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Nederlog

April 18, 2015
Crisis: Germany + drones, English economy, TTP, Warren, Philosophy's Bad Mistake
  "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

Sections
Introduction

1. Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War
2. The Guardian view on Britain’s choices: the economy
3. 
As Corporate Forces Push Fast Track Bill, Progressives
     Draw Battle Lines

4. Elizabeth Warren Throws Down Gauntlet, Calls for Genuine
     Financial Reform

5. Great Awakening


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 18, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about how the heart of America's drone wars is in fact in Germany (mostly because the U.S. is too far removed from the Middle East), which means that German territory seems heavily involved in war-efforts; item 2 is about The Guardian's position on the (English) economy (that seems to be discussed - at least in the political debates about the coming English elections - from an almost pure propaganda point of view, far removed from reality); item 3 is about the TPP and TTIP, which are - quite secret - horribly anti-democratic pro-big corporation bills Obama aggresively supports; item 4 is about a good speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren; and item 5 is about philosophy, and briefly discusses a major mistake on which much of modern philosophy is founded.

1. Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War

The first item today is an article by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
A TOP-SECRET U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Intercept confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.
There is more:

The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate. “Ramstein carries the signal to tell the drone what to do and it returns the display of what the drone sees. Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source said.

The new evidence places German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an awkward position given Germany’s close diplomatic alliance with the United States. The German government has granted the U.S. the right to use the property, but only under the condition that the Americans do nothing there that violates German law.
(...)
This means that American personnel stationed at Ramstein could, in theory, be vulnerable to German prosecution if they provide drone pilots with data used in attacks.

While the German government has been reluctant to pursue such prosecutions, it may come under increasing pressure to do so. “It is simply murder,” says Björn Schiffbauer of the Institute for International Law at the University of Cologne. Legal experts interviewed by Der Spiegel claimed that U.S. personnel could be charged as war criminals by German prosecutors.

I say. Here are two remarks.

First, the evidence that the American drones that kill people in the Middle East are being supported from Ramstein is quite strong. (There is a lot more in the last dotted article.)

Second, I do not consider it likely, at the moment, that the Americans will be prosecuted, simply because of the strong ties between the German and the American governments.


There is a lot more in the article and also more in a - German - article in Der Spiegel (linked in the here not quoted summary that starts the article), but I will leave these to your interests.

2. The Guardian view on Britain’s choices: the economy

The next item is an article by Editorial on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
This was meant to be an election about the economy. It has been nothing of the sort. At most, it has been an election about the deficit. The two men in the running to be Britain’s next prime minister have vied with each other to show off their fiscal toughness. Ed Miliband pledges to “balance the books”, while David Cameron promises a healthy budget surplus by 2019. Both courses depend upon painful cuts; both leaders boast of their ability to make them.
Undoubtedly, this is true - but then it means that both the Tories and Labour discuss "the economy" based on the austerity bullshit that was started by the conservatives and neoliberals, which is bullshit, as can be seen also from the U.S. (where billionaires get tax-cuts while poor people are cut in many ways).

And I am not amazed at all, but this shows the level of propaganda and deception: While both political leaders stand on the same, mostly nonsensical, "economical" ground, that is mostly political propaganda rather than economics anyway, they
only hassle each other on their equally false or even falser abilities (for they are engaged in propaganda very much rather than fact, let alone economics, and it are also all pre-election promises, that will be forgotten after the elections) to commit "
fiscal toughness". O Lord!

Here is how The Guardian sees the English economy at present:

The coalition’s economic record can be summed up simply. First, ministers snuffed out a weak recovery bequeathed them by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling; then they launched a historic programme of cuts that put Britain into a historic slump; by 2012, with his own backbenchers in revolt, Mr Osborne abandoned austerity; from then on, aided by a steadier world economy, the UK has enjoyed moderate growth.

Whenever ministers should have zigged, they zagged. When they should have invested, they cut. When they should have been pragmatic, they were, especially at first, dogmatic. The result has been the slowest recovery since the South Sea Bubble of 1720, according to former Bank of England rate-setter David Blanchflower. The coalition’s economic record has been as abysmal as its self-presentation has been triumphant.
Yes, indeed - and that last fact (that propaganda trumps the facts, even to the extent that the leader of the opposition starts from the same propaganda as the economically failed coalition of Tories and Lib-Dems) make the English elections such an unpredictable mess (that will be decided by an electorate that has been seriously misled).

3. As Corporate Forces Push Fast Track Bill, Progressives Draw Battle Lines 

The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Warning that passing Fast Track legislation would amount to rubber-stamping corporate trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, progressives are vowing to hold members of Congress accountable for their votes on the compromise bill announced Thursday—and reminding them of how dangerous such trade policies are for the public, workers, and the planet.

"[T]he big deal is that Fast Track sets the stage for new flawed trade deals including the TPP and a deal with the European Union (known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP)," wrote Patrick Woodall, research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch, in an op-ed published Friday at Common Dreams. "These two mega-trade deals would impose the global trade rules benefiting transnational companies on the majority of the global economy."

Also, both trade pacts are very anti-democratic, and would deny most governments the exercise of many rights to protect their own national economies
and inhabitants, while guaranteeing "the rights" of the multinational corporations to start special proceedings in special courts against governments even on the grounds that the governments made laws to protect their own populations rights, health or chances, on the ground that these laws may have endangered the expectations of profits of the multinational corporations.

