Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog


  October
5, 2014
Crisis: Tories *2, Nuclear, Ebola, Drugs, Education, Sadists, Whistleblowers
  "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.
Tory wreckers out to destroy their own human rights
2.
A New Nuclear Arms Race: Why Peace Activists Must
     Wage an Open Battle Against the Democratic Party

3. Vince Cable slams excessive Conservative cuts on
     working poor

4. 'In 1976 I discovered Ebola, now I fear an unimaginable
     tragedy'

5. Huge majority thinks 'war on drugs' has failed, new poll
     finds

6. Germany Makes College Education Free as American
     Students Drown in Debt

7. Sick Sadists Patrol the Web Anonymously
8. A Letter to an Unknown Whistleblower in the Age of
     Blowback


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 5. It is a
crisis log.

There are eight items with eight links. Though it is a Sunday, quite a few of the links are interesting, though I admit item 7 is not part of the crisis, but it is here because it confirms my - psychologist's - assessment of the powers of sadism and anonymity.

1. Tory wreckers out to destroy their own human rights

The first item is an article by Nick Cohen on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The Conservative party is a dangerous party. Driven by the raging cultural warriors of the right, half out of its mind with fear of Nigel Farage, it no longer conserves but destroys with as little thought for the consequences as a brattish public schoolboy trashing a restaurant.

Its threat to repeal the Human Rights Act and pull out of the European convention on human rights reveals how it has become its own negation. Conservatives flatter themselves that they defend the individual against the over-mighty state. Yet they propose to tamper with rights hundreds of millions of people recognise as their last defence against state power.
Yes, quite so - and the rest of this item is about Great Britain.

Also, one should - though I agree it complicates matters - distinguish three strands of Toryism (which seems to me a better name than "Conservatives", for the Tories do not conserve any more): (1) the public relations David Cameron and others indulge in to flimflam that half of the electorate whose IQs are under 100 (though it is quite possible Cameron and others believe half or more of it); (2) the real ideology of the current Tories, which is more or less undiluted Thatcherism (which most Tories seem to believe); and (3) whatever remains of real Conservatism (of which there are still some, but Cameron takes their jobs away, because they are neither (1) nor (2)).

Next, there is an optimistic note by Nick Cohen:

I doubt that the British right will allow Cameron to carry on as if nothing has changed. Those among you who don’t read the rightwing press won’t realise how irrational the hatred of human rights has become; how the right can no longer see that the European convention is about as conservative as any reputable protection of liberty can be.
I am less optimistic (though I would much like to be mistaken), and the main reason is that most of the Tories believe in the public relations the Tories spout or else in some variant of Thatcherism, and both are nearly only ideology, that has hardly any realistic connection to the real facts. (And please note this is not true of real Conservatism: I don't agree with it, but real conservatives may be fairly straight on the facts, unlike Cameron and his rightwing ideologist government.)

Nick Cohen next explains that the European Human Rights were much influenced by (real) British conservatives, who indeed did what one would expect real conservatives to do - and Maxwell Fyfe was one of them:

Maxwell Fyfe (...) and other European conservatives disposed of early drafts that mentioned the rights of workers. Other rights that the left regards as basic have no place in its provisions. The European convention does not mention shelter or free education and healthcare for good reasons. Maxwell Fyfe and his sponsor Winston Churchill saw the convention as a protection against the “socialism” of Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government as much as against the communism of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, and it shows.
Yes, indeed. Also, it may be mentioned that at the time the conservatives were more or less forced to be a bit more realistic than they are now: Stalin's Soviet Union was a very great power, while that danger is currently mostly lost.
In a celebrated speech in 2009, the late and much missed Lord Bingham listed the liberties the European convention protects. The right not to be tortured or enslaved. The right to liberty and security of the person. The right to marry. The right to a fair trial. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Freedom of expression. Freedom of assembly and association.
Indeed - and none of these rights is "British" or "English", while all of them are human rights - which David Cameron and his ideologist rightwing government want to deny to the British, who instead will be given - it may be fairly supposed - a Thatcherite bill of "rights".
Conservatives want rights for themselves. However, they cannot abide seeing the courts give them to groups they despise: prisoners, immigrants, Gypsies and gay people. At the root of the rage on the right is a rejection of the honourable belief in equality before the law.
In fact, I have read quite a few Randian neoliberals who argue that they are against rights. That is indeed a crazy notion, but then most political ideologies do not have much to do with the facts. So Nick Cohen may again be a bit more optimistic than I am, but the rest of the paragraph is all right, though the Tories also seem to despise the ill, the poor, and the out of work - or in brief: anyone who is not a rich Tory like themselves or may be expected to be one soon.

The following is also quite correct:
In truth, [Cameron - MM] is not proposing a British bill of rights but an English bill of rights, and a Tory English bill at that.
Yes, indeed: A Tory English bill. Here is Nick Cohen's concluding paragraph:
The case of the Human Rights Act belies the stories Conservatives tell themselves. They call themselves individualists but want more power for the state. They call themselves unionists but threaten the union. They call themselves democrats but land more blows on the enfeebled liberal world. They boast of their common sense and call themselves pragmatists but destroy with reckless insouciance. They are a danger to themselves and everyone who votes for them.
I agree, and the main reason I agree is that the Tories are no real conservatives anymore: they are Thatcherite ideologists who sell their baloney by public relations.

And this is a fine article you should read for yourself.

2.  A New Nuclear Arms Race: Why Peace Activists Must Wage an Open Battle Against the Democratic Party

The next item is an article by Scott Tucker on Truthdig!:

I give a quotation from near the beginning, by journalists Broad and Sanger. This registers a very dangerous development:
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—A sprawling new plant here in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines.

It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars.

This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for ‘a nuclear-free world’ and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy.

Quite so. As to that president, Scott Tucker continues:

Barack Obama never had a truly independent policy for peace. If we say that Obama was constrained by a renewed collision of imperial spheres of interest, we are telling only the convenient half of a half-truth. A crucial piece of information must be added to the geopolitical puzzle: namely, that Obama does not just adapt to circumstances, but he is a commander in chief who is an agent of war and empire.

Under our system of “representative democracy,” he does not need to wave his arms and shout from balconies like a dictator from the previous century. This huckster of hope and change keeps his cool and serves the corporate state with conviction. Whether giving a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy or accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama is the kind of “progressive” who gives progress a bad name.

Again, quite so. In case you think this may be too sharp:

Obama is probably the first U.S. president who was completely aware of the possibilities of the opposition between talking politics and doing politics, and how little this matters for most of the electorate: his talk is ever progressive, while most of his deeds are quite conservative. Yet he is measured by most progressives and conservatives in terms of his talk (which means that he gets a lousy treatment of the conservatives, even while he does most of the things they want).

As to atomic weapons, there is this:
During a period of punishing recession and job losses, at least Obama and his Republican colleagues can claim they are creating more jobs in the industries of war and armaments. As the Times article notes, “The administration has told the Pentagon to plan for 12 new missile submarines, up to 100 new bombers and 400 land-based missiles.”
I do not think the jobs created will be much of a help. But the redevelopment of atomic weapons is a very dangerous policy.

The rest of the article is not about atomic weapons (and I don't quite agree).


3. Vince Cable slams excessive Conservative cuts on working poor

The next item is an article by Toby Helm and Andrew Rawnsley on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Business secretary Vince Cable says the Tories are planning punitive and unnecessary cuts to the incomes of the working poor that go "far beyond" what is needed to cut the deficit.

In an interview with the Observer, the Liberal Democrat cabinet minister says proposals announced last week by chancellor George Osborne to freeze benefits for those in work after the next election, while also introducing big tax cuts for middle earners, would be completely unacceptable to his party in any future coalition. "There's absolutely no way that making deep cuts in provision for the working poor is acceptable and that we can possibly go along with it," he says. "What he is suggesting goes far beyond what you need in order to achieve financial discipline."

Cable's intervention will stoke mounting tension between the coalition parties, which until now have agreed on broad strategy to bring the public finances under control.

That is all true (to the best of my knowledge) and it also is important, but I also think this is mainly propaganda by the Liberal Democrat minister in Cameron's government.

The rest of the article accords with that estimate, and so I will not quote any of it. Instead, I say that the Liberal Democrats will say almost anything to get votes - and they will forget all they said and promised if they are made part of the next government (whether with the Tories or with Labour).

This is also how it went the last time. The only thing one can say in defense of the Liberal Democrats is that the whole English political system is rotten, and that the one thing
the Liberal Democrats are consistent and credible about is the urgent need for the reformation of the English system, for that is not even properly democratic in the way most other European nations are.

4. 'In 1976 I discovered Ebola, now I fear an unimaginable tragedy'

The next item is an article by Rafaela von Bredow and Veronika Hackenbroch on The Guardian (originally in Der Spiegel):
In fact, it is an interview with professor Peter Piot, who discovered and named the Ebola virus. Here are some quotations from a much longer interview.

First about the virus:
The virus that we had spent so much time searching for was very big, very long and worm-like. It had no similarities with yellow fever. Rather, it looked like the extremely dangerous Marburg virus which, like ebola, causes a haemorrhagic fever. In the 1960s the virus killed several laboratory workers in Marburg, Germany.
Next about its spreading - and keep in mind that since the virus was discovered in 1976, there has been found no cure the last 38 years:
In large cities – particularly in chaotic slums – it is virtually impossible to find those who had contact with patients, no matter how great the effort. That is why I am so worried about Nigeria as well. The country is home to mega-cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt, and if the Ebola virus lodges there and begins to spread, it would be an unimaginable catastrophe.
Finally about the present condition:
And it should be clear to all of us: This isn't just an epidemic any more. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. We don't just need care personnel, but also logistics experts, trucks, jeeps and foodstuffs. Such an epidemic can destabilise entire regions. I can only hope that we will be able to get it under control. I really never thought that it could get this bad.
There is a lot more in the article, but it seems as if the current situation in Africa is nearly explosive, precisely because there is no cure, the virus is very infective,
and presently it seems some inhabitants of large cities are infected by it.

5. Huge majority thinks 'war on drugs' has failed, new poll finds

The next item is an article by Mark Townsend on The Guardian (or in fact: The Observer):

This starts as follows:

An increasing proportion of Britons favours a more liberal approach to drugs and would support decriminalisation strategies, according to a comprehensive survey commissioned by the Observer.

An overwhelming majority also believes that the so-called "war on drugs" is futile, with 84% saying that the decades-long campaign by law enforcement agencies against the global narcotics trade can never be won.

The poll provides welcome reading for those campaigning for illegal drugs to be decriminalised, with 27% saying that Britain's drug laws are not liberal enough. A previous Observer survey into the nation's drug-taking habits, in 2008, recorded a figure of 18%, suggesting a society that is steadily moving towards greater tolerance of drug use.

The proportion of Britons who believe certain drugs should be decriminalised has risen from 27% to 39% since 2008.

As my regular readers may know, I am in favor of decriminalizing drugs since 1969, when I attended a conference on drugs, at that time especially marijuana, which the British Parliamentary Wootton Report (<- Wikipedia) had advocated the year before should be decriminalized, as it was not dangerous.

Since then, there have been 45 years of intensive use of marijuana in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, in which I have not heard of any death caused by it.

In fact, I am also a proponent of decriminalizing stronger drugs, like heroine, cocaine and opium. My reason is not that I am in favor of their use (I am definitely not, but I have lost friends due to cocaine and to heroine) but because supplying these through medical persons while trying to help those hooked to them is far preferable for anyone except the dealers.

But I doubt I will see any decrimininalizing drugs in Holland: They could have done so the last thirty years, but they did not because - I am convinced - some of the local politicians earn a whole lot extra by helping the dealers in soft drugs (at least), for these can get mayoral privileges that allow these illegal dealers to deal what still are illegal drugs for thirty years now as if they are not.

