Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog


  November
30, 2014
Crisis: U.S. Torture, U.S. Plutocracy, Internet, Slaves, Boundaries, Incomes, Russia
  "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.
At Home and Abroad, UN Report Details Abysmal US
     Record of Abuse

2.
The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy
3. We need to be pragmatic about the principle of net
     neutrality

4. Up to 13,000 working as slaves in UK 
5.
Patrolling the Boundaries Inside America
6. However You Define 'Income,' the Rich Still Get Richer
7.
How He and His Cronies Stole Russia

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, November 30. It is a
crisis log.

There are 7 items with 7 links: Item 1 is about a U.N. report on torture in the U.S.; item 2 is about Bill Moyers on American plutocracy; item 3 is about net neutrality, and I think I disagree (but the article is vague); item 4 is about the
- presumed - fact that there are 13,000 slaves in Great Britain; item 5 is about
how education is kept separate (as in: "Apartheid") in the U.S.; item 6 is about the ever growing inequality in the U.S. (also with any definition of "income");
and item 7 is about what seems to be a plausible theory about modern Russia.

And here goes:

1. At Home and Abroad, UN Report Details Abysmal US Record of Abuse

The first item today is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

An official report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture released Friday found that the United States has a long way to go if it wants to actually earn its claimed position as a leader in the world on human rights.

Following a lengthy review of recent and current practices regarding torture, imprisonment, policing, immigration policies, and the overall legacy of the Bush and Obama administration's execution of the so-called 'War on Terror,' the committee report (pdf) found the U.S. government in gross violation when it comes to protecting basic principles of the Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. ratified in 1994, as well as other international treaties.

This was the first full review of the U.S. human rights record by the UN body since 2006 and the release of the report follows a two-day hearing in Geneva earlier this month in which representatives of the Obama administration offered testimony and answered questions to the review panel. The report's findings do not reflect well on the U.S., a nation that continues to tout itself as a leader on such issues despite the enormous amount of criticism aimed at policies of torture and indefinite detention implemented in the years following September 11, 2001, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, and the global military campaign taking place on several continents and numerous countries that continues to this day.

There is quite a bit more, and this is a good article. Indeed, the committee report - although it is written in a bureaucratese style, as seems common in the UN - also is interesting.

The only reservations I have are not for the article or the report, but because it seems quite unlikely that most of the report will be heeded by the U.S. government.

2. The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy 

The next item is an article by Moyers & Company on Common Dreams:

Bill Moyers (<- Wikipedia) meanwhile is 80, and Moyers & Company is scheduled to stop on January 2, 2015. I certainly do not agree with him on quite a few issues, but then again, he said the following over 10 years ago, and he had that quite right (quoted from Wikipedia):

In a 2003 interview with BuzzFlash.com, Moyers said, "The corporate right and the political right declared class warfare on working people a quarter of a century ago and they've won." He noted, "The rich are getting richer, which arguably wouldn't matter if the rising tide lifted all boats." Instead, however, "[t]he inequality gap is the widest it's been since 1929; the middle class is besieged and the working poor are barely keeping their heads above water." He added that as "the corporate and governing elites are helping themselves to the spoils of victory," access to political power has become "who gets what and who pays for it."

Meanwhile, the public has failed to react because it is, in his words, "distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes."
And please note that Bill Moyers is not a radical. Here is the outline of his latest show, that you also can see under the last dotted link:

Some people say inequality doesn’t matter. They are wrong. All we have to do to see its effects is to realize that all across America millions of people of ordinary means can’t afford decent housing.

As wealthy investors and buyers drive up real estate values, the middle class is being squeezed further and the working poor are being shoved deeper into squalor — in places as disparate as Silicon Valley and New York City.

On the latest episode of Moyers & Company this week, host Bill Moyers points to the changing skyline of Manhattan as the physical embodiment of how money and power impact the lives and neighborhoods of every day people. Soaring towers being built at the south end of Central Park, climbing higher than ever with apartments selling from $30 million to $90 million, are beginning to block the light on the park below. Many of the apartments are being sold at those sky high prices to the international super rich, many of whom will only live in Manhattan part-time – if at all — and often pay little or no city income or property taxes, thanks to the political clout of real estate developers.

