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. Health: The Right
Diagnosis and the Wrong Treatment
2. Ted Cruz’s demented
strategy: He doesn’t need to win the
White House to push America
3. Boycott, Divest and Sanction Corporations That Feed on
4. The Truth About Facebook: How Communication Became
Synonymous With Surveillance
This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 6, 2015.
is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links:
Item 1 is about a good article by Marcia
Angell on the quite sick and very expensive American health system; item 2 is about an interesting article on GOP
conservative Ted Cruz, that lines him up, correctly it seems to me,
with the late William F. Buckley Jr. and the Movement Conservatives; item 3 is a good article by Chris Hedges on the quite
sick and very exploitative American prison system; while item
4 is a good article
on how much of the internet these days is given to surveilling mostly
naive and mostly unsuspecting billions.
Also, while I liked the articles I found this is about all I found
The Right Diagnosis and the Wrong Treatment
item is an article by Marcia Angell
(<- Wikipedia) on the New York Review of Books:
as follows (and is a long article):
has achieved the seemingly impossible—written an exciting book about
the American health system. In his account of the passage of the
Affordable Care Act (now known as Obamacare), he manages to transform a
subject that usually befuddles and bores into a political thriller.
There was reason to think he might pull it off; his lengthy 2013 Time
magazine exposé of the impact of medical bills
on ordinary people was engrossing.
I have not read Steven
Brill's book, but I like Marcia
Angell for she is one of the good and intelligent American medical
And in fact, I think I might also have added she is in a minority
among the medical doctors in her country, and one important reason is
description of our dysfunctional health system is dead-on. He shows in
all its horror how the way we distribute health care like a market
commodity instead of a social good has produced the most expensive,
inequitable, and wasteful health system in the world. (The US now
spends per capita two and a half times as much on health care as the
average for the other OECD countries, while still
leaving tens of millions of Americans uninsured.) Brill makes it clear
that the problems are unlikely to be fixed by Obamacare. For that
alone, his book deserves to be widely read.
are that I agree that the American health system is
"dysfunctional" and that it distributes "health care like a market commodity
instead of a social good", while I cannot see how it ever got that way without
a great deal of cooperation by many medical doctors, who often
do earn a very great amount of money - some CEO's of hospitals
make 3,4 million a year - and considerably more than European
doctors, although these too tend to earn quite well.
In fact, here are
Here are a few
items in Brill’s indictment. “Healthcare,” he writes, “is America’s
largest industry by far.” It employs “a sixth of the country’s
workforce. And it is the average American family’s largest single
expense, whether paid out of their pockets or through taxes and
insurance premiums.” He estimates that the health insurance companies
employ about 1.5 million people, roughly twice the number of practicing
physicians. Hospital executives preside over lucrative businesses,
whether nominally nonprofit or not, and are paid huge salaries, even
while they charge patients obscene prices (....) And finally, he gives
us the really bad news: “All that extra money produces no better, and
in many cases worse, results.”
also: As compared with Europe. And here is Marcia Angell's conclusion:
Until we begin
to treat health care as a social good instead of a market commodity,
there is simply no way to make health care universal, comprehensive,
and affordable. Brill’s book is a superb, even gripping, description of
the American health system and the creation of Obamacare, but he is
misguided in his recommendation for reform by turning over the
administration of the health care system to hospitals. The last thing
we need is more foxes guarding the henhouse.
I agree and this
is a good article.
Cruz’s demented strategy: He doesn’t need to win the White House to
push America rightward
item is an article by Heather Cox Richardson on Salon:
This starts as follows:
candidacy highlights a fundamental rift in the Republican Party, a rift
that observers often misunderstand as simply a tug-of-war between
different gradations of conservatism. It is a gulf far more profound
than this. Most Republicans recognize that the government must regulate
some aspects of American capitalism, providing Social Security,
veterans benefits, workplace safety, and basic infrastructure at the
very least. But Cruz belongs to a reactionary wing of the party that
rejects the idea that the government has any role at all to play in the
American economy. Since the 1950s, the leaders of Cruz’s wing have been
fighting to take the American government back to the days before FDR’s
And this is a good
article that outlines Cruz's indebtedness to William F.
