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Nederlog


  November
1, 2014
Crisis: Sen. Sanders, Corporations, Engelhardt, Judge, British, Hazlitt
  "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.
 Sanders: Only If 'Millions and Millions' Rise Up, Can
     Progressive Agenda Win

2.
Corporations Act To Make Congress A Wholly Owned
     Subsidiary

3. Tom Engelhardt: The Shadow Surveillance State Is Really
     a Secret Religion

4. Judge Says Government Can’t Use State Secrets to Toss
     No Fly List Challenge

5. Ministers high on their war on drugs need a speedy cure
6. How did we forget William Hazlitt?

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 1. It is a
crisis log.

There are six items with six dotted links: item 1 has Senator Sanders explain what he thinks is necessary to reform American politics; item 2 has Eskow explain how corporations evicted democracy; item 3 has Engelhardt explain the surveillance state (this you have to read all of); item 4 shows a judge who does not accept the U.S. classified bullshit; item 5 is on the British nonsense on drugs
(that lasts now since 1968, in my own experience, but probably willl continue); and item 6 is not a crisis item but is about one of my most favorite writers.

Also, this has been uploaded a bit earlier than is normal for me.

Here goes:

1. Sanders: Only If 'Millions and Millions' Rise Up, Can Progressive Agenda Win  
 
The first item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In an interview with journalist Bill Moyers that will air Friday, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who has announced he is seriously considering a run for president in 2016—said that though voter turnout is key in order to keep Republicans and their regressive polices from making gains in Congress and local elections nationwide, the real challenge for progressives in the coming days, months, and years is to build a powerful grassroots movement that is able to break the stranglehold that big money and corporate interests have placed on the nation's democratic insitutions.

"What we have got to do is mobilize the American people in a way that we have not seen in recent history around a progressive agenda," said Sanders.

When asked by Moyers how such a mobilization might be realized, Sanders admitted that he does "not have any magical solutions," but said that when people begin to stand up and say "Enough is enough"—and talk about doing well by their kids, protecting the environment, fighting corporate interests, winning healthcare for all, and taking on the billionaire class—the movement from below will inevitably shift the current debate. "When people begin to move, the people on top will follow them," he said.

Well, yes and perhaps no. That is, I agree that there are no "magical solutions" and I agree that it is also necessary to "mobilize the American people in a way that we have not seen in recent history around a progressive agenda" - but then
I start to be a little skeptical: How is this mobilization to happen? Who will organize it? What if 50%+1 of the population is so tricked, so deceived or so stupid that they can't even vote for their own real interests?

But OK - I think he is basically right, and also that the situation is dire. Here is a little more:
"What I do know," Sanders continued, is that the landscape of U.S. politics will not change for the better "if we do not create an economy that works for ordinary people, if we do not end the fact that 95 percent of all new income now goes to the top one percent. We've got to end it, and the only way I know to do that is to rally ordinary people around the progressive agenda. So our job is to create a 50 state, grassroots movement around a progressive agenda."
Yes - but so far the right has won in the U.S., though I grant (and insist) that "the right" these days covers nearly all of the Republican party and most of the Democrats as well.

2. Corporations Act To Make Congress A Wholly Owned Subsidiary 

The next item is an article by Richard Eskow on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

As Election Day approaches, two reports show us exactly how corrupted our political system has become. Unless voters come out in force, it looks like corporate money is about to buy itself another house of Congress.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed filings from the Federal Election Commission and concluded that

In a significant shift, business groups gave more money to Republican candidates than to Democrats in seven of the most competitive Senate races in recent months, in some cases taking the unusual step of betting against sitting senators.

The Journal found that corporate PACs gave most of their donations to Democrats in the early part of the campaign. That fits with a longstanding pattern: big-business interests shower incumbents with money to encourage special treatment, both during the election year and in the upcoming term.

But giving has shifted dramatically since June. The Journal discovered that Republican candidates received the lion’s share of corporate campaign contributions in the July-to-September time period. The cash-generating power of incumbency had faded – for Democrats.