And this is about New York, as the rich like it to be:
Meanwhile, fewer and fewer middle and working class people can afford to live in New York City. As [affordable housing advocate - MM] Benjamin  puts it, “Forget about the Statue of Liberty. Forget about Ellis Island. Forget about the idea of everybody being welcome here in New York City. This will be a city only for rich people.”
Yes, indeed, if the trend continues.

Also, to outline "my personal development": I know since age 4 that I am considerably more intelligent than most (which nearly every intellectual - and "intellectuals", as most of the younger ones than I now are, by which I mean
they got at most half of the education I got - in Holland denies, of me and of themselves, probably because this also tends to keep them in the 10% of the best earners), but I did not know there are so very many greedy, lying, morally non-existing egoists, probably because my parents were sincere and intelligent though not highly educated communists.

3. We need to be pragmatic about the principle of net neutrality

The next item is an article by John Naughton on The Guardian:

This ends as follows:
On the other hand, net neutrality needs to be treated more as a pragmatic aspiration than as holy writ. It needs to be reinterpreted from time to time to stay relevant to changing technological conditions – which is why it made sense once to accept that packets carrying streaming media or voice calls should be handled differently from those carrying email or web pages. If the FCC is looking for a principle, it is that technological changes should be made for engineering, not commercial, reasons. Will the agency’s chairman, who used to be a telecoms lobbyist, see it that way? Is the Pope a Protestant?
Well... the Pope is not a Protestant; a (former) telecoms lobbyist cannot be expected to be fair against telecoms; and the principle "that technological changes should be made for engineering, not commercial, reasons", although it sounds well is much too vague (and politicians can be very fairly expected to lie, lie and lie again, and call "commercial" "engineering" whenever they please.)

But I do not know quite what to make of this, because "We" - in majority - cannot be expected to be "pragmatic" about things
"We" hardly know anything
about, in great majority, and one of these things are the technologies internet
providers use.


4. Up to 13,000 working as slaves in UK 

The next item is an article by David Batty and Chris Johnston:

This starts as follows:

As many as 13,000 people in Britain are victims of slavery, about four times the number previously thought, analysis for the government has found.

The figure for 2013 marks the first time the government has made an official estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK, and includes women forced into prostitution, domestic staff, and workers in fields, factories and fishing.

The National Crime Agency (NCA)’s human trafficking centre had previously put the number at 2,744.

Then again, in the following paragraphs, the home secretary Theresa May figures prominently, as an opponent of slavery, which seems rather odd to me, among other things because of this, by Aidan McQuade, who heads the Anti-Slavery International charity:

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you leave an employment relationship, even if you’re suffering from any sort of exploitation up to and including forced labour, even if you’re suffering from all sorts of physical and sexual violence, you’ll be deported.

“So that [puts] enormous power in the hands of unscrupulous employers. And frankly, the protections which the government has put in place are not worth the paper they’re written on in order to prevent this sort of exploitation once they’ve given employers that sort of power.”

Precisely.

5. Patrolling the Boundaries Inside America

The next item is an article by Robert Reich, on his site:

This contains the following bit (from the middle):

The bigger story is this. Education is no longer just a gateway into the American middle class. Getting a better education than almost everyone else is the gateway into the American elite.

That elite is now receiving almost all the economy’s gains. So the stakes continue to rise for upscale parents who want to give their kids that better education.

The competition starts before Kindergarten and is becoming more intense each year. After all, the Ivy League has only a limited number of places.     

Parents who can afford it are frantically seeking to get their children into highly regarded private schools.

Yes, indeed. But few parents can afford this, and anyway most of the rich parents - the 10 percenters, say - are very strongly for maintaining their own privileges, and generally succeed, often by devious means, as the rest of Robert Reich's article also makes clear.

The article ends like this:
In both cases [immigration and education - MM] the central question is who are “we.”
And the answer to this question is: Since for the majority of the 10%ers - those whose income are in the highest 10% - "we" are only those who belong to the 10%ers (though they will rarely explicitly say so) something is radically wrong with "American democracy", indeed since quite a long while also (as e.g. item 2 makes quite clear). Also see the next item:

6. However You Define 'Income,' the Rich Still Get Richer

The next item is an article by Sam Pizzigati on AlterNet:

This starts from a new study by the Congressional Budget Office:
The new CBO study, taken as a whole, actually reinforces what most Americans already suspect: In modern times, things have never been better for America’s wealthiest. They sit comfortably atop a staggeringly unequal nation.

And that inequality stands out starkly even when researchers define income in a way that tends to deflate the share of the rich and inflate the share of everyone else.

The reason for the last strategy - apart from the fact that most members of Congress are millionaires - is that conservatives have complained - in spite of the phletora of tax loopholes - that those who are not rich get - still - too much, which makes the conservatives very unhappy.

The short of this is that the CBO very probably helped the rich few by using a definition of "income" that favors the rich.

Even so, here is the end of the article:

But the CBO report goes on to show that inequality in America, even after all these statistical contortions, just keeps getting worse. How much worse?

Between 1979 and 2011, the study shows, the after-tax income of America’s top 1 percent tripled after inflation — rising 200 percent to an average $1,453,100.

This huge boost for the nation’s top 1 percent ran over four times the income increase that America’s poorest fifth of households realized, and five times greater than gains for middle-income Americans.

However we define income, in other words, the richest Americans are getting much more than their fair share.

Precisely - though the rich will still complain, of course.

7.  How He and His Cronies Stole Russia

The next and last item is an article by Anne Applebaum on The New York Review of Books:

This is a review of Karen Dawisha's "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?", which is based on another premiss than most other recent books about Russia:

In her introduction, Dawisha, a professor of political science at Miami University in Ohio, explains:
Instead of seeing Russian politics as an inchoate democratic system being pulled down by history, accidental autocrats, popular inertia, bureaucratic incompetence, or poor Western advice, I conclude that from the beginning Putin and his circle sought to create an authoritarian regime ruled by a close-knit cabal…who used democracy for decoration rather than direction.
In other words, the most important story of the past twenty years might not, in fact, have been the failure of democracy, but the rise of a new form of Russian authoritarianism. Instead of attempting to explain the failures of the reformers and intellectuals who tried to carry out radical change, we ought instead to focus on the remarkable story of one group of unrepentant, single-minded, revanchist KGB officers who were horrified by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the prospect of their own loss of influence. In league with Russian organized crime, starting at the end of the 1980s, they successfully plotted a return to power. Assisted by the unscrupulous international offshore banking industry, they stole money that belonged to the Russian state, took it abroad for safety, reinvested it in Russia, and then, piece by piece, took over the state themselves. Once in charge, they brought back Soviet methods of political control—the only ones they knew—updated for the modern era.

There is a lot more in the article, that I leave to your interests, though I should say that Anne Applebaum (<-Wikipedia) does know a great amount about Russia, and wrote "Gulag" [2]. The article ends as follows:

Since 2000, Russia has been ruled by a revanchist, revisionist elite with origins in the old KGB. This elite had been working its way back to power since the late 1980s, using theft on a grand scale, taking advantage of the secrecy provided by Western offshore havens, and cooperating with organized crime.

Once in power, the new elite sought to maintain control using the same methods that the KGB always used to maintain control: through the manipulation of public emotion, and by undermining the institutions of the West, and the ideals of the West, in any way that it can. Based on its record so far, it has every reason to expect continued success.

This - and the whole article - sounds quite plausible to me, though I should also say that it also does seem to fall under the "conspiracy theories", which is a serious criticism in the eyes of some.

I am not one of them, firstly because it seems that Karen Dawisha has a whole lot of evidence; secondly, because there clearly are lots of conspiracies of various kinds in politics and economics, that most men do not know or suspect [3]; and thirdly, because the basic problem I see with conspiracy theories is not at all with the notion of "conspiracy" but with the fact that if there is a conspiracy (of any kind, and there are many kinds) then it will be difficult - and also often risky -
to find conclusive evidence.

---------------------------------
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 also add, in this footnote, that my former opinion of Applebaum was higher. The reason it sunk is that she was one of the many who abused Edward Snowden, basically on no grounds, for she did not know anything about him.

[3] 


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)



       home - index - summaries - mail