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Nederlog

May 25, 2015
Crisis: On Hoping, Greenwald, Chomsky, Antitrust Laws, me+M.E.
  "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.
Our Mania for Hope Is a Curse
2. VIDEO: Glenn Greenwald Explains How to Keep Your Data
     Away From the NSA

3.
Noam Chomsky: Why the Internet Hasn't Freed Our Minds
     -- Propaganda Continues to Dominate
 
4. Whatever Happened to Antitrust?    
5. me+ME: Update about supplements & condition - May
     2015
 


This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 25, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges (I half agree, half disagree, roughly); item 2 is about a video with Glenn Greenwald (disappointing, but not Greenwald's fault); item 3 is about an article on Noam Chomsky on propaganda; item 4 is about an article by Robert Reich about the - disappeared - antitrust laws; and item 5 is my monthly round-up on M.E., that this month got a bit worse, because I did too much.

This file also got uploaded a bit earlier than is normal for me.
1. Our Mania for Hope Is a Curse

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.
I agree more than not, in part because (i) I do see "the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history" and because (ii) I never believed in the necessity of moral progress. [1]

Hedges also has a nineteenth century non-Marxist revolutionary that I hadn't heard from since I was 19 or so, namely Louis-Auguste Blanqui (<- Wikipedia):
Blanqui understood that history has long periods of cultural barrenness and brutal repression. The fall of the Roman Empire, for example, led to misery throughout Europe during the Dark Ages, roughly from the sixth through the 13th centuries. There was a loss of technical knowledge (one prominent example being how to build and maintain aqueducts), and a cultural and intellectual impoverishment led to a vast historical amnesia that blotted out the greatest thinkers and artists of the classical world.
Yes, indeed - and please note that this lasted at least 14 generations (of 50 years each) and considerably longer than the 500 years of more or less modern history (in Europe), or the 240 years since the American Revolution.

There is also this:
The blundering history of the human race is always given coherence by power elites and their courtiers in the press and academia who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks. They need to manufacture national myths to hide the greed, violence and stupidity that characterize the march of most human societies. For the United States, refusal to confront the crisis of climate change and our endless and costly wars in the Middle East are but two examples of the follies that propel us toward catastrophe. 
I have two remarks on this.

First, those with little or no power are as ideological as those with power. These ideologies may have less success, but they are there, and also are no less ideological - which means that in any case it is a derivative simplifications of possibly (!) sensible philosophical, scientific or religious ideas, that have been mostly designed and developed for mass consumption.

Second, I do agree that some of the main underlying themes in human history
are the greed, stupidity and ignorance of the many, whether they are in power or not, together with the fact that nearly everyone is not much influenced by reason,
but is mostly influenced by emotion and ideology. ("Reason is and always must be the slave of the passions": David Hume).

Then there is this:

Wisdom is not knowledge. Knowledge deals with the particular and the actual. Knowledge is the domain of science and technology. Wisdom is about transcendence. Wisdom allows us to see and accept reality, no matter how bleak that reality may be. It is only through wisdom that we are able to cope with the messiness and absurdity of life. Wisdom is about detachment. Once wisdom is achieved, the idea of moral progress is obliterated. Wisdom throughout the ages is a constant. Did Shakespeare supersede Sophocles? Is Homer inferior to Dante? Does the Book of Ecclesiastes not have the same deep powers of observation about life that Samuel Beckett offers?
I mostly disagree, and my guess is that Chris Hedges, who is religious and recently became a Christian minister, sees "wisdom" mostly in a religious way. I do not; I do not think Chris Hedges defines "wisdom" well; and I also do not think that - however it may be defined - it is of great importance in politics or ideology (and most politics is ideological rather than philosophical, rational, or wise).

I do agree that the truly great human beings are truly great apart from history and dates, but then again there are few truly great human beings, and also they are not widely known. (I have - for example - read some of all six instances mentioned, but I doubt there are many others who did so, and indeed I never
met one who read these six sources, not in 65 years.)

Then there is this:

The myths we create that foster a fictitious hope and false sense of superiority are celebrations of ourselves. They mock wisdom. And they keep us passive.
I agree that the "myths we create" are "celebrations of ourselves" that "foster a fictitious hope and false sense of superiority" - but then that is human, and in ordinary politics we don't get anything but myths, though indeed the myths differ.
But they are mostly myths - which is unavoidable because most who engage in politics tend not even to have the knowledge and understanding to grasp that their own myths and those myths of their opponents are myths.

And there is this:

As specialists and bureaucrats, human beings become tools, able to make systems of exploitation and even terror function efficiently without the slightest sense of personal responsibility or understanding. They retreat into the arcane language of all specialists, to mask what they are doing and give to their work a sanitized, clinical veneer. This is Hannah Arendt’s central point in “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Technocratic human beings are spiritually dead. They are capable of anything, no matter how heinous, because they do not reflect upon or question the ultimate goal. “The longer one listened to him,” Arendt writes of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann on trial, “the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else."
Well... the vast majority of Western men and women are "specialists and bureaucrats". It is true that I have found few who have more than a very elementary "sense of personal responsibility or understanding", but then this
is mostly dependent on individual intelligence, that rarely amounts to much.
But then again, this normal lack of considerable or great intelligence is human,
and one has to accept it and work with it, or leave politics.


Here is the last paragraph:
There is nothing inevitable about human existence except birth and death. There are no forces, whether divine or technical, that will guarantee us a better future. When we give up false hopes, when we see human nature and history for what they are, when we accept that progress is not preordained, then we can act with an urgency and passion that comprehends the grim possibilities ahead.
I agree more to this than not, but to see "human nature and history for what
they are
", even partially and incompletely, one needs to do much more than
giving up false hopes.

Besides, I also am convinced that at most 1 in a 100 can think well; that at most
1 in a 100 from these can manage to write and publish a decent book [2]; and that therefore, and especially in politics and religion, hope and ideology and mistaken ideals have always been and will be the main springs of politics, left, right and center.

2.
VIDEO: Glenn Greenwald Explains How to Keep Your Data Away From the NSA

The next item today is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
In an April interview with acTVism Munich, Intercept reporter Glenn Greenwald explains how tech giants such as Facebook and Google were “eager” to cooperate with the National Security Agency and offers important advice that individuals can follow to make it harder for the NSA to collect private data.
And this is the video:
      

In fact, I found the video not very enlightening, but that is not Glenn Greenwald's fault. In brief, the message is: It depends on your personal technical competence,
but you probably can do things better than you do, especially by paying attention
to encrypting.

3. Noam Chomsky: Why the Internet Hasn't Freed Our Minds -- Propaganda Continues to Dominate 
The next item is an article by Seung-yoon Lee and Noam Chomsky:
This starts as follows:
Three decades ago, Professor Noam Chomsky, who is seen by some as the most brilliant and courageous intellectual alive and by others as an anti-US conspiracy theorist, penned his powerful critique of the Western corporate media in his seminal book Manufacturing Consent, with co-author Edward S Herman.
I have to admit I haven't yet read this, which is a shortcoming, but I simply didn't meet a copy at my usual addresses for secondhand books. Then again, I think that meanwhile I did get most of the ideas in it.

This is an interesting interview with Chomsky. His main points are:

1. His analysis of thirty years ago of propaganda is still adequate, in spite of the
    arrival meanwhile of the internet, that in part caused
2. the radical decline of the paper free press, while also (and I agree)
3. "
Well, I think we should strongly support freedom of speech. I think one of the
    good things about the United States, incidentally, as distinct from England, is
    that there is much higher protection of freedom of speech.
"

I agree with points 2 and 3 (and can't judge 1), and especially the third point is a liberal idea I much agree with: We need free speech and a free press.

4. Whatever Happened to Antitrust?

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

Last week’s settlement between the Justice Department and five giant banks reveals the appalling weakness of modern antitrust. 

The banks had engaged in the biggest price-fixing conspiracy in modern history. Their self-described “cartel” used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency exchange market. It was a “brazen display of collusion” that went on for years, said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. 

But there will be no trial, no executive will go to jail, the banks can continue to gamble in the same currency markets, and the fines – although large – are a fraction of the banks’ potential gains and will be treated by the banks as costs of doing business.
Yes, quite so. There is also this:

But there will be no trial, no executive will go to jail, the banks can continue to gamble in the same currency markets, and the fines – although large – are a fraction of the banks’ potential gains and will be treated by the banks as costs of doing business.