There is a considerable amount more in the article, but the basic consideration is that since corporations are persons and persons' money counts as free speech, the right can spend all they like and win almost any election - or thus it seems now.

3. Tom Engelhardt: The Shadow Surveillance State Is Really a Secret Religion 

The next item is an article by Mark Karlin on Truthout:

If you do not know who is Tom Engelhardt read the last Wikipedia link. Tom Engelhardt has a new book out "Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars and Global Security State in a Single-Super Power World", with strong support from Glenn Greenwald, and Truthout did an interview with him.

This starts as follows:

In his first chapter, Tom Engelhardt calls the leaders and acolytes of the shadow state "holy warriors":

Imagine what we call "national security" as, at its core, a proselytizing warrior religion. It has its holy orders. It has its sacred texts (classified). It has its dogma and its warrior priests. It has its sanctified promised land known as "the homeland."

Appropriately, Truthout began its Progressive Pick interview with Engelhardt by asking him about the ever-expanding covert branch of government as a religious cult.

It is a good image because the American security state is propelled by three myths: a political myth, that America Is Exceptional; an economic one, that America Works By Free Markets; and a thoroughly anti-democratic myth: the government can classify or keep secret almost anything it does that touches "national security", as it conceives of that.

Here is Engelhardt:

Tom Engelhardt: We're familiar enough with the obvious tenets of this religion: that there is no greater danger to this country, to Americans or to our world than terrorism; that in pursuing it, traditional constraints of every sort should no longer apply, including the very idea of privacy; that a blanket of secrecy about the acts of government in this pursuit is for the greater good; and that, to be fully protected and safe, the citizenry must be plunged into ignorance of what the national security state actually does in its name, and so on. It's a distinctly Manichaean religion in its view of the world. Its god is, more or less literally, an eye in the sky. And of course, as with many institutionalized religions, much of its energy goes into self-preservation and the maintenance or bolstering of a comfortable lifestyle for its warrior "priests."

Yes, indeed - though I stress that this is (so far) mostly an image. Here is Tom Engelhardt on the military-industrial complex (<-Wikipedia):

In 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave his famous "military-industrial complex" speech, his warning about the future as he was leaving office that put that phrase in our language. Today, if he could see the national security state, I'm sure he would roll over in his grave in horror. His phrase no longer even applies. We'd have to call what we now have the military- industrial-homeland-security-intelligence-industrial complex, or something of the sort. It's a monstrous mix, engorged by simply staggering sums of money, post-9/11, fed eternally by fear and hysteria, and bolstered by a sense of permanent war, by a creeping militarization of our world, and by a conviction that, for all problems we face, there is, in a sense, only one solution: the US military and the national security state.

I agree Eisenhower would probably "roll over his grave in horror", but I more disagree than not on the complications: I think the military-industrial complex was more or less rightly named, and it does consist of two broad groups: The U.S. military and the corporations (or industries) that support these.

Engelhardt is right that there are many more corporations involved, and that these also are more powerful, but I think he misses that Eisenhower spoke in terms of two kinds of support for it, rather than in terms of specifics.

Here is a last question plus answer, on "the checks and balances theory" of democracy, which indeed is right - in principle, though not anymore in fact in the
United States:

What happened to the system of governmental checks and balances that you refer to being taught in your elementary and high school?

Oh, Mark, checks and balances? You're so retro, so last century! It's clear enough that, faced with the imperial presidency, in what used to be called "foreign policy" and is now essentially military policy, there are few checks or balances left. Congress has been largely neutered and the presidency can send in the drones, special ops forces etc. more or less wherever and whenever and however he wants. And yes, Washington exists in a post-legal atmosphere.

There is considerably more in the interview, and it is good, and I think you should read all of it.

