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Nederlog


  October
9, 2014
Crisis: Ownership, IMF-warning, Guantánamo, War, Universities, Money, Privacy, Dictators
  "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.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on data ownership
2.
 IMF warns period of ultra-low interest rates poses fresh
     financial crisis threat

3. Lax Guantánamo force feeding resulted in 'assaults' on
     nurses, US lawyers say

4. Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt
     that Endless War is Official U.S. Doctrine
   
5. The Death of American Universities
6. America’s 14 Richest People Made More Money Than
     Needed to Fund Food Stamps for 50 Million People

7. Privacy, Free Speech on the Line as Court Considers FBI's
     Warrantless Surveillance Program

8. Freedom vs. Stability: Are Dictators Worse than
     Anarchy?


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 9. It is a
crisis log.

There are 8 items with 8 dotted links. I think item 2, item 4, item 6 and item 7 are interesting. There are also some - item 1 and item 8, for example - that might have been interesting but that seem quite mistaken to me. (I will briefly explain.)

Also, here is - once again - a statement on the
crisis series:

This is a series of currently well over 600 essays, started on September 1, 2008, of which the first 82 are in Dutch but the rest in English, and which are since June 10, 2013 mostly selections + reviews of journalistic articles about aspects of the crisis (as defined by me). Also, I take the term "crisis" in a fairly wide sense: it covers the economy, health care, education, politics and law, public debate and the climate. The format for the selections + reviews is that I quote and link the titles, name the authors, and select some that I review. Again, the crisis series is part of Nederlog, that I started in 2004, and that since grew almost daily, to what is presently nearly 200 MB. And one of the shortcomings of the series is that I currently have too many subjects each day to put into the title, which therefore only has key words. (This can not be done differently without too much trouble.)

Anyway - here goes:

1. Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on data ownership

The first item is an article by Alex Hern on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The data we create about ourselves should be owned by each of us, not by the large companies that harvest it, the Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, said today.
I say?! He probably means well, but it seems to me that I do owe my own data, at least under capitalism, even if the NSA and the GCHQ have found ways to steal them. (So the "should" is extremely question-begging.)

To say otherwise is to make all computer-users mere accidental slaves who work for the NSA and Facebook, and do not have any
ownership of anything they do, write, create, think of: Everything you create is owned by those who can take it. Or so it seems.

As stated, Berners-Lee inverts things, and speaks as if the data we create ourselves are not owned by us, but by the secret services and dataminers who steal them. That is pretty crazy, in my eyes, but indeed we get this through a journalist.

As the rest of the article also does not give more clarity, and besides is quite obscure to me. Since I can program and use a personal computer daily since 1987, and I am far from stupid, I take it that the reason the article is quite obscure is - probably - the journalist's lack of capacity to write clearly.

But I don't know, and indeed had expected - at least - to read something a lot clearer.

2.  IMF warns period of ultra-low interest rates poses fresh financial crisis threat

The next item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

A prolonged period of ultra-low interest rates poses the threat of a fresh financial crisis by encouraging excessive risk taking on global markets, the International Monetary Fund has said.

The Washington-based IMF said that more than half a decade in which official borrowing costs have been close to zero had encouraged speculation rather than the hoped-for pick up in investment.

I say, again. Let me list what I find odd in the above, though indeed I do not blame Larry Elliott, who merely reports:

First, the "ultra-low interest rates" only hold for banks: They can rent out their money to non-banks, such as students and home-owners at a rate of 5% to 30%. Second, the schema was created to help the banks from going broke in 2008, and has been ever extended since to give the bank managers very easy money. Third, evidently if you do not punish the bank managers for fraud (which has not happened at all) and if you give them money almost for nothing (as has been happening ever since 2008) of course they will speculate. So the IMF seems to be a very slow learner, since this has been the case for six years now.

Next, here is some IMF-prose, that seems written by a computer:

“Accommodative policies aimed at supporting the recovery and promoting economic risk taking have facilitated greater financial risk taking,” the IMF said.

Attempted translation to English: Giving money at almost zero interest to bankers has made them risk more money. (They can do as they please, for they know they will not be punished, and they will be bailed out if they fail. And no, this bracketed part is not a translation, but is a consequence or presupposition.)

There is more in the article, but it mostly shows the IMF's prose is either written by a computer or is designed to be nearly unreadable, as the last quote indeed shows: whoever wrote that either is an idiot or wants others to feel like idiots.

The clearest message is in the title, that I will also translate a bit: IMF warns ultra-low interests enable fraud and corruption that will lead to another crisis.

And that seems quite true, and not surprising. It's nice the IMF says so, but it would be a lot nicer if they could write their warnings in reasonable English instead of Bureaucratese.

3. Lax Guantánamo force feeding resulted in 'assaults' on nurses, US lawyers say

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Three days of legal arguments concluded Wednesday in the first-ever court challenge to the controversial US practice of forcibly feeding hunger-striking detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

While most of the testimony occurred in public, against the wishes of a Justice Department that warned national security could be compromised, Judge Gladys Kessler closed her courtroom doors in the afternoon to watch and discuss classified videotapes showing the tube-feeding and forcible cell extraction of Syrian detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
(....)
Dhiab, who has spent much of his 12 years at Guantánamo hunger striking to protest his confinement without charge, wants Kessler to bar his captors from repeatedly removing and reinserting his feeding tubes, a process he describes as torturous, and using guards to forcibly remove him from his cell for the feeding.

Note that Dhiab has spent 12 years locked up, without having a court case against him, and without any proven guilt, and indeed is said to be scheduled for release. So I think he certainly has very serious grounds for complaints.

But not according to the US military:
As they concluded their case, Justice Department attorneys relied on written declarations from unidentified medical officers at Guantánamo and two detentions operations commanders, Colonels John Bogdan and David Heath, to contend that the forced feedings and forced cell extractions are safe, necessary and humane.
Note that "the forced feedings and forced cell extractions are safe, necessary and humane". Maybe the prisoners should be forced to pay for the excellent, kind, and very humane treatment they are getting for 12 years now by the American military, who are great humanists, and never ever lie, cheat or deceive (?).

4. Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt that Endless War is Official U.S. Doctrine

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Long before Americans were introduced to the new 9/11 era super-villains called ISIS and Khorasan, senior Obama officials were openly and explicitly stating that America’s “war on terror,” already 12 years old, would last at least another decade. At first, they injected these decrees only anonymously; in late 2012, The Washington Post - disclosing the administration’s secret creation of a “disposition matrix” to decide who should be killed, imprisoned without charges, or otherwise “disposed” of - reported these remarkable facts:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

That is, therefore, a "war against terrorism" that will last at least 22 years, and in fact the Pentagon said it will take "At least 10 to 20 years", so the 22 years are very probably too low an estimate. Indeed, here is Panetta:
Leon Panetta, the long-time Democratic Party operative who served as Obama’s Defense Secretary and CIA Director, said this week of Obama’s new bombing campaign: “I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war.” Only in America are new 30-year wars spoken of so casually, the way other countries speak of weather changes. He added that the war “will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.” And elsewhere: not just a new decades-long war with no temporal limits, but no geographic ones either.
That is 30 years of projected war, against totally unspecified enemies, that may be anywhere. Well... who profits from 30 years of war? And who will loose?

The government and the "defense" industry aka the military-industrial complex president Eisenhower warned against have lots to profit from:

A state of endless war justifies ever-increasing state power and secrecy and a further erosion of rights. It also entails a massive transfer of public wealth to the “homeland security” and weapons industry (which the US media deceptively calls the “defense sector”).
And those who loose, since they must pay taxes to pay for the war and send their sons and daughters to fight these wars are the ordinary people.

As to those who profit: Glenn Greenwald has graphics about Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grunman, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, that show they make great amounts of profits. You will have to consult the article - anyway a good idea - to see these.

And of course, as stated in the last quotation, the government will gain much more powers, all at the cost of the general population who have to pay (in taxes) for their own loss of powers and rights as well (but their president will verbally praise them as "exceptional!").

Here is the general situation, according to Glenn Greenwald:

This war – in all its ever-changing permutations – thus enables an endless supply of power and profit to flow to those political and economic factions that control the government regardless of election outcomes. And that’s all independent of the vicarious sense of joy, purpose and fulfillment which the sociopathic Washington class derives from waging risk-free wars (..)
The last thing the Washington political class and the economic elites who control it want is for this war to end.
I think he is correct in principle, although it seems to me that there will be at least two economical crises in these years of projected war, for there is an economical crisis of some kind every ten years or so.

But I grant that is one of the few hopeful things that may happen, and that is in itself not very hopeful at all: The next crisis may bring down the banks, but also may bring who knows what misery and trouble for many millions of people.

5. The Death of American Universities

The next item is an article by Noam Chomsky on The Jacobin Magazine:

This starts as follows (and is an edited talk of Chomsky):

On hiring faculty off the tenure track

That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Walmart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line.

The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities.

Indeed, and also outside of the U.S., for example in Holland. Here is the general model, according to Chomsky - and I agree:

The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.

Simpler terms (which I prefer) are "the rich" or "the 1%" and "the poor" or "the 99%". But that indeed is the general idea, which may also be described as "the killing of the middle class": Almost everybody who is not rich will be poor, and many will only have temporary jobs, with no certainties, and with small salaries, and hardly any rights, and very much work.

But more is going on, namely the bureaucratization of the universities:

That’s one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management — a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination.

And the same is true in universities. In the past thirty or forty years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up.

Yes. There is a lot more in the article (that I do not all agree with) but that you can reach by the last dotted links.

6. America’s 14 Richest People Made More Money Than Needed to Fund Food Stamps for 50 Million People

The next item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig!:
This starts as follows:

Fourteen of the 1 percenters made more from their investments than the $80 billion allotted for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to feed 50 million Americans. And that food assistance budget had been slashed by $8.7 billion due to a lack of federal funding, a cut that hit Americans in need hard but represented a mere tenth of the profits the über rich made on top of other forms of revenue. It gets worse.

In 2013, according to Truthout, America’s wealthiest individuals made “more than the entire budget for Social Security ($860 billion), Medicare ($524 billion), and Medicaid ($304 billion)” solely from their investments.

Note the "food assistance budget" got slashed "due to a lack of federal funding".
There is also this, quoted from Truthout:

In a testament to the inability—or unwillingness—of Congress to do anything about the incessant upward re-distribution of America’s wealth, the richest 14 Americans increased their wealth from $507 billion to $589 billion in ONE YEAR from their investment earnings. As stated by Forbes, “All together the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a staggering $2.29 trillion, up $270 billion from a year ago.”

...The fruits of American productivity go to the richest Americans, who can afford to hold onto their fortunes, defer taxes indefinitely, and then pay a smaller capital gains rate when they eventually decide to cash in. Worse yet, they can stash their winnings overseas, tax-free. It is estimated that $7.6 trillion of personal wealth is hidden in tax havens. That means, stunningly, that $1 of every $12 of worldwide wealth is hidden in a haven.

America has no wealth tax, no financial speculation tax, no means of stopping the rampant redistribution of money to the rich. As Noam Chomsky said, The concept of the Common Good that is being relentlessly driven into our heads demands that we focus on our own private gain, and suppress normal human emotions of solidarity, mutual support and concern for others.

Yes, indeed - though I disagree with the thesis that there are "no means of stopping the rampant redistribution of money to the rich": Of course there are: tax the rich more - but the government and the Congress do not want to do that, because they come from the rich, work for the rich or are paid by the rich. 

7. Privacy, Free Speech on the Line as Court Considers FBI's Warrantless Surveillance Program

The next item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday began hearings into whether the government can spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant, reviewing a landmark case from 2013 that found a National Security Letters (NSL) statute of the Patriot Act—the FBI’s tool for unchecked surveillance demands—to be unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard testimony from both digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Justice Department about the suppression-of-speech orders that accompany NSLs to prohibit telecommunications companies, like Internet Service Providers (ISPs), from discussing FBI demands for private customer data. A Justice Department lawyer expressed concern that national security efforts could be "hamstrung" if the Bureau was banned from secretly demanding information about U.S. citizens from their banks and phone companies and ordering them to stay quiet about it.

The court is likely to continue hearings for the next few months, EFF legal fellow Andrew Crocker told Common Dreams.

Note that this is specifically about "the suppression-of-speech orders that accompany NSLs to prohibit telecommunications companies, like Internet Service Providers (ISPs), from discussing FBI demands for private customer data" - which I would say make sense only in an authoritarian and not in a democratic state.

Indeed:
Alan Butler, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told Common Dreams that NSLs and the FBI’s "other surveillance authorities frustrates the public oversight to curb abuses of these authorities."
Quite so.

8.
Freedom vs. Stability: Are Dictators Worse than Anarchy?

The next item is an article by Christiane Hoffmann on Der Spiegel International:
This contains the following (and rather a lot more in expansion of this):

What Is the Role of the State?

The last decade has shown that there is something worse than dictatorship, worse than the absence of freedom, worse than oppression: civil war and chaos. The "failing states" that currently stretch from Pakistan to Mali show that the alternative to dictatorship isn't necessarily democracy -- all too often, it is anarchy. In the coming years, global politics will not be defined by the polarity between democratic and autocratic states as much as it will by the contrast between functioning and non-functioning ones.

No - you can't put it like this: it all depends: Time, circumstances, context, are all relevant and widely different. Besides, "worse" is not a factual term but an evaluative one, that is both subjective (the values of the person judging) and objective (the - supposed - facts that are judged, in some sort of context).

Also, "anarchy" seems a bit abused: Not all anarchy or anarchism is bad, and some very good people have been anarchists. (They may have been wrong - most people are wrong about many things - but they certainly meant well.)

Finally, the conclusion of the quoted paragraph is based on precisely nothing -
and why not much rather democratic and functioning or not, versus autocratic and functioning or not (which also helps to clarify that "functioning" means something rather different, depending on context and application)?!

And as the article doesn't get any better or clearer, this is merely a piece of tendentious journalism, where opinions are offered as facts, also without evidence, background or context.

I had expected a better article in Spiegel International.
---------------------------------
P.S. Oct 10, 2014: I corrected a few typos.
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.) 


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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