February 10, 2015
Crisis: "Child Terrorists", Internet, Reich, Banking, Bernie Sanders, David Hume
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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


1. Is Your Child a Terrorist? U.S. Government Questionnaire
     Rates Families at Risk for Extremism

2. The great internet swindle: ever get the feeling you've
     been cheated?

Back to the Nineteenth Century
'Rotten Core of Banking' Exposed: Global Outrage Follows
     HSBC Revelations

Bernie Sanders: Keeping US From Becoming Oligarchy 'A
     Struggle We Must Win'
6. On David Hume

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 10, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 8 dotted links: Item 1 is about a rightist totalitarian plan of the American, British and French governments (and more); item 2 is a quite interesting article on the internet; item 3 is about Robert Reich on the fact that the U.S. seems to be heading back to the 19th Century; item 4 is another interesting article on the incredible illegal corruptions of the big banks; item 5 is on Bernie Sanders (whose ideas are quite good, but who has far less money than the billionaires he opposes); and item 6 is not a crisis item, for it is about my plan to comment Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature.

1. Is Your Child a Terrorist? U.S. Government Questionnaire Rates Families at Risk for Extremism 

The first item today is an article by Murtaza Hussain, Cora Currier and Jana Winter on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Are you, your family or your community at risk of turning to violent extremism? That’s the premise behind a rating system devised by the National Counterterrorism Center, according to a document marked For Official Use Only and obtained by The Intercept.

The document–and the rating system–is part of a wider strategy for Countering Violent Extremism, which calls for local community and religious leaders to work together with law enforcement and other government agencies. The White House has made this approach a centerpiece of its response to terrorist attacks around the world and in the wake of the Paris attacks, announced plans to host an international summit on Countering Violent Extremism on February 18th.

In fact, I do not think that a question can be a "premise", but I agree there is a premise or several premises behind the question, and they may be articulated as follows: (1) the government has the right, the duty and the ability to surveil any and all citizens, because (2) the government is morally and intellectually far superior to those it surveils, and (3) the government also has the right, the duty and the ability to interfere ("intervene") in the lives of any of its citizens it disagrees with.

That is, the present U.S. government indulges in rightist totalitarianism:
It pretends to have these rights, duties and abilities, but these are not based on any democratic legal right, and are in fact only based on the fact that the government is much more powerful than any of its citizens. Besides, whether or not they succeed in assigning themselves these "rights" and "duties" through a corrupt Congress of millionaires: They certainly lack the abilities.

Here is one who sees it (more or less) like I do:
“The idea that the federal government would encourage local police, teachers, medical and social service employees to rate the communities, individuals and families they serve for their potential to become terrorists is abhorrent on its face,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. German called the criteria used for the ratings “subjective and specious.”
Precisely. Besides, it is not only the U.S. government that tries to impose a rightist totalitarianism that also has no basis in real fact: The governments
of Great Britain and France (and some others) are doing the same.

2. The great internet swindle: ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

The next item is an article by John Henley on The (Mostly Destroyed) Guardian:

This starts as follows:

During every minute of every day of 2014, according to Andrew Keen’s new book, the world’s internet users – all three billion of them – sent 204m emails, uploaded 72 hours of YouTube video, undertook 4m Google searches, shared 2.46m pieces of Facebook content, published 277,000 tweets, posted 216,000 new photos on Instagram and spent $83,000 on Amazon.

By any measure, for a network that has existed recognisably for barely 20 years (the first graphical web browser, Mosaic, was released in 1993), those are astonishing numbers: the internet, plainly, has transformed all our lives, making so much of what we do every day – communicating, shopping, finding, watching, booking – unimaginably easier than it was. A Pew survey in the United States found last year that 90% of Americans believed the internet had been good for them.

The question is of course: Are these 90% who believe the internet "had been good for them" right?

Andrew Keen thinks not (and used to think differently) and wrote a book about it, called "The Internet Is Not The Answer":

The net, he argues, was meant to be “power to the people, a platform for equality”: an open, decentralised, democratising technology that liberates as it empowers as it informs.

