who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
The People vs. Citizens United: 7 Steps to Reversing
Runaway Political Spending
2. Anderson Cooper Offers No Apology for
3. Why democratic socialism?
4. Seymour Hersh on Bin Laden
hospital attack: 'Even in 20 years we won't get
such a hospital again'
This is a Nederlog
of Wednesday, October 21, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1
is an interesting and recommended article by Bill Blum, who sets out 7
steps that are necessary to
return to the before-1980 situation (if possible); item
2 is about Anderson Cooper,
who turns out to belong to the 1% of the very rich, and Bernie
Sandersp; item 3 is about democratic socialism, and
contains interesting quotations by the socialist
Albert Einstein; item 4 is about an article from
May this year that I missed: Seymour Hersh explains that most of the
"news" about Bin Laden's killing was
pure hooey; and item 5 is about a good article on
the Kunduz hospital attack by
the Americans. (I think it is much more likely it was
intentional than not.)
The People vs. Citizens United: 7 Steps to Reversing Runaway Political
The first item today is by
This starts as follows:
This is the second
two-part series on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and
efforts to counter its impact on political spending. Read the first
This is relevant, for I reviewed
article the next day (here) and said
it was a good article, and that I
looked forward to the second one. This is it, and it is again good, and
it is also not optimistic, which I think is quite justified.
This starts as follows:
The March 2015 edition
of the Harvard Law Review features an article that begins with the
following (paraphrased) scenario: A presidential candidate walks on
stage at a swanky fundraiser organized by a super PAC established to
support his candidacy. He asks the assembled Gucci- and Prada-clad
donors to pony up the official individual limit on political
contributions (currently $5,400) in checks made out directly to the
super PAC. He then leaves for another event.
After the candidate departs,
business leader working on behalf of the super PAC delivers a toast to
the crowd, asking the donors to pledge $100,000 instead of the measly
$5,400. The donors reach for their checkbooks—or better still, ask
their aides to fetch them—and voila, they amplify the
candidate’s request nearly 20-fold.
Even if you’ve studied the Citizens
United opinion and are alarmed that the Supreme Court has
overturned decades of federal election law and expanded the meme of
money as speech, you still might think this scenario would violate the
rules prohibiting “coordination” of fundraising activities between
candidates and their super PACs. But you’d be wrong.
According to a 2011 advisory opinion
released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the scenario would
be perfectly legal.
The explanation is in the
but I doubt not it is true and cogent. Here is Bill Blum's (a former
judge and attorney) on this:
The saddest part about the
scenario, of course, is that it isn’t an interesting, hypothetical,
law-school puzzler. In fact, such brazen and open coordination happens
with increasing regularity,
and it’s really just the tip of a political process that has
degenerated into a structure of “legalized
bribery” that has ceded campaign finance to corporations and the
The fightback will be
difficult and uncertain.
Yes, indeed - and in case you
this: The US right - to stick to that moniker for the moment - has now
worked for 35 years - since 1980, when Reagan was elected - to extend
its authority, to corrupt the
politicians, and to create an
atmosphere in which only rich billionaires and multi-millionaires
profit, and they have for the most part succeeded in that.
So I will not be amazed if it takes at least 35 years to turn that
back, though indeed it is also true that the economy may collapse well
before that, and what
may happen after a major collapse is anybody's guess.
Anyway... I will not attempt
review this article, which is good and recommended, and will instead
summarize the 7 titles of the 7 steps Blum recommends.
Here they are (you can read
all of it
under the last dotted link, and you are recommended to do so if you are
politically serious and American), all without any text, except for the
seventh, that is quoted in full:
1. Reforming the FEC
2. Passing the Disclose Act
3. Passing the Shareholder Protection Act and ending
legal double standard for corporations and
4. Expanding public funding of elections
5. Amending the Constitution and building a
democracy-friendly First Amendment
6. Retaking the Supreme Court
7. Ending inequality
The most important dimension
many-sided struggle to blunt the corporate stranglehold on our
democracy won’t be waged in courtrooms or legislatures. It will be
conducted from below, in organized, mass demands for change.
The renowned economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel
Zucman have calculated that in 1979, the top 1 percent of Americans
—approximately 160,000 families—owned 7 percent of the nation’s wealth.
By 2012, the same, select group owned 22 percent of the nation’s
assets. The bottom 90 percent of the population’s wealth share, on the
other hand, declined steadily, from 35 percent in the mid-1980s to
roughly 23 percent in 2012.
