|They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- 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
1. NSA 'hacking unit' infiltrates computers around the worldAbout ME/CFS
2. I worked on the US drone program. The public should
know what really goes on
3. Dear Budeier - Notes on social philosophy (2/2)
This file is not about the crisis, except for the first two items.
The third item is another reproduction from my Norwegian years, this time from August 1976, in the form of a letter of 13 typed pages to two budeier (= milkmaids, especially at a farm or mountainous pasture (seter)), whom I had talked to for several hours, and who had identified themselves also as marxist and feminist students to me (or as "marxist" and "feminist": see below).
I have copied yesterday all of the first seven pages, and a small part of page 8.
The third item contains the rest. I think that this ought to be rather interesting, because it - still - is a good and informed discussion of Marxism and social philosophy.
But first there are two crisis items.
1. NSA 'hacking unit' infiltrates computers around the world – report
To start with, an article by Joanna Walters in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
- NSA 'hacking unit' infiltrates computers around the world – report
There is more in the article.
A top-secret National Security Agency hacking unit infiltrates computers around the world and breaks into the toughest data targets, according to internal documents quoted in a magazine report on Sunday.
Details of how the division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO), steals data and inserts invisible "back door" spying devices into computer systems were published by the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The magazine portrayed TAO as an elite team of hackers specialising in gaining undetected access to intelligence targets that have proved the toughest to penetrate through other spying techniques, and described its overall mission as "getting the ungettable". The report quoted an official saying that the unit's operations have obtained "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen".
2. I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on
Next, an article by Heather Linebaugh in the Guardian:
This may not be crisis news, but it is about the veracity of Obama, and it is written by someone who did work on the drone program. Here is the beginning:
- I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on
There is also this - and this is by someone who did the job, rather than by a politician who merely lies about it:
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"
Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.
I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.
There is more in the article, which is quite strong.
The US and British militaries insist claim that this is an expert program, but it's curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure.
3. Dear Budeier - Notes on social philosophy (2/2)
Next, the continuation and finish of yesterday's Dear Budeier - Notes on social philosophy (1/2):
The text that follows between the two lines was written in August of 1976, after talking for several hours with two "milkmaids" - for this is the translation from the Norwegian "budeier", although in fact they were two Norwegian university students, who worked in the summer as Agnethe and I had done in the summer of 1975, and who also had identified themselves, in 1976, as marxists and feminists to me.
I reproduced the first part yesterday, where there is a longer introduction. Yesterday I reproduced the first 7 pages plus a small part of page 8; today there are the remaining five pages. The notes are made today and to my Philosophical Dictionary or to the Wikipedia. At the end there is a brief appreciation of my text
- that is over 37 years old.
- 8 -
the coming crisis of capitalism is necessary and 'proved' by Marx in
a rather complex argument. The essence of the argument is, however,
simple. It is presupposed that
(.) capitalists must compete with one another.
This entails that they need the highest possible profit, which in
turn means that the workers will get the lowest possible wages. This
does not happen immediately - it happens in time. Workers form the
greatest part of the population. If they get less money they can buy
less. In the end this means that a substantial part of the equipment
which is used by capitalists to produce commodities for workers (clothes,
bread, houses) will be useless, for the workers can't buy the commo-
dities produced by them and the capitalists don't need them and can't
use them. Result: overproduction and crisis. This follows necessarily
from the assumption (.).
There is a considerable amount of truth in the argument, but it is not
all the truth. First of all, profits can be made in two ways: by lower-
ing the production costs (and the most important cost to be lowered
are indeed the wages) or by increasing the prices. To Marx this amounted
in the end to the same but, as pointed out above, his argument for
this is invalid. Secondly, capitalists need not compete with one an-
other - they may well cooperate or form monopolies. This might lead
to their agreeing to paying the lowest possible wage which does not
lead to a crisis. Since the capitalists are, by marxist assumption,
the ruling class this cooperation may be effected through and engi-
neered by the state. Thirdly, Marx identified surplus-value and profit.
Since his transformation-solution is invalid this is possible but by
no means necessary: Baran and Sweezy are quite classical marxists ex-
cept for their defining a "surplus" = "the difference between what a
society produces and the costs of producing it". They show (i) that
in the US the surplus has been steadily increasing and is now about
50% of the national income and (ii) that surplus-value in Marx's full
definition (profits + interests + rent - I left out the latter two
as inessential to my argument) has been steadily decreasing and is a
small oart of the surplus. Baran and Sweezy use "surplus" to a conside-
rable extent as Marx uses "surplus-value" - they even have a crisis-
theory (based on the tendency of surplus to increase, as Marx's crisis-
theory was based on the tendency of the surplus-value to decrease). This
crisis-theory also is not very convincing.
