20, 2014
Crisis: Tories' fairytales, Crisis, Risen, Poitras on Snowden, Hudson
  "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

 Why did Britain’s political class buy into the Tories’
     economic fairytale?

The unending economic crisis makes us feel powerless –
     and paranoid

3. Journalist Risen: 'Mercenary Class' Now Permanent
     Fixture in National Security State

4. Tom Engelhardt Interviews Laura Poitras on Snowden &
     the Total Information Capture Approach to Surveillance

5. Michael Hudson: Capital Allocation, Debt, and Stock
     Market Volatility

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Monday, October 20. It is a
crisis log.

There are five items with five dotted links: Item 1 is on the Tories' economic fairytales, by someone who teaches economics at Cambridge; item 2 is on the crisis and concerns its psychological consequences (which I am a bit more doubtful about); item 3 is a fine interview with James Risen, and item 4 is a fine interview with Laura Poitras, and in both items I also give some of my own views of the crisis; and item 5 is a good interview with Michael Hudson, who teaches economy. This is a bit technical, so I don't quote much of it.

As to my own views, some of which are briefly expounded in
item 3 and - especially - item 4:

In fact most of the time I spent since June 10, 2013, when I discovered Edward Snowden, was spent on finding and reviewing articles on the crisis, which contrasts with the earlier entries I wrote on the crisis from 2008-2013, when I
wrote mostly about what I myself thought, and occasionally also included rather general statements, notably on December 25, 2012, and on January 16, 2013.

In this Nederlog I give some more of my own position, although I suppose I will work this out in a little more detail in a later crisis item.

Here goes for today:

1. Why did Britain’s political class buy into the Tories’ economic fairytale?

The first item is an article by Ha-Joong Chang on The Guardian:
This starts as follows - and note Ha-Joong Chang teaches economics at the University of Cambridge:

The UK economy has been in difficulty since the 2008 financial crisis. Tough spending decisions have been needed to put it on the path to recovery because of the huge budget deficit left behind by the last irresponsible Labour government, showering its supporters with social benefit spending. Thanks to the coalition holding its nerve amid the clamour against cuts, the economy has finally recovered. True, wages have yet to make up the lost ground, but it is at least a “job-rich” recovery, allowing people to stand on their own feet rather than relying on state handouts.

That is the Conservative party’s narrative on the UK economy, and a large proportion of the British voting public has bought into it. They say they trust the Conservatives more than Labour by a big margin when it comes to economic management. And it’s not just the voting public. Even the Labour party has come to subscribe to this narrative and tried to match, if not outdo, the Conservatives in pledging continued austerity. The trouble is that when you hold it up to the light this narrative is so full of holes it looks like a piece of Swiss cheese.

Yes, and it is not only the UK economy that has been in trouble since the 2008 financial crisis, but Western economy. Also, I'd like to recall the reader that I have been saying so since September 1, 2008, and while I am certainly not the only one who has said so all the time, I am in a fairly small minority.

As to the holes in the piece of Swiss cheese: Yes indeed - but then that is also to be expected if, as has been the case, "the arguments" of the Conservatives were almost wholly propaganda.

You'll have to check out the article to see why some of the arguments do not work. I pick up the argument further on:

When faced with this, supporters of the Tory narrative would say, “OK, but however it was caused, we had to control the deficit because we can’t live beyond our means and accumulate debt”. This is a pre-modern, quasi-religious view of debt. Whether debt is a bad thing or not depends on what the money is used for. After all, the coalition has made students run up huge debts for their university education on the grounds that their heightened earning power will make them better off even after they pay back their loans.

The same reasoning should be applied to government debt. For example, when private sector demand collapses, as in the 2008 crisis, the government “living beyond its means” in the short run may actually reduce public debt faster in the long run, by speeding up economic recovery and thereby more quickly raising tax revenues and lowering social spending.
Yes, indeed. Also, this is pretty standard Keynes, I would say, which itself was pretty standard capitalism - except that it was capitalism-with-a-human-face, whereas the Tories wanted capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face, and they got it, as the article also explains fairly well: Nearly all of the gains went to the few rich, and most of the jobs that were created were of very poor quality.

Here is the conclusion of the article:

The success of the Conservative economic narrative has allowed the coalition to pursue a destructive and unfair economic strategy, which has generated only a bogus recovery largely based on government-fuelled asset bubbles in real estate and finance, with stagnant productivity, falling wages, millions of people in precarious jobs, and savage welfare cuts.

The country is in desperate need of a counter narrative that shifts the terms of debate. A government budget should be understood not just in terms of bookkeeping but also of demand management, national cohesion and productivity growth. Jobs and wages should not be seen simply as a matter of people being “worth” (or not) what they get, but of better utilising human potential and of providing decent and dignified livelihoods. Ways have to be found to generate economic growth based on rising productivity rather than the continuous blowing of asset bubbles.

Without a new economic vision incorporating these dimensions, Britain will continue on its path of stagnation, financial instability and social conflict.

Which means that "Britain will continue on its path of stagnation, financial instability and social conflict", I'd say.

But I also note that the question the title asks did not really get answered,
though I have answered them myself, in outline:

The reasons almost the whole of England's "political class" does "buy into the Tories' economic fairytale" are mostly the following two. First, most of the "debate about economics" is not economical debate but is much simplified propaganda, that is plugged by the conservative media as if it were fact. Second, most of the members of the English "political class" know where their own private real interests are: with the rich, whose propagandistic fairytales are being plugged by the media.

2. The unending economic crisis makes us feel powerless – and paranoid 

The next item is an article by Paul Mason, who is the economics editor of Channel 4 News:

This starts as follows - and in fact is another statement like that in item 1:

Six years into the economic crisis we can still get days – as with last week’s market correction – where the froth blows off the recovery and reveals only something flat and stale beneath. The fundamental economic problems have not been solved: they’ve just been palliated.

In today’s economy we never quite seem to turn the corner towards rising growth, falling poverty, stabilised public finances. Not so much winter without Christmas, but winter without ever getting to the shortest day. And that is doing something to our psychology.

It so happens that I am a psychologist, and not an economist, but I find the present article more difficult to swallow than the previous one, although I agree more than not with conclusions like this:

In the face of all this, the average person learns the true meaning of “inshallah”: the Arabic phrase denoting resignation to the will of God. We become resigned to the economy being screwed, resigned to the rich getting richer; resigned to the fact that all wars end in failure, fiasco or injustice. And we’re resigned to the possibility that all political heroes – however noble – will betray us.

But what I agree to is mostly that ordinary people seem to get resigned and not the rest, if only because diagnosing the psychological state of more than sixty million people is considerably more difficult than diagnosing their economy (and namely: because psychology in the end is about what is inside people's heads, whereas the economy is much more evident).

3.  Journalist Risen: 'Mercenary Class' Now Permanent Fixture in National Security State

The next item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist James Risen said Sunday that the secretive and multi-billion dollar war on terror has sparked an entire "mercenary class that feeds off unending war."

Risen, who could face prison time for refusing to reveal a source, made the remarks on MSNBC's Up With Steve Kornacki.

"Basically, the entire war on terror has been conducted in secret, and no one in the United states is allowed to know the full extent of what we've been doing for 13 years," Risen said.

Yes, indeed. In fact:

That was the motivation for his new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, he said, to show "that the government has used secrecy in order to allow for ... really a whole string of abuses and bizarre and unintended consequences to develop. And it shows that really, in my opinion, that secrecy only leads to abuse by the government and that we have to have a more open discussion of the war on terror and really have a more skeptical eye to it if we're going to continue to do this," he said.

There's essentially been "a national security crisis, kind of like the banking crisis, where we've deregulated a large enterprise and poured hundreds of billions of dollars into it at the same time, and we've done it in secret."

"The government has stamped 'top secret' on virtually everything," he said.

Yes, quite so: What has been nearly completely deregulated are two very large processes and institutions, namely the banking system and the security system:

Although both are funded from tax money and are supposed to work for the interests of the majority, in fact the deregulated banking system, in which one can commit major fraud after major fraud and not even be indicted only works for the rich and the very rich, whereas the deregulated security system only works for the few who are in government, but also gives them untold powers.

In both cases deregulation is and was the key: Those profiting from the banks and the government's security have succeeded in arraigning it so that they can make enormous profits and they can know everything about anyone, but at the same time have classified most information on these processes, which allows them to do mostly what they please.

As to the "mercenary class":

A "whole class of people began to realize that if you want to make money in the post-9/11 world, you came to Washington, you called yourself a counter-terrorism expert and you began to claim that you knew how to find Osama bin Laden or you knew how to stop al Qaeda."

"We've had this dramatic increase in a whole mercenary class that is now becoming a permanent part of a national security state," he said.

It's a pity this wasn't worked out more (though one can buy Risen's book): I think he knows what he is talking about, and it seems he is mostly talking about politicians and lobbyists, but I would have liked more clarity.

4. Tom Engelhardt Interviews Laura Poitras on Snowden and the Total Information Capture Approach to Surveillance  

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt, which is an interview with Laura Poitras (and his name is spelled "Engelhardt"):

I found this on Naked Capitalism, though it originates on The present version has two introductions, one by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism and one by Tom Engelhardt.

First, here is Yves Smith, who makes a point that should be made more often:
Yves here. This interview with Laura Poitras is a reminder of how the world has, and more important, hasn’t changed since the explosive revelations made by Edward Snowden less than a year and a half ago. Even though his disclosures produced a great uproar, with demands in the US, UK, and Europe for explanations and more information about the nature and range of spying programs, actual changes have been few indeed.
Yes, indeed: "actual changes have been few indeed" - the spying on everyone simply continues, as if stealing private information is legal, which it isn't, as can be seen from article 12 in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
And this is from Tom Engelhardt's introduction, who makes a point about the 98.4% who know essentially nothing about being spied upon, apart from what derives from Snowden's revelations, and a point about the new form of quasi-democracy that has been surrected by both Bush and Obama:

Here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! stat from our new age of national security. How many Americans have security clearances? The answer: 5.1 million, a figure that reflects the explosive growth of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. Imagine the kind of system needed just to vet that many people for access to our secret world (to the tune of billions of dollars). We’re talking here about the total population of Norway and significantly more people than you can find in Costa Rica, Ireland, or New Zealand. And yet it’s only about 1.6% of the American population, while on ever more matters, the unvetted 98.4% of us are meant to be left in the dark.

For our own safety, of course. That goes without saying.

All of this offers a new definition of democracy in which we, the people, are to know only what the national security state cares to tell us.  Under this system, ignorance is the necessary, legally enforced prerequisite for feeling protected.  In this sense, it is telling that the only crime for which those inside the national security state can be held accountable in post-9/11 Washington is not potential perjury before Congress, or the destruction of evidence of a crime, or torture, or kidnapping, or assassination, or the deaths of prisoners in an extralegal prison system, but whistleblowing; that is, telling the American people something about what their government is actually doing.  And that crime, and only that crime, has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law (and beyond) with a vigor unmatched in American history.
Quite so. And this is why the United States is not a democracy anymore since 9/11/2001. What it presently is - a plutocracy, an oligarchy, an inverted totalitarianism - is less clear, even though it does seem clear what it will end up as if this continues and does not get ended by a new major crisis:

A plutocratic oligarchy, in which a few rich determine everything, and the large mass of the electorate knows almost nothing about the real things they are supposed to vote about; who earn very little even if they work a lot; and who are without any real power. Thus the situation of the 1800-hundreds will have  been remade: a few rich living in great wealth and determining almost everything, amidst a mass of 99% effective sub-humans, who earn very little, have no power at all, and know hardly anything about the real processes that determine their lives.

Next, here are a few quotations of Laura Poitras. The first is about the scope: In effect everyone is subject to the NSA's and the Five Eyes' illegal spying:

Laura Poitras: The most striking thing Snowden has revealed is the depth of what the NSA and the Five Eyes countries [Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the U.S.] are doing, their hunger for all data, for total bulk dragnet surveillance where they try to collect all communications and do it all sorts of different ways. Their ethos is “collect it all.” I worked on a story with Jim Risen of the New York Times about a document — a four-year plan for signals intelligence — in which they describe the era as being “the golden age of signals intelligence.”  For them, that’s what the Internet is: the basis for a golden age to spy on everyone.