Buckley Jr.'s (<- Wikipedia) Movement
Conservatives (<- Wikipedia). This is well done
and interesting, and it ends as follows, also supporting the title of
believe they can work together with Democrats to hash out legislation.
These are the people Cruz disdains as “the mushy middle.” In contrast,
Movement Conservatives like Cruz believe that rich businessmen are
society’s proper leaders and that any government activism to level the
economic playing field destroys freedom. They believe their view is
absolutely right; to compromise on anything would lose everything.
Cruz does not have to win
the White House to win the war. So long as he can grab headlines and
whip up voters, Movement Conservatives can continue to hold enough
congressional seats to continue to block legislation and defund the
government. Then they can do as Buckley hoped: stand athwart history
and make it stop.
3. Boycott, Divest and Sanction Corporations That Feed on
item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as
All attempts to reform
mass incarceration through the traditional mechanisms of electoral
politics, the courts and state and federal legislatures are useless.
Corporations, which have turned mass incarceration into a huge revenue
stream and which have unchecked political and economic power, have no
intention of diminishing their profits. And in a system where money has
replaced the vote, where corporate lobbyists write legislation and the
laws, where chronic unemployment and underemployment, along with
inadequate public transportation, sever people in marginal communities
from jobs, and where the courts are a wholly owned subsidiary of the
corporate state, this demands a sustained, nationwide revolt.
This is the beginning
of three pages by Chris Hedges on the U.S. prison system.
I like the article. Here are two brief quotes from it, that sketch the
corruptness of the American prison system quite well.
This about how much prisoners are exploited:
A prisoner in New Jersey
makes, on average, $1.20 for eight hours of work, or about $28 a month.
Those incarcerated in for-profit prisons earn as little as 17 cents an
hour. Over a similar period, phone and commissary corporations have
increased fees and charges often by more than 100 percent.
And this is about how
many prisoners there are in the U.S.:
The United States
has 2.3 million people in prison, 25 percent of the world’s prison
population, although we are only 5 percent of the world’s population.
We have increased our prison population by about 700 percent since 1970.
And in fact many of the
prisoners got incarcerated for years because they used marijuana,
that nowadays is legal in several American states, in part
is considerably less dangerous than alcohol.
There is considerably more in the article.
4. The Truth About Facebook: How Communication
Became Synonymous With Surveillance
item for today is an article by Michael Schulson on Salon:
This starts as follows:
In fact, this is the
introduction to an interview with Jacob Silverman. The interview is
reasonable, and I shall select some points from it.
of Service,” the first book from the young cultural critic Jacob
Silverman, is less an argument than a tour. Its subject is the
Internet—or, more accurately, what Silverman calls “the social web,”
which could be loosely defined as either a) an Internet experienced
tailored to YOU!, or b) a surveillance system that comes equipped with
some nice photo-saving and message-sharing tools.
toward interpretation b. “Communication,” he writes, “has become
synonymous with surveillance.” “Terms of Service” offers a tour of a
digital world that, under Silverman’s guiding skepticism, comes to look
like a cross between the reality show “Big Brother” and a shopping
mall. Or, to adapt one of Silverman’s better analogies, it’s a digital
sphere in which we are all, essentially, the world’s saddest tourists:
isolated and gullible; self-conscious and secretly watched; sampling
everything but lingering nowhere; and taking many, many photos.
There are also some points I don't agree with, and one is the first
(though this may - in part - be due to my age and level of
education). That first point is as follows (and is about "social
media", which is a term I don't like: You are not "being
social" - as I use the term - when you are all by yourself answering or
reading your mail, which is what "being
social" on "a social site" mostly means):
To be visible you
have to be posting often. It helps to be personal and confessional, and
to expose yourself.