This set-up serves the dealers, the politicians, the police and the public, and so the Dutch may keep drugs illegal as long as possible: it is financially very profitable.

6. Germany Makes College Education Free as American Students Drown in Debt

The next item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig!:
This is not a long article, and the reason to quote it here is mostly as a contrast to the situation in the United States.

It starts as follows:
Higher education tuition fees were banned in Germany earlier this week for anyone pursuing a degree in the country.

Yes, that includes Americans.

Which - although quite liberal - does not give Americans any money to live from, nor does it teach them German. But yes, unlike the United States the Germans now are free to develop their intellect if they have any.

The following is quoted from Think Progress:

German universities only began charging for tuition in 2006, when the German Constitutional Court ruled that limited fees, combined with loans, were not in conflict the country’s commitment to universal education. The measure proved unpopular, however, and German states that had instituted fees began dropping them one by one…Higher education is now free throughout the country, even for international students. [Tuesday], Lower Saxony became the last of seven German states to abolish tuition fees, which were already extremely low compared to those paid in the United States.

“We got rid of tuition fees because we do not want higher education which depends on the wealth of the parents,” Gabrielle Heinen-Kjajic, the minister for science and culture in Lower Saxony, said in a statement. Her words were echoed by many in the German government. “Tuition fees are unjust,” said Hamburg’s senator for science Dorothee Stapelfeldt. “They discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

This gets quoted because these are the right reasons not to ask tuition fees for higher education, which indeed I profited from as well, for I am the child of poor parents, and could not have studied - in spite of my very high IQ and obvious brilliance [2] - if I would have to pay what the Dutch have to pay now. (For the political Dutch are always eager to follow the bad example of the U.S., and they have done so once again with regards to studying.)

7. Sick Sadists Patrol the Web Anonymously

The next item is an article by Joanna Rothkopf on AlterNet:

This is not part of the crisis series, but is here because I have been hit the same way, by sadists and degenerates, who could be as sadistic and degenerate as they wanted because they were anonymous and therefore I could not name and shame them on my site.

The article starts as follows:
 

As an Internet writer, I have seen no end to the cruelty that stems from the promise of anonymity. For seemingly benign articles, I have attracted the foulest vitriol from hundreds of commenters, calling me ignorant, stupid, unqualified and more profane nicknames than I care to recall. Message boards like Reddit and 4chan attract the truly evil, where entire message threads exist to belittle and berate, or to raise opinions that are intentionally unpopular for their bigotry and violence (such as the subreddit that seriously addresses the benefits of rape).

Precisely! Also, in case you might think that being anonymous is not what most people really want, since they would want to be personally known and appreciated: That is - unfortunately - not true.

Many internet users have no degrees, few brains, little education, and quite a few of them also seem to have strong tastes for taking anonymous revenge for this on anyone who is evidently more intelligent, attractive, special or interesting than they are themselves.

I have learned this on Phoenix Rising in 2010, where not only I was persecuted, but anyone was persecuted who seemed more intelligent than the average user, since when I have almost totally avoided any list for the ill. I do not want to be criticized by anonynous sadists and trolls, and I much rather do things myself than with a horde of people that I am not even allowed to know who they are, so that they can spin all manner of bullshit about their sweet selfs, about whom they always refuse to answer any personal details such as age and degrees. (Even the gender is uncertain in many cases!)

But now there are some scientific data, as Joanna Rothkopf tells us, and indeed they are just what I - a psychologist - expected them to be:
Why do trolls behave the way they do?  Two studies published in the September 2014 issue of Personality and Individual Differences seek to answer that question. The studies examined personality traits and commenting styles of 1,215 people and found that the trolls had personality traits that exactly lined up with what is known as the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, a psychological term used to describe those who manipulate and trick others for personal gain.
Here is a quotation from the second study:
“Of all personality measures,” the study reads, “sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism.”
Precisely.

Finally, the article is also realistic in not expecting much from any measures -  though I, for one, refuse to read comments these days: Far too many sadists for my taste, next to idiots who have nothing to say, but take a lot of space saying it nevertheless, nearly always in very bad prose as well.

But yes, the title is quite right:
Sick Sadists Patrol the Web Anonymously: as long as people may be anonymous, most people will want to be anonymous, for this makes it possible to pose as whoever they wish to be, and it also gives the best of opportunities for sadism and for sadists (though I agree that most are not sadists).

8. A Letter to an Unknown Whistleblower in the Age of Blowback

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt on Common Dreams:
This is here because the article is an excerpt from "Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World" which is Tom Engelhardt's new book.

This has the following third paragraph, that explains why Tom Engelhardt expects there will be more whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning:
Because despite our striking inability to predict the future, it’s a no-brainer that the national security state is already building you into its labyrinthine systems. In the urge of its officials to control all of us and every situation, in their mania for all-encompassing secrecy, in their classification not just of the millions of documents they generate, but essentially all of their operations as “secret” or “top secret,” in their all-encompassing urge to shut off the most essential workings of the government from the eyes of its citizenry, in their escalating urge to punish anyone who would bring their secret activities to light, in their urge to see or read or listen in on or peer into the lives of you (every “you” on the planet), in their urge to build a global surveillance state and a military that will dominate everything in or out of its path, in their urge to drop bombs on Pakistan and fire missiles at Syria, in their urge to be able to assassinate just about anyone just about anywhere robotically, they are birthing you.
There is a lot more under the last dotted link, which I think you should read all of, though I have to admit that I am more pessimistic than is Tom Engelhardt, which I will now briefly explain.

The main reasons are my famliy background and my personal experiences.

I am the son and the grandson of two heroes of the Dutch resistance against Nazism: Both my father and his father were arrested in July of 1941 by the SS and were convicted as "political terrorists" to German concentration camps, which my grandfather did not survive, and my father barely (he weighed at one point 37.5 kilos, which is less than half of his normal weight).

The fact is that I have seen very few people like them [3]. Put otherwise, by far the most common reaction to injustice, discrimination, cruelty, sadism and violence in one's own society is to conform to whatever the majority does, and to try to survive oneself.

And that is precisely what I have seen in my whole life, which means that I do not expect much from any opposition, were it only because most of "the opposition" I have seen was not by real opponents but by - what turned out to be - eager collaborators: Those who "opposed" the system (in Holland, at least) "opposed" for the most part in order to collaborate with the system - and they also succeeded, that is, they made, for themselves, fine and well-paying careers. [4]

There were a few that were not like that, but again they were a small minority amidst a large majority - and so I ask: What is the point of being a registered opponent of a sick system if the majority simply ignores you?

My answer is this: while I much admire Edward Snowden, I do not believe whistleblowers like him can overturn the system. This is itself no argument of any kind against whistleblowers, who are quite important: it is an argument not to expect too much of anyone, until the system collapses on itself, as it nearly did in 2008, and as it probably will do again, for the right can control much, but not their own greed.

---------------------------------
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] Mmm...yes. I know almost all Dutchmen still insist that they know that "everyone" (with four parents with Dutch names, as I have (*)) "is equivalent" but that always was a cowardly lie, and also did not prevent any Dutchmen from trying to get as rich as possible, have the best doctors and lawyers, and the most attractive partner. (And all I am saying is that not everybody is precisely the same as everyone else. It is true that I have many times been called "brilliant" because of my conversational abilities, and have brilliant degrees, while it is also true that I never could use these gifts well because I fell ill at age 28, and never got better.)
(*) Inserted because some 20 to 35% of the noble Dutch these days are racists, who very much dislike "hatebeards", as they call Muslims.
[3] Or my mother, who also was in the resistance, but who never got arrested.

[4] In fact, this is the history of "the left" in Holland, at least in so far as these were intellectuals: They conformed and got well-paying jobs, and that was also as they wanted it to be.


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)



       home - index - summaries - mail