necessary goods — necessary for the very survival of the Jewish people. To that end, it was alleged, Israel would provide a haven from the anti-Semitism that so devastated the Jews of Europe.

I am over 60 and although I was not raised in a Jewish household I do recall the question, though I was born 5 years after the end of WW II. It was asked by persons who had a Jewish background but lacked the Jewish faith (most I knew were socialists or communists, and many of the generation of my parents that I knew had survived concentration camps), and it tended to be answered, in general terms, as Davidson says: Yes, Israel's existence makes sense in a world where Jews have been discriminated for many centuries.

Davidson then asks:

Today we have 66 years of history to judge Zionism and Israeli nationalism. So, after these six-and-a-half decades, it is time we ask the question once more. Can we still assume that Zionism and Israel are good for the Jews?

He gives a fairly systematic answer, that I will leave mostly to your interests, and from which I quote only two collateral points:

According to the latest polls up to 97 percent of them support the current operation in Gaza. Do outside opinions matter to them? Not to most. Sixty-three percent assume that “the whole world is against us.”

These numbers suggest that only a very few Israeli Jews understand what is happening to them as they live their lives in a state dedicated to the displacement of another people and the absorption of their land.

Yes, although I suppose most Israeli Jews will reply that they do know. (But they are party to the conflict, and have been much propagandized by their right-wing government.)

There is also this:

(...) Siegman notes that “too many Israelis seem to believe - indeed, to take absolutely for granted - that they have the God-given right to occupy, suppress, disenfranchise and displace non-Jews … in Israel.”

Yes, indeed - and this is also what I meant by my writing on August 30 that:

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.

And note that while this holds for many religious Jews, it also holds for quite a few non-religious Jews, and for them mostly because of the Shoah.

Here is Davidson's answer, which comes in two parts. First, there is this:

Let’s recall that Israel’s reason for being was to give Jews shelter from the ravages of anti-Semitism. That was certainly Theodor Herzl’s motivation. By any rational standard, Zionist Israel has failed in this regard.

Indeed, with but very few exceptions, it is hard to imagine anywhere less safe for Jews than present-day Israel. And, there is growing evidence that Israeli behavior is a major source of today’s increasing anti-Semitism.

Yes. As I've argued, Jews are better of in the U.S. than in Israel. Next there is this:

So we are brought back to our original question -- can we assume that Zionism and Israel are good for the Jews? The answer is no, we cannot. Zionism failed the Jews by insisting on an Israel for one group alone. That insistence has inevitably led to racism, discrimination and ethnic cleansing.

These are not practices that have characterized modern Jewry and so it is simply wrong to equate Zionism with Judaism and insist that Israel stands in for the world’s Jews -- errors now made by both Zionists and real anti-Semites. The more Jews who understand this, and begin to publicly distance themselves from both Zionism and Israel, the better, for they can safely assume both are bad for the Jews.

I tend to agree, but then I am neither a Jew, nor do I have a Jewish background, nor am I religious in any sense (but my family name is in the Yad Vashem's Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations)

Finally, as I suggested, there is also the question: "Is Israel Bad for the non-Jews?" and my answer is more or less the same: Israel's existence may
very well lead to a major war, and that is not in the interest of non-Jews, and also not in the interest of the Jews.

Then again, I must also say that in the present state of affairs, there is little that can be effectively done: In Israel, the Torah and the Shoah still rule, and indeed also are still abused for propaganda purposes by the right-wing government.

5. Back to College, the Only Gateway to the Middle Class

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site: This starts as follows:

This week, millions of young people head to college and universities, aiming for a four-year liberal arts degree. They assume that degree is the only gateway to the American middle class.

It shouldn’t be.

For one thing, a four-year liberal arts degree is hugely expensive. Too many young people graduate laden with debts that take years if not decades to pay off.

And too many of them can’t find good jobs when they graduate, in any event. So they have to settle for jobs that don’t require four years of college. They end up overqualified for the work they do, and underwhelmed by it.

There is considerably more in the article, and all I will do is to remind my readers that Frank Zappa refused to provide the money to send his children to college or university. (Also, I do not see what good a liberal arts degree does, in nearly every case, except for possibly increasing your chances of getting a little better paid. It is different for a pure mathematics degree, but few are up to that.)

6. Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil

The final item today is an article by Dave Gilson on Alternet (that may explain the title):
But my American readers might take a peep, which will teach them that they have far fewer rights than Europeans do. 
---------------------------------
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.)

[2] I know it still exists, in a sense, but for me, who can recall Labor Days from the Fifties, and also know some about its history in Holland before that, it seems mostly folklore: It is very much less than it ever was, and also there are very much less real laborers, for the laborers have become "service men and women", if indeed they have a job.


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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