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Nederlog

Jul 20, 2016

Crisis: Youssef, Melania Trump, Reich, Upward Mobility, Volkswagen, GOP's sin
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Introduction

1. 
Bassem Youssef, "The Jon Stewart of Egypt," Moves
     to U.S.

2. Melania Trump’s Plagiarism Capped a Weird First Day
     at the GOP Convention

3. Robert Reich: A Short Note to Bernie Supporters Who
     Equate Hillary Clinton With Donald Trump

4. The Myth of Upward Mobility in America
5. Lawsuits Say Top Volkswagen Officials Knew of
     Emissions Scandal for Years

6. The GOP’s Original Sin

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 20, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about "The Jon Stewart of Egypt", with some on studying, politics and Trump added by me; item 2 is about Melania Trump's plagiarism from Michelle Obama; item 3 is about a note by Robert Reich (who is right on this); item 4 is about upward mobility (nearly dead) and incomes (very poor for the vast majority) and repeats some of what I wrote about socialism; item 5 is about Volkswagen: it now seems - precisely as I predicted in September 2015 - that the top of Volkswagen is responsible and knew of it since 2006; and item 6 is about an article by Paul Krugman who is right about "supply-side economics".

1
.
Bassem Youssef, "The Jon Stewart of Egypt," Moves to U.S.

The first item today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef joins us in Cleveland, where he too is covering the Republican convention. His former show was known as "The Daily Show" of the Arab world for its satire of politics in Egypt and the Middle East. The program "El Bernameg" was launched after former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in the 2011 uprising. It became the most popular TV series in Egypt’s history, with as many as 30 million views per episode. During Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, "El Bernameg" came under increasing pressure, and in 2013 an arrest warrant was issued for Youssef for allegedly insulting Islam and Morsi. Youssef was interrogated and subsequently released on bail, but the pressure continued under the next regime, and in 2014 he announced he was taking the program off the air, just days after General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected president. Once he could no longer make fun of Egyptian politics, he moved to the U.S. to satirize American politics. His new show, "Democracy Handbook," airs on Fusion.

Also, as the article makes clear, Bassem Youssef - I would say - is not quite like Jon Stewart, because Stewart - as far as I can see - graduated with a B.A. in psychology, while Bassem Youssef was a cardiac surgeon, who could work in the United States (and didn't only because having arranged that, he got his show in Egypt six years ago).

I don't mean to criticize either (both are quite intelligent etc.) but when I studied psychology (I started in 1978: long ago) the study was supposed to take six years, while then the study of medicine to become a G.P. lasted twelve years.

Also, when I started the study psychology of psychology I lived in a student flat with two students of medicine, also quite intelligent, and one a G.P. who was almost ready after twelve years, and one a surgeon, who was almost ready after fifteen years of study. And that was normal, then.

And they really had to study: Every day eight to ten hours of reading medicine, while I could do the exams for psychology (with excellent marks) with at most half an hour of reading psychology a day.

There was a great difference in quality between the study of psychology and the study of medicine. Of course, since then - nearly 40 years ago - many changes have happened, and the two most important ones are that (1) all studies have halved in time, while also making entrance a whole lot easier [1] and (2) all studies have been made very much more expensive, and the price has to be paid by the students or their parents. (Both of these are formulated about Holland, but are widespread in the West, all thanks to "Our Democratic Politicians", who wanted this in majority.)

And indeed I also found that these days "the study of medicine" takes six years, all done by candidates who know a whole lot less when they started their studies than 40 and more years ago.

"Progress!" [2]

Here is one quote by Bassem Youssef:

BASSEM YOUSSEF: Well, when I went there, I mean, people, of course, were mesmerized by Donald Trump, Donald Trump’s appearance. But I find it is the same echo chamber that we find—that I find in the Middle East. You know, people are just like repeating the same sound bites without even thinking it through. When somebody tells me, "We want to make the military great again," and in the same exact sentence tells me, "We need to reduce federal spending," I don’t know how is—how is that possible? And when he tells me, like, "We need to make America great—the military great again," I tell him, "How many more countries do you want to invade?" It is just like—it doesn’t make sense. And I remember—I think one of the most memorable moments for me, when the—I think it was the governor or the mayor, the guy who appeared before Donald Trump, and he said—he was talking to the crowd. It was like, "If he—if Donald Trump didn’t do anything other than building the wall, would you still vote for him?" And it was like, "Yeah!"

