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Nederlog

January 29, 2016

Crisis: Krugman, US Poor, Moore on Flint, Democracy & Norway, Electronic Voting
Sections                                                                     crisis index    
Introduction   

1.
Paul Krugman Unironically Anoints Himself Arbiter of
     “Seriousness”: Only Clinton Supporters Eligible

2. How Americans Are Increasingly Turning Their Backs on the
     Poor

3.
'Join Us in a Revolt': Michael Moore Pens Open Letter on How to
     Help Victims of Flint Water Crisis

4. American Democracy Down for the Count
5.
Will the 2016 Primaries Be Electronically Rigged?
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, January 29, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a - deserved - takedown of Paul Krugman by Glenn Greenwald; item 2 is about how the poor are discriminated in the USA: 500,000 people get $200 a month; item 3 is about Michael Moore's campaign to prosecute Governor Snyder (who poisoned Flint, where Moore grew up); item 4 is about Norway (in my selection), which is where I lived from 1975-1977 and which is the only country I desired and desire to live (but I don't have enough money); and item 5 is about the possibility that the American presidential elections will be screwed electronically: They certainly can be, and very probably some American elections already have been.

Also, keeping the promise I made yesterday: I indeed did upload Part I of my - Dutch - autobiography (till I am 28, in 1978) yesterday. It is here. There are plenty of small improvements, but the main improvement is that I have introduced many section- headings, as links also, and at the beginning of each file, that make it a lot easier to get a survey of the file and to get to a topic.

And I removed the rest of the autobiography, but this will be restored in an improved form later (and probably soon): I am working on it. And for those who don't know: My autobiography was first published bit by bit in Nederlog, starting in the beginning of 2013, but it has since been revised somewhat and is now in its own directory. (It is mostly in Dutch.)

More later on this subject, probably in a Dutch file.

1. Paul Krugman Unironically Anoints Himself Arbiter of “Seriousness”: Only Clinton Supporters Eligible

The first article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

For years, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has repeatedly complained about the D.C. orthodoxy-enforcing tactic of labeling only those who subscribe to Washington pieties as “Very Serious People,” or “VSPs.” It’s a term Krugman borrowed (with credit) from the liberal blogger Atrios, who first coined it to illustrate how Iraq War opponents were instantly marginalized in establishment discourse and only war advocates were deemed to be Serious.

This is just by way of introduction, and I say a little about Krugman after the next selection, which is this:

Yesterday, one of the purest and most noxious examples of this tactic was invoked — by Paul Krugman. The longtime Clinton defender announced that all Serious policy experts “lean Hillary”; he even used the term “serious” unironically to advance his claim:

Meanwhile, the Sanders skepticism of the wonks continues: Paul Starr lays out the case. As far as I can tell, every serious progressive policy expert on either health care or financial reform who has weighed in on the primary seems to lean Hillary.

Let’s repeat that: “Every serious progressive policy expert on either health care or financial reform who has weighed in on the primary seems to lean Hillary.”

Clearly, Paul Krugman - "Every" - is indulging in propaganda, as will be made very clear by Glenn Greenwald's next quotation.

Before that, I'd like to insert my own view of Krugman, simply because I have read him almost every day now since more than 2 1/2 years, which is over 500 times. It comes to this:

I started the crisis series on September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but quite good) and wrote 189 Nederlogs on that subject until I first read about Edward Snowden, on June 10, 2013. Since then I wrote mostly about the
crisis, simply because it, together with the universal spying on everyone by the Western secret intelligence services, is the most threatening news there is, at least for ordinary (non-rich) Westerners. (It is because all the rights of ordinary people, and all their welfare, are very seriously threatened by the crisis and by the secret spying. Also, the secret spying on everyone would only be done in an undemocratic, authoritarian state, or so I think.)

Since June 2013, I am each day reading approximately 40 files to check the news, and to find items I wish to review. For that reason, I also included Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times in the list, which means I have read his column at least 5 times a week since 2013.

So why did you almost never read anything about Paul Krugman's opinions - while getting a lot about (for example) Chris Hedges? Basically, because he doesn't have
any interesting opinions, and also because he is a far lesser writer than is Hedges (with whom I also often do not agree, but at least he is interesting and he writes well).

Finally, I still think that as an economist Paul Krugman is more sensible than many - but that is only on economy, and not on politics, philosophy, psychology or what not, and besides I don't think present-day economics is a serious science (almost no economist saw the crisis of 2008 coming, for one example).

Here is the last bit of Glenn Greenwald that I will quote:

To any of you Sanders supporters who previously believed that you possessed serious policy expertise, such as Dean Baker; or former Clinton Labor Secretary and Professor of Economic Policy Robert Reich (who yesterday wrote that “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have”); or the 170 policy experts who signed a letter endorsing Sanders’ financial reform plan over Clinton’s: sorry, but you must now know that you are not Serious at all. The Very Serious Columnist has spoken. He has a Seriousness Club, and you’re not in it. If you want to be eligible, you need to support the presidential candidate of the Serious establishment, led by Paul Krugman.

And this is followed by a long list of 170 policy experts (many economists) who support Sanders, and who, accordingly, cannot be "serious" according to the Very Serious Person that is Paul Krugman.

This is a nice take down, and it is a recommended article.

2. How Americans Are Increasingly Turning Their Backs on the Poor  

The second item is by Isaiah J. Poole on Truthdig (and originally, it seems, on Other Worlds):

This starts as follows, and concerns a quite serious topic that also is seriously underreported:

With the winter winds of January came a flurry of reports that several states were moving to cut thousands of people from their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamp”) rolls.

In New Jersey, for example, Governor Chris Christie pulled the plug on benefits to 11,000 unemployed state residents.

By this spring, an estimated 500,000 people nationwide could be cut off. For most of them, the maximum benefit of less than $200 a month is all the federal aid they get. For some, it’s their entire income.

One cannot live on $200 a month, not in Holland (which has a structure of riches and incomes much like the USA, and much more so than the surrounding countries) and not in the USA.

I agree that 500,000 Americans are less than 1/6th of 1% of the total American population, but that population is more than 300 million - who could or should have easily prevented this extreme poverty. (I am one of the poorest Dutchmen, but have around 6 times as much. And no, that is far from easy. With $200 dollars a month, all I could do was suicide: The house I live in takes about twice as much a month.)

Here is a final bit from this fairly brief but interesting article:

Some people call this a successful example of welfare reform at work. But to experts like Joe Soss, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the drive to “end welfare as we know it” that started in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, it’s the latest chapter in a misguided ideological campaign.

Yes, indeed: It started under Bill Clinton, as did the NAFTA and the deregulations. And yes, this is an attempt to “end welfare as we know it”.

3. 'Join Us in a Revolt': Michael Moore Pens Open Letter on How to Help Victims of Flint Water Crisis

The third item is by Kall Holloway on AlterNet:

This is from the beginning, and reports on the poisoning of the children of Flint, that I first reported on January 7, 2016. That was about a letter Michael Moore - who grew up in Flint - wrote to Governor Snyder.

This is about another letter by Moore:

“[Y]ou cannot reverse the irreversible brain damage that has been inflicted upon every single child in Flint,” Moore writes in his missive. “There is no medicine you can send, no doctor or scientist who has any way to undo the harm done to thousands of babies, toddlers and children (not to mention their parents). They are ruined for life, and someone needs to tell you the truth about that.”

Instead of sending bottled water—a short-term solution to a long-term problem—Moore lays out a five-step plan for those who want to help. The first step is to push for the arrest and removal of Michigan governor Rick Snyder. “There is not a terrorist organization on Earth that has yet to figure out how to poison 100,000 people every day for two years—and get away with it,” Moore writes. “That took a governor who subscribes to an American political ideology hell-bent on widening the income inequality gap and conducting various versions of voter and electoral suppression against people of color and the poor.”

Here is a further bit from Michael Moore's letter, that also explains why he is very angry (a partial repeat from the above quotation, but with some more):

You can't help.

The reason you can’t help is that you cannot reverse the irreversible brain damage that has been inflicted upon every single child in Flint. The damage is permanent. There is no medicine you can send, no doctor or scientist who has any way to undo the harm done to thousands of babies, toddlers and children (not to mention their parents). They are ruined for life, and someone needs to tell you the truth about that. They will, forever, suffer from various neurological impediments, their IQs will be lowered by at least 20 points, they will not do as well in school and, by the time they reach adolescence, they will exhibit various behavioral problems that will land a number of them in trouble, and some of them in jail.

That indeed are the - quite well-known - consequences of lead poisoning. There is a lot more in the letter, and it is all here, on Michael Moore's website:

4. American Democracy Down for the Count

The fourth item is by Ann Jones on Common Dreams:

This has a subtitle, which is relevant, so I quote it:
(Or What Is It the Scandinavians Have That We Don’t?)
One of the reasons this is relevant is that this is a fairly long, fairly personal and fairly rambling piece; another is that I will only select some quotations about Scandinavia and Norway.

And an important reason for me is that I have lived nearly three years in Norway, from 1975 till 1977, and I knew the country then quite well, and liked it a lot better than Holland, where I am born.

Also, I had a permission to stay (since March 1975); I could have studied there (and this would have been a lot better than the terrible shit I got in Holland); I thought the country very much more beautiful than Holland; if I had stayed there, I probably would not have fallen ill; if I had fallen ill, much better care would have been taken of me - so yes: It was the greatest mistake in my life to return from Norway to Holland in 1977.

Here are part of the reasons why (and no: none of this is true of Holland, which is very much more American, also in income structures):
What Scandinavians call the Nordic Model is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That’s two concepts combined in a single goal because, as far as they are concerned, you can’t have one without the other.
They are right and here is the reason: If you do not have democracy, the rich will try to suppress and exploit everyone who is not rich as much as they can, for this is what they always did, the last 2500 years (with very few exceptions), and this is also what they will succeed in doing, at least without real and effective democracy including real and effective democratic laws, simply because the rich have much more money than the vast majority, and they always - like almost everybody - are much more interested in themselves than in others.

Here is some background to the system the Scandinavians achieved in the 20th Century:

In the last century, Scandinavians, aiming for their egalitarian goal, refused to settle solely for any of the ideologies competing for power -- not capitalism or fascism, not Marxist socialism or communism. Geographically stuck between powerful nations waging hot and cold wars for such doctrines, Scandinavians set out to find a path in between. That path was contested -- by socialist-inspired workers on the one hand and capitalist owners and their elite cronies on the other -- but it led in the end to a mixed economy. Thanks largely to the solidarity and savvy of organized labor and the political parties it backed, the long struggle produced a system that makes capitalism more or less cooperative, and then redistributes equitably the wealth it helps to produce.
I think that is mostly correct, and indeed what the Scandinavians got were more or less working systems of capitalism-with-a-human-face (which is hated by the rich, and especially by American billionaires: it is not profitable enough, for their enormous greed).

And this was one of the consequences:

So here’s the big difference: in Norway, capitalism serves the people. The government, elected by the people, sees to that. All eight of the parties that won parliamentary seats in the last national election, including the conservative Høyre party now leading the government, are committed to maintaining the welfare state. In the U.S., however, neoliberal politics put the foxes in charge of the henhouse, and capitalists have used the wealth generated by their enterprises (as well as financial and political manipulations) to capture the state and pluck the chickens. They’ve done a masterful job of chewing up organized labor. Today, only 11% of American workers belong to a union. In Norway, that number is 52%; in Denmark, 67%; in Sweden, 70%.
Again that is correct to the best of my knowledge.

Here is the final bit I will quote, and this is not longer true in Holland, and never was, starting from 1984, when I and my family were grossly and sadistically discriminated and offended by two racist sadists who where the doormen (!) to the dole, who also threatened to murder me [1]:

Consider the Norwegian welfare state. It’s universal. In other words, aid to the sick or the elderly is not charity, grudgingly donated by elites to those in need. It is the right of every individual citizen.
In Holland, the dole functions as charity from the mayor. It is formally "a right" but factually you are forced to work for no pay, while you are being offended sadistically
by the bureaucrats, who are often called "concentration camp guards" by their victims - and I am reporting here from the Dutch press, and not from my own horrible experiences with sick sadistic Dutch dole bureaucrats.

In brief, in my opinion the only country I have lived in where I desired to live was Norway. And I still am extremely sorry I left it in 1977: it really was the biggest mistake I've ever made. (And I can't return now that I am pensioned, because the Dutch pension I get is too low.)

5. Will the 2016 Primaries Be Electronically Rigged? 

The fifth and last item is by Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik on Truth-out:

This starts as follows, and is about a very serious problem that not only exists in the USA, but exists almost everywhere now in the West:
"You've heard the old adage 'follow the money.' I follow the vote, and wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that's an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to ... make bad things happen." — Steve Stigall, CIA cyber-security expert, in remarks to the US Election Assistance Commission

Primary election rigging in the coming weeks and months is all but assured if American voters and candidates don't take steps to prevent it now. Evidence that US voting systems are wide open to fraud and manipulation should be taken seriously in light of the unprecedented high-stakes elections we're facing.

Not in recent history have American voters been presented with such radically polarized candidates, forcing a crucial choice for the direction of our future, and possibly upending long-established centers of power.

You may believe that the voting is not rigged. But this is a mere belief, with little support in fact:

What is left, then, for the party powerful to ensure outcomes in 2016? Would any of them be so desperate as to actually rig the final vote count? Could they?

Indeed, they could.

But to be fair, so could a lot of other people. Local fixers, insider operatives, rogue hackers and even foreign countries could all rig US elections - in whole or part, in 50 states and most of the United States' 3,143 counties - electronically, and without detection.

First, it is true - in these days where every secret service and many multi-national organizations spy on everyone and are often out to get everything - that electronic
voting can be falsified electronically, and it is also true this can be done without electronic detection.

Second: Is it done? First, there is this:

In 2016, Americans will once again cast their votes into this lawless electronic void, and no, we can't solve the problem before these game-changing primary elections. But shining a light on our voting systems does make a difference - as does getting out to vote: Voter apathy and ignorance create the ideal conditions for election rigging. Huge turnout makes election rigging less feasible, particularly when the pre-election polls or exit polls diverge more than 10 percent from actual vote returns. Manipulations usually happen when the spread between candidates is smaller than 10 percent.

What evidence do we have that any election rigging has already taken place? As it happens, extensive documentation exists, compiled over decades by researchers, cyber-security professionals, statistical analysts and even government agencies.

If you haven't heard about it until now, thank the press. A longstanding mainstream media blackout on this issue has prevented the evidence from reaching the public and vulnerable candidates.

Next, there is this:

While the investigations into rigging are mostly nonpartisan, the results typically are not. Time and again, the beneficiaries of suspicious primary elections are establishment-favored candidates. In general elections, far-right and extremist Republicans have overwhelmingly raked in the "surprise upset" wins.

And that is followed by a long history of strong evidence for electronic cheating, both in 2012 and 2008.

There is a lot more in the article, and this is recommended reading - and in case Bernie Sanders were to loose in Iowa and New Hampshire, here you have one explanation.

---------------
Note

[1] This is all literally true. If you read Dutch, the story is here. In case the link doesn't work, search there with "Moorddreiging" - or no: Here is the part, in Dutch:

1984     Moorddreiging Amsterdamse ambtenaren

Het blijkt - als eerder, toen ik wegliep wegens de wachttijden - tjokvol te zitten met uitkeringsaanvragers, die breedweg en in termen van grootte in drie groepen uiteenvallen

  • de grootste groep van Marokkaanse en Surinaamse "gastarbeiders", heette het
    in 1984 wellicht nog
  • een middengroep van junken, gewoonlijk met honden, messen en spuiten bewapend, en spuitend waar je bij zat in de Sociale Dienst (waarschijnlijk om daarmee een uitkering te krijgen)
  • een kleine groep van vers afgestudeerde academici met grote verbazing en angst in de ogen, en ikzelf, als van de universiteit gejaagde invalide.

Een en ander wordt beheerd door twee gemeentelijke portiers, een grote dikke met blubberlippen, en een kleine kale met flaporen, beiden kennelijk vijftigers of langjarige jongere alcoholici, en beiden voorzien van een vet Amsterdams accent.

De heren houden niet van uitkeringsstrekkers, en helemaal niet van Marokkanen en Surinamers, en laten dit publiek weten ook, al valt het op dat ze alle junken - met honden en messen en spuiten - kruiperig behandelen.

Tegen Marokkanen gaat het als volgt

"Hé Agmet, of hoe juh ook mag heetuh, je mot wel juh naom infulluh as juh een uitkerinkie fammuh wil hebbuh. En je mot wel Neejdurlans kennuh sprekuh, want anders helpemuh juh nie. En met twee woorruh spreekuh, begreip juh wel? Of kejje muh niet furstaon?"

Ik zit daar 2 1/2 uur bij, met een gebroken teen, en groeiende irriratie. De rest van de aanwezigen doet alsof ze niets zien of horen en zwijgen, als ze niet lachen.

Na 2 1/2 uur sta ik op en protesteer ik beleefd bij de portiers dat ik van een dergelijke behandeling van anderen niet gediend ben, en een klacht over ze wil indienen, en bij wie ik dat moet doen.

Hier is hun antwoord:

"Fuiluh smeriguh homofieluh gepuhkop! Gore hufter! Smerige klootzak! Kom naor buituh sodattumuh juh kennuh furmoorduh en fursuipuh in de gracht."

Ik word zo boos dat ik ter plekke het woord "Burofascisme" uitvind én definieer voor de heren, wat tot drie a vier keer herhaling van beide van het zojuist geciteerde tot gevolg heeft; mijn naar buiten stappen op de gracht; en vijf minuten van hun verdere gescheld, vooral over mijn vermeende sexuele identiteit, lange haar, en de vermeende broodwinning van mijn moeder.

Als ik naar het gemeentehuis ga is het antwoord daar, namens B&W, dat ik niet het recht heb "burofascist" te zeggen tegen enige Amsterdamse ambtenaar; dat ik

"niets te maken heb met wat uw vader in de oorlog gedaan zou hebben",

en zij al helemáál niet; en dat ze weigeren op te treden tegen

"onze collegaas"

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