General: Having dealt summarily with "social philosophy" and "econo-
mics" I turn to "general". Instead of criticizing I will make two
largely constructive points, concerning ethics and social philosophy.
- 9 -
ethics: I will first outline the substantial features of most ethics,
which I will call 'prescriptive ethics'. This being done, I will
sketch an alternative approach.
Broadly speaking, ethics is the theory of good and evil. Prescriptive
ethics (most ethics) consists essentially of a set of basic definitions
or rules which settle 'the good'. Well-known examples are 'good' =
'the greatest pleasure for the greatest number' and 'do (not do) unto others
as thou wouldst (not) be done to'. Obviously, prescriptive ethics can
neither be confirmed nor altered by experience - one can merely agree
or disagree with them. This is the basic reason that most prescriptive
ethics give rise to a set of moral rules which are (loosely) derived
from the basic definitions or rules. Moral rules define how one ought
and ought not to act (and think, often) and are enforced (and usually
introduced and learned) by punishments of various kinds. Indeed, a
considerable part of the education of children in almost any community
is the acquisition of these moral rules. (NB that moral rules are not
merely rules: Theu are rules which settle which behaviour is good +
punishments for their transgression.) Rules of thumb to distinguish
ethical rules, moral rules and rules are these: Ethical rules essential-
ly contain the term 'good' - they are equivalent with statements which
can be prefixed 'it is good that ...'; moral rules contain 'ought (not)'
or 'should (not)' and can be phrased as commands (+ punishments); while
rules are instructions, which can be phrased as 'if --- then ...' state-
ments. The three types of rules overlap. Another way of distinguishing
is given below.
Prescriptive ethics tend to take one of the three following forms:
(i) A system of rules, the basis of which form some very broad gene-
ralizations concerning what is good, but whose real justification lies
in the authority which upholds the system. and the society it is held
The law and club-rules conform to (i). Law-systems in the western
world tend to be ideally based on or modelled after the declaration of
the rights of man (American or French) but in practice they simply
pragmatically perpetuate the status quo, guided by an idea pf what's
fair, and, more so, feasible.
(ii) ethics based on (religious) revelation. This covers not only
religions but also such people who feel that they know that 'everyone
has a conscience and therefore knows what is good'. Every moral system
tends to be accompagnied by this feeling, bit some peope are original -
here, without being religious. (Kant is the outstanding philosophical
(iii) ethics which assert that nature or society are intrinsically
ethical (work according to ethical principles). This covers a broad and
very different set of classes of ethics.
One interesting instance is the marxist one (which is adapted from
Hegel): Social development is a necessary progression (therefore one
has to accept, if rational, the stage of social development one is in)
which turns from bad to better.
I've dealt with this above, but it is useful to show what it entails:
People always act ethically right if they further 'the true course of
history' - even when this involves torture and murder. (I'm far from
suggesting that torture and murder is typically marxistic, but it is
true that one can make a logical case for it on the basis of marxist
- 10 -
Prescriptive ethics can be characterized and summed up by the phrase
'What 'good' is for me (the ethical theorist), must be good for you
(everybody else)' - and who doesn't agree can't be other than bad.
Since prescriptive ethics is not based on general experience - on the
contrary, people tend to widely disagree concerning what is good - it
can only be realized by morals: An ethics which is not based on expe-
rience can only subsist by - mentally or physically - violating experien-
ce. In consequence, prescriptive ethics tend to satisfy the adagium
'might is right'.
Though the foregoing paragraph is critical of prescriptive ethics it
should not be understood as saying that all prescriptive ethics is
'bad' - on the contrary, many of their ethical ideals are very desir-
able. The point is, rather, that these ideals cannot be put into
practice other than in a forced, moral way which is usually in direct
comtradiction with these ideals. The fundamental reason is that, in
spite of all subtle ethical argument, people tend to disagree about
what they think is good.
