who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. The Imperative of Revolt
Krugman’s Sloppy, Wet Kiss’ for Barack Obama
3. Getting a Grip on Ebola
4. Reality of National Security
State Trumps 'Delusions' of
5. The Torture Secrets Are
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 21. It is a crisis log.
There are five items with five dotted links: Item 1
is about Hedges' "The imperative of revolt" and explains that in my
view that is mostly an idle hope as things are; item 2
is on Krugman's embracing Obama, which I also found odd; item
3 is about Reich on Ebola, who thinks it is mostly hysteria in the
U.S. and I agree; item 4 is about the National
Security State, but hands back the problem to "the American people";
and item 5 is by someone writing for the ACLU who
may be a little premature.
In fact, the main item to day is item 1 where I consider an analysis by Wolin and Saul, and
conclude that there is presently little hope for a revolt, at least not
without another economic collapse.
Here goes for today:
The Imperative of Revolt
item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig!:
This starts as follows -
and the questions are good ones:
I met with Sheldon
S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul
in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question.
If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and
now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted
totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made
piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if
corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance,
including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information,
and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and
surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize
dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?
I have to admit that,
although I am a philosopher, I did not know about Wolin until March
2013, and I did not know about Saul until today.
And I suppose this shows something is missing in me, but I admit I have
not been that interested in politics (of which I had a huge
first twenty years of my life, much larger than most), since I decided
age 20 that it was science much more than politics that I was
really interested in and expected most of the human emancipation to
Also, I am ill since I was 28, of course, which also changed my life
and its possibilities very much - 36 years of illness and lack
But OK: I should also say that since I missed them, most must
missed them, which is a great pity, because I mostly agree with the
questions in the previous paragraph and with the diagnosis in the
Wolin, who wrote
the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul,
who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see
democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States,
as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and
Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they
have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice
to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites,
courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current
economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements
willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and
delegitimize corporate power.
This I mostly agree
with, though I should say I am quite skeptical about mass movements
that are not propelled by some good understanding of a topic and
feasible plans - which means that I cannot support most mass movements
I have known about the last 45 years, and indeed nearly all of them
also have failed (except as mechanisms to launch a few - mostly
very undeserving - persons to what
later became obvious were mostly corrupt careers).
Next, there is this (skipping some):
This devolution of
the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of
nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite,
through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits
and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But
what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism,
which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his
book “Democracy Incorporated.”
I will below make a list
of points, but now continue with more quotations that make more points.
The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent
judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated.
But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the
institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and
rendered impotent and ineffectual.
First, there is this on the presence of a democratic husk that is
combined with the lack of any coherent continuous opposition - and this
is Wolin talking:
"We still have
elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media.
But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a
coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an
alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be
Second, here is Wolin's
- completely non-marxist - view of what is fundamentally wrong with
destructive because it has to eliminate customs, mores, political
values, even institutions that present any kind of credible threat to
the autonomy of the economy,” Wolin said. “That is where the battle
lies. Capitalism wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political
order subservient to the needs of the economy."
Actually, I think this
is less about capitalism as it is about the current neoliberal
(aka and better: neoconservative) proponents of a special form of it,
that reduces everything to the
question "which recipe makes the most (economical) profit?" - which is
just stupid ideologizing,
but for that very reason also is quite
there is not only no coherent intellectual opposition to
there also is no coherent factual oppositon left:
There is no
effective organized opposition to the rise of a neofeudalism dominated
a tiny corporate oligarchy that exploits workers and the poor.
Fourth, the class of
academics has, once again (see Benda), betrayed both
the people's rights and the
nurturing of rational critical ideas, and instead sold out to the money
“The reform class,
those who believe that reform is possible, those who believe in
humanism, justice and inclusion, has become incredibly lazy over the
last 30 or 40 years,” Saul said. “The last hurrah was really in the
1970s. Since then they think that getting a tenured position at Harvard
and waiting to get a job in Washington is actually an action, as
opposed to passivity.”
