February 23, 2019

Crisis: On Bernie Sanders, '60s Counterculture, Biodiversity, Sanders/Warren 2020, On Diderot

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 23, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 23, 2019.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

. Selections from February 23, 2019:
1. Why Bernie Sanders Should Promise to Serve Only One Term as

2. Secrets of the '60s Counterculture

3. Rapid Loss of Biodiversity Placing Global Food Supplies at Risk of
     'Irreversible Collapse'

4. The Case for Sanders/Warren 2020

5. The Man Who Questioned Everything
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Why Bernie Sanders Should Promise to Serve Only One Term as President

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows, and can be taken as a continuation of a fine article by Mehdi Hasan that I reviewed yesterday:

“We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it’s time to move that revolution forward,” Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday morning, as he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. Within 24 hours, he had raised a whopping $6 million from more than 200,000 donors. And according to the latest polls, he is the most popular of the declared candidates.

Sanders has gone from 2016 insurgent to seeming 2020 frontrunner.

Nevertheless, his age is still an issue. It would be mad to pretend otherwise. “Since 1828,” reported Axios on Wednesday, “only 3 Democratic presidents have been in their 60s when inaugurated — and none came close to Sanders, who would be 79 if elected in 2020.”

Well... I think the correct answer to the above paragraphs is that Sanders' age is no problem for some and is a problem for others.

It is a problem for Hasan, and here is his solution:

There is a possible — if unconventional — solution: Sanders should promise to serve only one term in the White House. Four years max! 2020 and done!

I say. Well... it may happen, but I do not think it is a very good idea, basically for two reasons:

First, there is no upper age limit on being president of the USA (though there is an lower age limit, namely being at least 35 years), and promising to be a president for one term would limit some of Sanders' powers as president if he is elected.

Second, the basic problem is Sanders' health. I agree that is a problem, but then again there is (for example) Noam Chomsky, who is currently 90, and who seems still in fine health. What if Chomsky had been elected as president in 2008 instead of Obama? (I think - after the fact - that he would have been a very much better president than Obama, and also that he very probably could have taken two terms.)

Next, Sanders' age also is a problem for me, but not quite in the way of Hasan. I said yesterday that I think Sanders should elect a good vice-president who can take over in case he does feel too old, or simply does get too old, and that is my solution. (And also see below.)

But here is some more by Hasan on his idea:

There are benefits beyond just Sanders’s age. Making such a pledge would be a dramatic and bold move that could shake up the Democratic primaries. Whether we like it or not, horse race-obsessed reporters and pundits love dramatic and bold moves. The more unconventional, the better. Sanders would immediately stand out from a crowded Democratic field, many of whom have adopted his ideas on everything from health care to higher education. It would make the Vermont senator look like he is interested only in the issues — in contrast to the naked ambitions of some of his younger rivals.

In fact, one of Sanders’s biggest selling points has always been that he is an independent and an outsider. A one-term pledge would only reinforce that iconoclastic image and boost his anti-establishment appeal with the millions of Americans who loathe the Washington political class.

His rationale for such a pledge could be both simple and popular: As president, he would be free of re-election pressures and distractions, allowing him to devote a full four years to two or three major issues: Medicare For All, a Green New Deal, and, maybe, free college for all, too.

As a matter of fact, I think these arguments are fairly weak, though I will not argue that here and now.

Here is the ending of this article:

To be clear, then: By making a one-term pledge, Sanders could help shut down the debate over his age; grab media attention from his rivals; elevate a progressive, nonwhite woman in the process; make it easier for himself to win a mandate; and improve his own effectiveness as a leader once he’s seated behind the Resolute Desk.

What’s not to like about any of that?

Well... to start with the last question: It is a limitation on his powers, and indeed - as Chomsky's example shows - he might be quite capable of doing two terms.

As to the other arguments: It would not help shut down the debate of his age, I am quite sure; it may grab some media attention from his rivals, but that again might weaken him if he agreed to do only one term; I am not much impressed by a "nonwhite woman" (which to me - who is not an American - sounds too much like inverted sexism); and I doubt whether promising he would take only one term would "improve his effectiveness".

But I agree with Hasan that Sanders' age may be a problem, and this is a recommended article, but I also think I disagree with Hasan's proposal. And for more see below.