There is a very simple solution to this ethical problem of 'the good'
andf I will adopt this: 'good' is 'what is liked' - in other words, if
somebody says 'this-or-that is good' he means the same as 'I like
this-or-that'. This solution accords with the feeling of everyone, except
ethical theorists. Ethical theorists don't like this solution because
it hits the bottom out of any ethics. This is true, in so far as it
concerns any prescriptive ethics. But it is not difficult to outline
a class of ethical systems which may be called 'rational ethics'. One
can do this by adopting the following assumptions:
(1) A proposal is ethically good if several people like it
(2) The proposal has a possibility of realization.
In other words, the basis of a rational ethics are proposals or plans
which can be realized. (The second point is quite essential, since
a great number of widely liked (possible) proposals are not realizable.)
It is noteworthy that this quite closely parallels what one can say
about a good scientific theory:
(1') A theory is scientifically good if scientists agree to it
(2') The theories has possibilities of being tested.
Both these requirements can be shown to ne necessary. The parallel is
fairly complete: (1) and (1') require agreement of those concerned,
and (2) and (2') require a possible test of feasability.
Assumptions (1) and (2) comprise many possibilities, including bank-
robberies and atomic wars. This is a consequence of not specifying
a proposal. A consequence of (2) is that such a proposal must be fair-
ly detailed (relative to the scope of the proposal) - one must specify
(a) the ends one wishes to realize (b) the means by which one intends
to do this. (Note that 'ethical goodness' applies to means+ends, not
just ends alone.) Another consequence of (2) is that such ideals as
articulated by prescriptive ethics are hardly usable as ends, because
they are too vague (of course, they can be specified).
I will not articulate such a proposal but formulate an admittedly very
general end, plus some general requirements concerning means. The
end is this: That everything has the greatest possible possibility to
function according to its potential. This is presumably never realizable
- 11 -
but I think it is desirable (likable) as a general principle. (It is,
as will be noted, in a fairly precise sense 'ecological'.) It is not
vague, because it can be made as precize as knowledge (and time) allows
- it means, quite concretely, that the fraction (known) possible actions :
(known) restraining actions has to be made as large as pos-
sible. In most situations this is quite clear, and can me made pre-
cizer by experimenting (testing).
There are two requirements as to means: That all proposals be as spe-
cific, concrete and precise as possible (relative their subject-matter
and scope), and that all decisions be consent decisions (not by majo-
rity-rule). Two consequences are the non-acceptance of (typical) po-
litical programs and the non-acceptance of standard democratical
practice. Additional consequences (from the consent requirement) would
be decentralization (consent requires active participation of all in-
volved) and, since many proposals cannot involve immediate consent,
federalism. I favour consent over majority-rule because it appears
to me to be a much more 'democratic' procedure ('government for
the people, of the people, by the people', as Lincoln defined it).
These, to be sure, are part of my specification of a rational ethics.
The difference between prescriptive and rational ethics is that the
former articulates an eternal and non-empirical 'good' which, in the
nature of the case, can only be realized by mental and/or physical
violence - moral education, while the latter proposes a concrete plan
which must be realizable, which is said to be 'good' if people think
it is worthwile. Moreover, a rational ethics must be testable and is,
in the nature of the case, alterable.
I hope it is obvious why I prefer a rational ethics. Itis also evi-
dent that there are very few radical rational ethics - there are very
few people of 'radical convictions' (i.e. those who like another type
of society) who take the trouble to state a rational ethics. This, to
my mind, is one of the greatest weaknesses of 'radicalism'.
social philosophy: I think it makes sense to state the following six
basic points which I consider important for a good social philosophy
(i.e. a social philosophy I (would) like). The first two concern methods
and are not limited to social philosophy. (Most of my explanations
will give the terms a non-standard sense.)
rationalism - the statement of all assumptions with conclusions argued
logically from them. This is outside mathematics and logic a rather
unattainable ideal, if only for reasons of style and readability, but
it can be approximated. See e.g. Russell. (My very frequent use of
terms derived from the verb 'to assume' will have been noticed. At-
tempted rationalism is the reason.
empiricism - in a broad sense: The requirement that a theory has es-
sential testable conclusions. How to put this precise is a difficult
The next two points concern social philosophy.
explicit ethics - Because I think all social philosophy has an ethical
basis I require it (rationalism) to be explicitly assumed, and not
to be hidden between the lines. This does not necessarily mean the
statement of a complete rational ethics, but the minimum requirement
is the statement of one's value-premisses (what one would like and
would not like).
power + ideology - This I explained in the beginning: I believe these
concepts to be fundamental to any sensible social philosophy.
