10, 2014
Crisis: Sen. Sanders, Scots *2, UK graduates, dementia
  "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

A Progressive Estate Tax
2. Scotland has been promised devo supermax, but divorce
     will still happen

3. UK has more graduates but without skills and social
     mobility to match

4. Scottish independence: Party leaders take high road to
     Scotland to avert yes vote

5. Older patients and families forced to pay 'dementia tax',
     says UK charity

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 10. It is a
crisis log.

There are five items today, with five links, and four of the five are about Great Britain. I am a bit sorry, but I did not specially select it that way, and a good part of the reason is Scottish independence that now is threatening England and Cameron's government.

I am in favor of
Scottish independence, mostly because of the incompetence, corruption or self-serving that seems to have become the political norm in England, since Thatcher and Blair took over.

But I don't know it will happen, even though it seems to me to be a case of now or never, while the reasons for independence seem quite strong to me.

1. A Progressive Estate Tax

The first item is an article by Senator Bernie Sanders:
This starts as follows:

The founders of our country declared their independence from what they viewed as a tyrannical aristocracy in England. More than two centuries later, today’s tyrannical aristocracy is no longer a foreign power. It’s an American billionaire class which has unprecedented economic and political influence over all of our lives.

Unless we reduce skyrocketing wealth and income inequality, unless we end the ability of the super-rich to buy elections, the United States will be well on its way toward becoming an oligarchic form of society where almost all power rests with the billionaire class.

In the year 2014, the U.S. has by far the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth. This inequality is worse than at any time in our country’s history since 1928. Today, the top 1 percent owns about 37 percent of the total wealth in this country. The bottom 60 percent owns only 1.7 percent of our nation’s wealth.

At a time median family income is $5,000 less than it was in 1999, the net worth of the top 400 billionaires in this country has doubled over the past decade. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of Americans and one family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans.

I agree these are the facts, but I would add another fact, though very probably not in an article like Sanders wrote: This has happened over a period of some 40 years, during a time of considerable democracy and a - late, great, now mostly defunct - free press. This means that the least one should do is consider the average lack of human intelligence: it cannot be changed, but is it really a good idea to give everyone, regardless of intelligence, education, or knowledge, one vote, and let the majority of these voters decide?  (I probably will not be understood, but see me on Frank Zappa, of May 1, last: It regards the question "What is the ugliest part of your body?")

And here is what Bernie Sanders intends to do about the facts indicated in the last quotation:

A progressive estate tax on multi-millionaires and billionaires is the fairest way to reduce wealth inequality, lower our $17 trillion national debt and raise the resources we need for investments in infrastructure, education and other neglected national priorities.

I will shortly introduce legislation that will:

• Call for a progressive estate tax rate structure so that the super wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. The tax rate for the value of an estate above $3.5 million and below $10 million would be 40 percent. The tax rate on the value of estates above $10 million and below $50 million would be 50 percent, and the tax rate on the value of estates above $50 million would be 55 percent.

• Include a billionaire’s surtax of 10 percent. This surtax on the value of estates worth more than $1 billion would currently apply to fewer than 500 of the wealthiest families in America worth more than $2 trillion.

• Close estate tax loopholes that have allowed the wealthy to avoid billions in estate taxes. Some of the wealthiest Americans in this country have exploited loopholes in the tax code to avoid paying an estimated $100 billion in estate taxes since 2000. My bill would close those loopholes.

• Exempt the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7 million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. Under this legislation, 99.75 percent of Americans would not pay a penny in estate taxes.

This legislation would exempt more than 99.7 percent of Americans from paying any estate tax while ensuring that the wealthiest Americans in our country pay their fair share.

Again I agree - and I note that the very rich and the rich by their own neoliberal doctrine should favor this, though indeed consistency and honesty are not values that easily combine with neoliberalism (that is not a liberalism at all: the only thing "liberal" about it is the thesis that the rich should be able to freely plunder everyone who is not rich).

Then again, while I agree, I would be quite amazed to see this adopted by the Senate or by Congress. But yes, this is - among other things - what Obama should have done starting in 2009, and did not do, and indeed not at all.

