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Nederlog


  December
15, 2014
Crisis: Obama, Truthdiggers, Rand, Torture*3, Climate
  "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.
President Obama Just Gave Your Savings Account to
      JPMorgan

 2.
Truthdiggers of the Week: Sens. John McCain and Dianne
      Feinstein

 3. 
How Ayn Rand Helped Turn the U.S. Into a Selfish,
      Greedy Nation

 4. Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture
 5. 'A Roadmap to Global Burning': COP20 Closes With Even
      Weaker Climate Pact

 6.
Bush 'Intimately Involved' with CIA Torture, says Rove
 7.
Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, The Torture Wars

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 15. It is a crisis log.

There are 7 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is on a present Obama gave to Jamie Dison; item 2 is about two - quite unlikely - truthdiggers on Truthdig (but they deserved it, I agree); item 3 is about Ayn Rand, who really was quite horrific, far from sane, and totally incompetent as a philosopher or a writer; item 4, item 6 and item 7 are all about torture (various aspects, indeed); and item 5 is about yet another fails climate conference.

Some of these articles are quite good and there also was an earlier Nederlog today about the new things in philosophy I published in 2013 and 2014.

And here goes:

1. President Obama Just Gave Your Savings Account to JPMorgan

The first item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

With the passage of the 2015 federal budget bill, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon got lawmakers to repeal a key part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and allow banks to use the savings accounts of ordinary Americans to gamble in the stock market on behalf of hedge funds, corporations and the rich.

A former senior Treasury official in the Obama administration told The Washington Post that the law restores the ability of banks to use the same practices that helped bring down the global economy in 2008. “This was the epicenter of the crisis,” the official said. “This is what brought AIG down, what brought Lehman Brothers down.”

By a vote of 56 to 40 on Saturday, the Senate passed the $1.1 trillion bill to fund the federal government through September 2015.
Of course, president Obama - the compromise candidate whose compromises nearly always favor the Republicans - was much in favor of it:
President Obama, who told Bloomberg News during a 2010 interview about the justness of the $17 million bonus Dimon received that year and that he knew Dimon and regarded him as a “savvy” businessman, backed the bill. Obama and Sen. Harry Reid said that the compromise legislation was the best Democrats were able to get before Republicans assume control of the Senate in January.
In fact, what happened was this, according to Heidi Moore, who gets quoted but writes for The Guardian:
When Dimon gets his way, it’s not really about Dimon. It’s about how easy it is for Wall Street, with one good representative and a reasonable amount of political donations, to roll over any opposition, especially in Congress. Many lawmakers have always been primed to listen to Dimon. In this case, Dimon successfully lobbied members of the US House to repeal an important part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, which was passed in 2010 to protect Americans from losing their homes and savings in another financial crisis.
(...)
In a nutshell, the budget provision would allow banks to use the savings accounts of Americans to speculate in the markets on behalf of hedge funds, companies and the rich. Specifically, the banks would use customer savings to help clients make bets on derivatives, the technical financial instruments that were at the center of the financial crisis. There’s no benefit to this rule to anyone in America who has less than, say, $5m in the bank.
There is also this from Pelosi and Warren:
Nancy Pelosi rebelled: “What I am saying is: the taxpayer should not assume the risk … You succeed, it’s in your pocket. You fail, the taxpayer pays the bill. It’s just not right.” Warren objected that “a vote for this bill is a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street … this Congress can’t be here to say what can we do to improve the profitability of a half-dozen large institutions and shove all the risk off to the American people again.”
Yes, indeed - but Pelosi is very, very late, though she is quite right.

I have three more general observations:

First, if the U.S. banks are as the Dutch banks, who do not pay any interest on ordinary accounts, as if that is decent or necessary, it seems evident that this might be partially blocked by massive removals of money: What you have in your hand (or your own safe place) cannot be stolen by Dimon or the banks. (I don't think this will work, but it is my policy.)

Second, this makes it considerably more likely there soon will be another crisis - in which case there will be no more money (or so I hope) to save the banks, and things may change a lot again, I hope in a much better direction (but one certainly cannot be sure, and it may be even worse).

Third, my main reason for expecting that it will be considerably more likely that there will be another crisis is that there are hardly any checks on the enormous greed that moves the bankers.

2. Truthdiggers of the Week: Sens. John McCain and Dianne Feinstein 

The next item is another article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This gives - quoted only in part - the following justification for nominating these two persons "Truthdigger of the Week":

When the truth is spoken by politicians—a class of professionals endlessly devoted to sniffing out opportunities to score points over competitors and opponents—skeptics are right to suspect it’s not merely the truth. It is always tailored to redound to some benefit to the speaker. But there are moments in history when that doesn’t matter. The habitually wrong can occasionally be very right, and they deserve all the credit they can be given for being so. That moment came when Sens. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who led the investigation, and John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, introduced and interpreted the Senate’s findings Tuesday.

I agree, mostly, although I would have put it differently. But I quite agree with "The habitually wrong can occasionally be very right, and they deserve all the credit they can be given for being so."

In fact, here is part of the things that John McCain said about torture (which I like and think brave, i.a. because my father and grandfather were tortured by the Nazis, for resisting them):

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence,” said McCain, who was tortured after he was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. “I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”

Anticipating a principal talking point of the defenders of torture in his party, he recognized the legitimate function of the CIA: “I respect their dedication and appreciate their dilemma. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.”

He recognized agency officials as liars: “There was considerable misinformation disseminated then about what was and wasn’t achieved using these methods in an effort to discourage support for the legislation. There was a good amount of misinformation used in 2011 to credit the use of these methods with the death of Osama bin Laden. And there is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.”

Very good. And here is John McCain's speech: 

3. How Ayn Rand Helped Turn the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation

The next item is an article by Bruce E. Levine on AlterNet:

This starts with a quotation of Gore Vidal, that is quite right (in my opinion, which is a lot better informed about philosophy than Ayn Rand's opinions):
Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society....To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.
— Gore Vidal, 1961 
Quite so - and this also shows how many of "our business leaders and politicians" are, quite willingly also,  immoral and evil, and only out to improve their own position and that of their rich backers.

I read Ayn Rand - several books, both "literature" and "philosophy" - in 1972 or 1973, because I had been quite enthusiastically adviced to do so by several Americans I had met.  Also, I initially knew nothing about her.

Well... it was complete rot, total crap, utter shit: it was extremely ill-written "literature", made by someone who can't have read much decent literature, and completely incompetent "philosophy", also witten without much relevant knowledge (which I did and do have: I had been reading the great philosophers and logicians since 1967, in a rather planned and careful way also). [2]

Also, I am not saying this because I disagree with Ayn Rand, I am saying this because it gives my view of her as author of "literature" and "philosophy": either she was the greatest genius, by far also, of anyone who ever lived (which is what
she thought: see below) or else she was a common and also rather mad fool, whose only claim to fame was that she could bewitch philosophically illiterate others by her extreme claims.

I like the article (by a clinical psychologist) and recommend reading it. I will quote only two bits from it.

First, about capitalism:
Rand said, “Capitalism and altruism are incompatible....The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.” For many young people, hearing that it is “moral” to care only about oneself can be intoxicating, and some get addicted to this idea for life.
This is rot for (at least) two reasons. First, there are different kinds of capitalism, in different countries mostly, and some are far more benevolent to most than others.

To simplify matters, there are (at least) capitalism-with-a-human-face, which may be said to be founded by Lord Keynes, and that has been in force in both
Europe and the U.S. from 1945-1975 approximately, which is to be contrasted with
capitalism-with-a-inhuman-face, that ruled in the 19th Century especially
in Europe, and that now is furthered by the GOP in the U.S.

Second, the other reason the quotation is rot is that there is no mere choice out of two completely opposed views: there are very many more choices that indeed
much depend on how you distribute the wealth all produce, but that is insufficient
for anyone to live on, even if he is an oil-billionaire: Anyone needs much more than he produces form very many other people, other industries, other countries etc.

And here is the passage that shows me (with one of the best M.A.s in psychology ever handed out) that Ayn Rand was quite mad:

Actually, again inconsistent, Rand did have a God. It was herself. She said:

I am done with the monster of “we,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: “I.”

If you really think that (and Rand did), you are simply quite mad, which is what Ayn Rand was, in my opinion.

4. Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

The next item is an article by Ray McGovern (<-Wikipedia) on ConsortiumNews:
Ray McGovern worked for a long time for the CIA and got a medal for it. I like this article a lot, and I think you should read it, but indeed you will not - if you followed Nederlog fairly well - learn much you didn't know, except about Ray McGovern and a former member of Congress called Pete Hoekstra. But yes, Ray McGovern is quite right and also quite couragous.

Here is the last part of his letter of 2006 in which he returns the medal he got for working for the CIA for 27 years, that included - and I
quote from Wikipedia: "conducting early morning briefings one-on-one with the vice president, the secretaries of State and Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the assistant to the president for national security.":

If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them.  When my grandchildren ask, “What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture,” I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States—and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us.  I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it.  Please destroy this one.