- 12 -
The final two points are items of my own ideology. I will give them
some more space but still only indicate essentials.
anarchism - There are many kinds of anarchism (in addition to
the lies spread by the media) so I indicate some points which are
essential to me: individualism, decentralism, a-politicism (meaning
that I disbelieve in political organizations (two reasons can be found in
the foregoing)), practicalism (a consequence of the previous point: I
think that if you want to change something you have to (start) do(ing)
it yourself) and pacifism (at least in principle, for one can't be dog-
matic and I've a strong temperament). The most sympathetic 'classic'
anarchists are in my opinion Proudhon, Thoreau and Malatesta. Proudhon
probably had the most common sense, Thoreau was a great individualist
and Malatesta had considerable socio-political sense. Contemporary
sympathetic anarchists are Goodman and Mumford. Most other anarchists
are, for me, either too metaphysical (Godwin, Morris), too violent (Baku-
nin, apart from being too metaphysical) or too naive (Kropotkin and
quite a few others).
mysticism - This is a term which most people either immediately have
negative reactions against or positive reactions for. It has very strong
emotional connotations. I do not agree with what most people mean by it
(pros nor antis) so careful reading may be useful.
The two most essential assumptions of mysticism are that (1) there is
a kind of continuous experience possible which (a) makes one feel united
with all one experiences and (b) does not contain the self (ego, person-
ality) as a part of the experience. These two characteristics can be taken
as defining what a mystical state amounts to. (More extensive ones can
be found with James, Tart Ed., Happold, Laski.) If there is such a type
of experience this would be extremely important, the more so if it is
true, as most mystics claim, that all or most people can experience
mystically. Its importance is easily seen from the fact that normal
(Western) experience is about the opposite of mystical experience: Almost
everybody experiences himself as separate of almost everything, and al-
most everybody is extremely egocentric, in the sense that his world is
organized around and based upon his concept and experience of self.
Mystical states exist without a doubt, but there is little rational emp-
irical knowledge concernng them. It is not really known what induces
them, nor how they can be sustained, nor what percentage of people can
have mystical states (almost everyone can have drug-induced mystical
states, but these are apparently not quite 'the real article').
For me, mystical states are open to rational and empirical investigation,
do not have anything to do with religion other than through historical
association, and are psychological phenomena - they are to me essentially
different modes of experience, without philosophical (ontological)
relevance. This last sentence sums up my disagreements with most
sympathetic to mysticism.
A reason why I consider mysticism important to social philosophy, some-
what different from the one given above, is that I believe that non-
mystical experience is a fundamental element of the present society,
as pointed out above.
OK. This was it. I hope you've found some reason in it. If you feel
so inclined, you can write in Norwegian,
(name + Norwegian address)
- 13 -
Postscript on literature: All of the following books are excellent
(though I don't believe I agree completely with any of them):
social philosophy: Gerth + Mills, Character and Social Structure;
everything of Mills, esp. The Power Elite, and Power, Politics and People,
and The Sociological Imagination.
Most modern sociology appears to me just shit - dogmatical bourgeois
or equally dogmatic marxists. (There are, as always, exceptions.
Such as Merton, Dahrendorf, Gouldner. Even so, these exceptions
are exceptionms mainly intellectually - they don't have to say much
original.) Excellent classics: Marx's Fr�hschrifte, Simmel and Durk-
heim (especially the latter), and Mosca. A good overview of political
philosophies is Theimer's Geschichte der politischen Ideeen.
The best book on power is Russell's Power, though it suffers from
a wrong definition of the subject. The best book on ideology is
Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia.
history: A beautiful book on history, ideology and, to some extent,
mysticism is Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. All other
books on history are dusty volumes compared to this one. It also in-
directly sheds much light on the issue of 'determined history'.
An equally beautiful book, which sheds light on just the same topics
is Mumford's The City in History, which is at the same time an
implicit treatise on social philosophy (rather anarchistic).
communist etc. parties: The relevant books of Koestler. See also Huxley
(whom I suspect to be the source of many of Koestler's points).
Robert Michels has around the turn of the century written a book
on social-democratic parties, which is widely acclaimed. Its point is
that all decisions are taken/engineered by small powerful ingroups,
who are more concerned with their party-function than with the funct-
ion (purpose) of the party. I didn't read it.
Economics: Robinson + Eatwell, A modern introduction to economics.
