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. Taming corporate power: the
key political issue of our
2. The Flawed Arguments Behind
3. What Bad, Shameful, Dirty
Behavior is U.S. Judge Richard
Posner Hiding? Demand to Know.
how the wealth gap holds back economic
5. CIA torture report: spy
agency braces for global impact
of inquiry as release date
6. Tory peer forced to eat her words after claiming poor
people can’t cook
people can starve in benefit-sanctions Britain
8. Wall Street’s Democrats
9. Torture: An Executive
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
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:
corporate power: the key political issue of our age
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:
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.
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.
The first is this:
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.
I agree with the first
five points, but not with the last two.
All lobbying should be
Any company supplying public
services would be subject to freedom of information laws (with an
exception for matters deemed commercially confidential by the
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
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.
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
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
item is an article by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:
This starts as
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,”
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
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:
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.
item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as
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:
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
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
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”.
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
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.
torture report: spy agency braces for
global impact of inquiry as release date nears
item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
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.
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.
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
overseas were at risk of potentially violent reactions to its contents
There are these two
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:
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...
Tory peer forced
to eat her words after
claiming poor people can’t cook
item is an article by Patrick Butler, Patrick Wintour and Amelia
Gentleman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
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
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 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).
“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”.
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,
Yes, people can
starve in benefit-sanctions Britain
item is an article by Frances Ryan on The Guardian:
This has the following
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:
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).
“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.
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.
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
And there is this:
But the government wants
this, no doubt, for a penny saved on the poor is a penny saved for the
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
Tory peer, of course - since the poor are loosers that do not deserve
to live in a decent Tory country anyway.
item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
I get to why the
Democrats didn't do anything later. First on what the "carried-interest tax loophole" is:
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
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
And here is the real
reason why the Democrats did nothing:
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
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.
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.
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.
Reich ends his article with a question:
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.
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?
Torture: An Executive
and last item is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This starts as follows:
This is followed by a
long and thorough discussion of torture, that can be summarized by
quoting a tiny piece (of much more):
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
more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly
Quite so. And there is a great lot more under
the last dotted link.
 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.)
(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: