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. EC president accused of
hypocrisy over Luxembourg tax
2. The Guardian wins two Amnesty International Media
3. Legendary Talk Show Host Phil
Donahue on the Silencing
of Antiwar Voices in U.S.
4. The Questions John
Roberts Has Never Answered
5. What to Do About
6. The Great Wage Slowdown Finally Takes
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 12. It is a crisis log.
There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is
about the corruptions of Juncker, now president of the EC; item 2 is about The Guardian; item 3
is about Phil Donahue and the silencing of the free press (in the main
media) in the U.S.; item 4 is about Supreme Court
judge John Roberts; item 5 is about American
plutocracy and what to do about it; and item 6 is
about inequalities and wages in the U.S.
Also, this file got uploaded a little earlier than is usual.
And here goes:
EC president accused of hypocrisy over Luxembourg tax schemes
item is an article by Patrick Wintour on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I say - though I am not
amazed about Luxembourg: As I have indicated, this is one of the
subjects I know a bit more about than most, even though it is
from long ago. I quote myself from 6 days ago:
Margaret Hodge, the
British scourge of corporate tax evasion, has accused the European
commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, of hypocrisy and demanded he
explain whether he personally authorised tax avoidance schemes that
were rife in Luxembourg during his premiership of the principality.
Hodge said it was
outrageous and the height of hypocrisy that he was representing the
European Union at the G20 summit in Brisbane this weekend where the
countries are expected to agree new measures to crack down on corporate
As chairwoman of the
public accounts committee Hodge has made a reputation for aggressive
cross-examination of company chief executives about their tax
efficiency schemes, including the leading technology firms such as
Apple and Amazon.
She said of Juncker: “He
needs to give an explanation about what he knew. It seems inconceivable
that he did not know about these tax schemes and it is outrageous that
he is now representing the EU at the G20 on tax evasion.”
job I had, age 17, was as a documentalist at the Dutch bank
NMB (that since then disappeared), whose job it was to read the yearly
reports that banks and other big companies have to make, and it was
precisely this kind of thing that I found in 1967-8. More
specifically, I found that the real powers behind many banks
and other big companies were the owners, and the owners were
nearly all firms in Luxembourg, who controlled 51% or more, and
sometimes less, of the shares of the companies.
For this is what I
think. There is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link,
of which I will only quote this:
At the time, this was
quite new for me (though not for others), and indeed, as the article
says, it was also both quite legal and rarely talked about,
was quite important to find out for whoever considered the possibility
of investing in one of these companies (that tended to draw another
picture than emerged from careful reading of their balances and owners).
So my guess is that in
the intervening years very little
changed, that is:
Luxembourg went on to
make a whole lot of money by being the
the owners of big companies, that thereby avoided a lot of taxes they
would have had to
pay if they were owned by firms in the countries they operated in.
Bloomberg News has
called for Juncker to step down, saying, “although he has not done
anything illegal he made his country rich by picking the pockets of
other countries, including those of the European Union he is now
mandated to serve”.
I think Bloomberg News
has it right as to what Juncker did, but I do not think Juncker will
step down, and I also guess he will succeed in saying extremely
little (and - of course - he will "only look forward, and not look
backward", like Obama and others, for promises are of the future and
crimes of the past).
It has also been alleged
that Luxembourg only started to cooperate with the European commission
competition authorities after he stopped being prime minister in 2013.
During his campaign to become European commission president he rejected
the claim, saying: “The allegation … that I actively promoted tax
evasion is an outrageous attack on my country and my person. I will not
The one thing that may upset my claim is that the allegation that
Juncker "actively promoted
tax evasion", as prime
minister and minister of finance of Luxembourg may be proved now with
the help of the documents in the Luxem-
bourg tax files - but even so (and that will probably take a lot
of time and trouble) I do not think it is likely he will leave his post.
But we will see.
2. The Guardian wins two Amnesty International
item is an article by Ben Quinn on The Guardian:
This is here because I really
like The Guardian (without agreeing to everything they write, which
also is not necessary at all to like them a lot): it currently
the best paper I know. Besides, they really earned the awards they got.
The article starts as follows:
There's also this:
The Guardian has been
recognised at the Amnesty International Media Awards for its work on
exposing the abuse and exploitation of workers involved in Qatar’s
World Cup preparations and for digital innovation.
The national newspapers
award went to the Guardian for Pete Pattisson’s expose, Revealed:
Qatar’s World Cup ‘Slaves’, while the digital innovation award went to
the team that made The Shirt on Your Back, an interactive which traced
the human cost of the Bangladeshi garment industry in video, words and
Yes indeed - and that is
a lot of journalists killed, in just a single year.
The awards, which
recognise excellence in human rights reporting and acknowledge
journalism’s contribution to public awareness and understanding of
human rights issues, saw tributes paid to the more than 90 journalists
killed because of their work this year, including American journalists
James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
3. Legendary Talk Show Host Phil Donahue on the
Silencing of Antiwar Voices in U.S. Media
item is an article by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
Phil Donahue is
one of the best-known talk show hosts in U.S. television history. The
Phil Donahue Show was on the air for almost 30 years, until 1996. In
2002, Donahue returned to the airwaves, but was fired by MSNBC
on the eve of the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq because he was allowing
antiwar voices on the air. We talk to Donahue about his firing and the
silencing of antiwar voices by the corporate media — that continues to
Here is Donahue on what
happened in 2003:
(...) At that time, half the political
voice in this nation was silenced, really. And I believe most people at
that time opposed this war. Most people did. What are we—why—how come
over there? And yet, every metropolitan—every major metropolitan
newspaper in this country supported the invasion of Iraq. Think about
that for a minute. Every major metropolitan—this is what you can do
with the politics of fear, that Bush took this whole nation and the
whole media establishment by the ear and led it right into the sword.
Amazing, in the land of free speech, free press.
Yes - but that means,
I think, that (1) there is no free press any more in the U.S., at least
if one only considers the papers most people read: the "major metropolitan
newspapers", for these all
had one opinion, even though that was not the popular
but the government's opinion, while (2) this reflects quite
badly on the average intelligence or the democratic attitudes of the
Americans (and I think more on the former than the latter).
But OK - there is more under the last dotted link, and I will reserve
the two points I just made for a later crisis log, for I think both
points are quite important.
Questions John Roberts Has Never Answered
item is an article by Bill Blum on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
As the Supreme Court
prepares to invalidate Obamacare’s federal tax subsidies in yet another
on the social safety net, it’s a good time to review the promises Chief
Justice John Roberts made at his September 2005 Senate confirmation
hearing and re-examine the key questions he was never forced to answer.
Students of judicial
history will recall that Roberts was initially nominated to take the
place of retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and was tapped for the
chief’s position only after the death
of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Suddenly thrust into the
national spotlight, Roberts declared in his now famous opening
statement to the judiciary committee that he was “humbled” by his
nomination. In keeping with that humility, he pledged that he would
“decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law,
without fear or favor, to the best of my ability. And I will remember
that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”
Since that time, however,
Roberts and his Republican brethren have acted more like Abner
Doubleday redesigning the rules of the game, blazing a trail of
conservative judicial activism unseen since the early 1930s. Among
other decisions, the court under Roberts’ stewardship has recognized an
individual right to bear arms under the Second
Amendment; unleashed the power of corporations and the wealthy to
spend limitless money on elections under the guise of free speech and
Amendment; invoked the First Amendment rights of nonunion members
the right of public sector unions—the last bastion of organized
labor in America—to collect dues and fees; and gutted the Voting
Rights Act pursuant to a wholly novel interpretation of states’
rights under the 14th and 15th Amendments.
Yes, indeed: Quite so.
And I'd say Roberts lied, lied and lied again: he has pitched and
batted for all he was worth, and has been an out and out political
judge - which is quite contrary to what he was nominated and is
paid for to do: "blazing a
trail of conservative judicial activism unseen since the early 1930s" - and see the last of the above
And now there is this (although it is very unlikely to be
answered by Roberts):
Herald reporter Marc Caputo, Roberts was an integral part of the
Republican legal team assembled to work on the Florida recount,
operating as a “consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach for arguments
before the Supreme Court.”
The "Florida recount", you may
recall, was the move that gave the presidency to the loser,
Bush Jr., on the basis of bullshit arguments by the Supreme
Court, then led by William Rehnquist, who earlier had both John Roberts
and Ted Cruz as clerks.
There is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link.
What to Do About
item is an article by William Pfaff on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
A week ago this column
asserted that the present electoral system in the United States now
places the U.S government on sale every two years—the presidency and
congress every four years, and the entire House of Representatives and
a third of the Senate, as well as assorted state governors, judges, and
other officials, every two years, as in the mid-term election that took
place on November 4.
The argument I made and
make is that since national elections now are largely won or lost by
the quantity of paid and unregulated television advertisements (or so
politicians and professional observers are convinced, a possibly
self-fulfilling expectation), those who have the largest amount of
money at their disposal win the elections. There are few exceptions.
This is not as things
should be, but overall it was the result of the November 4 vote. The
success of big money was even greater than widely expected. Hence
Americans now live in a plutocracy: the country that claims to lead the
world is largely controlled by major American corporations and
financial groups, and exceedingly rich individuals.
The question posed is can
anything be done to reverse this situation, in which money has steadily
accumulated national political power until reaching the seemingly
decisive position it possesses today.
Yes, I agree, though one
may quibble about the name: "plutocracy" (rule of the rich),
"oligarchy" (rule of the few), "police state" (for that is what the
rule of the rich or the few generally means, ever since the ancient
Greeks), "corporatocracy" (rule of the corporate leaders), or indeed
some other term - but the four I've quoted I have read a lot,
used by others, at least the last 1 1/2 years. 
William Pfaff continues
with this question:
I asked in my last column
if there is “no way out” of this situation—other than by revolutionary
change in the way the economy and political system function, a change
which is against the material interests of the dominant business,
investor, and existing political classes, who may be expected to fight
against any such challenge, or effect alteration in the existing
government to prevent it, conceivably by force.
That is a good
question, but - although he mentions Theodore and Franklin Delano
Roosevelt - he does not quite answer it, though I gathered that he is
not optimistic. Indeed, neither am I.
But the article is well
worth reading in full, even though it is not conclusive: It is quite
clear and well written.
6. The Great Wage Slowdown Finally Takes Center
and last item for today is an article by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
This starts as
I'm feeling better today,
but still not really in good blogging condition. So just a quick note:
it appears that the great wage slowdown is finally getting lots of
mainstream attention. Why? Because apparently the midterm results have
persuaded a lot of people that this isn't just an economic problem, but
a political problem as well.
I say, though not
really: I agree that (large) economic problems of almost any kind also
are political problems, and I agree that I have seen far too
little evidence that the American main stream media agree that there is
problem (after all: "the economy is picking up, isn't it") and no
evidence that it
is seen as a political problem (though it clearly is: how much or how
little 99% receive to live on clearly is both politics and
Kevin Drum also says:
First, growing income
inequality per se isn't our big problem. Stagnant wages for the middle
class are. Obviously these things are tightly related in an economic
sense, but in a political sense they aren't.
I more or less agree,
though I'd say that if these are not "tightly related"
"in a political sense" something must have been quite wrong
with the political news (in the main maistream media, to be sure) - but
He also says (with a
little bit of editing by me, but no falsifications):
(...) here are the two
key takeaways [that] pretty much everyone who tackles this subject
[agrees on]: (1) nobody has any real answers, and (2) this hurts
Democrats more than Republicans since Democrats are supposed to be the
party of the middle class.
I must say I do not
understand the first point:
Clearly, (i) the gains
of the rich 1% are the losses of the poor 99% (I am
simplifying, but this is what it comes down to), and (ii) to
stop the gains of the few you need to undo the changes that
have been made under Clinton, Bush and Obama that much favored
the few rich, and indeed also (iii) increase the taxes on the rich and
(iv) forbid tax loopholes for corporations and individuals.
Also, all of this is quite
possible while maintaining capitalism - and indeed see the last column of Robert Reich that I
reviewed yesterday, at the end. I am not at all saying this will
solve all problems, but I am saying these possibilities have been seen
by quite a few and do seem to undo - in principle, to be sure - quite a
lot of problems.
But OK - I may have
misunderstood Kevin Drum or he may not have expressed himself clearly.
I certainly think that the four points I mentioned - which I agree
will take a lot to realize now, but are all reasonable and
possible in principle, without any revolution also - would go quite a
big way towards lessening the inequalities and restoring some faith in
politics in the 99%, if indeed they were to be realized.
 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.)
 There also is my own term: "corporate fascism",
which is based on two facts: (1) the definition of fascism as "the rule
of the corporations if and when these have taken over the state" and
(2) the observation that the
corporations have taken
over the state. (Incidentally, this predates any knowledge of mine of
Edward Snowden, whose dossiers strongly supported my hypotheses of
And there is the "inverted totalitarianism" of Sheldon Wolin (see here for the start of an interesting
long interview with him by Chris Hedges).
All I am doing here is listing some alternative names for the
authoritarian and corporate state that has arisen in the United States.
Something can be said for
each of them, but a somewhat thorough discussion has to be postponed
(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: