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Nederlog


  November
12, 2014
Crisis: EU, Guardian, Donahue, Roberts, Plutocracy, U.S. wages
  "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.
EC president accused of hypocrisy over Luxembourg tax
     schemes

2.
 The Guardian wins two Amnesty International Media
     awards

3. Legendary Talk Show Host Phil Donahue on the Silencing
     of Antiwar Voices in U.S. Media

4. The Questions John Roberts Has Never Answered
5. What to Do About American Plutocracy
6. The Great Wage Slowdown Finally Takes Center Stage

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

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:

1. EC president accused of hypocrisy over Luxembourg tax schemes   

The first item is an article by Patrick Wintour on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

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 tax evasion.

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.”

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:
The first 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.

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, though it 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 home for 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.
For this is what I think. There is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link, of which I will only quote this:
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”.

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 accept that.”

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).

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 Media awards 

The next 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 is
the best paper I know. Besides, they really earned the awards they got.

The article starts as follows:

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 pictures.

There's also this:

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.

Yes indeed - and that is a lot of journalists killed, in just a single year.

3. Legendary Talk Show Host Phil Donahue on the Silencing of Antiwar Voices in U.S. Media

The next 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 this day.

Here is Donahue on what happened in 2003:

PHIL DONAHUE: (...) 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 average
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.

4. The Questions John Roberts Has Never Answered

The next 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 assault 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 the First Amendment; invoked the First Amendment rights of nonunion members to curb 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 quoted paragraphs.

And now there is this (although it is very unlikely to be answered by Roberts):
According to 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.

5. What to Do About American Plutocracy 

The next 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. [2]

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 Stage

The next and last item for today is an article by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

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 an economic
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 economics).

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 OK.

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.

---------------------------------
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] 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 2012.)

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 now.


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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