2. Scotland has been promised devo supermax, but divorce will still happen

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

This starts as follows:

The prime minister is silent. Ed Miliband is a dud. Tony Blair is with the fairies. London is so desperate it has summoned Gordon Brown from his brooding lair and sent him north to save Scotland for the union. He has taken with him more gold than when Ethelred the Unready paid danegeld to the Vikings.

What has changed in the past month? The answer is poll-induced panic. London has reneged on its agreement to honour a policy purdah. With typical cynicism in all things local, it has spent a year promising – but never specifying – “devo max” and this has clearly not worked. Scotland has not been rattled by “project fear”. Being shot of Westminster’s devious machinations seems ever more appealing.

There is considerably more there, but Simon Jenkins is quite right that there is a "poll-induced panic" in England, that also has shut up the main players, I take it from fear of saying the wrong thing and being harmed themselves.

Also, my guess is that Jenkins is right (seeing also such greats as Gordon Brown and three partyleaders fighting for a yes-vote): Probably the Scots will vote for independence, and probably that will change rather a lot in Great Britain.

Here is Jenkins' last paragraph:
The truth is that a good half of the Scots have had enough of English rule and want to see the back of it, period. When divorce is in the air, remorse, generosity, promises of good behaviour fall on deaf ears. This relationship is over. We can only hope they “stay good friends”.
Yes. I merely like to add that the English (as contrasted with the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh) owe it to themselves: Their politicians have been mostly incompetent, corrupt and/or self-serving, and that is one reason I am in favor of Scottish independence as well.

3. UK has more graduates but without skills and social mobility to match 

The next item is an article by Peter Walker on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The UK's massive expansion in university education has not led to a parallel increase in skills, an international study has discovered, with only a quarter of the country's graduates reaching the highest levels in literacy, well below other top-performing nations.

The annual education report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) notes the "quantum leap" the UK has made in higher education access – for the first time, more people now gain a university or college qualification than have GCSEs or A-levels as their highest qualification. However, it says this has not been wholly matched by better skills, or by increased social mobility.

Let me try to explain the lack of skills and the lack of social mobility (the last means that you are not better of with a degree than without one). For this I need another quotation:
The increasing availability of degree courses means that for the first time the proportion of working age people with a university or college qualification, now 41% of the total, outnumbers the 37% who finished their education at 16 or 18.
This means that currently almost half of the British population can attend and finish university, which again means that the average level of difficulty of the university studies must be manageable by IQs of 110 (at most, except for studies like mathematics and physics).

It is the same in Holland and most other countries except Finland. What happened in these countries - other than Finland - I will illustrate by what happened in Holland:

From 1865 - 1965 the Dutch schools and universities were quite good. The schools that allowed entrance to the universities examined 14 or 16 subjects, including at least three foreign languages (five in gymnasia), mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography and more besides, and at age 17 or 18 most students who had finished these schools with a diploma were fairly well prepared to go to university, although this was not done by many - 2 to 5% - in view of the costs and the lack of subsidies. For while the education was good, it was expensive, and it also was mostly for the smarter children with middle class or rich parents.

In Holland this radically changed between 1965 and 1970: From then on, and especially from 1970 onwards, people could qualify for university by finishing a secondary school that examined 6 subjects, which meant that most students qualified with something like Dutch, English, History, Geography, Biology and German, which also were neither examined nor taught on the level this happened the hundred years before 1965.

By 1984, the average IQ had sunk to 115 in the University of Amsterdam, but indeed there were many more students. By 2008, the costs for studying, for the students, had enormously risen; the times for getting degrees had halved; and students arriving at universities no longer could spell or do mental arithmetic.

Something similar happened almost everywhere, indeed often, as also happened in Holland, under the guise of "equality" (which in Holland took e.g. the form that people could not anymore become doctors of medicine, for which there always were more candidates than places, because they had good marks, but only because they had the luck to pass a random test in which everyone entered as equals, and good marks no longer applied).

But almost no one talks about this, not in Holland, not in England, and also not elsewhere: The universities as I have known them are thoroughly dead, but still are called "universities", even while they cater to nearly half of the population. Those with degrees are often quite stupid and are rarely intellectually interested, but they are "the new intellectuals". [2] And the smart get educated far below their potential (in Holland presumably to teach them that "everybody knows everybody is equal").

