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."
call me a crypto-Nazi!’ The lost heart of political
2. It’s fast, global, engaged
and influential – so why isn’t
3. Why Liberals Have to Be
Jimmy Carter: American Democracy [is] an 'Oligarchy'
with 'Unlimited Political Bribery'
This is a Nederlog of Sunday August 2, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 4 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1
is triggered by an article about a documentary about Vidal and Buckley,
that I use to draw attention to Gore Vidal, who had a clear mind, a
fine style, and a lot of relevant knowledge; item 2
is about the Orwellian Twitter (I am sorry, but it sounds extremely
stupid: as if an e-mail service that limits its users to 140 characters
- that is all it is - is force for innovation rather than for
merely being massively stupid and proud of it); item 3
is about a thesis to the effect that elections don't seem to
matter for (pseudo-)radical 72-year old professors; while item 4 is about a decent article about Jimmy Carter,
who sees little good in the modern political U.S. (indeed apart from
the chances of corrupt politicians getting mega-rich because they
valiantly defend the interests of the big corporations).
call me a crypto-Nazi!’ The lost heart of political debate
article of today
is by Ed Vulliamy on The Guardian:
This starts as follows
(and I'll give some links and clarifations under it):
The erudition of
the discourse is electrifying: two towering American intellectuals of
the riven 1960s at one another like fighting cocks on primetime TV – Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jr.
They are compelling – to
the point that Best of Enemies, a documentary about a remarkable series of debates between these
two on ABC television in 1968, is the surprise but deserved success of
this summer’s movie festivals in the US.
I say. Here is some
background, to start with: Gore Vidal (<-
Wikipedia) was an American writer and (as it is these days called) "a
public intellectual" on the left; William
something a bit similar on the right; and their clash was on TV and is here.
Also, I didn't see their clash in 1968, and while I knew then who Vidal
and Buckley were, it didn't amount to much more than was in the
previous paragraph (minus the Wikpedia links), and I did not
either very seriously, which was a bit of a mistake in Gore Vidal's
case, as I found out in 2012, briefly after he died.
in case you are interested, here are three pieces I wrote in August
2012 (with very painful eyes, I should add):
I note that one major
reason to list these items is that the contain links to quite a lot of
Youtube videos (most but not all of which still work), and that I then
summed up Vidal's general trends as
complex has won the battle about who rules Western society: Not the
people, not the parliament, not the judiciary, not the government, but
those with the greatest power in the richest corporations, who form the
ruling elite, that is mostly hidden and not public, and that works
indirectly, through lobbying, public relations for corporations,
propaganda in the media, and meetings and conferences that happen
mostly behind the scenes.
Or rather: This coalition of the rich and powerful has won if
they can contain the current economic crisis, which means that probably
either there will be a collapse of cilivization or there will be a police-state.
These are my words and phrasings
(like the rest of this text) as it
also is my summary of points Vidal raised, discussed, touched on, but
probably also what Vidal thought. He also mentioned, already in 1999,
in the linked interview - though indeed the main concerns, processes,
and struggles can be traced much further back - quite a few of the
important points of the present:
education ("U.S. of Amnesia": most US citizens have no historical
government (Bush Jr. is a moron, the effective real president was
executives or owners of the rich, large, powerful - corporations rule
elections was a coup d'état
(with help from the Supreme Court)
that there were many bad appointments
- "magna charta is
- habeas corpus is
- Bill of Rights
is being throttled
is illegal government: the US military has been used against US
citizens - legally forbidden since 1865 (also with drones)
is effectively a
dictatorship (Quote from Wikipedia: "In contemporary usage,
dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by
leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions,
or other social and political factors within the state.")
- there is just one party that comes in two
flavours that are both right wing: See e.g. The Party-System, and also see Chesterton
- there is no conspiracy, for there is no need:
the members of the ruling elite think alike (and come from the same
small group that were educated in the same universities and
(members of) elite despises the (members of) people (privately, not publicly, of
will be taken over by the government - 10, 20, 30 years" (1999)
And here is my introduction
to Gore Vidal from August 2012:
happened and happens was and is planned, in part or all, as is
the continuous singing from the same hymn sheet by Fox News and GOP
politicians, but then few really know, or indeed are in a position to
know, in case it is true, that this has been planned, somehow,
secretively, for if it is, this is and remains well hidden, and can or
could be seen for what it really is, or might be, only by someone who
is highly educated, who has a bright and fearless intellect, and who
really knows history, the law and the political elites, especially in
It so happens that Gore Vidal
(<- Wikipedia) is - or rather: was - such a man, and I was not
aware of that until after he died, on July 31 of this year, when I
decided to use the internet to try to find out why he was fairly well
known in the US.