I have seen that whole
process in Holland, from the 1970s onwards: Nearly everybody was lying;
nearly everybody was only interested in a career; and the
careerists got the best of jobs, and also destroyed the real
universities, reducing them to colleges - and indeed their whole real
idea of "a revolution" was any movement that gets me (the
"revolutionary" "academic") a tenured position.
So let me makea list of points. Here are
eight of them:
I think that is mostly correct
- and it means that I see little grounds for hope, apart from
major economic collapse. In fact, that is almost the only hope I have,
for I think a major economic collapse is likely, though this also will
- Democratic rituals and
institutions are these days largely a facade for unchecked global
- Academics, intellectuals
and journalists these days function as echo chambers for elites,
courtiers and corporate systems managers.
- The corporations have
succeeded in seizing nearly all forms of political and social power.
- All the institutions
that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered
impotent and ineffectual.
- What is especially
missing as regards ideas is a crucial, continuous opposition
- What is especially
missing as regards facts is any effective
organized opposition: The "left"
has become "Third Way",
i.e. right wing lite, and helped destroy the
trade unions and helped installing austerity for the poor.
- Capitalism, or at least
its ideologists, wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political
order subservient to the needs of the economy, and has reduced economy
the question "what is most profitable for the rich".
- The vast majority of the
academics have sold out, already in the 80-ies,
and have destroyed the universities and remade them into colleges were
almost anyone with an IQ higher than 100 can get some sort of diploma,
if only in "multimedia studies", provided he or she has the money to
pay for it.
much harm, much repression and much poverty for very many.
But we are not yet done with Chris Hedges' article, for Hedges asked
Wolin and Saul for their ideas on revolution:
Wolin and Saul,
while deeply critical of Lenin’s ideology of state capitalism and state
terror, agreed that creating a class devoted full time to radical
change was essential to fomenting change. (...) The alliance between
mass movements and a professional revolutionary class, they said,
offers the best chance for an overthrow of corporate power.
I do not think
Firstly, you do not "create classes", and secondly the whole idea of "a professional revolutionary class" seems to me outdated (and bound to be
scoped up by the NSA). Also, it did not work out well for either the
Soviet Union or China: Being revolutionized by a very small "professional revolutionary class" meant the members of that - extremely
small - class kept power for at least 60 years, while all the time
And there is this on the policies of the neoconservatives (which
incidentally I find a better name than "neoliberals"). This is
neoconservatives (..) have always been Bolsheviks.
They are the Bolsheviks of the right. Their methodology is the
methodology of the Bolsheviks. They took over political parties by
internal coups d’état. They worked out, scientifically, what things
they needed to do and in what order to change the structures of power.
They have done it stage by stage. And we are living the result of that.
The liberals sat around writing incomprehensible laws and boring policy
papers. They were unwilling to engage in the real fight that was won by
a minute group of extremists.”
Yes, and the right has
been quite successful, and have built up their positions and
policies from the early seventies onwards. The reasons they
quite successful are mainly that they had a lot of money; they worked
(and work) in
secret; and they were not opposed by neither the political
parties nor the
academics (who indeed for forty years mostly "sat around writing incomprehensible laws and
boring policy papers") nor
the trade unions.
Finally, there is the proposal of the title: "The imperative of
revolt". What to think about this given the
list of points I made?
As I said, I see little grounds for hope on a realistic revolt,
apart from the next economic collapse - and then the outcome will
depend on a combination of chance and feasible ideas.
Krugman’s Sloppy, Wet Kiss’ for Barack Obama
item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig!:
This starts as
follows (and has been treated before in Nederlog):
Historic Obama critic
Paul Krugman made an about-face in his opinion of the president’s
performance in a much-discussed Rolling Stone essay on Oct. 8 that Salon columnist Thomas Frank,
who believes Krugman’s “relentless, one-man war on austerity… should
have earned him a second Nobel Prize,” finds incredible.
In the Rolling Stone essay,
the economist and New York Times columnist declared Obama “one of the
most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.”
Frank begins his critique
of the piece by affirming that his disappointment with the president
and the disappointment of so many others occurred in significant part
“because we paid such close attention to Paul Krugman.” From the
Affordable Care Act to the stimulus and financial reform, Krugman wrote
time and again, Obama didn’t go far enough. But now Krugman’s decided
that “the glass is half full,” Frank states.
Frank makes the case for
half empty. “On the really momentous economic issues of our time,” he
writes, “all of them brought into sharp, awful focus by the financial
crisis of 2008—Obama’s response has ranged from merely competent to
The reason this is
here is mainly because I think Thomas Frank is right, and the
link to his essay works. Also, he has the advantage - so to speak -
of having been a strong Obama supporter for a long time.
a Grip on Ebola
item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
I agree, and there is a
considerable amount more that draws the same picture.
We have to get a grip.
Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two
people are infected with his body fluids.
The real crisis is the
hysteria over Ebola that’s being fed by media outlets seeking
sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.
That hysteria is causing
us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a
middle school after learning the school’s principal had traveled to
Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single
case of Ebola.
That is: I agree Ebola is not a crisis in the USA, but it has been made
into a crisis by the combination of the media and the considerable part
of the U.S. population that hardly can think rationally, and therefore
often responds hysterically.
Then again, that last problem - that a considerable part of the U.S. population hardly can
think rationally, and therefore often responds hysterically - seems to
me to be considerably larger than Reich seems to assume, but I
agree that writing about that problem will not make one popular and
indeed also will not really change the situation.
of National Security State Trumps 'Delusions' of
item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
"I think the American people are deluded."
The speaker is Michael
J. Glennon, who is a political scientist who wrote a new book "National
Security and Double Government" in which he argues as follows:
Yes - but the double
government also got explained by Wolin (see item 1),
and it is better seen, it seems to me, as a take over of nearly all
political powers by the rich and the conservatives, who also have been
scheming to do just that from the early seventies onwards. And they
have achieved a lot.
Glennon argues that
because managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and
law enforcement agencies operate largely outside the institutions meant
to check or constrain them—the executive branch, the courts,
Congress—national security policy changes very little from one
administration to the next.
This explains, he
says, why the Obama version of national security is virtually
indistinguishable from the one he inherited from President George W.
Bush. It's also why Guantanamo is still
opena lot; why whistleblowers are being prosecuted
more; why NSA surveillance has expanded;
why drone strikes have increased.
Also, Glennon's "solution" seems to me very thin, and mostly based on
hope without supporting facts:
The reason that is very
thin and mostly
based on hope without supporting facts is that Glennon is right about "the pervasive political ignorance
on the part of the American people": You cannot remove that in
this or in the next generation, and that means that "the American
people", or at least that considerable part that is mostly ignorant
about politics, will not do it.
To dismantle this
so-called "double government"—a phrase coined by British journalist and
businessman Walter Bagehot to describe the British
government in the 1860s—will be a challenge, Glennon admits. After all,
"There is very little profit to be had in learning about, and being
active about, problems that you can’t affect, policies that you can’t
But he is not
hopeless. "The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on
the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is
emerging from these concealed institutions. That is where the energy
for reform has to come from: the American people," he said. "The people
have to take the bull by the horns."
5. The Torture Secrets Are Coming
item is an article by Marcellene Hearn on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows -
and Marcellene Hearn is a staff attorney for the ACLU:
And this means that the
hope the title gives is - well: premature. In fact, the article ends as
Once you've seen the Abu
they're not easily forgotten.
The hooded man, the
electrodes, the naked bodies piled upon each other, and the grinning
soldier with a thumbs up. The images are the stuff of nightmares.
They're also incontrovertible evidence that our government engaged in
torture, and their publication sparked a national conversation that
helped end the Bush administration's torture program.
Nevertheless, the Obama
administration is still fighting to keep the full truth about torture –
including photos the public hasn't yet seen – from the American people.
But recently the courts and the Senate have been pushing back,
resisting the government's claims that it can't reveal its torture
secrets. As a result, those secrets may finally be dragged into the
With the courts
and the Senate holding the line, we may soon know more than ever – not
only about our past – but also about our present abusive practices.
Only then can we truly move
forward, and not backward.
I hope she is right, but
we will not know until October 29 at the soonest.
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: