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. Chuck Hagel forced to
step down as US defense secretary
the hell can you privatise water?’ – when Harry
Leslie Smith (91) met Owen
3. Is There Any Hope for America
to Transcend the
Disastrous Thinking of the
National Security State?
4. Paul Krugman: Deluded New Majority in Congress Insists
We're Living in an Ayn Rand
College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere
6. The Question of Edward
7. Wolf Richter: Global
Business Outlook “Darkest Picture
Since Financial Crisis”
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, November 25. It is a crisis log.
There are 7 items and 8 dotted links: Item 1 is
about the dismissal of Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary; item 2 is a nice interview with Harry Leslie Smith by
Owen Jones; item 3 is a good interview on AlterNet
with Tom Engelhardt; item 4 is Paul Krugman on
Ayn-Rand-"economists"; item 5 is Reich on why
college still is profitable, probably, moneywise; item 6
is a good review
of "Citizenfour"; and item 7 is about the
crisis, that still continues, even according to many business leaders.
Chuck Hagel forced to
step down as US defense secretary
item today is an article by Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts on The
This starts as follows (and is one of
many I could also have quoted):
There is considerably
more in the article, and elsewhere, but this is about the gist.
The US defense secretary
has been fired after less than two years in office as the White House
reorders a national security strategy upended by the Islamic State
Chuck Hagel, Barack
Obama’s third Pentagon chief and a former Republican senator, will
leave the Department of Defense just weeks after his spokesman said
Hagel was looking forward to serving “for
the remainder” of the Obama administration.
Confirming his departure
during an awkward White House ceremony, Obama said Hagel would stay in
post until a successor was confirmed by the Senate, though the
president was less effusive than he had been announcing the departure
of his friend and closer political ally, the attorney general Eric
Obama went out of his way
to list Hagel’s achievements, but avoided dwelling on US engagement in
Iraq and Syria, merely praising Hagel’s work “helping build the
international coalition” against the Islamic State.
the hell can you privatise water?’ – when Harry Leslie Smith (91) met
Owen Jones (30)
item is an article by Owen Jones and Harry Leslie Smith on The Guardian:
This is an interview of Harry
Leslie Smith by Owen Jones. I liked it, and am about midway between the
two, since I am 64 (but I look a lot younger, probably mostly
through 30 years of taking vitamins and other supplements in large
doses ). In any case, here are a few selections:
Yes, indeed: I think
Harry Leslie Smith is quite right, though this is mostly
neglected or denied. If you want to know more about this, here are two
books I can recommend, both by George Orwell: "Down and out in Paris
and London" and "The road to Wigan Pier".
What was it like
growing up in Barnsley in interwar Britain?
I don’t know how you can
sum it up because it
was so brutal – there was no other word for it. I was born five
years after the end of the first world war. That alone was a disaster
that crippled soldiers. That’s the trouble with wars, too: after a war,
the government doesn’t give a damn about the soldiers. There were guys
with no arms or legs who were living under the same desperate
circumstances as everyone else.
Here is some more on the same theme - hunger:
And this is on poverty:
Do you remember
your youth as a time of hunger?
Oh yes, absolutely. If you
didn’t have a job, you didn’t have money; if you didn’t have money, you
didn’t have food – that’s the whole point. That’s why I did this
barrowboy job as a child. I got four shillings a week and managed to
put a little bit more food into the house.
Well...it depends. On
the one hand, Harry
Leslie Smith is right that the conditions in Holland were a bit better
than they were in England. On the other hand, it depended a lot on
where you lived, and while my family - that was quite poor - had inside
toilets always during my life, there was no shower until I was
13 or so, and no hot running water either till then, and no
electric stoves that were any use, and no baths. But on average
Leslie Smith is right: In England it was worse than in Holland
for the working people, in the 1930ies.
She wasn’t very
impressed when you brought her back to Britain, was she?
The conditions for the
German people and Dutch people was so far advanced from what we had in
England. They all had inside toilets, they had baths with hot running
water, electric stoves. I couldn’t get over it, because we were still
washing with a tin bath in the kitchen.
Finally this is on the present situation in Great Britain:
Yes indeed - and I, who
is extremely well-educated (mostly by my own efforts, though I have got
two really excellent university-degrees) agree with Smith that it is "bloody unnecessary": Quite so!
What’s your fear
about the situation facing people in Britain today?
Even now I shudder to
think what people are going through to feed their children. It’s so
bloody unnecessary as far as I can see. It’s appalling. It’s
all these zero hour contracts – how could the government allow
something like that to even come into existence? You can’t take money
from the average worker and not from the big businesses. The government
hand everything out now to private companies – in the old days, the
government used to be the ones who looked after everything. How the
hell can you privatise water? It’s the basis of life.
Also the link is well worth reading so I repeat it:
This is a good article by Harry Leslie Smith from 2013, also on
There Any Hope for America to Transcend the Disastrous Thinking of the
National Security State?
item is an article by Don Hazen and Jan Frel on AlterNet:
In fact, this is an
interview with Tom Engelhardt, who edits tomdispatch, and gets reviewed
quite a lot in Nederlog because he is a quite sensible and intelligent
Here are the first question+answer:
Quite so. Next, skipping
a lot that is interesting, about the internet:
back over the past decade, it seems things have gotten worse. True or
Thirteen years later, it's gotten endlessly worse. What I see as the
worst part of it is that -- forget politics for a minute -- there just
seems to be no learning curve in Washington. It's like, you know what
it reminds me of, but not in an amusing way? That old
movie Groundhog Day? Bill Murray wakes up the next morning and
it's always the same. Except in this case, each day gets worse.
And now we're at a point
where, the National Security State -- what I call in the title of my
book, the Shadow
Government -- has little accountability whatsoever. If I were
break into a house, and I was found and caught, I would be brought to
court for it. I might end up in jail.
If the Shadow Government
breaks into a house, nothing will happen. You can run through the
crimes, they range from destroying evidence of a crime they committed,
CIA destroying its own tapes, perjury before Congress, to kidnapping
and assassination, including the murder of American citizens, torture
which we all know about. Every kidnapping which we like to call
rendition because it sounds somewhat politer.
I have internet since
1996 and a computer since 1987, though I had a friend who had an Apple
II since 1980, while I first programmed a mainframe in 1973 (but that
was very simple, as a program and as a task). I think I know more about
computing than Engelhardt does, though I do not think that is very
relevant, but I can answer AlterNet's question:
has it done for us? Are we stronger or weaker?
I think I'm too close to it to know. This is one I don't think I can
answer. Some of the internet completely appalls me because one of the
things that I see about the internet is it takes certain constraints
and taboos off people. I'm always struck by this.
We - that is: the ordinary citizens and intellectuals - are definitely
a lot weaker with the present internet that carries government
spies everywhere, for precisely the same reason as ordinary
Germans and German intellectuals were a lot weaker under
Hitler: The Gestapo controlled much, though not by far as much as the
NSA has insight in.
Also, I really like computers and the good things about the
internet, but the above is simply the realist's answer to the
present situation, where almost anything electronic that you can buy
comes with extensive and secretive spying apparatuses of some kind.
This has to stop, quite radically also, and in the end it can only
be stopped by a combination of laws and technology, and until that
happens this is my judgment: Everybody except the NSA and the
government is a lot weaker because of the illegal governmental spying
on everything that the internet allows.
Anyway... this is a good interview, and there is a lot more under the
last dotted link.
Paul Krugman: Deluded New Majority in Congress Insists We're Living in
an Ayn Rand Novel
item is an article by Janet Allon on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Paul Krugman is
not exactly optimistic about the new Congress that will be sworn in in
January. That's because both houses of legislature will be dominated by
the party that has essentially failed to grasp the fundamental economic
realities of our day, which is that when the economy is at rock bottom
where ours has been for the past six years, everything changes.
