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Nederlog


  October
4, 2014
Crisis: Scahill, Inequality, NSA, Spying, Judge, Osborne, Rand, medicine
  "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
Sections
Introduction

1.
Obama's War on ISIS an 'Epic Formula for Blowback':
     Jeremy Scahill

2.
 Why Economic Inequality Is Not a Bigger Political Issue
3. Entering the Intelligence Labyrinth
4. Authorities Think About Telling You If You’re Watchlisted
     from Warrantless Spying

5. Judge Orders Government to Release Videos of
     Guantanamo Force-Feedings

6. George Osborne faces backlash after branding charities
     ‘anti-business’

7. Ayn Rand's Continued Influence Adds a Bizarre Twist to
     Conservative Politics


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, October 4. It is a
crisis log.

There are 7 items with 9 dotted links. I think they are all or nearly all quite interesting (for various reasons). And the present Nederlog got uploaded some hours earlier than is normal for me.

1. Obama's War on ISIS an 'Epic Formula for Blowback': Jeremy Scahill

The first item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The Obama administration employed "flimsy justification" to enter a war that will only exacerbate the crisis in the Middle East, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, co-founding editor of the The Intercept and author of the book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, said on Democracy Now! Friday.

"What I’m saying is that the United States, through its policies, created the very threat that it claims to be fighting now, and in continuing this policy, what President Obama is doing is embracing the very lies that made the Cheney-Bush Iraq War possible," Scahill argued. "And in the process, he’s creating yet another generation of people in the Islamic world who are going to grow up in a society where they believe that their religion is being targeted, where they believe that the United States is a gratuitous enemy. And so, this is sort of an epic formula for blowback."

The issue is not whether the latest U.S.-led war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria will make things worse in those countries, but to what extent, Scahill told interviewer Amy Goodman.

Yes. Also, it may well be asked - "Follow The Money!" - how much profit the military-industrial complex does make from this and other wars. Clearly, every bomb that is thrown and every gun that is shot profit someone somehow, and also those who do profit rarely or never are themselves or have their families exposed to the wars they sell the weapons in.

One reason to ask this is that this must be part of the motive of what Obama is doing. I do not know what the answer is, nor indeed whether there is any hope on establishing it, but
"Follow The Money!" tends to be a very good question.

Indeed, Jeremy Scahill raises this issue himself:
"You know, Lockheed Martin is making a killing off of the killing, every Tomahawk cruise missile that’s launched," Scahill said. "You know, the next generation of drone aircraft is going to be coming out. They’re working on jet-propelled drones that are going to be able to stay in the air for a very long time. The war industry is in its twilight right now, under Mr. Transformative Presidency Barack Obama. His administration has been an incredibly great friend to the war industry. And outside of some small groups of loony bins that are in Syria and Iraq, the war industry is the greatest beneficiary of this policy."
Yes, precisely: The military-industrial complex is "making a killing off of the killing" and indeed that - profits, very large profits - may be the main reason for most or all of the wars (conflicts, wars that are not wars, whatever...) that are initiated by the U.S. government: It certainly profits American military-industrial companies a great lot, and I think you may be quite certain that the children of their CEOs are not send out to fight themselves in their profitable wars.

Also, here is the interview with Jeremy Scahill that Deirdre Fulton used, which is on Democracy Now! and was made by Amy Goodman:

This is a very good interview, that also is quite realistic on The Great Changer Obama:
"Barack Obama has emerged as a pretty significant hawk in terms of his policies"
 - which indeed are the real things he does, and which indeed are rarely adequately reflected in the speeches he makes.

2. Why Economic Inequality Is Not a Bigger Political Issue  

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

This starts as follows:

If critics of income inequality are wondering why the growing gap between rich and poor hasn’t been a more potent political issue in the upcoming elections, a new study offers some answers: Americans grossly underestimate this inequality. That’s one of the key findings of a survey showing the gap between CEO and average worker pay in America is more than 10 times larger than the typical American perceives.

In the report, Harvard University and Chulalongkorn University researchers analyzed survey data from 40 countries about perceptions of pay gaps between rich and poor. In every country, respondents underestimated the size of the gap between CEO and average worker pay. In the United States, for example, the researchers found the median American respondent estimated that the ratio of CEO to worker income is about 30-to-1. In reality, the gap is more than 350-to-1.

This is quite interesting, by itself, and also because I am one of those who thinks income inequalities are far more realistic as a topic for major social action than is the climate [2], and for several reasons:

First, it definitely happened; second, the enormous rise in income inequalities is a product from the last 34 years; third, it hits everyone in the 90%; fourth, it turns out that most Americans agree that the income inequalities are far higher than they should be.

In fact, the following seems to be the case (which is a bit amazing for me, who has from the 1970ies onwards believed that under capitalism-with-a-human-face
[3] an income inequality of 15-to-1 (CEOs-to-poor) was realistic and fair, as indeed tended - sort of - to be practised in - very capitalist! - Holland in the 1970ies):
The study also found the median American respondent said the ideal pay gap is about 7-to-1—a lower ideal than respondents in many industrialized countries. Additionally, no major industrialized country has anywhere close to a 7-to-1 pay gap. That ratio is more than seven times lower than the actual gap in social democratic countries like Denmark and Sweden.
Here is the last paragraph of the article - and keep in mind that the majority of Americans believe (falsely) that their CEOs earn 30-to-1; that they think this ought to be 7-to-1 (!!), while in fact their CEOs earn 350-to-1, which is to say that the majority of Americans completely misperceive the real facts, that indeed are seldomly or never mentioned in the main media:
Despite all this, though, economic inequality remains a peripheral political issue. Why? Based on the data, it is not because the problem is insignificant - it is more likely because Americans’ misperceive just how unequal their country has become.
Again, this is analyzed in a video by The Young Turks: This takes 16 m 26 s but it is a good video, especially in the middle, where the enormous inequalities are expounded quite clearly and criticized with reason.

3.  Entering the Intelligence Labyrinth

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt, that I found on Common Dreams but originates on tomdispatch:
This is a very good article, that starts as follows, and that you are recommended to read all of:

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT. major intelligence outfits. You build them

You listen in on foreign leaders and politicians across the planet.  You bring on board hundreds of thousands of crony corporate employees, creating the sinews of an intelligence-corporate complex of the first order.  You break into the “backdoors” of the data centers of major Internet outfits to collect user accounts.  You create new outfits within outfits, including an ever-expanding secret military and intelligence crew embedded inside the military itself (and not counted among those 17 agencies).  Your leaders lie to Congress and the American people without, as far as we can tell, a flicker of self-doubt.  Your acts are subject to secret courts, which only hear your versions of events and regularly rubberstamp them—and whose judgments and substantial body of lawmaking are far too secret for Americans to know about.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, and it is all quite good, except for one thing: While I quite agree with Engelhardt that all these yearly $68 billion dollars have produced extremely little useful intelligence about terrorism (read
the article!), I also think that the real reason for all this data-gathering is not fighting Islamic terrorism, which was never as dangerous as 1% of 1% of the dangers the Soviet Union and China posed from the 1950ies till late in the 1980s, but getting everyone's private data into NSA-computers, because this gives extreme powers to the NSA and the government, indeed so extreme that no one in history ever had them.

Also, I grant I may be mistaken about this, which I think since 2005 at the latest, but everything I have heard about the NSA by really qualified persons supports my idea that "terrorism" was mostly a fraud designed to enable the American military [4] to take over the state and to collect all information on every American citizen:

The NSA wanted state terrorism, and they got it, and they did so by pretending to be fighting "terrorism", that really and originally was not as dangerous as
1% of 1% of the dangers the Soviet Union and China posed for decades (with billions of inhabitants, strong and large and well-trained armies, large territories, well developed industries, and many atomic weapons).

And as I also warned in 2005: The most dangerous form of terrorism is state terrorism, not the terrorism of small groups of fanatics without territory, a state, an army or atomic weapons. (This also has been the case for many years.)

But OK - the article is very good regardless of what is the real and ultimate explanation for the gigantic growth of the NSA and its 16 secret partners since 2001. (And indeed there may not be a single
real and ultimate explanation: it may be and...and... - but surely, knowing all private data about any American citizen was a prime end of the NSA, ever since 2005 at the latest, and probably since 2001, if not since long before).

4. Authorities Think About Telling You If You’re Watchlisted from Warrantless Spying

The next item is an article by Cora Currier on The Intercept: This starts as follows:

The Obama Administration might have to start letting people know when they’ve been flagged for terrorist connections based on information picked up from secret NSA spying programs.

That could potentially affect the tens of thousands of individuals on the government’s no fly list, as well as those people and groups that the Treasury Department designates as foreign terrorists, The New York Times reported yesterday.

According to the Times, administration lawyers are debating whether the NSA’s warrantless programs are covered by a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires the government to disclose the use of electronic surveillance in any “proceeding” against someone.

I say.

On the one hand, it seems to me quite appropriate if the U.S. government tells those it follows "
for terrorist connections", for this would be a quite serious cause if anyone else but the government did this: Accuse somebody of "terrorist
connections"; spy on them and on everything they do; and effect their lives in many ways (whether they know it or not) e.g. by being put on no fly lists - and please note that in nearly all cases this happens on mere suspicion only, that moreover is quite secret.

On the other hand, it may be this is the next step in transforming the U.S. into a police state: You make it known, as government, that you are suspecting and hindering tenthousands of persons quite seriously, because once that is accepted, the next step would be making people - "they are well-known terrorists, after all: the government says so, and that never lies" - disappear without a trace.

So I am in two minds, though overall I think it should be known. (But I am not very optimistic.)

5. Judge Orders Government to Release Videos of Guantanamo Force-Feedings

The next item is another article by Corra Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Videos showing force-feedings of a hunger-striking Guantanamo detainee must be publicly aired, a federal judge ordered this afternoon.

Lawyers for Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who has been held at Guantanamo since 2002 and has been refusing food for the last 18 months, have characterized the footage as “extremely disturbing.” Dhiab is asking the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to stop the military’s practice of forcibly removing him from his cell and restraining him for feedings.

The government argues that the 28 tapes at issue are classified, and will likely appeal today’s ruling. Releasing the videos, the Justice Department has said, might give a glimpse of the the prison infrastructure, or let Guantanamo inmates or others learn how to resist “forced cell extractions” or locate equipment that could be used as a weapon. The government also warned that the videos might “inflame Muslim sensitivities overseas.”

But Kessler found that those justifications were “unacceptably vague, speculative,” or “just plain implausible.” So much information about the force-feedings was already public, Kessler wrote, and certainly detainees “are already familiar with the tactics used to extract them from their cells and enterally feed them.” The videos may be altered to protect the identities of prison guards, she said.

I say. This is a judge with character, and I am glad to see these still exist in the U.S.A.

Here are the last lines of the article:

The military maintains that force-feeding is done humanely. The World Medical Association has said that the procedure is unethical and can amount to torture.

Yes - and other descriptions I have read on forced feeding strongly suggest this is torture. And whatever it is: The public has the right to know what its governmental excecutives do to people in the name of the public.

Incidentally: the government's arguments are quite like those the German Nazis might have used to preclude any knowledge about their concentration camps reaching the public:

Releasing the videos, the Justice Department has said, might give a glimpse of the the prison infrastructure, or let Guantanamo inmates or others learn how to resist “forced cell extractions” or locate equipment that could be used as a weapon.

About people you have locked up in your own concentration camp for thirteen years now, and about whom there are mostly no complaints and against most of whom there certainly are no judicial proceedings?! (Besides, the government implicitly allows it is seriously mistreating people when it says that "the videos might “inflame Muslim sensitivities overseas”".)

6. George Osborne faces backlash after branding charities ‘anti-business’

The next item is an article by Katie Allen and Rowena Mason on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

George Osborne has triggered a backlash from charities after he urged companies to defend the economy against their “anti-business views” and those of pressure groups and trade unions.

The chancellor called on business leaders to raise their heads “above the parapet” and fight back against charities and others who he said were making arguments against the free market and standing in the way of economic prosperity.

Osborne told the annual convention of the Institute of Directors in London: “You have to get out there and put the business argument, because there are plenty of pressure groups, plenty of trade unions and plenty of charities and the like, that will put the counter view."

Well... is George Osborne (1) a major asshole (2) a consumate liar or (3) a quite sick believer in Thatcher's crazy dreams? I do not know, but he certainly is obnoxious and he wants to be.

Here is some background:

The chancellor has been the target of criticism by many charities over the effect of government cuts, most recently by the Child Poverty Action Group, Gingerbread and other groups when he announced a further two-year freeze on working age benefits if the Conservatives win power next year. Many feel the negativity of some Tories towards charities has its roots in the fact that some, such as those who provide food banks, have played a high-profile role in highlighting the effects of welfare cuts.
I guess this makes him a mixture of (2) and (3), which may be the most adequate description of Osborne's position: He does not want any charities, because they tell (part of) the truth about his stealing from the poor to
further enrich the English rich.

Here is the executive director of Greenpeace:
Osborne’s broader suggestion that businesses know better than charities how to bring about prosperity was strongly questioned by John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace. “George Osborne appears to lack a sophisticated understanding of what brings about prosperity and happiness in societies,” he said. “Most league tables show countries that protect the environment and have progressive social policies have more fulfilled, satisfied populations. It’s not anti-capitalist to say clean water, clean air and sustainable growth are good for everyone.”
Quite so.

7. Ayn Rand's Continued Influence Adds a Bizarre Twist to Conservative Politics

The next item is an article by Evan McMurry on AlterNet:

This starts as follows: 

On Last Week Tonight, perhaps to balance out his less-than-friendly main segment on Obama’s drone policies, John Oliver asked a question that has bothered people about Ayn Rand since she first emerged in the middle of the twentieth century: why are people into this dreck?

Rand was the founder of Objectivism, a sub-Nietzschean philosophy that glorified selfishness and denigrated altruism, aggressively detailed in two novels bearing both the weight and prose style of a cement brick. Not surprisingly, this organized atavism never gained serious purchase: during her lifetime she was rejected by everyone from literary critics to philosophy professors to Frank Lloyd Wright, who didn’t appreciate her cribbing protagonist Howard Roark from his biography.

Yes, indeed. In fact, I first learned about Ayn Rand's existence in 1971 and was introduced to her by some Americans, who believed she was "a great philosopher". I did read some bundling of her thoughts, I think under the title "Objectivism" (but I am not certain anymore), and I also read most of her "literature", but my summary judgment was quite clear: Her philosophy was utter bullshit, and her novels were stupid and totally talentless shit.

Since then I never saw any reason to change my thoughts, but I grant I was
quite amazed to see her listed, around 2000, as one of the main inspirations of American libertarianism. In fact:
Her tomes were bestsellers. And, in a vulgarized form Rand would almost certainly reject, they have spread even further since her death in 1982. Lawmakers cite her; celebrities namedrop her; fringe movements style themselves her heirs; scores of Twitter users swipe her visage as their avatar.
The only reason I can think of for that reception is that none of those who spoke of her greatness - provided they were honest about this, which may be doubted in some cases - ever read any major philosopher with any understanding.

I still think so, as must everyone who can think rationally and has read both Rand and some good philosophers (it really doesn't matter which - and even Kant is a better writer than is Rand). Indeed, this is a quite sad comment on the inspiration of quite a few leaders of industry: their understanding of philosophy (and also of psychology and economics) must be nil if they are convinced that this tripe is serious.

And mind you: I am mostly talking style here, not contents. There are far better explanations of similar points of view from others - but indeed, I believe that may be part of the reason of Rand's popularity: what she said was so simple- minded that any simple mind could be taken in, rather like Gresham's law ("bad money drives out good money": bad philosophy drives out good philosophy, and especially in those who do not know any philosophy).

Here is a final thought on Rand by Alan Wolfe (<- Wikipedia) that I found after writing the above:
“In the academy, she is a nonperson. Her theories are works of fiction. Her works of fiction are theories, and bad ones at that.”
---------------------------------
P.S. Oct 5, 2014: Added the above "final thought", that I only found today (Oct 5, 2014).
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] Mark I am not saying the problems with the climate are not real. But I am saying that with an issue on which 90% of the people feels strongly - their declining incomes - this is the natural candidate for massive action.


[3] I do believe that the phrase "
capitalism-with-a-human-face" should be more popular than it is, simply because just as with socialism there really are two varieties: with a human face (for capitalism: 1950-1980) and without a human face (for capitalism: since 1980, and especially since 2001). And incidentally: I do think it is a mistake to call Sweden or Denmark "socialist". They are not, and they never were, but they are decent examples of "capitalism-with-a-human -face".

[4] The term fraud also covers the possibility that 9/11/2001 was a false flag operation designed by or at least not prevented by Cheney and Rumsfeld (where the "not prevented" is motivated by the fact that there was prior intelligence from several sources about the coming attack on the World Trade Center).
I do not know, but I certainly do not trust Cheney and Rumsfeld.
 


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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