Instead, it has handed extraordinary power and wealth to a tiny handful of people, while simultaneously, for the rest of us, compounding and often aggravating existing inequalities – cultural, social and economic – whenever and wherever it has found them. Individually, it may work wonders for us. Collectively, it’s doing us no good at all.

I tend to agree with Keen's criticisms: The internet furthered mob rule by anonymous sadists rather than "democracy", and it makes incredible amounts of money for a very few very big monopolists while destroying - literally - tenthousands of firms and jobs, in particular.

But I don't much believe his criticism will have much of a consequence:

The vast majority is too stupid - I am very sorry to say, but that seems to me to be the fact underneath mob "democracy" for the most anonymous most sadistic, and billions of income for the very few who own some monopoly.

Anyway, here are two more quotes, to stimulate you to read all:

Keen cites San Francisco-based writer Rebecca Solnit’s incisive take on Google: imagine it is 100 years ago, and the post office, the phone company, the public libraries, the printing houses, Ordnance Survey maps and the cinemas were all controlled by the same secretive and unaccountable organisation. Plus, he adds, almost as an afterthought: “Google doesn’t just own the post office – it has the right to open everyone’s letters.”

And note this is all because Google has a monopoly, while the "right" (I don't think it is one, and will never think so, regardless of any "law") "to open everyone’s letters" is due to lack of encryption.

And here is one of Keen's conclusions:

“So I think when we look back, we might see that what we have now is actually lot worse than what we started with. Maybe, even, big media is not as evil as everyone makes out. Publishing houses, record labels, the Guardian – how much money have you guys lost over the past few years? – were and are made up of people who care about quality content, and they’re being swept away. We’re destroying the old, and what are we replacing it with? Anonymous people on Reddit spreading rumours, angry people on Twitter, celebrities online with millions of followers, selling their brand?”

Yes, indeed. And again my own diagnosis is that one important reason for this massive stupification is that most people the internet "interconnects" are not intelligent, not learned, and are completely anonymous for anyone (except for the NSA, the GCHQ, Google and Facebook).

3. Back to the Nineteenth Century

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

My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism from some who contend that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

A Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only  “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it.

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil twelve-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better alternative.
Yes. But that is The Freedom offered by the quite stupid or sick and degenerate proponents of "The Free Market": Nearly everybody will be free to work at least 12 hours a day for hardly any money, while the very rich are free to spend all the money they made (or stole from the taxes) for their own benefits. For greed is good and egoism is healthy (said Ayn Rand) - and that is that.

Robert Reich does not agree (and neither do I):

But as we should have learned a century ago, markets don’t exist in nature. They’re created by human beings. The real question is how they’re organized and for whose benefit.

In the late nineteenth century they were organized for the benefit of a few at the top.

But by the middle of the twentieth century they were organized for the vast majority.

During the thirty years after the end of World War II, as the economy doubled in size, so did the wages of most Americans — along with improved hours and working conditions.

Yet since around 1980, even though the economy has doubled once again (the Great Recession notwithstanding), the wages most Americans have stagnated. And their benefits and working conditions have deteriorated.

This isn’t because most Americans are worth less. In fact, worker productivity is higher than ever.

It’s because big corporations, Wall Street, and some enormously rich individuals have gained political power to organize the market in ways that have enhanced their wealth while leaving most Americans behind.

Quite so - but who as the ability to stop them? That is not only my question:
It is Reich's final question as well:

We seem to be heading full speed back to the late nineteenth century.

So what will be the galvanizing force for change this time?
My own guess is that we need another major economical crisis, though I do not like that at all, for it will create much havoc and much suffering, and that mostly among those who are suffering already.

And the reason for my pessimism is that it seems to me that by now most politicians have been bought: they could have stopped it, in principle and in fact, since 1980, but they have not, and they have not mostly because they are already rich or have been bought (and no, they will not tell the electorate that they have been bought, and indeed may be bought by promises as well as money: "revolving doors").

4. 'Rotten Core of Banking' Exposed: Global Outrage Follows HSBC Revelations  

The next item is an article by
Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This has a subtitle that is quite apt though not quite true:

'These bankers are too big to fail and too big to jail, so they just keep engaging in illegal activity.'

Actually, they are neither too big to fail nor too big to jail: They just have the corrupt Eric Holder as their defendant, but with that defendant they can indeed do as they please, and engage in almost any illegal activity that is profitable, without any fear of any real punishment.

The article itself starts as follows:

New details about how HSBC bank helped tax evaders and money-launderers—from political figures to celebrities to arms dealers—conceal billions of dollars in assets have sparked international condemnation, from elected officials as well as public interest groups around the world.

Documents leaked by whistleblower Hervé Falciani, who worked for HSBC, show how a Swiss division of the U.K.-headquartered bank routinely allowed clients to withdraw bricks of cash, often in foreign currencies of little use in Switzerland; aggressively marketed schemes likely to enable wealthy clients to avoid European and U.S. taxes; colluded with some clients to conceal undeclared "black" accounts from their domestic tax authorities; and provided accounts to international criminals, corrupt businessmen, and other high-risk individuals.

"This exposes once again the rotten core of banking—it would be shocking if it weren't for the frequency with which we hear of such scandals," said David Hillman, spokesperson for the U.K.-based Robin Hood Tax campaign. "It shows a sector not content with dodging its own obligations, but also conniving to help the richest people shirk their responsibilities to society as well."

There is considerably more and it is a good article, but I do not see there is anyone who can do much against it, since the legal authorities are corrupt to the very top.

Indeed, there is this by "James Henry, former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. and now senior adviser with the U.K.'s Tax Justice Network":

"These bankers are too big to fail and too big to jail, so they just keep engaging in illegal activity," Henry declared. "There’s a widespread pattern of using fines to penalize the top 20 global big banks—$247 billion since 1998, for 655 separate major infractions of all kinds. But they just pass along the costs and continue with business as usual, with client secrecy preserved. It’s like a criminal syndicate."

They are a huge criminal syndicate - but with Eric Holder in charge in the U.S., who already in 1999 declared that big banks are "too big to fail" who will stop
these criminal syndicates that are international banks?

I really don't know: The law is clearly and evidently corrupt (corporations = people; money=votes: SCOTUS said so) and so are the keepers of the law.

5. Bernie Sanders: Keeping US From Becoming Oligarchy 'A Struggle We Must Win'

The next and last item for today is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gave a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Monday to talk about his proposed recovery program and to address the economic challenges facing the U.S., both at present and in the future, particularly as the wealth gap grows and financial institutions escape accountability.

"[W]e are moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society," Sanders said. "Today, the most serious problem we face is the grotesque and growing level of wealth and income inequality. This a profound moral issue, this is an economic issue and this is a political issue."

"We need to take a hard look at our trade policies which have resulted in the outsourcing of millions of good paying jobs," he continued. "Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries."

His recovery program, An Economic Agenda for America, would invest in infrastructure; turn away from fossil fuels; raise the federal minimum wage; and close the gender wage gap, among other tenets.

And here is the ending:

"We must finally address the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street... Their speculation and illegal behavior plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. In my view, Wall Street is too large and powerful to be reformed.  The huge financial institutions must be broken up."

Finally, Sanders said, the U.S. must "join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege."

"Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system," Sanders said.

Yet those issues highlight only some parts of the "unprecedented struggle that we're engaged in now against the Billionaire Class."

"The real struggle is whether we can prevent this country from moving to an oligarchic form of society in which virtually all economic and political power rests with a handful of billionaires," Sanders concluded. "And that’s a struggle we must win."

I agree - but I must admit that I do not see how this can be made into "a struggle we must win", at least not without another major economic collapse.

6. On David Hume

This merely to announce that I will be putting an edition of Hume's "A Treatise Of Human Nature" on my site, and will write extensive comments to it.

In fact, I already have editions of Hume's

on my site (and my notes - including quotations - are in each case about as long as the works they annotate).

This will take considerable work on my part, not so much for putting the Treatise on line (I found a good edition, though this requires splitting up) but for writing my notes.

I also do not expect many readers, but I will do it anyway because I am a real philosopher. And this also may limit my contributions to Nederlog somewhat (I don't know), although this also will continue.

And I do not know how long this will take me, though I much hope I will be finished this year.

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