Yours truly, Ray McGovern
5. 'A Roadmap to Global Burning': COP20 Closes With Even Weaker Climate Pact

The next item is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows (with a small correction by me):
After two weeks of negotiations, the world community has yet again failed to take any meaningful actions to prevent landmark global warming and instead has produced a "roadmap to global burning," leading climate campaigners lamented upon the close of the United Nations COP20 climate talks in Lima, Peru on Sunday.

In the wee hours of the morning, two days past the intended close of the conference, delegates from 195 nations cemented the text intended to serve as the building blocks for the next round of international climate negotiations in Paris next year.

Under the adopted text, named the Lima Call for Climate Action, governments will submit plans for how their country intends to reign in emissions by the "informal" deadline of March 31, 2015.

However, according to RTCC journalist Ed King, reporting from Lima, nations "will not be compelled to offer up front information explaining how their national plans are fair or ambitious, nor will they face any rigorous assessment process ahead of the Paris summit."
(...)

Environmentalists warn that these individual pledges, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), will likely be too weak to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, beyond which scientists say increasingly severe heatwaves, rainfall, flooding and rising sea levels will likely occur.

In brief (and there is considerably more under the last dotted link), and as I predicted, this was yet another completely failed climate conference.

6. Bush 'Intimately Involved' with CIA Torture, says Rove

The next item is another article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Former President George W. Bush knew and was "intimately involved" in the CIA's practice of torture, former Bush adviser and Republican strategist Karl Rove confirmed on Fox News Sunday.

Despite arguments made in the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's report that the CIA had not alerted Bush and other top officials about the extent of the abuses until 2006, Rove told the morning show: "He made the decision."

"He was presented, I believe, 12 techniques, he authorized the use of 10 of them, including waterboarding," Rove added.

The Senate report, released on Tuesday, documented such abuses as "rectal rehydration" and "water dousing," as well as threatening to kill or sexually abuse family members of detainees—acts which the committee said were beyond the scope of what was portrayed by the CIA to congressional overseers and the Bush administration.

I say.  And it's not that I expected otherwise, but that it is quite clearly laid out by a former aid of Bush Jr. that Bush Jr. was personally responsible, knew and approved torturing (but yes, this now seems a GOP feature: the GOP are the party that approves torturing people, in spite of all international treaties that forbid it, and indeed with John McCain - who was tortured, unlike all those who are in favor of torturing others - as one of the few who disagree).

7. Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, The Torture Wars

The next and last item for today is an article by Rebecca Gordon, with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt, on tomdispatch:
The introduction starts as follows:
It came from the top and that’s never been a secret.  The president authorized the building of those CIA “black sites” and the use of what came to be known as “enhanced interrogation techniques” and has spoken of this with a certain pride. The president’s top officials essentially put in an order at the Department of Justice for “legal” justifications that would, miraculously, transform those “techniques” into something other than torture.  Its lawyers then pulled out their dictionaries and gave new meaning to tortured definitions of torture that could have come directly from the fused pens of Franz Kafka and George Orwell.  In the process, they even managed to leave the definition of torture to the torturer.  It was a performance for the ages..
Yes, indeed. Here is another paragraph from the introduction:
Although what I’ve just described is now generally considered The Torture Story here, it really was only part of it.  The other part, also a CIA operation authorized at the highest levels, was “rendition” or “extraordinary rendition” as it was sometimes known.  This was a global campaign of kidnappings, aided and abetted by 54 other countries, in which “terror suspects” (again often enough innocent people) were swept off the streets of major cities as well as the backlands of the planet and “rendered” to other countries, ranging from Libya and Syria to Egypt and Uzbekistan, places with their own handy torture chambers and interrogators already much practiced in “enhanced” techniques of one sort or another.
There is considerably more in the introduction, and the article it introduces, by Rebecca Gordon, who teaches philosophy in the University of San Francisco, is quite good, and consists of a cogent and clearly written refutation of the following:

Mainstream coverage of U.S. torture in general, and of this new report in particular, rests on three false assumptions:

1. The most important question is whether torture “worked.”

2. U.S. torture ended when George W. Bush left office.

3. The only kind of torture that really “counts” happens in foreign war zones.

Each of these assumptions, as Rebecca Gordon shows, is quite false. Also, this is well worth reading all of, although it will not make you happier, unless you like torturing people.
---------------------------------
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] Anybody is quite welcome to disagree with me about anything, but who wants to defend her "philosophy" should know that no one I know of who studied and teaches philosophy (of any kind, most of which I disagree with, but not for the sort of reasons I disagree with Rand) considers Rand's philosophy seriously. It simply is too bad for that, and indeed also is very much more a political ideology (of an extremist kind) than a serious philosophy.


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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