So yes: I can explain the lack of skills, the lack of numeracy, and the lack of literacy that now applies to those with university degrees, and I can do this quite well and quite easily. But hardly anyone listens, not now and not 26 years ago, when I tried to fight it in the - extremely bad, and now much worse - University of Amsterdam, and almost no one compares the exams of today with the exams people in similar schools had to take in 1950, 1900 or 1850. (Why not? Because they offend the feeling that everyone is equal, at least in Holland.)

Anyway...if you want to know more about my efforts, check out my Spiegeloog-
, and if you want to know the truth about the English massive stupefication since the 1970ies check out "The Cult of The Expert" by Brian J. Ford. This last book does give some comparisons of exams, and is from 1982, since when the situation only got worse, by a lot also.

(But almost no one cares. For they lack the education.)

4. Scottish independence: Party leaders take high road to Scotland to avert yes vote  

The next item is an article by Wintour, Inman, Carrell and Booth on The Guardian:

This is mostly reproduced because it illustrates the panic diagnosed in item 2 and starts thus:

Britain's three main party leaders will cast aside partisan Westminster politics on Wednesday, abandoning the routine of the weekly battle of prime minister's questions, to travel to Scotland in a desperate joint bid to stop a haemorrhage of votes towards Scottish independence.

Travelling separately and speaking to different audiences, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg will fan out across Scotland on Wednesday to make an impassioned collective appeal to Scots to vote to stay inside the what they will say be a changedUnited Kingdom.

"There is a lot that divides us – but there's one thing on which we agree passionately: the United Kingdom is better together," the leaders said in a joint statement on Tuesday. "That's why all of us are agreed the right place for us to be tomorrow is in Scotland, not at prime minister's questions in Westminster.

O Lord! They really must be in a panic! Here is what Salmond said (who is pro independence):

Salmond was scathing about the politicians' arrival in Scotland, pointing to opinion polls giving all three leaders a substantial negative rating – adding up to minus 150 points in the latest YouGov poll. That made them the most distrusted Westminster politicians ever, Salmond said. He added: "The message of this extraordinary, last-minute reaction is that the Westminster elite are in a state of absolute panic as the ground in Scotland shifts under their feet." He even offered to pay for their travel costs.

Yes, indeed. I do not know whether the Scots will gain independence, and I certainly do not know how they are going to use it if they do, but if they do,
I would say that the arrival of Cameron, Milliband and Clegg in Scotland to
plead against independence seems like a strong argument for it, and may well
clinch it.

5. Older patients and families forced to pay 'dementia tax', says UK charity 

The next and last item is an article by Press Association on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Hundreds of thousands of older people and their families are being forced to pay a "dementia tax" if they are struck down by the condition, a leading UK charity has warned.

People with dementia are having to fork out for care while people with other long-term conditions are being looked after by the state, the Alzheimer's Society said.

Sufferers and their families are paying as much as £21,000 a year in covering the costs of social care and unpaid care provided by families and friends, experts estimated.

Actually, this is a bit propagandistic: There is no special dementia tax, but it is true that demented people are generally thrown back to be supported by their families.

I do not know how horrible this is, compared with some professionals taking care of your parents, but I do know about Alzheimer's, for my mother got that, and got it so severely that she had to spend the last 2 years of her life in a special place, where she was relatively well taken care of. [3]

But OK: I had selected this article on the strength of the title, which turns out to be propagandistic. I leave it here as is because it got selected, but I find it now to be not of the standard I expect in The Guardian. (But it is my mistake.)

[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] Thus, I have met doctors of medicine after 2000 who had some 50 or more IQ points less than I had, and who would not even have been admitted in a nurse's school in 1965. But now these people qualified as "doctor of medicine", and "everybody knows that everybody is equal", in Holland (except for soccer players, TV journalists and singers of Dutch: these tend to be called "geniuses", and certainly are paid extremely well).

[3] What happens to me if I were to get it I don't know: I have no family (that I know or that know me) in Holland.

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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