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Nederlog


  December
9, 2014
Crisis: Power, Guantánamo, Posner, Wealth, Torture, Peer, Starving, Democrats, Torture
  "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.
Taming corporate power: the key political issue of our
     age

2. The Flawed Arguments Behind Not Releasing
     Guantanamo Footage

3. What Bad, Shameful, Dirty Behavior is U.S. Judge Richard
     Posner Hiding? Demand to Know.

4. Revealed: how the wealth gap holds back economic
     growth

5. CIA torture report: spy agency braces for global impact
     of inquiry as release date nears

6. Tory peer forced to eat her words after claiming poor
     people can’t cook

7.
Yes, people can starve in benefit-sanctions Britain
8. Wall Street’s Democrats
9. Torture: An Executive Summary

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, December 9. It is a crisis log.

There are 9 items with 9 dotted links: Item 1 is on a good piece by George Monbiot on The Guardian; item 2 is on flawed and quite sick arguments for not releasing Guantánamo footage; item 3 is about Judge Posner (and, I argue,
his manichean ethics); item 4 is on an OECD report that blames inequality
for the lack of economic growth (rightly); item 5 is on the CIA torture report
that may be released, heavily shortened and redacted; item 6 is about the
"let the poor eat cake" attitudes of a Tory peer; item 7 is about starving in
present day Britain (yes, it happens); item 8 is on the Democratic Party's love
for Wall Street; and item 9 is a long and good article on torture.

And here goes:

1. Taming corporate power: the key political issue of our age 

The first item today is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

In fact, this is the first of a series called "Taming corporate power" and indeed
I agree with George Monbiot that is the key political issue of our age. This starts as follows:

Does this sometimes feel like a country under enemy occupation? Do you wonder why the demands of so much of the electorate seldom translate into policy? Why parties of the left seem incapable of offering effective opposition to market fundamentalism, let alone proposing coherent alternatives? Do you wonder why those who want a kind and decent and just world, in which both human beings and other living creatures are protected, so often appear to be opposed by the entire political establishment?

If so, you have encountered corporate power – the corrupting influence that prevents parties from connecting with the public, distorts spending and tax decisions, and limits the scope of democracy. It helps explain the otherwise inexplicable: the creeping privatisation of health and education, hated by the vast majority of voters; the private finance initiative, which has left public services with unpayable debts; the replacement of the civil service with companies distinguished only by incompetence; the failure to re-regulate the banks and collect tax; the war on the natural world; the scrapping of the safeguards that protect us from exploitation; above all, the severe limitation of political choice in a nation crying out for alternatives.

I probably would have started this with other questions, but I basically agree with the diagnosis. Also, I think you should read all of this, but I will be only copying a number of short things, that generally have considerably more text in the article.

The first is this:
Ministers and civil servants know that if they keep faith with corporations in office they will be assured of lucrative directorships in retirement.
Quite so - and it seems as if the American government gets recruited from Goldman Sachs persons, who indeed all return to the corporation after having worked for the government:

Forbid anyone who is into politics to take the next 15 years any job that may give them profits or rewards based on what they did in politics. For not forbidding this is simply giving wide berth and aprroval to fundamental and fargoing corruption.

And here are a number of points George Monbiot mentions that could be used to tame corporate power. Note there is more text for each of them in the article,
and also note that I do not agree with all, as I will explain:

A sound political funding system would be based on membership fees. Each party would be able to charge the same fixed fee for annual membership (perhaps £30 or £50). It would receive matching funding from the state as a multiple of its membership receipts. No other sources of income would be permitted.
(...)
All lobbying should be transparent.
(...)
Any company supplying public services would be subject to freedom of information laws (with an exception for matters deemed commercially confidential by the information commissioner).
(...)
Gagging contracts would be made illegal, in the private as well as the public sector (with the same exemption for commercial confidentiality).
(...)
Is it not time we reviewed the remarkable gift we have granted to companies in the form of limited liability?
(...)
Above all, perhaps, we need a directly elected world parliament, whose purpose would be to hold other global bodies to account.
(...)
Corporate power now lives within us. Confronting it means shaking off the manacles it has imposed on our minds.
I agree with the first five points, but not with the last two.

As to the sixth point: No. Firstly, there are three times as many living human beings as there are seconds in a life of 70 years. Second, most of them are a lot more ignorant and less intelligent than I am. Third, I do not expect much of the wisdom or knowledge or intelligence of the many. Fourth, this is very probably going to be another United Nations - and we have one. Fifth, you can't "
hold other global bodies to account" without an army. There are more reasons, but generally I'd say we do not so much need elected governors on a world level, as we do need competent and honest elected governors on a local level. Which also is a lot easier to decide.