With great concentrations of
have come great concentrations of political power and influence.
Citizens United and the rest of the rot in our electoral process stem
from such imbalances.
In the final analysis, only
clean out the detritus. It will take many years and many battles in
many places to get the job done, but there’s no alternative, and
there’s no turning back.
I think the proposals Blum
(which he didn't think up himself, as he also tells in the article) are
all quite sensible, as is his - pessimistic, but realistic - estimate
that this "will take many years and many
battles in many places to get the job done".
Indeed, if I am right this may
another 35 years - and remember: the multi- national corporations are extremely
rich, and can buy almost any politician, it seems, and may
have done so
in the USA - I'll be a 100 when the situation has been returned to
where it started in 1980.
Finally: Do I think this is likely?
Not really, because I expect several economic collapses in the same 35
years, and these may be so enormous that the whole society changes
But I do not know in which
and am not optimistic about this alternative either.
2. Anderson Cooper Offers No Apology for Slandering
next item is by William Boardman on Reader Supported News:
This starts as follows:
Who was the
person in CNN’s Democratic presidential debate?
I say. I simply didn't know, but
quite true: Anderson
in the Democratic presidential candidate debate on October 10 was not a
candidate. The richest person on that Las Vegas stage was CNN moderator
and Vanderbilt heir Anderson Cooper, whose $100
million net worth ($100,000,000) is greater than all the candidates’
worth combined (about $84,000,000). In a very real, if unspoken sense,
this “debate” was more like an exclusive club interview with Cooper
vetting the applicants for their class credentials.
These class aspects of the
unmentioned. In American politics, class issues have traditionally gone
unmentioned. The tacit understanding is that if you have the bad taste
to ask, then you have no class. If you have class, you will have the
And here are the incomes
of the 5 Democratic presidential candidates:
The Clintons have a mere $142
dollars for themselves - and these indeed are the real
being a politician, and especially in the USA (though Tony Blair's
pounds, plusmenus 30 million pounds, for he is neither accurate nor
about his own riches, also shows how well a social- democratic
do, for himself).
- Hillary Clinton: $45
($31.2 herself, with Bill $111 million)
- Lincoln Chaffee: $32
($31.9 million, mostly his wife’s trust)
- Jim Webb: $6 million
- Bernie Sanders: $700,000
- Martin O’Malley: $-0-
There is considerably more on Anderson Cooper and his great riches ,
which I will skip and leave to your interests.
Here is the ending of the article:
I suppose that is fair, though I
am less optimistic than Bernie Sanders, were it only because the rich
have regained a great lot of the powers they had until the 1930ies, and
because many American politicians seems ready to be bought, and indeed
may get a lot richer that way.
put in on
CNN at the end of his opening statement:
“What this campaign
about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back
our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant
democracy we know we can and should have.”
We are at the beginning of
be a long learning curve as we find out what our country is truly
about. Bernie Sanders offers an opportunity to look at realities in
broad daylight and make up our minds about them. Anderson Cooper is but
one of a legion of self-serving, self-preserving One Per Cent
propagandists who will do all they can to keep the Sanders message in
3. Why democratic
next article is by David Ruccio (?) on Anticap :
This starts as follows:
Clearly, Bernie Sanders
needs to do
a better job when it comes to answering the question, “why democratic
socialism?” And, along with that, “are you a capitalist?”
He needs to drop the
Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, at least at the start (and refer to them
only when challenged about whether or not what he’s suggesting can
actually work), and make a different claim: “Look at the great wealth
of this country. Why is it, given that wealth, we can’t provide a
decent standard of living and quality of life for the vast majority of
our population—things like decent, affordable healthcare and public
education, paid family leave, even a minimum amount of paid
vacation from work? Sure, we provide them for the minority at the
top but not for the people who do the bulk of the work in our society.
That’s how are economic and political system should be judged, by how
it treats workers and their families.”
Hm. In fact, I think that it
is best when Bernie Sanders doesn't mention the word "socialism", not
because I think that is a bad term, but because very many Americans
have "learned" that "socialism" (which few of them can define somewhat
properly) is a very bad idea.
That is just verbal strategy.
I also have some additonal reasons: Sanders' meaning of "socialism" -
which he has championed since 1970 or before - is
not quite what I (and quite a few Europeans) understand by it, but is
the direction of "social democracy" - which are the same two
indeed, but turned around.
The present writer, who is an
economist, disagrees with Sanders and also with me, and gives a
considerable space to quotations from Albert Einstein, who also
was a socialist.
