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Nederlog


  November
8, 2014
Crisis: The new internet, voter suppresion, Obama, Hedges & Wolin, Personal
  "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 Creepy New Wave of the Internet
2.
How Voter Suppression Helped Produce the Lowest
     Turnout in Decades

3. Obama to give Loretta Lynch the nod to become next US
     attorney general

4. We Need a New Word for Revolution (Parts 6, 7 and 8)
5. Personal: On the crisis
 

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 8. It is a
crisis log.

There are 5 items with 4 dotted links, but two of these are quite good:
Item 1 is a very good and long article by Sue Halpern that you should read
all of; item 2 is an Intercept piece on voter suppression; item 3 is on Obama's nomination of a new attorney general (that is not yet endorsed by the Senate);
item 4 is the last item in the series of interviews that Chris Hedges had with
Sheldon Wolin, and you should read all of it; and item 5 merely announces my
decision to summarize the main ideas in the crisis series, that currently has
over 660 files, and therefore badly needs summarizing.

And as I said, items 1 and 4 are quite important and should be read completely.

Here goes:

1. The Creepy New Wave of the Internet

The first item is an article by Sue Halpern on The New York Review of Books:

This is a long and quite good article that starts as follows:

Every day a piece of computer code is sent to me by e-mail from a website to which I subscribe called IFTTT. Those letters stand for the phrase “if this then that,” and the code is in the form of a “recipe” that has the power to animate it. Recently, for instance, I chose to enable an IFTTT recipe that read, “if the temperature in my house falls below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, then send me a text message.” It’s a simple command that heralds a significant change in how we will be living our lives when much of the material world is connected—like my thermostat—to the Internet.

It is already possible to buy Internet-enabled light bulbs that turn on when your car signals your home that you are a certain distance away and coffeemakers that sync to the alarm on your phone, as well as WiFi washer-dryers that know you are away and periodically fluff your clothes until you return, and Internet-connected slow cookers, vacuums, and refrigerators. “Check the morning weather, browse the web for recipes, explore your social networks or leave notes for your family—all from the refrigerator door,” reads the ad for one.

Welcome to the beginning of what is being touted as the Internet’s next wave by technologists, investment bankers, research organizations, and the companies that stand to rake in some of an estimated $14.4 trillion by 2022—what they call the Internet of Things (IoT).
In fact, the so-called "Internet of Things" is the Internet of Spies - spies on your privacy, who spy on you, if they are corporations, to get the most profit out of you, by knowing more about you than you do your self. Or at least: That is what I think it is (and will be, if it is not stopped quite radically, that I do not see any chance of happening right now).

Here is Jeremy Rifkin, one of the prophets for the IoT (as he calls it):
The Internet of Things will connect every thing with everyone in an integrated global network. People, machines, natural resources, production lines, logistics networks, consumption habits, recycling flows, and virtually every other aspect of economic and social life will be linked via sensors and software to the IoT platform, continually feeding Big Data to every node—businesses, homes, vehicles—moment to moment, in real time. Big Data, in turn, will be processed with advanced analytics, transformed into predictive algorithms, and programmed into automated systems to improve thermodynamic efficiencies, dramatically increase productivity, and reduce the marginal cost of producing and delivering a full range of goods and services to near zero across the entire economy.
What Rifkin doesn't say is who owns "the IoT platform": A handful of mega-
rich companies, who will exploit it for their own financial interests. (And most
of what he does say is clearly propaganda.)


Here is the sort of thing Rifkin imagines, that indeed is happening:
A lot of these are small radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchips attached to goods as they crisscross the globe, but there are also sensors on vending machines, delivery trucks, cattle and other farm animals, cell phones, cars, weather-monitoring equipment, NFL football helmets, jet engines, and running shoes, among other things, generating data meant to streamline, inform, and increase productivity, often by bypassing human intervention.
I don't want any electronic spies on me, so I don't want them - though indeed
it will be quite hard to avoid them. (Happily, I am 64, and lived most of my
life without being electronically spied upon. For some one aged 6, 16, 26
or 36, it will be much more difficult, if the trend continues, as it does at the
moment.)
Cisco Systems, for instance, which is already deep into wearable technology, is working on a platform called “the Connected Athlete” that “turns the athlete’s body into a distributed system of sensors and network intelligence…[so] the athlete becomes more than just a competitor—he or she becomes a Wireless Body Area Network, or WBAN.” Wearable technology, which generated $800 million in 2013, is expected to make nearly twice that this year. These are numbers that not only represent sales, but the public’s acceptance of, and habituation to, becoming one of the things connected to and through the Internet.
Great! They want to transform people into WBAN's, who are completely open to any corporation who wants to profit from them.

And here is another prophet of the IoT:
Rose envisions “an enchanted wall in your kitchen that could display, through lines of colored light, the trends and patterns of your loved ones’ moods,” because it will offer “a better understanding of [the] hidden thoughts and emotions that are relevant to us….” If his account of a mood wall seems unduly fanciful (and nutty), it should be noted that this summer, British Airways gave passengers flying from New York to London blankets embedded with neurosensors to track how they were feeling. Apparently this was more scientific than simply asking them.
Here is Glenn Greenwald:
Recent revelations from the journalist Glenn Greenwald put the number of Americans under government surveillance at a colossal 1.2 million people. Once the Internet of Things is in place, that number might easily expand to include everyone else, because a system that can remind you to stop at the market for dessert is a system that knows who you are and where you are and what you’ve been doing and with whom you’ve been doing it. And this is information we give out freely, or unwittingly, and largely without question or complaint, trading it for convenience, or what passes for convenience.

In other words, as human behavior is tracked and merchandized on a massive scale, the Internet of Things creates the perfect conditions to bolster and expand the surveillance state. In the world of the Internet of Things, your car, your heating system, your refrigerator, your fitness apps, your credit card, your television set, your window shades, your scale, your medications, your camera, your heart rate monitor, your electric toothbrush, and your washing machine—to say nothing of your phone—generate a continuous stream of data that resides largely out of reach of the individual but not of those willing to pay for it or in other ways commandeer it.
Yes, quite so: Follow The Money - it's all done for profit and for control, and also it is mostly done quite dishonestly and secretively.

Here is final quotation by Mark Honan:

Apple is building a world in which there is a computer in your every interaction, waking and sleeping. A computer in your pocket. A computer on your body. A computer paying for all your purchases. A computer opening your hotel room door. A computer monitoring your movements as you walk though the mall. A computer watching you sleep. A computer controlling the devices in your home. A computer that tells you where you parked. A computer taking your pulse, telling you how many steps you took, how high you climbed and how many calories you burned—and sharing it all with your friends…. THIS IS THE NEW APPLE ECOSYSTEM. APPLE HAS TURNED OUR WORLD INTO ONE BIG UBIQUITOUS COMPUTER.
And that is it - except that is not just "your friends" that may share:
It is the owners of the IoT - whom you do not know and have no idea who they are - who share all your information, and who will manipulate you to spend your money on just those things they want to sell.

There is a lot more in the article, and it certainly deserves to be read all
of. And yes, Sue Halpern is quite right this is very creepy.

2. How Voter Suppression Helped Produce the Lowest Turnout in Decades 

The next item is an article by Juan Thompson on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

On Tuesday, older, white voters — who traditionally support Republicans — went to the polls in droves, while turnout among traditionally Democratic groups — the young, the minoritized, and women — was down. Indeed, overall turnout declined to an estimated 36.6% of eligible voters, the lowest rate of participation since the 1940s, despite the $3 billion spent by candidates, political parties, and super PACs.

Yes, President Barack Obama’s poor performance and approval rating undoubtedly played a role in the lower turnout. But the evidence is piling up that systematic voter suppression, including voter ID laws and dubious vote-fraud prevention software, played a significant part in keeping people from casting ballots, as well.

Well... if slightly over 1 in 3 of those eligible to vote did vote, which follows from the 36.6%, I'd say that these were not democratic elections, and that the "droves" of "older, white voters" were relative rather than enormous.

But I agree that not getting "the young, the minoritized, and women" to vote was an important part of the Republican campaign. As to my classifying this as not a democratic election: That is rather simple, for I would have said the elections were - nominally - democratic if only more than 50% of the voters had voted, quite regardless of the outcome. But since they did not, it is not democratic.

The rest of the article gives some evidence for voter suppression.

3. Obama to give Loretta Lynch the nod to become next US attorney general 

The next item is an article by Paul Lewis on The Guardian:

This can be seen as a follow-up of the article I reviewed on November 5, that considered the possible candidacy of Verilli as attorney general. The article starts as follows:

Barack Obama is to nominate an African American federal prosecutor from Brooklyn, who made her name prosecuting police brutality, as the country’s next attorney general.

The White House said Obama would formally announce the nomination of Loretta Lynch, currently the US attorney for the eastern district of New York, as his replacement for Eric Holder on Saturday.