As to the seventh point: Well... it much depends. I have not had a TV since 1970, for example, because I strongly dislike its lies and advertisements. Also, I deny that "
corporate power now lives within" me, though it may - somehow, for the details totally escape this psychologist - in some sense live in many others. In either case, I think one should not complain about "corporate power" that "now lives within us": one should argue against propaganda, deceptions and lies.

But OK - this is a decent article, and the series is a good idea.

2. The Flawed Arguments Behind Not Releasing Guantanamo Footage 

The next item is an article by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a 43-year old Syrian national, was among the six Guantanamo Bay prisoners freed last week and transferred to Uruguay after spending 13 years in U.S. detention. He had been cleared for release since 2009, yet the husband and father of three found himself imprisoned several years longer in circumstances characterized by indefinite detention, humiliation and inhumane treatment.

In response to what they saw as their increasingly desperate conditions, Dhiab and many other Guantanamo detainees repeatedly sought to employ the only means of resistance left available to them: refusing food. “We have given up the very things which are important: food and drink,” Dhiab stated last year, describing his motivations and those of his other hunger-striking prisoners. “And we have done so to get answers to our questions: What is our guilt and what is our crime?”

I have written about this before, indeed in part because I am the son and grandson of two men who had the - very rare - courage to go into resistance
against the Nazis, who were arrested, and convicted, by collaborating Dutch judges, as "political terrorists", to concentration camp imprisonment that
my grandfather did not survive, while my father survived more than three years, 9 months and 15 days as a political prisoner.

Here is the argument of Hussain, that I completely agree to:

To put Harris’s statement another way, the force-feeding videos are at once humane and appropriate, and yet also so visually appalling that people around the world would be enraged if allowed to view them. His solution to a potential backlash against U.S. policies is to circumscribe public oversight, and prevent anyone from actually seeing the treatment of detainees.
(...)
If Admiral Harris and others believe that the actions they are carrying out at Guantanamo Bay are so shocking that they could galvanize public opinion against the United States, the solution is to either cease them, or allow the American public to watch and decide.

3. What Bad, Shameful, Dirty Behavior is U.S. Judge Richard Posner Hiding? Demand to Know.

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Richard Posner has been a federal appellate judge for 34 years, having been nominated by President Reagan in 1981. At a conference last week in Washington, Posner said the NSA should have the unlimited ability to collect whatever communications and other information it wants: “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine.” The NSA should have “carte blanche” to collect what it wants because “privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security.”

His rationale? “I think privacy is actually overvalued,” the distinguished jurist pronounced. Privacy, he explained, is something people crave in order to prevent others from learning about the shameful and filthy things they do:

Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct. Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.

I say. To start with, judge Posner violently disagrees with Benjamin Franklin:

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." 

Glenn Greenwald has some good arguments against judge Posner, to the effect that what he is saying is: If you do not do anything that the government may object to, the government may not arrest you (where the second "may" is inserted because you may be arrested because of what some unknown friend of some friend of yours may have been mailing), while if you do do anything the government objects to, well... then clearly the government may have it for you, and well-deserved as well.

I agree with Greenwald's arguments, which you should read all of, but he does not treat a point that is quite relevant in judge Posner's psychological make-up, that also holds for persons like Cheney and Rumsfeld: They are manicheans (<- Wikipedia), that is (i) they believe in an absolute good and an absolute evil, and (ii) they believe that they themselves are good, while (iii) anybody who disagrees with them is bad.

In fact, this is a literalist and fairly stupid and primitive attitude, though it seems to be held by many who are doing politics professionally (all of whom are, of course, fighting on The One And Only Good Side), which should be contrasted
with the ethics of philosphers like David Hume and Bertrand Russell, who believed
there are many different goods, many different plans, many different ideas about good and bad and the constititution and contents of the world, and none of these comes with a certain-sure evident and divine assurance that they, and only they, are good, and all the others are evidently rotten, while almost all of them, if they are intellectually competent, require a lot of discussion and disagreement.

But Judge Posner clearly has this literalist, stupid and primitive attitude, and he does not seem to know he has, indeed quite like many professional politicians, of any stripe also.

4. Revealed: how the wealth gap holds back economic growth

The next item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows, and is interesting because it is by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Control and Development):

The west’s leading economic thinktank on Tuesday dismissed the concept of trickle-down economics as it found that the UK economy would have been more than 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since the 1980s.

Publishing its first clear evidence of the strong link between inequality and growth, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development proposed higher taxes on the rich and policies aimed at improving the lot of the bottom 40% of the population, identified by Ed Miliband as the “squeezed middle”.

Trickle-down economics was a central policy for Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, with the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US confident that all groups would benefit from policies designed to weaken trade unions and encourage wealth creation.

The OECD said that the richest 10% of the population now earned 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10%, up from seven times in the 1980s. However, the result had been slower, not faster, growth.

I agree, except with the statement that "the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US" were "confident that all groups would benefit from policies designed to weaken trade unions and encourage wealth creationn": I think they pretended confidence, but knew they were helping the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, which is also what they - "the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US" - very much wanted to do.

But the article is a good one, with many quotations, and I think you should read it all for yourself, if only because it strikes me as a little odd that one had to wait for nearly thirtyfive years of economic thinking to get "clear evidence of the strong link between inequality and growth" and that "trickle-down economics" was not economics but false propaganda.

5. CIA torture report: spy agency braces for global impact of inquiry as release date nears

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The CIA is bracing for what could be one of the most damaging moments in its history: a public airing of its post-9/11 embrace of torture.

The Senate intelligence committee is poised to release a landmark inquiry into torture as early as Tuesday, after the Obama administration made a last-ditch effort to suppress a report that has plunged relations between the CIA and its Senate overseer to a historic low point.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday the administration welcomed the release of the report, but warned US interests overseas were at risk of potentially violent reactions to its contents.

Well... actually what is to be released, if it is released, is not the Senate's Report, but a heavily redacted version by the CIA of a small part of it.

Indeed:
Despite months of negotiation over how much of the 6,000-page report will be declassified, most of its findings will never see the light of the day. But even a partial release of the report will yield a furious response from the CIA and its allies.
Which means, in effect, that the controlled institution, the CIA, lords over the controlling institution, the Senate.

As to the White House's spokesman's warning that
US interests overseas were at risk of potentially violent reactions to its contents
There are these two simple consideration:

First, the US imprisoned, tortured, and systematically degraded completely innocent persons for many years and as a matter of course, so indeed they should expect people to be angry if some of the evidence is published - but you should not torture or systematically degrade persons, and certainly not innocent ones.

Second, if the report is not published, then certainly the torturing and degrading will go on, and since torture should not be done, the report should be published, the more so since the CIA's torturers very probably will not be sanctioned anyway:
Human rights campaigners have pressured the White House for months to release a maximally declassified report so as to hold the CIA accountable. It is unlikely to lead to any legal consequence for CIA officials, particularly after a special Justice Department inquiry into torture declined to indict anyone for abuses in the CIA program.
Also, there is a third consideration, that Spencer Ackerman puts as follows:
The Senate report is likely to attract global attention, owing to the CIA’s network of unacknowledged prisons in places like Poland, Thailand and Afghanistan.
Note that as far as I know there will be no information about these hell-holes or the hellish practices these indulge in (but I may be mistaken - or it is so redacted by the CIA no sense could be made from it).

But OK - I am still waiting for the report...

6. Tory peer forced to eat her words after claiming poor people can’t cook

The next item is an article by Patrick Butler, Patrick Wintour and Amelia Gentleman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Attempts to establish a political consensus on how to tackle the growing problem of hunger in Britain came under strain on Monday as a Conservative who helped launch a cross-party report on the issue declared that one of the principal causes of food poverty was that “poor people do not know how to cook”.

Lady Jenkin’s comments – for which she later apologised – came at the Westminster launch of Feeding Britain, a Church of England-funded report examining the causes of the rapid rise in the numbers of people becoming reliant on food banks.

The peer told the press conference, which was attended by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that low-income people who used food banks did so in part because they were not skilled enough in cooking and food management.

I say. Actually, the British press is so much directed that I found it a bit hard to find the full text of Lady Jenkins comments, and the best I could find was this:

“the poor do not know how to cook. I had a bowl of porridge that cost just 4p this morning, while the poor had to make do with a sugar-coated cereal that cost 25p”.

I am neither a Lady, nor a Peer, nor called Jenkins, and I am poor, but even so I can cook, and do so daily if only because no one else does it for me (and I can do it also at least 50 years, although I am poor from birth).

But I do not think that will make much difference, so I say that while I am not a Lady, nor a Tory or a Peer, I am rather confident that as a politically active Tory Peer with such incredibly intelligent opinions, she also holds - not publicly, of course: God forbid! - that the poor are stupid (I mean: they can't cook, for one thing, and they never went to Cambridge); the poor are uncivilized (did I say
they can't cook, and they never went to Cambridge?); the poor are morally degenerate (eating porridge of 25 p instead of a decent 4 p, as all highly educated Peers do!); the poor cost far too much money and should take a lot less (I mean: let them eat cake, if they have nothing to eat, and not bother the Church or Parliament!); the poor are very impolite, especially to peers (a Peer should always be believed, a poor never); and the poor should not drop their aitches either, and learn to get a grip.

Thank you very much! And please read the following item, on the rotten, degenerate, immoral British poor:

7. Yes, people can starve in benefit-sanctions Britain

The next item is an article by Frances Ryan on The Guardian:
This has the following subtitle
Unemployed, disabled and chronically ill people are going hungry – because a sadistic government is removing the money they need to eat
And it starts as follows - and does mention Lady Jenkins:

“Hunger stalks this country” is the finding of a church-funded report by an all-party group of MPs and peers released today. Lady Jenkin, a Conservative, used its launch to declare the main cause of this national crisis was “poor people [who] do not know how to cook”.

