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. Is This Country Crazy?
Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to
2. It’s not just Fox News: How
liberal apologists torpedoed
change, helped make the
Democrats safe for Wall Street
3. Paris unity rally: France
on the march for fraternity and
Message From the Dispossessed
This is a Nederlog of Monday,
January 12, 2015.
This is a crisis log. There are 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is an easy piece of journalism that I didn't
like (I explain why); item 2 is a good and long
article about Obama; item 3 is a report on The
Guardian of the demonstrations in Paris (and other places) yesterday;
and item 4 is an article by Chris Hedges, that I
think simplifies too much (I explain why).
Also, I am sorry the video I linked yesterday seems not to have been
"xs4all" (in fact: KPN). I can't do anything about "xs4all", and am
sorry. It was shown without any
problem on maartensz.org. (And I don't take another provider, because
these are as bad and as dishonest as is "xs4all", which indeed is not
the real xs4all, where I started in 1996, but is
merely a company of KPN.)
Country Crazy? Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to Know
The first item today is an
article by Ann Jones. I found it on Common Dreams, but it first
appeared on tomdispatch:
This starts as follows:
Americans who live
abroad -- more than six
million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S.
government) -- often face hard questions about our country from people
we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain
everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling
conduct of the United States.
I am willing to believe it, but I also find it difficult to take this
Let me explain.
First, I've talked to very many Americans since 1970, and also lived
with an American woman, but I must say that, while I did meet some
intelligent and informed Americans, most I've met, indeed like most
non-Americans I've met, were neither intelligent nor informed, indeed
also more or less regardless from whether or not they had studied
something, although my guess is that most I talked to had studied (and
I am not much interested in answering the questions the unintelligent
uninformed may ask: "one fool may ask more than any wise man can
Second, if I want "to
explain everything" to
someone (anyway an odd notion, but OK: I am a philosopher) I will - if
the people are intelligent enough - much less refer to my own thoughts
than to relevant books I've read, and recommend these, indeed
as a sort of invitation to civilization and civilized thought.
Third, I don't think the U.S.A. is crazy, and I also don't think this
is a helpful notion, because countries are not the kinds of
things that are crazy: only people are. But I do think many Americans
are stupid and ignorant, as indeed most non- Americans are (in my
views, which are those of one who got one of the best M.A.s ever
awarded, also while I was ill and much opposed), and I also think the
many stupid and ignorant are intentionally abused by a few clever rich
men - but then this is common through most of history, and indeed
especially in politics
Fourth, the people one meets and talks to necessarily are an extremely
small sample of the very many one might have talked to (there are about
three times more persons alive than there are seconds
in your life, if you are 70), and those one does meet and talk to tend
to be more like you are than the ones you don't meet.
These are some of the reasons why I cannot take the conversations Ann
Jones had, with unspecifiied people about unspecified themes, very
seriously, nor indeed the ideas she got from conversing with unspecifiied people.
But there is more:
Then recently, I
traveled back to the “homeland.” It struck me there that most
Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the
world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed
about us than the average American is about them. This is partly
because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited
in its views both of how we act and how other countries think (...)
Well... again yes and
no: Nobody gets specified other than as "most Americans" or "average
Americans" or "foreign observers", and no numbers or percentages are
given, but yes: I agree that "average Americans" are - in my view - neither
intelligent nor well informed, and indeed often have fairly stupid
ideas because most of the information they know comes from TV, and TV
is full of lies and deceptions. (But again, this is much like any other
country, though indeed - perhaps - a bit worse than in many countries.)
Ms Jones lives in Norway (where I've also lived, but 40 years ago) and
In Norway, where
I live, all citizens also have an equal right to education
(state subsidized preschool
from age one, and free schools from age six through specialty training
education and beyond), unemployment
benefits, job-placement and paid retraining services, paid parental
age pensions, and more. These benefits are not merely an
emergency “safety net”; that is, charitable payments grudgingly
bestowed upon the needy. They are universal: equally available to
all citizens as human rights encouraging social harmony -- or as our
own U.S. constitution would put it, “domestic tranquility.”
That is true, to the
best of my knowledge. But then I get some of the questions Ann Jones
says she had to answer, and I find them uniformly stupid - and give my
answers between square brackets:
So no: I do not
think this is a good article - it is vague, unspecific, based on
"conversations" with completely unspecified persons, and it does not
inform (apart from a few bits about Norway and Scandinavia). It's an
easy bit of superficial journalism, in my eyes.
- Why can’t you Americans
stop interfering with women’s health care?
[Some do, some don't. And there are many Christians.]
- Why can’t you understand
[Most did not get a scientific education.]
- How can you still be so
blind to the reality of climate change?
[It's in the interest of the rich, who also owe TV and the press.]
- How can you speak of the
rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war
whenever they want?
[Many presidents broke many laws, not only American ones.]
- How can you hand over
the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?
[I don't like Obama, but he is neither lone nor ordinary.]
- How can you throw away
the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?
say it helps battle terrorism.]
- Why do you Americans
like guns so much? Why do you kill each other at such a rate?
[License, fear, stupidity.]
not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make
the Democrats safe for Wall Street
The next item is an article by Thomas Frank on Salon:
This is a long article
that is well worth reading in full. I have one quote from it:
To say that Obama fumbled
this most critical issue is to understate the matter pretty
dramatically. More to the point is the great unasked question of why
he fumbled it so dramatically. Again, let’s review the historical
record as it actually exists—not as Obama’s apologists like to imagine
* It was fully
within Obama’s power to react to the financial crisis in a more
aggressive and appropriate way—i.e., laws
were in place, there was ample
precedent, he wasn’t forced to choose Tim Geithner to run the
bailouts or Eric Holder to (not) prosecute the bankers or Ben Bernanke
to serve another term at the Fed.
* It would have been good
policy had Obama reacted to the financial crisis in a more
aggressive and appropriate way—i.e., the economy would have recovered
more quickly and the danger of a future crisis brought on by
concentrated financial power would have been reduced.
* It would have been massively
popular had Obama reacted to the financial crisis in a more
aggressive and appropriate way. Everyone admits this, at least tacitly,
even the architects of Obama’s bailout policies, who like to think of
themselves as having resisted the public’s mindless
baying for banker blood. Acting aggressively might also have
deflated the rampant false consciousness of the Tea Party movement and
prevented the Republican reconquista of the House in 2010.
But Obama did the
opposite. He did everything he could to “foam the runways” and never
showed any real interest in taking on the big banks. Shall I recite the
dolorous list one more time? The bailouts he failed to unwind or even
to question. The bad regulators he didn’t fire. The AIG bonuses that
his team defended. The cramdown
he never pushed for. The receivership of the zombie
banks that never happened. The FBI agents who were never shifted
over to white-collar crime. The criminal referral programs at the
regulatory agencies that were never restored. The executives of
bailed-out banks who were never fired. The standing outrage of
too-big-to-fail institutions that was never truly addressed. The top
bankers who were never
prosecuted for anything on the long, sordid list of
What I am suggesting, in
other words, is that the financial crisis worked out the way it did in
large part because Obama and his team wanted it to work out that way.
That is the simplest and
most direct explanation.
3. Paris unity rally: France on the march
for fraternity and
The next item is an article by Natalie Nougayrède on The
This starts as follows:
There is considerably
more in the article.
After the shock and the
horror came the time for collective revival. No one in France can
recall anything like this since the images of Paris at the time of the
liberation in 1944. Then, as now, we as a nation were desperate to
reaffirm what our republic was meant to be, how it wanted to survive,
how it would overcome barbarous aggression, as well as the country’s
failures and divisions.
Up to 2 million people
poured on to the streets of Paris – and an estimated 3.7 million across
France – in a demonstration of unity against terror and in defence of
values that are at the heart of democracy, and at the heart of Europe.
Faces were determined and emotional.
Families had brought
their children, including babies in prams, so that every generation may
take part in this moment of history in the making. In the compact,
solemn crowd, people felt the need to speak about their different
ethnic, religious and social backgrounds while holding signs that said
“fraternity, freedom, republic”, intent on proving that gunmen could
never be victorious in dividing a nation, nor in weakening the very
essence of European humanism.
My overwhelming feeling was:
may this spirit of resistance last.
Message From the Dispossessed
next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows (and
may be seen as a - sort of - supplement to item 3):
Well...yes and no. I think it
was also about free speech; and also about radical
Islam; and I do not think that I (who is comprised under "We"),
or indeed Chris Hedges, or very many other men and women, did anything
to engineer "the mad scramble by the privileged to survive
at the expense of the poor".
The terrorist attack in
France that took place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not
about free speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not
illustrate the fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of
an emerging dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of
resources to survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled
and mocked by the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of
the industrial West, lash out in nihilistic fury.
We have engineered the
rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory global capitalism and
empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And rather than understand
the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate it, we have built
sophisticated mechanisms of security and surveillance, passed laws that
permit the targeted assassinations and torture of the weak, and amassed
modern armies and the machines of industrial warfare to dominate the
world by force. This is not about justice. It is not about the war on
terror. It is not about liberty or democracy. It is not about the
freedom of expression. It is about the mad scramble by the privileged
to survive at the expense of the poor. And the poor know it.
And again: it is also about justice; also about the war
on terror; also about liberty and democracy; also about
freedom of expression, and indeed Chris Hedges is right that it is also
about inequality a.k.a. "the mad
scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor".
Besides, while I do not know to what extent free speech, radical Islam,
justice, terror, liberty, democracy, and freedom of expression did
enter into the motives of the murderers, I think they did play
a role, and one should not simplify them
away to concentrate only on "the
rage of the dispossessed".
There is considerably more in the article, that I will leave to your
interests, but I want to quote on more thing:
The cartoons of
the Prophet in the Paris-based satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo are
offensive and juvenile. None of them are funny. And they expose a
grotesque double standard when it comes to Muslims. In France a
Holocaust denier, or someone who denies the Armenian genocide, can be
imprisoned for a year and forced to pay a $60,000 fine. It is a
criminal act in France to mock the Holocaust the way Charlie Hebdo
Well... I do not know anything
about how the Armenian genocide is regarded in France. I agree Muslims
are unfairly treated and often discriminated, but they went to France
(and other European countries) because they wanted to improve their
incomes and their chances (to which they have a right). Also, their
position is not like the Jews, who are much longer in Europe than
Muslims, and of whom 6 million were murdered in a recent world war.
As to the cartoons: I've said before I never saw a Charlie Hebdo. But
whether or not their cartoons are "offensive
and juvenile" and not "funny"
is mostly a matter of taste, and I am strongly in favor of
publishing many things I might or do find "offensive", "juvenile" and
not "funny", simply because I hold that almost all points of view have
a right to be heard or read, indeed in order to be judged rationally by