She is very probable a much better candidate than Verilli but she isn't nominated yet, and - knowing a bit about Obama - it may be a trick. In any case:

Her nomination will need the approval of the Senate, where Democrats currently enjoy a majority. That changes in January, when the Republicans take control after the midterm elections earlier this week.

If nominated by the president and approved by the Senate, Lynch would become the first African American woman to take the top job in the justice department. Holder, who announced his retirement in September, was the first African American to hold the post.

“Ms Lynch is a strong, independent prosecutor who has twice led one of the most important US attorney’s offices in the country,” the White House said in a brief statement released late on Friday afternoon. “She will succeed Eric Holder, whose tenure has been marked by historic gains in the areas of criminal justice reform and civil rights enforcement.”

I take it that the "historic gains in the areas of criminal justice reform"
reached by Eric Holder must be his refusal to prosecute any bank manager for
commiting major frauds, but OK.

4. We Need a New Word for Revolution (Parts 6, 7 and 8)  

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges and Sheldon Wolin, that in fact is
the written (and videoed) report of an eight part conversation they had on The Real News.

I have considered the parts 1-3,
part 4, part 5 and part 6 (these are all under the links), and continue today with parts 7 and 8, which also is the end of the series:
This is from the beginning of part 7. Chris Hedges starts by saying that Sheldon Wolin also wrote a book about De Tocqueville (<- Wikipedia) - and De Tocqueville was an amazingly sharp and clearminded man. Indeed, if you have not read "Democracy in America" you should, and especially volume 2.

To start with, here is a quote on De Tocqueville from the Wikipedia:
Tocqueville was an ardent supporter of liberty. He wrote "I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights”, he wrote. “I am neither of the revolutionary party nor of the conservative...Liberty is my foremost passion.” He wrote of "Political Consequences of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans" by saying "But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom".
I quite agree, but I do know many have "a depraved taste for equality", which indeed worked out as De Tocqueville said it would.

This is from the beginning of part 7 [2]:
Chris Hedges: And it's Tocqueville who I think expresses this notion of participatory democracy that you embrace. And I wondered if you could explain what that means and set it against what you call, I think, manufactured democracy.

Sheldon Wolin: Well, Tocqueville discovered--I mean, he didn't invent the notion, but he discovered this significance of viable local self-government. And he insisted that a democracy, if it were to avoid the pitfall of becoming a mass democracy, would have to zealously protect and nurture these smaller groupings, whether they be municipalities, religious groupings, or economic groupings of one kind or another, but that these were the major forces for offsetting the drive of modern power towards concentration and control, so that that was the basic struggle for him was between these two forces.
Yes, quite so: That is - or would be - what I call a pluriform democracy, precisely because it protects and safeguards the rights of any group (supposing
it is legal) to play some real role in determining what is and is not to happen in society. Also, it seems to me that the conditions for its existence have been mostly destroyed, for a good part intentionally.
HEDGES: But I think that his definition of what participatory democracy is is one that you embrace.

WOLIN: Yes, it is. And I think that the common thread I think we both share (if I can put it that way pretentiously): that we share the notion that the problem is centralized power. And that centralized power has assumed, because of scientific and technological developments, has assumed a quality of menace that it simply didn't have before. Before, it was simply the power of a central government in its army and in its bureaucracy to sort of enforce its will. But now it's much more than that. It's the ability to shape and direct society in a fashion that's much more of a lockstep thing than was ever conceived by Tocqueville.

Yes, indeed. And the main tool for the governments and the corporations "to shape and direct society" these days is the internet, and indeed especially all the data-mining that is happening these days as a matter of course. (See item 1.)

Next, here is an exchange on participatory democracy:
HEDGES: When you talk about participatory democracy in an age of superpower, in an age of inverted totalitarianism, how is that going to now express itself within that superstructure?

WOLIN: Well, I think it will express itself--I guess the answer I would give is that precisely it doesn't express itself. I think it's shaped and it's allowed only the outlets that are conceived to be consonant with the purposes of those in power, so that it's not autonomous anymore in any significant sense. I mean, we have to keep realizing how difficult it is to get ideas into the public arena now for any significant audience. It's becoming more and more a matter of a few outlets. And if you should for one reason or another become persona non grata with any of those outlets, then your goose is cooked, there's no other way to go, so that there's a kind of, I think, hidden sort of force. I don't want to call it censorship. That's too strong. But there's a kind of hidden force that kind of makes you think twice about how far you want to go in pushing a particular point that is at odds with either the existing notions of the powers that be or the existing notions of the opposition.

HEDGES: Which is called careerism.

WOLIN: It is.

HEDGES: And it's a powerful force.

WOLIN: It is indeed.

HEDGES: Both within the media, within academia. And coming from the New York Times culture, you learn not so much how to lie; you learn what not to say, what not to address, what questions not to ask.
Yes, quite so - and I know this very well from my own experiences, where my goose was cooked and I became a persona non grata in Holland in 1988 simply by asking only questions in a public talk to the faculty of philosophy: I was thrown out from the faculty of philosophy; my chances for getting an M.A. in philosophy (to which I was very close) were deliberately and illegaly destroyed, quite on purpose also.

Indeed, I had not at all counted with the possibility that simply speaking up would lead to my removal (followed by a complete refusal to answer any of my mails and letters, while no one ever mentioned it in the press), I suppose because I was educated by real communist parents, and did have a - quite naive - ideal about
speaking the truth as I saw it. (And I only asked questions!)

Finally, in my case it was censorship - not of my text (that was duly published in a students' journal) but of my physical presence in the faculty of philosophy of the University of Amsterdam, where I also had been one of the best students, in spite of my illness and general loathing of the university climate.

Enough about me. Back to the text:
Here is a last bit from part 7, again on participatory democracy:
HEDGES: Has true participatory democracy become, in the age of inverted totalitarianism, subversion in the eyes of the state?

WOLIN: I'm not sure it's quite reached that point, because I think the powers that be view it as harmless, and they're smart enough to know that if something's harmless, there's no point in sort of making a pariah out of it, so that I think they're capitalizing on the sort of short attention span that people, especially people working, have for politics, and that it would soon go away and run its course, and that if they could contain it, they wouldn't have to really repress it, that it would gradually sort of shrivel up and disappear, so that I think it's been a deliberate tactic not to continuously engage the democracy movement intellectually,P.S. Nov 9, 2014: because that's a way of perpetuating its importance. Instead, you surround it with silence, and hoping (and, in the modern age, with good reason) that memories will be short.

HEDGES: And you use cliches in the mass media to demonize it and belittle it.

Yes, though the "cliches" also tend to be false cliches. But otherwise this seems quite true.

We have arrived at part 8, that starts as follows:
CHRIS HEDGES: Welcome to our interview with Professor Sheldon Wolin, our final segment, where we are going to talk about revolution. When you have a system of totalitarianism, in this case inverted totalitarianism, when you have effectively fragmented and destroyed the notion of the public, when you have institutions that define themselves as democratic and yet have abandoned civic virtue and the common good and in fact harnessed their authority and their power to the interests of corporations, which is about creating a neo-feudalism, a security and surveillance state, enriching a small, global oligarchic elite, perpetuating demilitarization of the society and superpower itself, which defines itself through military prowess, is that a point at which we should begin to discuss revolution?
I quote this as an adequate sum-up of the present situation. Here is Wolin's
answer:
SHELDON WOLIN: I think it is, but I think the proper emphasis should be on discussing it carefully, that is to say, I mean by carefully not timidly, but carefully in the sense that we would really have to be breaking new ground. And I think it's because of the nature of the forces we've been talking about that constitute a challenge, I think, the like of which hasn't happened before, and that we've got to be very sure, because of the interlocked character of modern society, that we don't act prematurely and don't do more damage than are really justifiable, so that I think revolution is one of those words that I'm not so sure we shouldn't find a synonym that would capture its idea of significant, even radical change, but which somehow manages, I think, to discard the physical notions of overthrow and violence that inevitably it evokes in the modern consciousness. And I don't have a solution to that, but I think that that's required. I think the idea of revolution simply carries too much baggage, and the result of that is you're forced to fight all sorts of rearguard actions to say what you didn't mean because of the overtones and implications that revolution seems to have to the modern ear. So I think we do have to start striving for a new kind of vocabulary that would help us express what we mean by radical change without simply seeming to tie ourselves to the kind of previous notions of revolution.
Yes and no, though mostly yes: I'd much like to see radical change (which may be the term sought for) without violence, and I also think that if you want to
have any hope of being heard or read in the main media, it is wise to avoid the
term "revolution". But no, in the sense that, apart from taking care of your
terminology, I don't think "
a new kind of vocabulary" is a good idea: it will mainly confuse people (and will be only "transparent" to some of the educated few, if it is to be a major change).

Here is more Wolin:
WOLIN: Well, I guess I'm not quite certain. I'm not quite certain in the sense that I think your formulation would rely more than I would on trying to persuade the powers that be and the structure to change course or modify their behavior and modify their beliefs, and I don't think that's possible. Or if it's possible, it's not possible on a large scale. There might be deviants and rebels who would. But I really think it's--I mean, to have the form that I think would really justify calling it revolution, I think it has to be generated and shaped outside the power structure, and I think because what you're trying to do is to enlist and educate groups and individuals who have not had a political education or experience of much of any kind, and so that your task is compounded.
I agree that it is very probably quite impossible "to persuade the powers that be and the structure to change course or modify their behavior and modify their beliefs" and I also agree that anything that may be called "a revolutionary force" would have to be created "outside the power structure", while that is quite difficult, especially with all the internet spying (which is not done for your safety,
but for the safety of the powers that be).


Here is more on the revolution:

HEDGES: Would you--if you look at those revolutionary philosophers--and we could perhaps even include Plato--they always talk about the creation of an elite, what Lenin would call a revolutionary vanguard, Machiavelli would call his republican conspirators, Calvin would call his saints. Do you see that as a fundamental component of revolution?

WOLIN: To some extent I do. I would want to, of course, naturally, avoid words like elite, but I do think, given the way that ordinary people become exhausted by the simple task of living, working, and trying to sustain families and neighborhoods in a way that just takes all of their energy, I do think it calls for some kind of group, or class, you could even call them, who would undertake the kind of continuous political work of educating, criticizing, trying to bring pressure to bear, and working towards a revamping of political institutions. And I don't mean to imply that there should be a disconnect between that group and ordinary people.
My parents were - true, intelligent, though not highly educated - communist
revolutionaries for forty years, so I do know this idea quite well from Lenin, whom I've also read, as I did read Plato and Machiavelli. Well... it didn't work
for my parents, nor for the Dutch Communist Party, though my parents worked hard for it. (And these days there are hardly any "revolutionary communists"
left in the West.)

As to elites: I don't know. I suppose it is wise to avoid the word - but that is
mostly  because ordinary people do not like the word in some contexts, whereas
everyone knows that people are not equals, and almost everyone acknowledges
that people with high intelligence and a university degree, or people with a talent
for sports or theater, are somewhat different in make-up and chances, while
ordinary people see no objections to wildly admiring someone who can kick a
ball well or is a popular singer.

Here is the last exchange between Hedges and Wolin (apart from the ending):
HEDGES: And yet climate change has created a narrowing window of opportunity if we are going to survive as a species. An unfettered, unregulated corporate capitalism, which commodifies everything, from human beings to the natural world--and this comes out of Marx--without any kind of constraints--and it has no self-imposed limits--it will exploit those forces until exhaustion or collapse. And we are now seeing the ecosystem itself teetering on collapse.

WOLIN: Yeah. No, it's true. But I don't really see any other solution than to really put your chips where an enlightened public would take a stand. And I think the problem, to some extent, is that there are enlightened publics in this country, but there's no concerted general movement which can profess to represent a large body of opinion that's opposed to these kind of developments you've just described.

Yes, indeed: If one wants radical change, one must put one's ideas "where an enlightened public would take a stand".  And it is - alas - also quite true that
"
there's no concerted general movement which can profess to represent a large body of opinion that's opposed to these kind of developments".

Here is the final bit:
HEDGES: It's been a tremendous honor. You're--have had a tremendous influence on myself and many other--Cornel West and many, many others, and not only because of the power of your intellect, but the power of your integrity.

WOLIN: Well, thank you. I've enjoyed it very much.

HEDGES: Thank you very much.

WOLIN: I thank you for the opportunity to talk.
Yes, indeed - and I should also thank The Real News, that made the videos and the text, and did so quite well. It was a really interesting series of interviews.

5. Personal: On the crisis   

This item only serves to state my plan of making a series of papers all named "On the crisis - X", where X is a number, that details and quotes from the crisis
index: I wrote since 2008 over 660 pieces on the crisis, and I do want some sort
of general survey of the main ideas.

That is the plan, but I have as yet no good idea how to implement it, if only because I did write a lot on the subject, and reading it all through is itself a
considerable project.

The only thing that is certain now is that I will not quote all or most; I will try to stress the main ideas only; and most "On the crisis" items will quote several of the articles I wrote.

---------------------------------

P.S. Nov 9, 2014: I changed the wordings of the links to the previous parts of the series of Hedges & Wolin. It's now clearer than it was.
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] I copied faithfully, except that I at some places merely copied the names without the titles.


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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