I like the quotations, and
will partially repeat them, in part because the argument is good (but I
don't agree with second part, as you will see), in part because it is
by Albert Einstein, and in part because it does give a clear
Europeans (including my parents and grandparents) did describe
themselves as socialists.
Here is the basic argument by
Einstein for (some kind of) socialism. I repeat not all (there is more
in the original), but the following is quite sufficient - and note all
of the following quotation are Einstein's
words, from 1949:
I think this is a fair and good
explanation, and indeed it also forms a good part of the reason why my
parents were socialists (and communists). And I also agree with it.
The situation prevailing in
economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized
by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are
privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second,
the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure
capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it
should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political
struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the
“free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a
whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure”
Production is carried on for
profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and
willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an
“army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in
fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not
provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is
restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological
progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an
easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction
with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability
in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to
increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge
waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of
individuals which I mentioned before.
This crippling of
consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system
suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is
inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive
success as a preparation for his future career.
What I do not agree with is the following, also by Einstein:
I am convinced there is only
one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely
establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational
system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy,
the means of production are
owned by society itself and are utilized in
a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the
needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all
those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man,
woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to
promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a
sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the
glorification of power and success in our present society.
Nevertheless, it is
remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy
as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the
individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some
extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in
view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic
power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and
overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and
therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be
The reason I disagree with
this is especially this phrase: "the means of production are owned by society itself". I don't think that "society" can "own"
(persons can, and perhaps associations of persons, but not
"the working class") and indeed the "socialism" that existed in the
Soviet Union and other European states, and that still exists to some
extent in China, means that some committee of the leading party
("socialist" or "communist") will in fact own
everything (as was the case in the Soviet Union, in
As the second quoted paragraph
shows, Einstein was quite conscious of this major problem. I think
myself that giving the ownership of the means of production to
"society", "the workers", or "the party" is wrong in principle, and
indeed will give the real power to the party
and its bureaucracy.
For more, see my On Socialism. Here is the ending of Rucci's
article (that contains more, including more quotes by Einstein):
But Einstein’s formulation
does provide an alternative way for Sanders to start the
discussion: “That’s why I’m a democratic socialist. Right now, we have
a very undemocratic capitalism—undemocratic in politics (given the role
of a small number of wealthy individuals in funding candidates and in
controlling the media coverage of our elections) and undemocratic
in the economy (since large corporations and financial institutions
have been allowed to control our lives and take us to the brink of
economic and ecological disaster). That has to stop. What we need,
instead, is democratic socialism—democratic in politics (by solving the
problem of campaign finance and media coverage) and democratic in our
economy (by reigning in the large corporations and financial
institutions, providing decent and affordable healthcare, public
education, family leave, and vacations for workers and their families,
and by strengthening the more democratic features of our existing
economy, such as small local businesses, credit unions, and
But give Sanders credit: he
clearly understands that clarity about the aims and problems
of democratic socialism is of greatest significance in our age of
I don't think Einstein's
formulation - which I like, apart from a fundamental
disagreement - will help Bernie Sanders much, and the main
nor Sanders, but the combination of enormous ignorance about
politics and real economics in most American voters, combined with
about the word "socialism".
4. Seymour Hersh on Bin Laden
next article is
by Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté on Democracy Now!:
In fact, this is from May 2015,
when I missed it. Here is the point of the article, explained at its
Four years after U.S.
assassinated Osama bin Laden, Pulitzer
Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has published an
explosive piece claiming much of what the Obama administration said
about the attack was wrong. Hersh claims at the time of the U.S. raid
bin Laden had been held as a prisoner by Pakistani intelligence since
2006. Top Pakistani military leaders knew about the operation and
provided key assistance. Contrary to U.S. claims that it located bin
Laden by tracking his courier, a former Pakistani intelligence officer
identified bin Laden’s whereabouts in return for the bulk of a $25
million U.S. bounty. Questions are also raised about whether bin Laden
was actually buried at sea, as the U.S. claimed. Hersh says instead the
Navy SEALs threw parts of bin Laden’s body into the Hindu Kush
mountains from their helicopter. The White House claims the piece is
"riddled with inaccuracies." Hersh joins us to lay out his findings and
respond to criticism from government officials and media colleagues.
In other words: Apart
from the fact that the Americans killed Bin Laden, most of the news
that the American government told about his killing were lies.