This focus on bulk, dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of the planet is certainly what’s most staggering.
Well - yes and no, and mostly no, at least for me, who published in October of 2005 a long Dutch piece on "terrorism" in which I outlined that neither the war nor the terrorism were essential: what was essential was the reshaping of politics by "legal" means that were "justified" by "terrorism", which in fact was there, or at least served as if it was there, so as to justify these means, that meant much more power to the rich few and the governments, and much less powers for the rest.

This also means that I think a different picture is more plausible, which comes to this - and is told especially with reference to the USA:

Ever since the 1960ies, there was a future possible in which the government could control and survey the data that ordinary folks produced and used, and that future was one in which almost every household ran a personal computer. This was also quite clearly seen and foreseen by the late 1960ies by persons who were then in the top U.S. security, and this included, even then, the spying on everyone that became reality in this Millenium: See Brezezinski.

But until 1981 neither right wing politicians nor security experts amounted to much: From 1965-1980 were the golden years of the left, which meant essentially that there were many personal freedoms while there was a considerable amount of economical sharing of welfare, especially because of progressive taxation (i.e. the rich pay a higher percentage in tax than the poor).

In 1971 there also was a secret plan by Lewis Powell Jr., who tried to bring the right together. This succeeded, also helped by Reagan, who started to deregulate, which meant in effect: much enlarging the freedoms of the few rich to exploit, abuse, and defraud the many poor.

Again that succeeded, and indeed was copied by Bill Clinton and later Tony Blair, who claimed to be from the third way, which pretended to be a reconciliation of left-wing and right-wing policies, but in fact was giving up socialism, trade unions and regulations, while acting for capitalism, for the rich and for deregulations.

This succeeded as well, but was not yet enough: Through the 9/11 crisis, which I now think was more probable than not a false flag operation, that also happened after the Supreme Court had taken the elections from Gore, who had won, and given them to Bush Jr., the right wing got its enormous extensions of power by spying on everyone; got its new war that made very large profits for American companies and American rich; and also got most of the legal changes that forced everyone who is not rich into a dependent position on the rich, which it did mostly by making the 99% a lot poorer and the 1% a corresponding amount richer, which again was aggravated by the crisis, especially since Obama and Holder sided with the banks against the people.

I think that is a considerably more plausible story than many other stories I've heard, but indeed I agree that, like everyone else who is not a director of an institution like the NSA, this is based on informed guessing more than on real knowledge. (But as I said: Very few have the knowledge.)

Anyway, that was my take.

Here is Poitras on Snowden's influence:

LP: I agree that Snowden has presented us with choices on how we want to move forward into the future.  We’re at a crossroads and we still don’t quite know which path we’re going to take.  Without Snowden, just about everyone would still be in the dark about the amount of information the government is collecting. I think that Snowden has changed consciousness about the dangers of surveillance.
Yes, I agree, although it also is uncertain what difference this "changed conscious- ness" means, especially since the many still are mostly deceived.

Finally, here is Poitras on the failings of the security system as regards security:

LP: Snowden and many other people, including Bill Binney, have said that this mentality — of trying to suck up everything they can — has left them drowning in information and so they miss what would be considered more obvious leads.  In the end, the system they’ve created doesn’t lead to what they describe as their goal, which is security, because they have too much information to process.

I don’t quite know how to fully understand it.
Again, as I understand it security was never the end of the National Security Agency (NSA), at least not since 9/11/2001 and probably also not since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989: What the NSA directors wanted, at least since the death of the Soviet Union, was not security against foreign enemies, but almost complete control of the U.S. press and of all persons who might somewhat radically want to deviate from the government's plans in the USA.

To end, here is Neil Young's recent "Who's Gonna Stand Up". I like the classical music - in this version - and the text:

5. Michael Hudson: Capital Allocation, Debt, and Stock Market Volatility

The next item is an article by Lambert Strether on Naked Capitalism:
In fact, this is an interview on the Real News with Michael Hudson, who is a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

I liked the interview, but I agree it is a bit technical, so I only quote Hudson's view of the present:

What we have is living on the corpse of the economy that was left in 2008. It’s basically an economic shrinkage process. There’s no infrastructure spending. The infrastructure’s aging. There’s little new corporate industrial investment. That’s stopped. There’s simply services trade in the military.
This is by a professor of economics on the U.S.

[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)

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