I must say thay while
Krugman is considerably better than most economists I know of, he is
an economist, and economy is not a hard science, and indeed
quite often not a science at all.
In any case, here is the part I did want to quote, which is the ending
of the article - and everything but the last statement is Paul Krugman:
too many still don’t; one of the most striking aspects of economic
debate in recent years has been the extent to which those whose
economic doctrines have failed the reality test refuse to admit error,
let alone learn from it. The intellectual leaders of the new majority
in Congress still insist that we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel; German officials still insist that
the problem is that debtors haven’t suffered enough.
Not a lot of reason for
Yes indeed, though I
must say that the "economic
debate" can be hardly
serious when one is opposed with utter bullshit that goes back to Ayn
Rand's crazy beliefs or one has to discuss with academically educated
economists who "refuse to
I mean: the debate may be serious in various ways, but it hardly can be
academic or intellectually interesting with such opponents.
College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere
item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
I'll come to Robert
Reich in a minute. First, I refer you to something I wrote recently on Frank Zappa
The reason to start
with this is that Frank Zappa refused to fund his children's college
education, not because of lack of money, but because he thought they
would not learn anything useful.
I am sure Robert Reich does not agree with Zappa, and indeed I probably
do not, supposing at least we speak of ordinary people,
and even fairly intelligent ones, for about them Reich is probably
He starts as follows (and I have made two cuts, indicated by "(...)"):
This is the time of year
when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail
about whether college is worth the cost.
The answer is unequivocally
yes, but with one big qualification. (...)
Put simply, people with
college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And
that college “premium” keeps rising.
Last year, Americans with
four-year college degrees earned on average 98
percent more per hour than people without college degrees.
But here’s the
qualification, and it’s a big one.
A college degree no
longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better
than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are
In fact, it’s likely that
new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re
And in fact, that
last situation - doing a job for which you are formally overqualified -
holds for at least 46%.
So the brief answer
seems to be this: If you want to earn more money than others,
you'll have to go to college, though I am rather sure that the average
will not learn much there, which also doesn't or shouldn't
worry them, since
they study to get richer and not to learn a lot.
In fact, I am talking
about an educational system that admits a third of the population,
which means that it is, on average, not for the really gifted persons,
who are 1 in 50 at most.
6. The Question of Edward Snowden
Though again, if you belong to the happy few with an IQ over 140, you also
have to go to college, and I will not worry about you, because - except
if you get ill
with an incurable disease - you very probably will get a well-paying
item is an article by David Bromwhich on The New York Review of Books:
It is a review of Citizenfour,
that I still have not seen (maybe this week). I give four quotes, from
a lot more, that is well worth reading. The first sets the scene and
gives an overview:
a documentary about the rise of mass, suspicionless surveillance and
about the dissidents who have worked to expose it, naturally centers on
Snowden; and most of the film concentrates on eight days in Hong Kong,
during which Poitras filmed while the Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill
introduced themselves, conducted searching interviews and conversations
with Snowden, and came to know something of his character.
OK - though I take it
that an additional reason to concentrate on the days in Hong Kong is
that there is little or no film of the later days. (I don't complain: I
There is also this bit on some others who are being portrayed (and I
removed Greenwald from the quotation simply because I wrote a fair
amount about him):
gives a setting for Snowden’s action through its portrait of several
other vivid personalities. William Binney, the mathematician who
conceived the NSA’s Stellar
Wind surveillance program in late 2001—thus laying the foundation for
the subsequent programs of NSA data collection—tells how he quit the agency
for reasons of conscience similar to Snowden’s when he realized that
the government was turning its powers inward to spy on Americans. (...)
Finally, Jacob Appelbaum, a freelance critic of surveillance, is seen
in his element as an educator and agitator, wondering how it is that so
many people associate freedom with privacy, while the same people
accept the idea that privacy has been abolished.
In fact, as the article
makes clear, Snowden and Binney seem to disagree about Stellar Wind, at
least in the sense thay Snowden insists that the Fourth Amendment also
prohibits that gathering of possible evidence without warrant (as can
be seen below, in the last quotation).
Next, there is this bit on Snowden's motives:
Actually "abdicated" is
a mild term for what "Obama, Holder, and the heads and members of the relevant
committees" did, for they
explicitly lied, and betrayed the faith that they would do their jobs
at least responsibly.
In an interview about Citizenfour
with the New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, Snowden has said that
his action seemed to him necessary because the American officials
charged with the relevant oversight had abdicated their responsibility.
He meant that President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the
intelligence committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate
had utterly failed to guard against extraordinary abuses of the public
trust under the pretext of national security. Nor had they undertaken
the proper work of setting limits to government spying on Americans
consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment and the letter of the
“Abdicated” is the right
word. Obama, Holder, and the heads and members of the relevant
committees acted as if the machine was working; as if they had no
responsibility to watch, with care, the expansion it was undergoing; as
if it was not their business to restrain its operations with some
attention to the processes of informed consent.
My last quotation is this:
Asked by Lessig to
consider the desirability of a system of encryption that could be
broken only by a specific court order, Snowden replied that the Fourth
Amendment prohibits warrantless seizure as well as warrantless search.
Lessig then pressed Snowden to say what he thought of such a reform, by
way of total encryption of data collected through mass surveillance,
“putting aside the Fourth Amendment.” Snowden answered that in his
view, such a procedure would still violate “our natural [human] rights.”
I think Snowden is right.
7. Wolf Richter: Global Business Outlook “Darkest Picture
Since Financial Crisis”
and final item for today is an article by Yves Smith and Wolf Richter
on Naked Capitalism, that shows - there is good evidence - that the situation in the economy is still very far
from rosy, good or safe:
The opening is by Yves Smith
and starts thus (with a small correction by me)
Yves here. Wolf
likes to paint in bright colors, but the points he makes are consistent
with business and financial press reporting, if you cut through the
hype. Europe is still teetering on the verge of recession. Growth in
Japan has gone negative. China is slowing down, to a degree that led
the authorities to give it a monetary shot in the arm. And the US
simply is not getting to liftoff. Even with official unemployment
falling, consumers are cautious about purchases, with most planning to
spend less on Christmas than last year. Corporate capital expenditures
in the US are increasing, but so far, this is in the “a robin does not
mean it’s spring” category. So with the US as the one possible engine
for world expansion, and that one not firing robustly, it’s not hard to
see the reason for global business leaders getting more nervous.
Indeed. And this is the
beginning of Wolf Richter's article:
The plunging price
of oil since June has been a leading indicator: global economic growth
is in trouble, despite six years of unprecedented central-bank
free-money policies that caused asset prices to soar but has
accomplished little else. This scenario has now been confirmed by
businesses that help drive the economy forward – not by economists and
Wall Street hype mongers: their outlook for the next 12 months has
plummeted since June to the worst level since crisis year 2009.
There is a lot more
there, and almost nothing is rosy or good.
 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.)
 In case you are interested: There is
a considerable amount in the indexes of Nederlog, but in fact, although
I knew that life extension was one major aim of taking large doses of
vitamins from 1985 onwards, I never took them for that reason,
but to be helped against the problems of my disease, which is M.E., that
invalidated me at age 28, on 1.1.1979. Then again, the vitamins have
helped me more than any of the other things I did, though they have not
cured me, and it also seems likely that I do look a lot younger
than I am because I took lots of vitamins for 30 years now. (And yes, I
also know most medical doctors will deny both. If they do: They do not
know what they are talking about. They simply give vent to their
prejudices, probably in a trained medical manner.)
(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: