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Nederlog


 October
27, 2014
Crisis: Free Press, American law, Banks, Income inequality, Capitalism
  "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.
 The Myth of the Free Press
2.
IRS Seizes Money From Guiltless Americans on Mere
     Suspicion

3. Why Do Banks Want Our Deposits? Hint: It’s Not to Make
     Loans

4. Why income inequality is America’s biggest (and most
     difficult) problem

5. Can Capitalism Co-exist With Democracy?

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, October 27. It is a
crisis log.

There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a fine article by Chris Hedges on "the free press" (mostly dead, in the main media); item 2 is in fact about the corruption of the law and enrichment of the police or state bureaucracies; item 3 is about banks; item 4 is about income inequality (which I think should be the main political end, that is: to make them less by taxing the rich more); while item 5 points out, quite correctly, that "capitalism" is - at least - ambiguous.

Here goes:

1. The Myth of the Free Press

The first item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

There is more truth about American journalism in the film “Kill the Messenger,” which chronicles the mainstream media’s discrediting of the work of the investigative journalist Gary Webb, than there is in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which celebrates the exploits of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.

The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy—even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes. They slavishly venerate the military and law enforcement in the name of patriotism. They select the specialists and experts, almost always drawn from the centers of power, to interpret reality and explain policy. They usually rely on press releases, written by corporations, for their news. And they fill most of their news holes with celebrity gossip, lifestyle stories, sports and trivia. The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses. The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities. These journalistic courtiers, who can earn millions of dollars, are invited into the inner circles of power. They are, as John Ralston Saul writes, hedonists of power.

Actually, I do not know whether the first paragraph is true: I did see “All the President’s Men”, but that was in the nineteenseventies, and it was a forgettable film - I merely remember to have seen it. And I didn't see “Kill the Messenger”,
so I can't really judge - except that, having read a fair amount from and about Chris Hedges, I guess he is right. [2]

As to the second paragraph: I think it is quite true, and indeed have seen the same development in Holland - and please note Hedges is talking about the mass media, and not the rest: There still are some good journalists and there still is good journalism, but indeed rarely in the mass media, which do "inform" most ordinary people and so do mostly by misleading them, if only by the selections they offer, and those they choose not to show.

The rest of Hedges' page 1 is mostly concerned with Gary Webb, who was a brave journalist who uncovered the CIA's complicity in smuggling tons of cocaine to fund  the CIA-backed contra-rebels, and then was driven to suicide in 2004 by his "journalistic" "peers". I believe the story, but skip it: You can read it under the last dotted link.

But on page 2 Hedges is back with criticism of the present mass media:
The mass media are plagued by the same mediocrity, corporatism and careerism as the academy, labor unions, the arts, the Democratic Party and religious institutions. They cling to the self-serving mantra of impartiality and objectivity to justify their subservience to power. The press writes and speaks—unlike academics that chatter among themselves in arcane jargon like medieval theologians—to be heard and understood by the public. And for this reason the press is more powerful and more closely controlled by the state. It plays an essential role in the dissemination of official propaganda.
Yes, though I would have put it differently, although I agree that an important part of the present dysfunctioning of the media and the universities is that only mediocre conformists are offered promotions and chances, which is definitely
true for the universities in the studies I know about (psychology, philosophy, sociology, at least).

He also mentions one of my sociological favorites C. Wright Mills (because he could really think, he could really write, and he had real courage: three characteristics that are each pretty rare among academics, especially these conformistic days):
The mass media, as C. Wright Mills pointed out, are essential tools for conformity. They impart to readers and viewers their sense of themselves. They tell them who they are. They tell them what their aspirations should be. They promise to help them achieve these aspirations. They offer a variety of techniques, advice and schemes that promise personal and professional success. The mass media, as Wright wrote, exist primarily to help citizens feel they are successful and that they have met their aspirations even if they have not. They use language and images to manipulate and form opinions, not to foster genuine democratic debate and conversation or to open up public space for free political action and public deliberation. We are transformed into passive spectators of power by the mass media, which decide for us what is true and what is untrue, what is legitimate and what is not. Truth is not something we discover. It is decreed by the organs of mass communication.
That is mostly true, but requires two remarks: First, C. Wright Mills died in 1962. He did not write about today's media, though what he wrote mostly applies to them as well. (And the last link, in the above paragraph, is good and interesting - and yes, I read nearly everything Mills published, long ago, also.) This is mostly to fix perspectives, but the second remark I have is quite fundamental:

Second, the mass media write especially for the dumber half of the population, that is, those with IQs maximally 100, but who indeed make up half of the population. These people rarely read books, and the books they do read are not demanding, and usually also are neither science nor high literature. And they form the majority in any country: convince them, and you have virtually won the elections. [3]

Thus the real role of the mass media is this - and mind this is rather independent of the question whether the press is free:
Bridging the vast gap between the idealized identities—ones that in a commodity culture revolve around the acquisition of status, money, fame and power, or at least the illusion of it—and actual identities is the primary function of the mass media. And catering to these idealized identities, largely implanted by advertisers and the corporate culture, can be very profitable. We are given not what we need but what we want. The mass media allow us to escape into the enticing world of entertainment and spectacle.
But - as things are - only because "we" want it, which indeed "we" do, for the most part, if only because "we" are not intelligent enough or have to work to hard to read good books that might give us good and sensible ideas.