America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits. 

No longer. Now, giant corporations are taking over the economy – and they’re busily weakening antitrust enforcement. 

The result has been higher prices for the many, and higher profits for the few. It’s a hidden upward redistribution from the majority of Americans to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders.

Yes, though it seems to me as if "giant corporation" have taken "over the economy", indeed from 1999 onwards, when Clinton signed the demise of the law that limited the banks. Indeed:

Wall Street’s five largest banks now account for 44 percent of America’s banking assets – up from about 25 percent before the crash of 2008 and 10 percent in 1990. That means higher fees and interest rates on loans, as well as a greater risk of another “too-big-to-fail” bailout.

But politicians don’t dare bust them up because Wall Street pays part of their campaign expenses.
Precisely - and note what a radical monopolization this is: The biggestt five banks
controlled 10 percent in 1990; 25 percent in 2008; and 44 percent now.

There is considerably more on on monopolization (or indeed: oligopolitization, though that term is not often used) that I leave to your interests.

Here is part of Reich's conclusion:

Antitrust has been ambushed by the giant companies it was designed to contain.

Congress has squeezed the budgets of the antitrust division of the Justice Department and the bureau of competition of the Federal Trade Commission. Politically-powerful interests have squelched major investigations and lawsuits. Right-wing judges have stopped or shrunk the few cases that get through. 

We’re now in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. But unlike then, today’s biggest corporations have enough political clout to neuter antitrust.

I agree - and yes we are "in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age" - and unlike then, "today’s biggest corporations have enough political clout to neuter antitrust".

5.
 me+ME: Update about supplements & condition - May
 2015


The final item today is not a crisis item but is my monthly review of the protocol I use to battle M.E., which I now have since 1.I.1979, and which so far only answered to three things:

Good sleep
(8 hours every 24 hours); large doses of vitamins (especially in 1984-5, when my condition did improve, and then collapsed due to years of insufficient sleep because of noise and threats); and especially of mB12 and metafolate, that somewhat improved the miserable condition I had from 1991-2012, but that didn't cure me.

This month is a bit different from the previous 15 months. The reason is mostly that my computer stopped working on April 29, which caused me to do considerably too much from April 30 - May 8 (though the computer got working again), when I also collapsed.

Since then I have PEM (malaise through too much exercise), but this is lessening now, though it has not yet quite passed. I have several times changed my vitamins
and supplements through May, but it didn't seem to make much difference.

Currently, I use this:
vitamin C: 4 grams:
It still is 4 grams a day.
Calcium+vitamin D+vitamin K:
I still take 2 pills a day, which gives a little less than the daily recommended dose
Potassium: 4 pills a day (or sometimes 5)
This gives 800 mg a day (or 1000 mg)
Metafolin: 2 pills a day
This gives 2000 mcg a day.
Vit mB12 infusion: 1 pill a day
This gives 1 mg methylcobalamin a day OR
Vit mB12 5000 mcg: 1/2 pill a day.
The last two are alternated every day.
Vit aB12: 1 pill every other day
This gives 3000 mcg of dibencozide
And that is it, apart from a Multitotal vitamin-pill that gives all of the vitamins and most of the minerals in standard (not: mega) daily doses.

I do seem to be picking up, but - as usual - it goes slowly.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes
[1] I think my lack of belief in moral progress is mostly due to these four things: (1) my communist upbringing, with a father and grandfather convicted to concentration camp imprisonment (that my grandfather did not survive) for being in the Dutch communist resistance against the Nazis; (2) my reflections on the fascism of the nineteentwenties to -forties and my rejection (unlike my parents)
of the idea - in 1964, based on my own experiences - that the Soviet bloc was socialist; (3) my serious study of philosophy; and especially (4) my belief that most morals I saw were ideological roles rather than real convictions: most people are moral not because they want to but because they feel they must.

But I merely list these, and will not discuss them at present.

[2] Which means that at most 1 in 10,000 produces a book that may be worth reading, and the rest doesn't. (And note this doesn't mean the book is right.) In case you disagree: My numbers are rather correct.

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