So, this is the whole—this is a whole campaign based on fear and xenophobia. It doesn’t matter. Do you think like—so, when I see like the news cycles going and saying, "Oh, look, Donald Trump said this, Donald Trump said that, his wife plagiarized this, plagiarized that," do you think it does—it makes any difference in these supporters? No. I mean, if he said, "I have absolutely no—no plan. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with the economy, with foreign policy," it doesn’t make any difference. I mean, we had a—we had the president who said, like, "I have no—no plan for anything, and I’m just going to be president." It’s like, "Yeah, go, because of—because of Egypt, because of every"—it’s the same thing. It’s the same exact thing. People are just voting out of emotions. People voting are just out of fear, and that’s it.

I agree the campaign of Trump is "based on fear and xenophobia", but - as I pointed out yesterday (and before) - I think it is a shame that I do not see these points - viz. the great influence that the stupidity and the ignorance of the majority have to mislead the choices of the majority - ever discussed. Political correctness?!

For the
stupidity and the ignorance of the majority are the main determinants of the fear and xenophobia. And you will not adequately understand the fear and xenophobia without understanding and publicly discussing the stupidity and the ignorance of the majority.

Or so I think. The article is recommended (and has a lot more).

2. Melania Trump’s Plagiarism Capped a Weird First Day at the GOP Convention

The second item is by Adele M. Stan on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

American reality television was born during a Hollywood writers’ strike. Apparently, at Donald J. Trump’s Republican National Convention, the writers are still striking. How else to explain Melania Trump’s heavy lift of material from the speech Michelle Obama made at the 2008 Democratic National Convention?

In case you’re waking to the news of the borrowed script from which the wife of the GOP’s presumptive nominee spoke, two passages from the remarks delivered by Mrs. Trump on the opening night of the Republican National Convention here Monday night were plagiarized from Mrs. Obama. You’d think a man as rich as Donald Trump says he is could pay for a more original speechwriter.

In case you wonder whether this is so, you find parts of the two speeches in the article. Also, some American physicist - I can tell you, from another source - calculated that the chance that it was not stolen is 1 against 87 million.

So here are two questions: Did mrs. Trump write her "own" speech? And why was the stealing so obvious? I do not know the answer to either problem.

Here is some on the first day of the Republican Convention:

It was the perfect capper to a day that failed to disappoint, kicked off with talk of pee-pee and false flag operations at the pro-Trump America First Unity rally convened by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and political dirty trickster Roger Stone, who told rally-goers that he was “Italian from the waist down.” He also apparently mistook himself for Hillary Clinton when he described her as “a short-tempered, foul-mouthed, greedy, bipolar, mentally unbalanced criminal.”

I say. I don't know whether Trump is bipolar, but otherwise Mr. Stone seems to describe Donald Trump quite well. (And see yesterday.)

This is a recommended article.

3. Robert Reich: A Short Note to Bernie Supporters Who Equate Hillary Clinton With Donald Trump

The third item is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

May I have a word with those of you Bernie supporters who consider Donald Trump to be no worse than Hillary Clinton? 

You’re dead wrong.

And Robert Reich is quite right. He is also quite right in this (near the end):

You are, of course, entitled to support anyone you wish to. But if you don’t get behind Hillary you increase the odds that Donald Trump will be president. 

That would be a disaster for America and the world. Trump is a menace. He is not just unsuited to being the president of the United States – a bigoted narcissist who incites and excuses violence – but his presidency would threaten everything this nation stands for: tolerance, inclusion, freedom of the press, equal justice, and equal opportunity.

Yes, but as "a bigoted narcissist" he is quite mad, while his bigotry - as Reich pointed out himself - is of the fascist kind, that I prefer to call neofascism.

This is a recommended article.

4. The Myth of Upward Mobility in America

The fourth item today is by Sarah Lazare on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Soaring inequality in America has been accompanied by a plummet in upward mobility since the early 1980s, with those who earn modest incomes in their first jobs likely to remain trapped in low-wage work for decades, a troubling paper concludes.

Published in May by economists Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, who hail from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, the study is based on data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation and examines the years 1981 to 2008.

“Though increasing through much of the 20th century, we show that intragenerational mobility has been declining since the early 1980s across a variety of rank-based measures,” the scholars write. “Mobility has declined for both men and women and among workers of all levels of education, with the largest declines among college-educated workers. In the presence of increasing inequality, falling mobility implies that as the rungs of the ladder have moved father apart, moving between them has become more difficult.”

In other words: Ever since Reagan became president of the USA, the rich have become richer; the rest has become poorer; and upward mobility for the non-rich radically declined. And incidentally, these trends were started under Reagan, but were continued under Bill Clinton.

Here are related findings, from the end of the article:

The findings were followed by a report released earlier this month by the Economic Policy Institute, which found that, in 2015, CEOs in the largest U.S. companies an average of 276 times the annual pay of the average worker.

The report noted, “From 1978 to 2015, inflation-adjusted CEO compensation increased 940.9 percent, 73 percent faster than stock market growth and substantially greater than the painfully slow 10.3 percent growth in a typical worker’s annual compensation over the same period.”

I've also seen other numbers, from other pollsters, but whatever the differences, the trends are always the same: Since ca. 1980, the rich
have gotten a whole lot richer, and the rest has grown a whole lot poorer.

Also, since I never even had a minimum income in my whole life, ever (and I am 66 now and have an M.A. with an excellent degree), I must add that I lived a whole lot better from the 800 guilders a month I got in the 1980ies than from the 964 euros (about 2 1/2 times as much, formally) that I receive now each month.

And I must say that so long as neither the stupidity and the ignorance of the majority nor the incredible inequalities there are now in the West are honestly and prominently discussed (and I see no evidence at all for the former, while the latter only happens outside the mainstream media) I see no reason other than chance to expect any major improvement (and every reason to expect that it needs to grow a lot worse before it will grow better).

This is the ending from my "On Socialism" (from 2015):

---

I'd say that there is a simple majority in Western societies for the last three points; and that limitation of incomes to within 20 times as much as the least able receive (which must be more than enough to have a decent life) would not loose 97% of the current population anything.

In fact, I'd be willing to try just that: A system like the present one, but one which is considerably more fair, and where all incomes (and all ownership of things) are limited to be within (in Euro's) between 15,000 and 300,000 (within 1 to 20 times as much).

Is that socialism? Probably not, for socialism seems to involve considerable expropriation of the rich, on Orwell's line or my repropriation-lines. Then again, the proposed system amounts to little more than fixing the maximum amount that anyone can own or earn at 20 times of what the poorest can own or earn, which means that 99% of the people will not loose a cent (and may gain considerably).

Finally, will this system be adopted? Not as long as the media are in the hands of the few who get a lot more than 300,000 euros or dollars a year. But at any rate it is a system were only the very rich loose money; everyone else retains what he or she had or receives more; where things can be arranged much more fairly; and that differs little from the existing system, except that there is a cap on incomes and on ownership.

---

But try to convince the 97% of that! Most of them rather keep their incredibly silly dreams that they are going to be millionaires than vote agains the few rich who exploit and deceive them: Trump is supported by almost half of the Americans. [3]

5. Lawsuits Say Top Volkswagen Officials Knew of Emissions Scandal for Years

The fifth item today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Three attorneys general investigating Volkswagen's emissions scandal say the plan to cheat pollution tests was an organized plot spanning more than a decade that implicates officials at the top of the company's corporate chain, the New York Times reports.

For the first time, lawsuits from New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts charge Volkswagen's chief executive, Matthias Müller, of being aware of decisions as far back as 2006 not to build Audi cars with equipment needed to meet U.S. air quality standards.

I say, but not really. In fact, here is a quotation from September 27, 2015, when I first read about Volkswagen's emissions scandal (and my anger was motivated by the fact that Volkswagen's top were then incriminating some
low level engineers and technicians):

---

I say?! What interests did these "engineers and technicians" have for fraud? Did they profit from the sales of Volkswagens? Clearly not, I'd say: Those who did were the very top, and therefore it is far more likely that the very top initiated the major fraud.