Jenkin is symbolic of a climate of denial, privilege and power that dismisses food poverty as a symptom of the idiot poor. The desperation of men, women and children detailed in the report may be worth a few minutes’ pause from our leaders and officials: the unemployed woman from Birkenhead who was taken to hospital with malnutrition after not eating for five days because she had no money to buy food; the heavily pregnant woman and her partner found living, without food, in a child’s tent near a church in a wealthy Berkshire town in the middle of winter; a Wirral man crushed to death after a lorry picked up the bin in which he was scavenging for food. He had not, funnily enough, lost a recipe or failed to work the oven. The jobcentre had suspended his benefits, and he had received no money for 17 weeks.

Actually, Lady Jenkins seems to have spoken in absolute generality, about "poor people" in general (who do not know how to cook, as all peers do, except for a misfit like Lord Bertrand Russell).

There is also this, on all these millions who can't cook:
Almost 2 million people have had their benefits stopped through the sanctions regime over the past two years. If it can get more grotesque, that includes a 580% rise against chronically ill and disabled people in the 12 months to March 2014. Benefit sanctions are being handed out with such ease at this point, we may as well be kicking the unemployed into the gutter and removing the scraps of food from their hands.
And this:
The government knows the impact of what they are doing because their own research has told them. “Systematic problems” in the way benefit sanctions are administered and imposed were revealed months ago in a report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions itself.

But the government wants this, no doubt, for a penny saved on the poor is a penny saved for the rich.
And there is this:
We are now knee-deep in a punitive, callous system. This has never been about helping people find work, but penalising them for their poverty. It is arranging benefits and jobs like shrinking hoops for people to jump through, and blaming them when they fall on their face. Or – as today’s report describes – waiting for police and charity workers to see them scavenging for food in supermarket skips
And it ends like so:
It seems a particular level of sadism to remove the money people need to eat and act surprised when they are hungry. A new report is just another excuse for those in power to shirk responsibility, to blame the people they have already degraded once and who cannot defend themselves. A general election is coming. Its citizens are starving, and this government’s priority is denial.
But David Cameron's government has all the answers: If you are poor, you can't cook, because there is nothing to eat, which is quite all right - unless you are a poor Tory peer, of course - since the poor are loosers that do not deserve to live in a decent Tory country anyway.

8. Wall Street’s Democrats

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
 This starts as follows:

In Washington’s coming budget battles, sacred cows like the tax deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable donations are likely to be on the table along with potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

But no one on Capitol Hill believes Wall Street’s beloved carried-interest tax loophole will be touched.

Don’t blame the newly elected Republican Congress.

Democrats didn’t repeal the loophole when they ran both houses of Congress from January 2009 to January 2011.
I get to why the Democrats didn't do anything later. First on what the "carried-interest tax loophole" is:

Carried interest allows hedge-fund and private-equity managers, as well as many venture capitalists and partners in real estate investment trusts, to treat their take of the profits as capital gains — taxed at maximum rate of 23.8 percent instead of the 39.6 percent maximum applied to ordinary income.

It’s a pure scam. They get the tax break even though they invest other peoples’ money rather than risk their own.

The loophole has no economic justification. As one private-equity manager told me recently, “I can’t defend it. No one can.”

It’s worth about $11 billion a year — more than enough to extend unemployment benefits to every one of America’s nearly 3 million long-term unemployed.

And here is the real reason why the Democrats did nothing:

To find the real reason Democrats didn’t close the loophole, follow the money. Wall Street is one of the Democratic party’s biggest contributors.

The Street donated $49.1 million to Democrats in 2010, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Hedge-fund managers alone accounted for $5.88 million of the total.
According to Robert Reich (quoting somebody else) six in ten Wall Street types are Democrats, and indeed I see no reason why they should not be: the U.S. government protects Wall Street.

Reich ends his article with a question:

This must stop. America can’t tackle widening inequality without confronting the power and privilege lying behind it.

If the Democratic party doesn’t lead the charge, who will? 

Well... clearly very few Democrats will, so the answer must be: The Independents or the Greens, but indeed I do not see them winning a presidential election.

9. Torture: An Executive Summary

The next and last item is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This starts as follows:

There’s a media storm regarding the Senate torture report … appropriately.

But much of the report was redacted by the CIA and White House.

Here’s what you need to know …

This is followed by a long and thorough discussion of torture, that can be summarized by quoting a tiny piece (of much more):
Torture creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly neutralize.
Quite so. And there is a great lot more under the last dotted link.

---------------------------------
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.)


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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