Here is an estimate of the differences between the pro and the anti TPP (and also TTIP) people in Congress:
The measure needs 218 votes to pass in the House, which means winning the support of anywhere from 10 to 50 Democrats, depending on how many of the 247 Republicans in the House vote against the trade bill. Estimates of Republican defections—some conservatives oppose handing over so much authority to Obama, others worry that the TPP chips away at national sovereignty—vary widely from two dozen to as many as 60.
And here is the last part of the article:

Both houses of Congress are expected to take up the Fast Track bill next week. In the meantime, grassroots activists are calling on constituents to contact their representatives and urge them to vote No.

On Monday, a wide swath of social justice organizations and organized labor unions will gather for an anti-TPP "Don't Trade Away Our Future!" rally in Washington, D.C.

As Patrick Woodall, of Food & Water Watch, put it: "Only engaged citizens will be able to derail the corporate free-trade juggernaut that is coming."

Perhaps, but in any case, if the TTP and the TTIP are pressed through, it will be the end of democracy as we know it: Everything your national government decided, can then be attacked by multinational corporations on the - very sick and quite immoral - ground that their expectations of profits got endangered by governmental laws.

4. Elizabeth Warren Throws Down Gauntlet, Calls for Genuine Financial Reform

The next item is an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows:

At the Levy Conference, Elizabeth Warren launched a new campaign for tough-minded, effective financial regulation. This ought to be a straightforward call for restoring banking to its traditional role of facilitating real economy activity. Instead, in this era of “cream for the banks, crumbs for everyone else,” common-sense reforms to make banks deal fairly with customers and remove their outsized subsidies will no doubt be depicted by pampered financiers as an unfair plot to target a successful industry. But as we’ve stressed, Big Finance gets more government support than any line of business, even military contractors. They are utilities and should be regulated as such. Thus even Warren’s bold call to action falls short of the degree to which the financial service industry need to be curbed.

Below is the video of her speech; I’ve also embedded the text at the end of the post.

[Then again, I also got problems seeing this. Here is a link to the YouTube version of the speech. That works, at least.]

Unfortunately, while I could reproduce a copy of the speech (above), I did not
succeed in copying the pdf of the text of the speech: For this you have to go to the above last dotted link.

I like the speech, but it may be "too economical" for some. In any case, Senator Warren and Senator Sanders are about the only two U.S. senators I can recall who talk sense about the economy.

5. Great Awakening

The last item today is an article by Frank Freeman on The Weekly Standard:

This is - again - about philosophy. It is rather relevant to non-philosophers, but one would not say so from the beginning, which is as follows:

John R. Searle, the Slusser professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, is a philosopher in the tradition of Wittgenstein. He wants to clarify things. That is, he thinks there are two big mistakes philosophers have made throughout history, and Descartes popularized both.

Mistake Number One is the idea “that there is some special problem about the relation of the mind to the body, consciousness to the brain, and in their fixation on the illusion that there is a problem, philosophers have fastened onto different solutions to the problem.” Mistake Number Two “is the mistake of supposing that we never directly perceive objects and states of affairs in the world, but directly perceive only our subjective experiences.”

I leave it there, because I am not much interested in Wittgenstein and never was a Wittgensteinian (even though I was considerably influenced by Wittgenstein's Tractatus at age 17, when I first read the Tractatus).

And I also leave Searle there (and you can check out a little more about him in the article, in case you want to).

What I do want to quote is this, which is quite important, and goes beyond philosophy-for-academically-employed-philosophers, which is what nearly all "philosophy" these days is:

But then, the Scholastic philosophy I learned (Aristotle by way of Thomas Aquinas) says that metaphysics—the study of being, including why there is anything at all—must come prior to epistemology, the study of knowledge, of how we can know anything at all. 

So the Bad Mistake, from my point of view, was this seismic shift from metaphysics to epistemology as the foundation of philosophy. Searle does not address that issue here.

I reached precisely the same conclusion (well: with "ontology" for "metaphysics") - in 1972, but my source wasn't Searle or Wittgenstein (although I had read some of both by then), nor the Scholastics (about whom I knew very little then), but was most probably a combination of having read Russell and Kant, together with my own thinking.

For this "seismic shift" was in fact engineered by Kant (<- Wikipedia) and his attempt to save philosophy from Hume's (<- Wikipedia) criticisms, and this basic major mistake, together with his truly awful German, is the reason I dislike Kant so much: Clearly, since knowledge is knowledge of what there is, one must start from a conception of what there is (which is hypothetical, and may be quite mistaken) to be able to say what counts or would count as knowledge.

It really comes to this "Bad Mistake" (as I have also verified since 1972), although indeed there are plenty more mistakes in philosophy. But this is really one of the fundamental mistakes on which very much (not: everything, for there are exceptions, of whom Russell is the main one) of modern philosophy since Kant got "founded'.

And the reason to discuss this article is that it clearly states the mistake. [1]

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[1] Since I think few of my readers are philosophers, let alone philosophers-with-a-degree, I do not think this is very important for most of my readers. But I am a philosopher, and in case you ever come to read "modern philosophy" - not recommended for most - this is one of the mistakes you should be aware of, also
because it rarely gets discussed clearly.

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