29, 2014
Crisis: Wages, Cameron, Hedges, Depleted Uranium, Black on Holder
  "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

Raising Most People’s Wages
2. David Cameron’s human rights ploy would undermine the
     rule of law

3. Becoming Hezbollah’s Air Force
4. Veteran Seeks Answers on Depleted Uranium
5. William R. Black on Prosecuting Criminal Banker CEOs:
     Obama and Holder Don’t Even Care Enough to Fake It

6. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Monday, September 29. It is a
crisis log.

There were not many crisis items, but I found five that follow - on why raising wages would help the economy, on Cameron's wish to finish human rights in Great Britain, on Hedges on endless war, on Keyser on the dangers of depleted uranium, and on Bill Black on Eric Holder.

1. Raising Most People’s Wages

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

I was in Seattle, Washington, recently, to congratulate union and community organizers who helped Seattle enact the first $15 per hour minimum wage in the country.

Other cities and states should follow Seattle’s example.

Contrary to the dire predictions of opponents, the hike won’t cost Seattle jobs. In fact, it will put more money into the hands of low-wage workers who are likely to spend almost all of it in the vicinity. That will create jobs.

Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less. But they’re wrong. It’s just the opposite.

I agree that raising most people's wages would be a good idea, but then I suppose I am a bit of a radical on income inequality, for I really do not see any need for a difference between lowest and highest wage that is larger than 1 to 15 - which is, incidentally, how it used to be in capitalist Holland in the 60ies and 70ies (with some exceptions). [2]

Then again, I do not believe that "
Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less": I believe that conservatives for the most part simply deceive, and what they really mean  - but do not say at all - is that the rich function better with more riches, which indeed I am quite willing to believe. [3]

And in fact that seems one of the duties of "the left": to try to undo the very many lies,
deceptions, dishonesties, and falsifications that have been created by conservative propaganda, as in the previous paragraph, where "the economy" was substituted for "the rich".

In any case, here are a number of points culled from Reich's text that give some economical facts (which indeed I think are facts, not deceptions, and indeed statements like these can be checked):
  • between 1980 and 2014, the rate of new business formation in the United States dropped by half
  • consumer spending has grown more slowly in this recovery than in any previous one
  • all the economic gains have been going to the top
  • starting with the “Reagan” recovery of 1982 to 1990, the benefits of economic growth during expansions have gone mostly to the top 10 percent
  • we’re in the first economic upturn on record in which 90 percent of Americans have become worse off
  • today, fewer than 7 percent of the nation’s private-sector workers belong to a union.
  • the drop in the minimum wage: in 1979, it was $9.67 an hour (in 2013 dollars). By 1990, it had declined to $6.84. Today it’s $7.25, well below where it was in 1979.
This leads to Reich's last paragraph:
If the median household’s income is heading upward, the economy is in good shape. If it’s heading downward, as it’s been for this entire recovery, we’re all in deep trouble.
From which it follows that "we’re all in deep trouble", and I agree (except for the 1%). It really is a matter of waiting for the next major crisis, that indeed may be almost there, because there is a crisis every ten years, on average, and the last crisis was 2007-2008, and none of the major mess that was left then has been cleaned up either. And see item 5.

2. David Cameron’s human rights ploy would undermine the rule of law

The next item is an article by Clive Stafford Smith on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

It has been reported that the Conservatives will no longer allow the European court of human rights (ECHR) to overrule decisions made by British courts if they are elected next year.

David Cameron, it seems, is hell-bent on emasculating the ECHR in an effort to appease his party’s anti-Europe lobby.

Possibly so - but much more specifically, it seems to me Cameron wants the GCHQ to keep on spying on the British population, though indeed there may be other ends as well.