I found he is a fairly well
known writer of novels and essays and film scripts; that he has a patrician
background: Cousins with people like Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Jackie
Kennedy; personally known to John Kennedy; well educated and erudite in
literature and history; something of a war hero (in WW II); and one of
the first to write openly about homosexuality in the US, namely in
1948. He also was witty, and a good conversationalist with a caustic
Most of the above is from the
Wikipedia lemma on him, and from some other fairly superficial internet
searches, and I certainly never read anything by him, but he does seem
to have been an interesting man, also and especially because he was his
own person, and thought for himself, something that many believe they
do, and few really can do.
At least, thus it seems to me,
who has read none of Vidal's many books - which is something I should
do something about - but he certainly had interesting ideas about what
has been happening in the US since 2000, when the Bush family
engineered, with help from the Supreme Court of the US, that the looser
of the elections became president of the US nevertheless: See below for
Vidal on the merits of Bush Jr.
Then again, my
interest in Vidal arises from the fact that he clearly saw many of the
recent developments in the US and elsewhere in similar terms as I have
arrived at, meanwhile, after him, but quite independently, and indeed
also without his great inside knowledge of the American political elite
of the last 70 years, which in itself alone makes him - given his wit
and courage - an interesting character anyway, also if he had had other
values and ideas than he did have: There are few members of any
political elite who publicly reflect on it with intelligence and style.
Here is the bit that made
both Vidal and Buckley famous:
As part of ABC’s coverage
of the police “blue riot” that ensued in Chicago – batons cracking
student skulls – Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” for
justifying the brutality, to which Buckley snaps: “Listen to me you
queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamn
face and you’ll stay plastered.”
Well... yes, but
before Vidal called Buckley "a crypto-Nazi", Buckley had compared the
students who then were doing battle with the police in Chicago
to Nazis, while it is also true that Buckley called Vidal "queer" and
physically threatened him. 
Also, I don't think this altercation was, itself, that important: What
is considerably more important are Vidal's wit and style in the films
that were made of him, of which you can find a considerable selection
in the three pieces I chose from August 2012.
And here is the last
bit of Ed Vulliamy (itself a bit of purple prose):
The jagged clarity of the
antagonism that leads to this moment when the banks burst, and the
intellectual rip-tide beneath it, contrasts, says Gordon, with both
present-day obfuscation – whereby politicians, columnists and TV
presenters slither around, or just ignore, the themes of imperialism
and American power – and also the banal, “ritual shouting matches” to
which viewers of CNN, Fox, BBC and others are now subjected.
“It has to do with the
corruption of debate,” says Gordon. “The conflagration between Buckley
and Vidal was like a forest fire in the redwoods: huge old wood burning
with depth. What you see now in supposedly antagonistic discourse is
flash paper, it leaves no ash. Now people can be bought; now, the
discussion ain’t really for the sake of the nation, it’s about personal
But Gordon is right,
or more right than wrong, though it is - I think - considerably less
important that nowadays "people can be bought" (for that was always the
case, though indeed now it has gotten institutionalized: big banks and
big corporations are effectively above the law): it is far
important that hardly anyone with an individual mind that is informed
and that can think, and a tongue that can formulate, is admitted
to mainline American TV.
So yes, "the debate
of '68" was important, not because of what was said, but
because of the
importance of the underlying themes.
In case you are
interested in American politics, you can do a lot worse than
interest in Vidal's prose, and his spoken prose is reasonably well
covered in my above selections.
Have fun, for Vidal
could formulate and knew a lot.
2. It’s fast, global, engaged and
influential – so why isn’t
is by Charles Arthur on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
How many tech
companies are saddled with the problem of enjoying global fame but
struggling with lacklustre performance? Not Facebook, which revealed in its results that
it has nearly 1.5 billion users logging in each month around the world.
Twitter, however, is an example where participation is lagging behind
Actually, I really don't care shit for the
financial problems of Twitter: I think it is an Orwellian
the more than 3.5 billion people with IQs less than 100, who are not
even capable of writing a decent e-mail, but who insist absolutely
that everyone should take an interest in their
sloganized bullshit of maximal
140 characters in length.
The company built around
text-message-length “tweets” announced in its own quarterly results
last week that it has 304 million monthly active users (MAUs), who
logged in at least once a month in the past quarter. That figure was up
only 0.7% from the previous quarter, while the figure for MAUs in the
US stayed stubbornly at 65 million.
Yet it is Twitter that is
so often cited in news stories, TV coverage and even TV adverts, as
established media businesses scramble to generate engagement with a
tech-savvy mass of viewers, readers and listeners. Twitter is seen as
the easy way to do that: anyone can join, anyone can contact anyone
else who’s on it, and it’s free. You can “like” a company on Facebook,
and write comments on its page, yet it’s Twitter that is generally treated as the
immediate, switched-on source.
So why is Twitter struggling
I am sorry: I am only interested in your Tweets if they have a
of zero characters, maximally.
For me, it is an insane concept to satisfy the extremely
stupid; but those who expect(ed) to be billionaires from it unload
themselves in stupid and degenerate Twitter slogans like this:
According to Dorsey last
week, using Twitter should be “as easy as looking out of your window”.
He added: “You should expect Twitter to show you what’s most meaningful
in the world, to live it first, before anyone else and straight from
the source. And you should expect Twitter to keep you informed and
updated throughout your day.”
And what is the newness of
this service? Precisely this: No one can use this email-service
needs more than 140 characters to mail his thoughts, his
ideas, and his evidence. And that's it, and that's all...
- and if you
believe this, you get "what’s
meaningful", "to live it first", "before anyone else" AND "straight
from the source". All in 140
characters max! Fit for IQs of 75!
So the main problem of
Twitter is that its potential users "don’t understand why to use Twitter. They don’t understand
the value"? I hope
remains so, for indeed the only "value" I can see in Twitter is that it
is a free e-mail service that restricts its users to 140
characters max, because else it is too complicated for the majority.
But as Anthony Noto, the
chief financial officer, admitted on the earnings call: “The number one
reason users don’t use Twitter is because they don’t understand why to
use Twitter. They don’t understand the value.” if only resolving that
problem was a straightforward as a 140-character tweet.
Liberals Have to Be Radicals
is by Robert
Kuttner (< Wikipedia) on Prospect:
This starts as follows:
Just about nothing
being proposed in mainstream politics is radical enough to fix what
ails the economy.
I suppose this 72-year
old lifelong professor "of social policy" (at Brandeis University, with
"an honorary degree from Swarthmouth College") really means what he
And while I have read through all of his article - full of "would
have"s, "would need"s and "would require"s - I am afraid my intellect
is not fit for comprehend- ing a 72-year old "professor of social
(?) with "an
honorary degree from Swarthmouth College".
Or else the article is inept wishful
thinking of the most useless kind, since it totally forgets that to
implement any radical idea, of any kind, you first have
American Democracy [is] an 'Oligarchy' with 'Unlimited Political
of today is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
I say- but Jimmy Carter
at least is honest (at 90). There is considerably more of Carter under
the last dotted link, and it is well worth reading, for he speaks both
sensibly and as a former president of the U.S.A.
online dictionary defines an 'oligarchy' as: "A government in which a
small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish
Former President Jimmy
Carter had some choice words for our form of government, post-Citizen's
United, on my radio program this week.. When I asked him
his thoughts on the state of American politics since five right-wing
justices on the US Supreme Court opened the doors to "unlimited money"
in our political discourse via Citizens United, Carter was blunt and to
the essence of what made America a great country in its political
system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery
being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect
the president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S.
senators and congress members.
"So now we’ve
just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to
major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for
themselves after the election’s over."
I asked him
then what might change things, and he said it would take a “horrible,
disgraceful” corruption scandal (think Nixon) that would "turn the
public against it [Citizens United], and maybe even the Congress and
the Supreme Court."
 Clearly - I would say - Buckley was a fool when he
accused Vidal of being a queer and threatened to beat him up, but he
also believed it, and in the 1960ies this also was a
serious accusation. (O, and Buckley was a fool because (i) sexual
orientation has nothing to do with politics, and (ii) his - rightist -
side had as much or more to loose than Vidal's leftist site, especially
because the rightist
made it into a problem).