Not quite, at least: You must
also be "personal and confessional" about the right kinds of
things, not the wrong kinds, and it's precisely the
same with exposing yourself. Also, what is "right" and what is
"wrong" tends to be subtle, and has very little to do with
reason and rationality and very much with "social norms".
Here is an example that I owe to a Dutch daily paper, where there is an
editor who is dying of cancer in his forties, and who is allowed to
write about it in the paper.
At present, if he is lucky, he will make it till June - and
meanwhile he has told his readers several times, no doubt correctly,
that he will not worry them with any news about his pains or
problems, "because that is not popular": Your dying is reported in the
paper, provided you keep it sounding happy, and avoid all
painful themes and complaints. For these are outlawed by "social
norms": people like you if you are likeable, and you are not
likeable if you talk about pains, problems, or dying.
And second, the "social norms" on the internet vary a great
lot, but on the large social media they tend to be set by
anonymous busybodies with little education and big mouths, who appeal
to their likes: "Democracy" on the internet, and especially in the
so-called "social media", often is the rule of the uneducated anonymous
masses who indulge in groupthinking,
simply because they are in majority nowadays (which they never
were in other media). 
Here is Jacob Silverman on how the social media and internet differ
from regular economic exchanges:
The difference is
that it’s really opaque. We just don’t have a good sense of what’s
being collected, where it’s being stored, why, for how long, who it’s
being sold to. Once you fork over, you really have no control over how
long [the data] is going to stay in their system.
Indeed. Nor does any of
the victims have any idea how much the personal information that is
sold about him or her is worth. Also, while everyone knows his or her
personal data are being gathered in secret by anonymous
persons for undeclared ends, extremely few know precisely
which data, for this is also a secret of the anonymous and secretive
Here is an item I may disagree with:
(...) we’re all
fighting to be seen. In all likelihood, your social networks are very
busy places, and more dramatic postings play better.
Speaking for myself: I
have a website since 1996 - 19 years now - on which there is a large site, but I am not "fighting to be seen" and indeed have taken good care not to belong
to any of the "social media": I am not on Facebook, I have no
Twitter-account, I never search with Google, and indeed my real family
name is extremely rarely used by me on the net.
Incidentally, why am I not "fighting
to be seen"? First, I am ill and have considerably less
energy than healthy people. Second, I am an intellectual with an M.A.
with only As and I know (for that and quite a few other reasons) that
most of my opinions that I take a serious interest in are not
the kind of ideas that interest most ordinary people. Also, I do not
have any problems with that. 
Here is an answer I do like. It answers the question "What would it look like to have a truly
public space online?":
Well, I think it
wouldn’t collect so much personal data. It certainly wouldn’t sell
people’s personal data, or its companies wouldn’t. As far as
surveillance, all communications would be encrypted. We do have a great
example of a nonprofit, huge website that has imperfections but still
does a lot of good, and that’s
Yes, indeed (although I
do not know how Wikipedia makes its money). Finally, here is another
answer I like:
As for a piece of
legislation, I want to see privacy and legislation brought up-to-date.
I want the Fourth Amendment brought to the 21st century, where the
government can’t mass dragnet surveillance—but also if they want to
know something about you, and they want to read your email, they have
to get a warrant. People should have a right to know what information
companies are collecting on them, and to have it deleted. I think it’s
as simple as that.
I agree, except that I
think the Fourth Amendment is good as is: it forbids the
stealing and reading of e-mails, and if this seems different
then it is because the Fourth Amendment is broken, and illegally
 As I said: I am "a highly educated intellectual". I
really mean this, if only because it took a great amount of
I also grant that I have been trolled by some extremely stupid
anonymous, uneducated and lying dumboes, which may have
influenced my opinions some.
there is a great lot of philosophy on my site that is really not
very popular, but it is there because I like philosophy and
studied it, and I know a great lot about it.
It is interesting for a few others, and that is also all
the interest I desire - which in fact happens to be a lot more
than what I expected in 1995 or 1996.