Next, there is this (and I am skipping):
The mantra of “parliamentary supremacy” is routinely trotted out by politicians without any real comprehension that there is a far better alternative. The other option, of course, is a real, written constitution. It is perhaps paradoxical that some Conservatives, in their anti-European venom, have advocated “repatriating” human rights into some kind of written British bill of rights; more recently, in the desperate effort to keep Scotland from seceding, Westminster politicians have called for broader changes to the hodgepodge of legislation that is meant to govern our country.
Yes. In fact, there is no constitution (<- Wikipedia) in English law, and this is in fact quite odd, for it means that any parliament can unmake or make any laws, completely regardless of what went on before it made or unmade them: the British have no constitutional rights that any government and any parliament must keep up:
As of 2013, only two sovereign states have uncodified constitutions, namely New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
This means that in effect any parliament can chose to enact laws of any kind and also withdraw laws of any kind, because (and this is from uncodified constitution (<- Wikipedia):
(...) there is no defining document that can be termed "the constitution". Because the political system evolved over time, rather than being changed suddenly in an event such as a revolution, it is continuously being defined by acts of Parliament and decisions of the Law Courts (see Constitution of the United Kingdom).
Actually, that does not seem a good reason to me not to have a constitution: it seems to me some rights are so fundamental that they have to be written down and cannot be undone without revolution by any government or parliament - but not in the United Kingdom.

And it seems to me that Clive Stafford Smith is right in his conclusion (and  "HRA" = "Human Rights Act"):
The former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, is correct to express sadness for Cameron’s proposed elimination of the HRA. A true conservative believes in a system that holds government to account, and which provides the victim of torture with a remedy when those in power go beyond the remit of civilisation. A true conservative would not attack the rule of law, but uphold it.
Note that Dominic Grieve is a conservative.

3. Becoming Hezbollah’s Air Force

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Those who use violence to shape the world, as we have done in the Middle East, unleash a whirlwind. Our initial alliances — achieved at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead, some $3 trillion in expenditures and the ravaging of infrastructure across the region—have been turned upside down by the cataclysm of violence. Thirteen years of war, and the rise of enemies we did not expect, have transformed Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, along with Iran, into our tacit allies. We are intervening in the Syrian civil war to assist a regime we sought to overthrow. We promised to save Iraq and now help to dismember it. We have delivered Afghanistan to drug cartels and warlords who preside over a ruin of a nation where 60 percent of the children are malnourished and the Taliban is poised to take power once NATO troops depart. The entire misguided enterprise has been a fiasco of gross mismanagement and wanton bloodletting. But that does not mean it will be stopped.
Yes, and that inversion of ends - "We are intervening in the Syrian civil war to assist a regime we sought to overthrow. We promised to save Iraq and now help to dismember it. We have delivered Afghanistan to drug cartels and warlords (..)" - does show it is less the pronounced "ends" that matter as the war itself, that indeed seems to have become an end in itself, and therefore continues and continues, indeed also in being profitable to the military-industrial complex:
Endless war, which results in endless terror, leaves the arms manufacturers and generals giddy with joy. It is a boon to the state, which is possessed of an excuse to extinguish what few liberties we have left. It fuels the militancy and hatred that fanatics need to justify their slaughter and attract recruits. But it is a curse to humankind.
Yes - but then this can be true for a long time (like thirteen years) only in a state where the majority (sorry for the grammar: Hedges is American, and I am not):
(..) have surrendered our political agency and our role as citizens to the masters of war.
And that seems to be the case with the majority of American citizens, and is deeply troublesome, also because all the wars that are being fought in its name and with some of its people are not wars about American territory.

But saving or protecting existing American territory or American lives is not the aim of endless war, which is much rather this:
The point is not who is being fought. The point is maintaining a state of fear and the mass mobilization of the public. War and national security are used to justify the surrender of citizenship, the crushing of dissent and expanding the powers of the state. The point is war itself. And if the American state, once a sworn enemy of Hezbollah, gives air cover to Hezbollah fighters in Syria, the goals of endless war remain gloriously untouched.
One can make this a bit less cynical in various ways, but the point remains that "War and national security are used to justify the surrender of citizenship, the crushing of dissent and expanding the powers of the state", for that is simply true.

4. Veteran Seeks Answers on Depleted Uranium

The next item is an article by John Keyser on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows - and I did not know about depleted uranium (<-Wikipedia: quite interesting and well done, though it will not make you happier):

I served as a Hospital Corpsman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines in Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. The fighting was heavy, and it was the bloodiest Marine battle since Iwo Jima.
One of the war's toxic legacies was our use of depleted uranium (DU), used to pierce through armor in different battles across Iraq. DU creates a fine dust upon impact that, when inhaled, settles into people’s bones and internal organs.  I know veterans who are unexplainably ill and have been refused testing for exposure to depleted uranium. When veterans who have been in the line of fire come home with failing health and the cause cannot be pinpointed, psychiatrists often ascribe it to mental problems.  We need to know what we were exposed to in Iraq to better understand our health problems and get the necessary treatment.