Next, we arrive at the most important paragraph:
At the core of this pseudo-world is the myth that our national institutions, including those of government, the military and finance, are efficient and virtuous, that we can trust them and that their intentions are good. These institutions can be criticized for excesses and abuses, but they cannot be assailed as being hostile to democracy and the common good. They cannot be exposed as criminal enterprises, at least if one hopes to retain a voice in the mass media.
Yes, indeed - and the main point is the last statement:

The main dogma is
"that our national institutions, including those of government, the military and finance, are efficient and virtuous", and the main implication is that anyone who says or gives evidence they are not, cannot be "virtuous" and deserves no hearing, reading or seeing. And indeed they will mostly not get it. [4]

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and I think you should read all of it.

2. IRS Seizes Money From Guiltless Americans on Mere Suspicion 

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

This is here mostly because it shows how the organs of the law are turning into organs of theft and self-enrichment, both in the US and in Holland, although so far (!) the mechanisms differ. 

Here is the beginning of the article that sketches the American situation, in one respect:

A controversial area of law known as civil asset forfeiture empowers the IRS to confiscate significant sums of money from “run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation” and “without ever filing a criminal complaint,” leaving the owners “to prove they are innocent,” The New York Times reports.

The law’s stated purpose is to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their finances, the paper explains. But enforcement officers have instead “swept up dairy farmers in Maryland, an Army sergeant in Virginia saving for his children’s college education,” and other guiltless Americans of modest incomes.

The point is that the police currently can appropriate "significant sums of money" without any judicial process, merely on the basis of some allegation,
after which those whose assets have been stolen have to prove they are
innocent.

I do not think that happens in Holland at present, but something else from the American "practice of the law" has passed to Holland:

The clearing of big corporations of all guilt, all responsibility for grave crimes, and the freeing those responsible of having to appear in court if only they hand over a part of their vast gains to the prosecuters of the state.

That is the essence of corruption - "You make millions by crime? Go ahead - we legal bureaucrats will free you from all responsibility... for part of the loot" - and it is now (and since a decade) widely practiced in Holland.

3. Why Do Banks Want Our Deposits? Hint: It’s Not to Make Loans 

The next item is an article by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) that I found on Truthdig, but first appeared on Brown's Web of Debt:
Note this is about the American banks. Although I also do not get any interest (which caused me to remove money from "my bank": I still have it if they go broke) in Holland, I think the Dutch and European banks still work somewhat differently:

Many authorities have said it: banks do not lend their deposits. They create the money they lend on their books.

Robert B. Anderson, Treasury Secretary under Eisenhower, said it in 1959:

When a bank makes a loan, it simply adds to the borrower’s deposit account in the bank by the amount of the loan. The money is not taken from anyone else’s deposits; it was not previously paid in to the bank by anyone. It’s new money, created by the bank for the use of the borrower.

The Bank of England said it in the spring of 2014, writing in its quarterly bulletin:

The reality of how money is created today differs from the description found in some economics textbooks: Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits.

. . . Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money.

All of which leaves us to wonder: If banks do not lend their depositors’ money, why are they always scrambling to get it? Banks advertise to attract depositors, and they pay interest on the funds. What good are our deposits to the bank?
The question is a good one - and because I do not get any interest, I removed most of the money from the bank, on the theory that it is far more likely to go broke while I then have the money, than that I loose the money - and the answer is that this simply is the cheapest way to get money (and the banks do not pay their customers any interest).

The rest of the article explains this and touts the advantages of public banks, which I agree to but leave to your interests.

4. Why income inequality is America’s biggest (and most difficult) problem      

The next item is an article by Sean McElwee on Salon:

This starts as follows:

Bold prediction: Rising inequality of income and wealth will be the most important political battleground over the next few decades.

Just take a look at the figures. The share of income accruing to the top 1 percent increased from 9 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2011. The richest 0.1 percent controlled 7 percent of the wealth in 1979 and 22 percent of the wealth in 2012. Meanwhile, there are a number of studies out there showing that the most effective way to reduce this inequality would be higher taxes on income and wealth, but the rich won’t let it happen.

I agree, indeed for the stated reason: The few rich have appropriated a vast amount of wealth over the last 40 years of deregulation, and they will neither consent to more regulation nor to higher taxes.

And in fact I agree with more than is said in the article, which I will leave to your interests:

It seems to me that income inequality must be the main point of political contention, much rather than - say - the climate, simply because 99% of the Americans are loosing money, and know they are, and agree for at least 80%
that income inequality should be much less than it is.

This is a theme on which it should be easy to get a majority, indeed quite possibly in spite of the millions the Koch brothers and others spend on lying for the rich, simply because 99% know they get less money and do more work.

5. Can Capitalism Co-exist With Democracy?

The next item is an article by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit:

In fact, the question has an obvious answer: "Of course it can" - but that is not Don Quijones point. His point is this, and relates quite explicitly to the series of interviews that Chris Hedges had with Sheldon Wolin, that was an item in yesterday's NL:
At least in the segments I’ve seen, there’s a tendency for Hedges and Wolin to describe “capitalism” as if it were unitary, when in fact it comes in different flavors. For instance, Michael Hudson has depicted the German industrial capital model versus the English (and now American) finance driven capitalism. The Japanese variant of capitalism even now places creating and preserving employment as a much more important goal than profit.
Yes, indeed. In fact, I distinguish between regulated capitalism, that may also be regulated in different ways, and unregulated capitalism, that now comes more and more to the fore in the U.S. and England, and also elsewhere.

I think the distinction is a good and a sound one, also because it explains how unregulated capitalism succeeded in further enriching the rich few, at the cost of the poor many, and because it suggests remedies that are known to work and to be feasible [5]: Regulate the economy and tax the rich more.

Finally, not only is "capitalism" an ambiguous term: "democracy" is as well. But "democracy" has many more meanings, and I shall only state the sort of democracy I believe in but have never seen, which is the reason I have not voted since 1971:
A state or city is a democracy if and only if it is in effect, if not in practice, governed by the free, informed and knowledgeable consent of the majority of its adult inhabitants.
Here are a few glosses on my criterions: "in effect if not in practice", because you cannot rule a city or a state by asking all inhabitants what they think (at least: that was sofar not the case - maybe it is nowadays, with personal computers, though it never has been tried); "free", because a manipulated or forced population is not free; "informed" because the consent of the many if this is uninformed tends to be consent to a lie or delusion; and "knowledgeable" because you do not just require generally informed citizens, you also require, for rational decisions, that those deciding are at least somewhat knowledgeable about what they decide on.

Since I clearly never lived in a society that was a democracy in that sense, I have chosen not to vote rather than to vote, if only because by not voting I am not responsible, not even a small bit, for all the crimes, lies, self-enrichments,  corruptions, lousy lying careers, posturings, and bad decisions politicians are responsible for: I did not elect them (and indeed usually think that those who seek being elected - right, left and center - are a rather bad choice from the worst possible candidates, rather than a somewhat decent choice from the good possible candidates).
---------------------------------
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] Actually, this is decent rational thinking: I do not know, simply because I know I lack the required evidence; so I guess, based on the evidence I do have (which is less conclusive). I outline it here, because this mode of reasoning happens to be pretty rare in politics.

[3] This is - so far as I can tell, and I had a very poor background, and know poor people, and unintelligent people, quite well, and a lot better than nearly anyone I met with an "(upper) middle class background" - the simple truth.
I must guess that the reason that the vast majority does not want to read or acknowledge this is that, while they are not as unintelligent as half of the population, they also do not have an IQ over 150. Well... that is too bad.
And in any case, however intelligent you are: The decisions in your country
will be made by politicians who have been elected by a majority of the less
intelligent.

[4] The point of "
And indeed they will mostly not get it" is this: Most of the journalists that remain are so much convinced "that our national institutions, including those of government, the military and finance, are efficient and virtuous" that they automatically discriminate anyone who is not thus convinced, indeed rather as happened to me in the University of Amsterdam, from which I was removed briefly before taking my - excellent - M.A. in philosophy, while being a son of real marxist parents and grandparents, because I was not a marxist. (The difference is that the journalists, although probably stupid, are more sincere than the philosophers, who all were crafty liars, without any talent, except for lying, deceiving and profiteering.)

[5] In fact "
remedies that are known to work and to be feasible" tend to be quite rare in radical politics, which is, like all politics, more a matter of faith than of knowledge, and is, again like all politics, quite like religion in that and other aspects, and quite unlike science. (Again, this was one of the reasons for me to quit politics when 20.)

Also, the reason why I am for regulated capitalism and not for socialism is that I have seen both at work, as working systems also, which again is quite unlike "knowing" something from some textbook, and found that regulated capitalism was more free and richer than socialism.

You may protest all you please (though mail rarely reaches me the last years, I must suppose thanks to the AIVD) but that is really what I think. Finally, I am also willing to agree that some form of liberal anarchism in all likelihood is better than regulated capitalism, if you are willing to agree that this requires an average IQ of 130 or more, and some more realistic and real moral attitudes than I see now on average.

And in any case, I have never seen that work, while I know that all communities that did practice some form of
liberal anarchism either remained small or went defunct.


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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