If you know matrix-algebra you can read the other books mentioned.
In that case, the Penguin-reader A critique of economic theory is
Ethics: I have not read a good overview. There are many readers in
which you can verify my contentions concerning prescriptive ethics.
empiricism: The best general book on philosophy of science is
Stegm�ller's Probleme und Resultate der Wissenschaftstheorie und
anarchism: as mentioned. A useful standard overview (a little too long,
though) is Woodcock's Anarchism (a Penguin). All books of Goodman
are good; the ones I like best are Communitas, Growing Up Absurd, and
New Reformation. (Communitas, also, is excellent in that it shows
three alternative rational ethics, in outline and with respect to
city-planning: a socialist, anarchist and capitalist alternative.)
Usual books are also Comfort's Authority and Delinquency
(with regards to power) and Talmon's The Rise of Totalitarian
Democracy (on the roots of marxist socialism(s)).
mysticism: I think the 5 best books are: William James, The Varieties
of Religious Experience; Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy;
Alan Watts, The Way of Zen; Philip Kapleau, Three Pillars of Zen; and
Charles Tart, Ed. Altered States of Consciousness. All these books
are excellent, down to earth and undogmatic. The first 4 happen also
to be very well written (the last is a book of papers in psychology).
The other books I mentioned F. Happold, Mysticism (selections + an
introduction) and M. Laski, Ecstasy both of which are good, with some
All the above is of course dogmatizing from my own p.o.v. and knowledge.
Note the above Postscript was also written in 1976, as the last page of my
letter. I promised a brief appreciation. Here it is:
A brief appreciation: This appreciation is of today, December 30, 2013.
I will skip most things I could have said, except that I still mostly agree with my self of (more than) 37 years ago, and also that I was quite pleased to see how much I had read by the time I was 26, and also how many of my references were first class.
There are two remarks I do want to make.
The first remark is about what I now disagree with, which is mostly in the section on ethics (that was all quite original), and concerns two points. First, I could, also then, have been clearer, but in fact this was a letter that was quickly written. I still believe my ideas about rational ethics are sound, but they need to be served with more precision. Second, I specifically disagree with the end "That everything has the greatest possible possibility to function according to its potential". This is too vague, too general, and also lacks necessary distinctions.
The second remark is about myself and others. I am 63 and have never in my life received more than the legal minimum income in Holland, which is the dole (and in the Seventies and Eighties usually less); I have done all my studying, in two full studies, and except eight months, while I was seriously ill; I graduated with a B.A. of more than an 8 (an A, in American terms), but was the only student since the end of WW II to be removed from a faculty of a Dutch university briefly before my M.A., because of his "publicly outspoken opinions", formulated as questions, and the removal was done while I was ill and was done with evident sadistic pleasure; I have for nearly four years been kept from normal sleep, all the time risking being gassed the second time, by four terraces within 10-15 meters of where I lived, open till deep in the night; I have been extremely discriminated from 1977-2007 by almost everyone who worked for the City of Amsterdam or the University of Amsterdam, both verbally (my father, who survived more than 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps was called "an insane strike-leader" by a doctor of the GG&GD, presumably because of the February Strike; my mother was called "a dirty cunt-whore" by the doormen of the Amsterdam dole, both in 1984 (I protested their racism); I have been called very many times "a fascist", by my opponents from the ASVA, in my time a club of degenerate quasi-marxist careerists, and have been called "a fascist" and "a terrorist" by 16 academic - screaming - "philosophers" in 1988, because of the questions I asked) and also many times non-verbally, namely by denying my rights and denying answering my letters; I have now 35 years of pain and exhaustion which the Amsterdam dole still classifies as my "disorder"; and I graduated, again while quite ill, with an M.A. of more than a 9 (an A) in psychology; and absolutely none of the hundreds of pages of carefully typed and reasoned letters that I sent to the rulers of Amsterdam has ever been answered - all while the illegal drugsdealing these rulers protected continued.
So I have to guess that the very special abuse, mistreatment, scoldings, and the very many discriminations that I received from mayors and aldermen of Amsterdam, and from the board of directors of the university of Amsterdam were all done on purpose, because I am special. I do not deny I am special, but "my" country has had a very special way of "rewarding" that.
There will be more on this theme the next year.
This was again an outcome of my two years and more than seven months of living in Norway, that I very unwisely left in 1977.
About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: