13, 2014
Crisis: Economy, Poverty, Politics, Snowden, Cohen, Public Banks, Ecology
  "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

World leaders play war games as the next financial crisis

How come we can’t fix child poverty but we can spend
     billions replacing Trident?

3. Two rootless, soulless parties have cleared the way for

4. Edward Snowden: state surveillance in Britain has no

5. Justice for Stanley Cohen
6. How to Protect Public Revenues From the Next Meltdown
7. The Kink in the Human Brain-- How Are Humans OK with
     Destroying the Planet?

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Monday, October 13. It is a
crisis log.

There are 7 crisis items today with 7 dotted links. As it happens, most articles today - item 1, item 2, item 3, item 6 and item 7 - are in fact mostly about our political leaders, who through greed, stupidity, ignorance and/or wilful blindness completely fail to solve the problems of the many, while also making them worse and worse because they mostly work for the few and the rich.

So while this is not a happy crisis log, it also marks considerable agreement on the causes of unhappiness.

1. World leaders play war games as the next financial crisis looms

The first item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
This is a rather fundamental piece by the economics editor of The Guardian, who seems - quite rightly, I think - rather depressed about the economy. I think you should read all of it. Here is a bit on the failings of the IMF:
There were four things that ensured shared prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s: strong trade unions; redistribution through the tax system; higher public spending; and curbs on the financial system. Apart from suggesting that some countries, such as Germany, might care to spend a bit more on infrastructure, the Fund is not really in favour of any of them. The message, therefore, is clear enough. Lagarde et al are worried about inequality. But they are not yet worried enough to do much about it.

This is where the comparison with the 1920s and 1930s gets scary. The problems created by the first world war were never properly dealt with, and it was only after the Great Depression and a second conflict that policies changed and global institutions were made fit for purpose. There is a real danger of history repeating itself.

And this gets explained by the article (mostly in the middle).

2.  How come we can’t fix child poverty but we can spend billions replacing Trident?

The next item is an article by Lauren Laverne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Life is hard for British kids. According to some reports, by next year most of them will be growing up in poverty , waiting to inherit a future of shrinking possibilities. Why is it, then, that the youth of the 80s seem so determined to give them a kicking? A handful of PPE graduates lucky enough to spring from the fertile soil of well-to-do 80s Britain are currently vying with one another to run the country, each promising different ways to tighten the screws on Britain’s young people.

The Tories are slashing £3,000 from the benefit cap and banning 18 to 21s who have been unemployed for more than six months from claiming jobseeker’s allowance or housing benefit. Labour will cut and means test out-of-work benefits for 18- to-21-year-olds. That old chestnut about incentivising people – as usual the old and rich get the carrot, the young and poor get the stick.

Life is mostly stick for British kids at the moment, and not the good end. Why are Britain’s ruling elite so keen to allow, even exacerbate, this situation?
The rest of the article tries to answer that question, that is also posed by its title.
Here is an outline of my own answer:

Because the British government is in the hands of the young rich, as in fact are the majorities of any of the political parties (also see the next item); because they have won their positions mostly through their riches or though working for the rich, and have been able to pay for propaganda; and because they only work for the rich's interests, and not for those of the poor.

There are more reasons, but that is a basic part of the story.

3. Two rootless, soulless parties have cleared the way for Ukip

The next item is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Has there ever been such a brazen set of political con artists, so sophisticated at manipulating genuine grievances for their own ends?
Ukip talks of breaking the “political cartel” while peddling policies the entire political elite agree on, quibbling only on scale and detail: tax cuts for the rich, privatisation, slash-and-burn austerity, curtailing workers’ rights. They are the lone critics of immigration – leaving aside, of course, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Times, the Tories and, oh, the Labour leadership too. But fair play to Ukip. Britain’s political elite has fuelled more than enough disillusionment for enterprising charlatans to exploit. Yes, there are honourable exceptions, but it has been abundantly clear what the political elite has been becoming for quite some time.
And Owen Jones means that most of the leading British politicians of any party now are "enterprising charlatans". Well... using the definition given by the Wikipedia, which is this:
A charlatan (also called swindler or mountebank) is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.
I cannot disagree (and see my articles on deception that start here). There is considerably more by Owen Jones on this theme. I will leave that to your interests, but I quote two general bits.

First, as to the reason for many more political charlatans in Great Britain:

There is no one simple reason: a general fragmentation in society and the triumph of individualism; the disappearance of industries that once sustained cohesive communities; the smothering of local government and unions; a political convergence that has left parties quibbling over nuances. These are reasons, of course, not excuses. But they help explain how parties have become the playthings of careerists inspired by their own ambitions and little else.
Yes, I agree - but I would add at least two more reasons or partial causes:

The lack of intelligence and knowledge in a large part of the population, and the disappearance of a real independent free press (outside The Guardian).

Second, as to the time scale and the importance:

But for a generation, politicians have surrendered democratic power to the market. In postwar Britain, the promise was that citizens would be provided with a secure job, an affordable home and publicly owned services and utilities to support them. What is left for politicians to promise but the odd tinker here and there, as well as cuts and yet more surrendering of power?
Yes, which also makes it start with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, which also seems about right. And Owen Jones is quite right about what is involved - and what has been lost: "a secure job, an affordable home and publicly owned services and utilities". Instead, modern politicians promise "deliverance of terrorism", and similar bullshit.

4. Edward Snowden: state surveillance in Britain has no limits

The next item is an article by Carole Cadwalladr on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The UK authorities are operating a surveillance system where “anything goes” and their interceptions are more intrusive to people’s privacy than has been seen in the US, Edward Snowden said.T

Speaking via Skype at the Observer Ideas festival, held in central London, the whistleblower and former National Security Agency specialist, said there were “really no limits” to the GCHQ’s surveillance capabilities.

He said: “In the UK … is the system of regulation where anything goes. They collect everything that might be interesting. It’s up to the government to justify why it needs this. It’s not up to you to justify why it doesn’t … This is where the danger is, when we think about … evidence being gathered against us but we don’t have the opportunity to challenge that in courts. It undermines the entire system of justice.”

He also said he thought that the lack of coverage by the UK papers of the story, or the hostile coverage of it, other than by the Guardian, “did a disservice to the public”.

Quite so. The reasons are in part a lack of good laws, and in part the utter secrecy the British government maintains around the GCHQ, while these are
stealing anything that is private but happens to be connected to the internet.

As to the documentary "Citizenfour", there is this:

Collectively, the events revealed a more rounded, human, portrait of the former NSA analyst than had been seen before, and offered a few telling glimpses of what his life was now like in Moscow.

The coverage revealed that Snowden does not drink alcohol, has never been drunk, and that he misses his “old beat-up car”. He also revealed that he has got a job, working on “a very significant grant for a foundation” on a project “for the benefit of the press and journalists working in threatened areas”.

Poitras’ documentary included the revelation that his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, had joined him in Moscow

As it happens, I also do not drink alcohol and have never been drunk, which in my case is caused by my not liking drunks and my not liking alcohol (and the last fact made it all very easy).

And here is Snowden's general warning, that I agree with, followed by a warning against Google and Facebook, that I also agree with:

But, he said: “What kind of world do we want to live in? Do you want to live in a world in which governments make decisions behind closed doors? And when you ask me, I say no.”

He also issued his strongest warning yet about how Silicon Valley firms were compromising the privacy of the public. Google and Facebook, he said, were “dangerous services”. His strongest condemnation was against Dropbox and urged erasure of it from computers. It encrypted your data, he told the audience, but kept the key and would give that to any government which asked.

There is considerably more in the article under the last dotted link.

5. Justice for Stanley Cohen 

The next item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig!:

This starts as follows, and is mostly here because I reviewed Hedges' article:

Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges speaks out against the possible 18-month prison sentence on tax charges of social justice attorney and activist Stanley Cohen in a short video that features Cohen describing the purpose and meaning of his work. (Read Hedges’ column on Cohen’s trouble here.)

I should also say that the "short video" gets linked in the article, but that I could not see it on my system. But this may be different for you.

6. How to Protect Public Revenues From the Next Meltdown

The next item is an article by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia), from the Web of Debt, that I found on Truthdig!:

This starts as follows:

Concerns are growing that we are heading for another banking crisis, one that could be far worse than in 2008.  But this time, there will be no government bailouts. Instead, per the Dodd-Frank Act, bankrupt banks will be confiscating (or “bailing in”) their customers’ deposits.
This means - I take it - that you better do not have your money in a bank (which is not too difficult since they do hardly pay any interest anyway). That is: if you share these concerns, at least, and it so happens that I do.

Here is more on the general situation:

The too-big-to-fail banks have collectively grown 37% larger since 2008. Five banks now account for 42% of all US loans, and six banks control 67% of all banking assets.

Besides their reckless derivatives gambling, these monster-sized banks have earned our distrust by being caught in a litany of frauds. In an article in Forbes titled “Big Banks and Derivatives: Why Another Financial Crisis Is Inevitable,” Steve Denning lists rigging municipal bond interest rates, LIBOR price-fixing, foreclosure abuses, money laundering, tax evasion, and misleading clients with worthless securities.

Most of the rest of the article expounds the idea of public banking, which I agree with, but will leave to your interests.

7. The Kink in the Human Brain-- How Are Humans OK with Destroying the Planet?

The next and last item of today is an article by George Monbiot that I found on AlterNet but that first appeared on The Guardian:

This starts as follows: 

This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing.

If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress?

Well...yes, but... for indeed I agree with the questions, but I am also quite aware that (1) the required "capacity for reflection" seems to be missing in many  men and nearly all leading politicians, and (2) this has been so for the last 40 years at the very least, that is, when it happened  (and many feasted on David Attenborough's documentaries about nature).

And indeed that is just the problem: even if many ordinary men and women can understand that the world's wildlife is being destroyed, and therewith the world as they know it, most of the leading politicians do not see it thus, and don't care, and instead advertise growth and fracking and profiting and "free markets".

As to the growth:

What and whom is this growth for?

It’s for the people who run or own the banks, the hedge funds, the mining companies, the advertising firms, the lobbying companies, the weapons manufacturers, the buy-to-let portfolios, the office blocks, the country estates, the offshore accounts. The rest of us are induced to regard it as necessary and desirable through a system of marketing and framing so intensive and all-pervasive that it amounts to brainwashing.

A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative – we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.

Yes, indeed. And that also is the fundamental problem: "the people who run or own the banks, the hedge funds, the mining companies, the advertising firms, the lobbying companies, the weapons manufacturers, the buy-to-let portfolios, the office blocks, the country estates, the offshore accounts" are now in effect the - very few, very rich - people who run the world, and they are mostly blinded by profit, profit, profit, which also works, for them.

Anyway, there is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link, and while it is good it will not make you any happier.

[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)

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)

       home - index - summaries - mail