4. Judge Says Government Can’t Use State Secrets to Toss No Fly List Challenge  

The next item is an article by Cora Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Under both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, the government has on occasion invoked the so-called state secrets privilege in order to toss out lawsuits. Merely allowing certain cases into the courtroom, the argument goes, would necessarily reveal secret information and endanger national security.

Yesterday, that argument failed, when a federal judge rejected the government’s attempts to dismiss a case brought by a man who is challenging his inclusion on the no-fly list. Gulet Mohamed was nineteen in 2011 when he was barred from coming home to his family in Virginia from Kuwait. A naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, Mohamed was allegedly detained at the behest of the U.S. and beaten by Kuwaiti officials before finally being allowed back into the country (a picture taken just after his arrival is shown above).

In allowing Mohamed’s case to proceed, Judge Anthony Trenga, in the Eastern District of Virginia, said that the state secrets privilege was “not a doctrine of sovereign immunity.”

Yes, quite so. There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

5. Ministers high on their war on drugs need a speedy cure

The next item is an article by Simon Jenkins on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The government should ban all reports on drug legalisation. They get you hooked on rage. Evidence-based reform is a gateway substance to common sense. Just send a message: no thought means no.

Parliament’s response to this week’s report on the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act shows that psychoactive substances are the last taboo to afflict Britain’s elite. It has got over past obsessions with whipping, hanging, sodomy and abortion, but it is still stuck on drugs. There is no point in reading the latest research on drugs policy worldwide. It is spitting in the wind. The only research worth doing is on why drugs policy reduces British politicians to gibbering wrecks.

In 2000 the Police Foundation committee chaired by Lady Runciman (on which I served) proposed an end to imprisonment for “soft” drug possession and cultivation, together with lower penalties for hard drugs. In particular we pointed to the nonsense of classifying half-safe drugs such as ecstasy with heroin, suggesting that the latter was no more harmful than the former. It was pretty mild stuff.

Tony Blair’s Downing Street went ape.
The main reason this is here is because I am pro legalization of all drugs, beginning with marijuana and hashish, and have been so from the late sixties onwards, that in my case was much supported by the British Parliamentary Wootton Report (<- Wikipedia), that appeared more than 30 years before
the 2000 report Simon Jenkins comments on. [2]

What this also shows is that reason and scientific argumentation and simple facts like that in 45 years of very extensive usage of marihuana and hashish in Holland has not led to a single death that I know of, plays a most minimal role here.

As Simon Jenkins puts it:
If the Archangel Gabriel came down from heaven and said decriminalising drugs would end war, banish poverty, reduce obesity and defeat child sex abuse, it would make no difference to a British cabinet. David Cameron might have favoured reform before taking office, as he will doubtless favour it after leaving – in common with many world leaders. When he has power to do something about it, he runs scared
(...)
A 2009 report by the charity Transform suggested legalisation could save as much as £14bn, while taxing cannabis, as the US has started doing, could raise £1.3bn. Better by far to spend this money on countering addiction and policing the drugs market.
And here is his ending:
Britain will soon be to drugs what Ireland is to abortion, in a dark ages zone. Unlike Ireland it cannot even blame religion, only stupidity.
Quite so.
6. How did we forget William Hazlitt?

The next and last item for today is an article by Alastair Smart on The Telegraph - and no, this is not a crisis item, but concerns one of my most favorite writers:

For me, that is a very valid question, ever since I discovered William Hazlitt in 1983, in the excellent second hand Amsterdam bookshop "The Book Exchange".
I will turn to it below but first quote the start of this article:

As famous last words go, it’s not quite up there with “Et Tu, Brute” or Adam Faith’s “Channel 5 is all s**t, isn’t it?”. But William Hazlitt’s final utterance – “Well, I’ve had a happy life’’ – was still meaningful.

The radical, early-19th-century essayist died in poverty in a Soho lodging house, aged 52, his reputation in tatters, his stomach riddled with cancer, and with two broken marriages behind him. Eager to let his room again forthwith, his landlady even hid his body under the bed as she showed around would-be, new tenants. Judging by his last words, however, Hazlitt had died content – after a decent life’s work.

In fact Hazlitt died, as Smart says, in 1830 and was born in 1778. His dying words were probably well considered, and indeed conform to his own late judgment, as spoken in his book of conversations with the painter James Northcote: He had not made much money and made many enemies by writing what he thought, but he did all of his life as he pleased, which indeed is the condition for happiness.

Here is the next paragraph:

Certainly, even by the non-specialist standards of his day, he had a mighty range: a philosopher, journalist, political commentator, grammar theorist, theatre critic, art critic, travel writer, memoirist – not to mention, biographer of Napoleon. Here was a serious thinker, for whom every pursuit fed into life’s deeper questions. His rise coincided with that of Romanticism. Indeed, though our popular image of the movement is dominated by its poets - Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Co. – Hazlitt was a key figure too.

Yes, indeed - and for me Hazlitt is more important than "Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Co." simply because he was a better writer than they were, although I agree Keats died much too young, and might have been another Hazlitt, in prose, had he lived.

So why is Hazlitt hardly read? Here is Alistair Smart's explanation:

What really did for Hazlitt, though, was an ill-advised affair with a landlord’s daughter half his age, followed by his even more ill-advised declaration of that affair in the book Liber Amoris. It became a stick which all his moralising opponents could beat him with. His reputation never really recovered – and nowadays he’s barely read.

This is rather widely accepted, but I - who has read everything Hazlitt wrote that I could lay hands on, the last 31 years - think that while this explains something, it does not explain all or most.

For one thing, Hazlitt's best essays - and he was an essayist - appeared after Liber Amoris, as "Table Talk" and "The Plain Speaker", and were widely read.
For another thing, while I agree the affair was ill-advised and also written up, it
can hardly considered to be scandalous, especially not in England, where major
writers were known as homosexuals without this making their careers, also not while the practice was forbidden (till the 1960ies!), seem any more difficult.

No, it seems to me that Hazlitt is very little read, except by a small set of quite intelligent men, indeed, mostly because his writing is - although it is very clear - too difficult for most ordinary readers: it is essayistic, it is philosophical, it con-
tains some extremely long sentences, it does not simplify, and it is indeed also
quite radical (though most of his critical judgments on writers and painters still stand, in spite of his death that occurred nearly 200 years ago).

Anyway...you can find out for yourselves, because there are quite a number of essays and a complete Table Talk on my site. Hazlitt really is one of the three or five most favorite writers I know [3], but I suppose my preference for him is mostly based on his having been extremely intelligent, very honest, and a very courageous radical.

---------------------------------
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] And I am pro legalization of all drugs not because I want to see them used more, but because that is the only way to cut down the illegal trade in it (which runs in the tens of billions of dollars each year or soft drugs alone in Holland, for thirty successive years now, where I take it that at least soft drugs have not been legalized the last 40 years because Dutch politicians make a lot of illegal money handing out their personal permissions to illegal dealers to deal illegally, but since also there is hardly any realistic information on the dealing of drugs in the Dutch papers the last 30 years I have no proof - just that I have barely survived 4 years of murder threats and real gassing by drugsdealers who were protected by Amsterdam's mayor Ed van Thijn and by his police corps and his bureaucrats: That much is certain, and I can only explain it by their profiting a lot, but I have no judicial proof. See ME in Amsterdam, in case you are interested and read Dutch).

[3] Who are the others? It differs a bit with my mood, and here is a consideration of 100 of my favourite authors, which is more adequate because more comprehensive, but reduced to five - which is too small a number - I'd say the other four often comprise Multatuli, Montaigne, Russell and Bunge, and the first two are there as two other masters of style, while the last two are there as masters of philosophy (and yes, I know Mario Bunge also is little read today, in his case because he probably wrote a lot, and it contains quite a few formalities - but even so, it is the best 20th Century philosophy I've read, and indeed by a theoretical physicist much rather than by an academic philosopher).


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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