Besides, while at present 11 million Volkswagens are far more polluting than their fraudulent tests indicated, I see no reason to assume only Volkswagen frauded with its tests, indeed precisely because it is very profitable to cheat both customers and states by selling a car that is reputed to be very soft on the environment, while in fact it isn't.
(...)
As I indicated, there are many more car companies where the top of the management has a strong reason to fraud, although they haven't been found so far.

As to Volkswagen: The story they try to spin is indeed complete - and evil - bullshit, in my opinion at least, and my guess is that they are going to have a lot more trouble, and that Matthias Müller soon will follow his fleeing predecessor.

---

As I said, the quoted passage (between "---") is from September 27, 2015 and everything I surmised then has turned out to be factually correct since then.

Here is some more from today (July 20, 2016):

The company has previously blamed the scandal on low-level technicians.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said during a press conference Tuesday, "The idea that this level of fraud could take place and involve so many people at such high levels of a major international corporation is appalling."

There is a "cunningly cynical fraud at the heart of this scandal," he said.

In New York alone, the scandal makes Volkswagen open to fines of more than $500 million.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey added, "This is an example of a company that not only engaged in deception and fraud on a brazen scale but covered up that deception."

The scandal "reflects a corporate culture that had no regard for the law, no respect for the American people and no regard for the environment or peoples' health," Healey said.

Quite so. And this is a recommended article.

6. The GOP’s Original Sin

The sixth and last item today is by Paul Krugman on The New York Times:

This starts as follows:

Norm Ornstein has a piece in Vox laying out, once again, his (and Mann’s) thesis that the GOP went off the rails, becoming a radical party with little regard for truth, a long time ago. He’s right, of course; I’ve been saying much the same thing since the early 2000s, notably in the introduction to my book The Great Unraveling.

I don't like Krugman very much and I rarely quote or discuss him, but I think he is right on this. That is:

What I want to talk about is when, exactly, the GOP went over the edge. Obviously it didn’t happen all at once. But I think the real watershed came in 1980-81, when supply-side economics became the party’s official doctrine.

I’m not sure, even now, whether people who aren’t involved in economic policy discussion understand that supply-side wasn’t a doctrine like monetarism or even real business cycles — ideas I may think are wrong, but which had and to some extent still have significant support from professionals in the field. Supply-side economics never had any evidence behind it; it never had any support in academic research; it barely even had any support among economic researchers and forecasters in the business world. It was and remains crank economics pure and simple, with nothing going for it except political convenience.

Yet 35 years ago the GOP was already willing to embrace this doctrine because it was politically convenient, and could be used to justify tax cuts for the rich, which have always been the priority.

Yes, I agree. In case you are interested in supply-side economics (<- Wikipedia), that is a link, which ends as follows (without notes, and the quote
in it is by Krugman):

Cutting marginal tax rates can also be perceived as primarily beneficial to the wealthy, which commentators such as Paul Krugman see as politically rather than economically motivated.

The specific set of foolish ideas that has laid claim to the name "supply side economics" is a crank doctrine that would have had little influence if it did not appeal to the prejudices of editors and wealthy men.

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, "Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and- sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows."
Indeed.

---------------
Notes
[1] They have, but this is these days not discussed in the mainstream media, nor is the fact that discussed that in 1966 a final examination of the grammar school involved written examinations in at least 14 subjects, of which 5 were foreign languages, whereas in 1976 a final examination involved 4 written subjects or so, and in nearly all cases no more than 2 foreign languages.

It all was a major stupification of everyone, and it was introduced and desired by nearly all Dutch politicians (who systematically betrayed the people ever since 1980 at the latest - and who got away with it, and are still doing it).

[2] This is irony.

[3] Do I despair? No, for I am 66 and lived most of my life.

My life was spent in poverty and illness since 1.i.1979, which destroyed - together with the incredible but true political corruption that ruled Amsterdam under the political party the PvdA, that ruled for the benefit of its leaders and the benefit of the illegal drugsdealers they protected for over 30 years now - nearly all of my chances, and also removed me, without any legal reason, from the legal right of taking my M.A. examination in philosophy, but I succeeded in surviving so far; I succeeded in continuing to read, write and study; I succeeded in maintaining my individuality; and I never saw war in Holland.

And I am quite sorry that I consider it very likely that those who are 40 or 50 years younger than I am will probably not - even!!!! - get the chances I got.


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