That is why my organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Center for Constitutional Rights today filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense to get more information about where and when DU was fired in Iraq. With this information, I and other veterans can make better conclusions and decisions about our health.

Yes, and it is quite crazy that veterans have to go through a FOIA to get these facts, especially in view of the above mentioned Wikipedia article on depleted uranium that also shows depleted uranium has hardly been investigated, although it is known to be quite toxic in quite a few ways - which again allows a psychiatrist like Simon Wessely (yes, him again) to slander veterans as psychiatrically ill, so as to prevent them from getting real help.

5. William R. Black on Prosecuting Criminal Banker CEOs: Obama and Holder Don’t Even Care Enough to Fake It

The next item is an article by Lambert Strether on Naked Capitalism:

This is based on an interview with Bill Black (whose middle letter incidentally is K not R) on the Real News. I quote some bits.

First, there is this:

BLACK: [E]ric Holder has surprised me. I always predicted that he would at least find one token case to prosecute some bank senior executive for crimes that led to the creation of the financial crisis and the global Great Recession.

PERIES: Why did it surprise you, Bill?

BLACK: Well, he’s actually going to leave without even a token conviction, or even a token effort at convicting. So, in baseball terms, he struck out every time, batting 0.000, but he actually never took a swing. ….

This means - at least - that Holder really did not want to prosecute the big banks, in spite of the fact that he knew they had frauded billions. Indeed there is this:

[BLACK: ]And I couldn’t believe that he would leave without at least having one attempted prosecution against these folks. So he hasn’t done the most–he never did the most elementary things required to succeed. He never reestablished the criminal referral process, which is from the banking regulatory agencies, who are the only ones who are going to do widescale criminal referrals against bank CEOs, because, of course, banks won’t make criminal referrals against their own CEOs. Holder could have reestablished that criminal referral process in a single email on the first day in office to his counterparts in the banking regulatory agencies, and he’s going to leave never having attempted to do so.

And while you might think that Holder has stated that he doesn't prosecute the managers of big banks "because they are too big to fail", there is also this on CEOs of small banks, where I bolded the "small" because Holder maintained he could not prosecute the big ones:

So, instead of going after the big guys–by the way, they didn’t go after the small CEOs either. I keep talking about elite CEOs, for obvious reasons: they cause far greater damage. But there are all these CEOs of the not very big mortgage banks who are not prestigious, who are not politically powerful, and Eric Holder refused to prosecute them as well.

Which is to say that Eric Holder simply did not want to prosecute any bank manager, and indeed did not do it, all at a time that such prosecutions were very necessary to help clean the enormous mes these bank managers had made.

And so the mess was not cleared. Instead, it was continued, and worsened.

6. Personal

I did not sleep well for several days, and therefore, also because I have to do some things, there may not be an NL tomorrow, although I do not know this yet (but I'll do my best).

[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] This also was the Dutch governmental policy of the 1970ies, and note this held for wages, not for wealth, riches, speculations etc. and also not for special jobs like film stars, pop stars etc. This also was associated then with a capitalist economic model that was practised in Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg, and that worked quite well.

I haven't heard much of it since, but it worked, and indeed I consider it rather fair (in a capitalist economy, at least): While I do not think everybody is equal (or equivalent), I do think such inequalities as there are between people, are for the most part well covered by a wage differential that goes from 1 for the lowest educated and lowest gifted, to 15 for the highest educated and highest gifted.

The many hundred thousands or millions that are paid these days to some bank managers seem to me to be simply based on fraud, greed and theft, and are quite obscene to me: Nobody is worth that amount of money, especially not in a world where billions are extremely poor.

[3] I really think most everything that the conservatives and their spokesmen, like Milton Friedman, said was deception rather than honest talk, and the example in this paragraph is quite good. Another example is the term "job creators": In fact, these are the middle class, if it exists, much rather than the few rich, simply because the daily spending of the middle class keeps the economy turning.

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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