You may doubt this, and the US government denies it, but you should
realize that Seymour
Hersh is one of the greatest of American journalists, with several
major firsts: He exposed the My Lai Massacre
in 1969, and the torture of prisoners in Abu
Ghraib in 2004, among other things.
Here is his own summary:
Well, you guys did a pretty good job. Basically, you covered the
tracks. Basically, I think you can say, simply, that the president, as
he said on television when he announced the raid, did order the raid,
and the SEAL Team Six, the most elite unit
we have in our special forces group, they did conduct a mission. They
did kill bin Laden. They did take the body. That’s all true. And the
rest of it is sort of hooey.
And here is one of his points
about how easy it is to control the news for a government that lies with
great facility, and also keeps secret as much as it can:
Where do you get the notion of hundred or thousand officials? We’re
talking about a closed society. The White House has a lot of control
over the information. The senior Pakistani officials have control over
the information. We are talking about a country that went, a dozen or
10 years ago, through a WMD sort of
cover-up. The notion that there’s some major conspiracy I’m alleging is
just sort of—that’s over the top. There’s no major conspiracy here.
It’s very easy to control news. We all saw that when—the whole thing
about Saddam Hussein and the alleged nuclear weapons. I should think
that would be a model for why you might just not be so skeptical of the
possibility of holding things. And let me also say, in the piece, it’s
not so much that I’m saying what happened. I’m quoting sources. And of
course they’re unnamed. You just announced what happened to Jeffrey
Sterling today. I mean, what reporter would want to name a source in
this administration. You know, bam! He’d be gone. So, there you are.
There is a lot more in the
article, which is recommended.
5. Kunduz hospital attack: 'Even in 20 years we won't
get such a hospital again'
by Sune Engel Rasmussen on The Guardian:
from near the beginning:
Like most workers in MSF
the doctors had considered themselves relatively safe until the moment
the first rounds hit. Medical facilities are protected under
international humanitarian law, and the charity they work for has won
the Nobel peace prize for its work treating the sick and injured in
some of the world’s most difficult and dangerous conflict zones.
It has a reputation for
attention to safety and maintaining links to all groups fighting in
areas where it operates, to ensure they respect its legal neutrality.
The charity has now pulled
staff from Kunduz and demanded an independent inquiry into how American
forces came to spend more than an hour shelling one of the few places
of shelter left in the battered city.
“We need to know what
why it led to an airstrike on a hospital which has been known in the
region for the last four years, which has been treating thousands of
people,” the MSF president, Dr Joanne Liu, said in London this week.
“Until we understand how it happened, we cannot go back to Kunduz.”
To start with, here
is my guess about the question "American
forces came to spend more than an hour shelling one of the few places
of shelter left in the battered city": Because they wanted to.
For this seems far
more likely than any alternative, which all must include "the Americans
did not know what they were doing", which seems nearly
impossible, given that the hospital was there for years and
its position had been very many times clarified to the American
Here is the toll it took (without personal details, of which there are
several in the article):
This poses another
question: Were the Americans out to kill as many of the medical
as they could? (I am asking, and do not know the answer.)
There were 80 staff and 105
patients in the hospital buildings at the start of the attack, which
lasted from 2.08am to 3.15am. So far, 22 people have been confirmed
dead, including 12 staff and three children, and more than three dozen
others injured. More than 30 staff and patients are still missing.
And here is the president of MSF, dr. Joanne Liu:
Liu said MSF’s ability to
some of the world’s most difficult conflict zones had been put at stake
by the attack. “[Parties to a conflict] cannot target patients, medical
facilities, ambulances, healthcare workers,” she said. “That’s the
bottom line, that’s what the Geneva convention gives us, and we have
been working on the understanding that people respect that. If somehow
we decide this is somehow not respected any more, then we question
everything after that.”
American forces should have
the hospital was protected. Four days prior to the attack, the charity
reminded all parties, including the US military, of the exact GPS coordinates of
intentionally targeting a medical facility is a crime (which is
why the Americans will never admit it was on purpose, as I
think is the most likely).
I really had no idea, but indeed rarely watch CNN (etc.) Also, what I
fairly hard to understand is why a man who owns a hundred
million dollars wants to work as a journalist. I agree
he has to do something, and maybe my question says more about
me than about him, but I definitely would not work as a
journalist if I had his riches. (Probably I would do science, indeed.)
 Incidentally: I liked the article, but
the site looks like it is 2000 or so.