2. Secrets of the '60s Counterculture

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows - and one reason to review this article is that I was born in 1950 and lived quite consciously through the 60ies, also as a political radical (in fact mostly because both of my parents were political radicals):

The Beat movement, synonymous with now-household names such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Dennis Hopper, is what Tosh Berman, son of Beat artist Wallace Berman, calls “a collection of misfits.” In his recent book, titled “Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World,” Berman details what his childhood was like surrounded by the rebel artists that shaped a generation.

“I was a kid running among … these, quote unquote, giants of culture of that time,” Berman tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest edition of “Scheer Intelligence.” “The fact is, through my eyes as a child especially, it was really just a collection of misfits of sorts. All artists, or poets and writers, who somehow did not fit into, at the time, the mainstream America at the time.”

Throughout the engaging conversation, Scheer, who once worked at City Lights, the independent bookstore that published Berman’s book, reminisces with the writer about this concept of misfits and how, despite often contradictory political views, these artists came together with the determination not to “sell out” at a time when they felt increasingly marginalized from American society in one way or another.

Actually, I think I should begin by saying that I found this conversation mostly disappointing: I think that Scheer is quite capable of making some very fine interviews with some of my age who were political radicals, but this interview does not belong to that possible series.

And the main reason seems to be Tosh Berman (although I did not read his book, which may be OK).

Next, I happen to know quite a lot about California in the 1960ies, but I do not like Ginsberg, Kerouac and Hopper, in fact mostly not because of their work but because of their political standards and opinions, and also because of their drug habits: Kerouac was a serious drunkard, and Hopper was into hard drugs for a long time. (As to other well-known political radicals: I think e.g. Gary Snyder, Kenneth Rexroth and Peter Coyote would have been better choices.)

But I do tend to agree with Tosh Berman that "
through my eyes as a child especially, it was really just a collection of misfits of sorts", firstly because quite a few were; secondly because even if they were not, they would appear as that to a child of 8 or 10, if only because of their clothes and long hair; and thirdly also because most of the political radicals and hippies of the second half of the 1960ies fairly rapidly conformed during the 1970ies.

Anyway. Here is some more:

RS: The Beat Generation. And already, we’re off to an argument, because I personally think the Beats kind of, yeah, they were a little bit in Greenwich Village, but they basically—San Francisco, North Beach, that’s the Beats. And there was a hard political edge, not a consistent one, but a hard edge of rebellion, political rebellion, which I don’t think we found in la-la land.

TB: La-la land, meaning Los Angeles. OK. [Laughs]

RS: Yeah, Los Angeles. And let’s just set the scene. You were raised, you were born in 1954. This was when L.A. was the magnet for America. You know, people had come out of the military; the economy was booming. I remember it (..)

Yes, I must say that I agree with Scheer here, though that may be because I do know quite a lot about San Francisco in the 1960ies, but considerably less about Los Angeles.

Also, Scheer is right that "the economy was booming" (under the Republican Eisenhower, with taxes of 70, 80 or 90 percent on the highest incomes), which also happened in Holland, but a little later, from the early 60ies onwards.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

RS: That’s in your book. But I want people to understand this moment. Because it helps explain a lot of what the Beats—and then the sixties, hippies and others—were rebelling against. That stifling conformity, and stupidity, really.

TB: Well, yes. It’s interesting, this is like ’68, ’69, sort of the height of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; sort of even after the hippies. But yet in high schools and junior high schools, it was still a very conforming culture. And basically, you could not really have really long hair ’til very, like, probably 1970s.

Yes, Scheer is quite right that "the Beats—and then the sixties, hippies and others—were rebelling against (..) stifling conformity, and stupidity" - and by the way, the Beats were essentially of the 1950ies; the political radicals and hippies were essentially of the second half of the 1960ies; and - to my mind, and to the minds of some others who lived as political radicals in the 1960ies - this was over by 1969-1971, although there were then still hippies and a few radicals.

Incidentally, I found Counterculture of the 1960s and Timeline of 1960s counterculture (both on Wikipedia) quite interesting

And as to having long hair (for males): This happened in Holland as well, but it was at least in Amsterdam (where I lived and live) over by 1965/1966, for from then on it was allowed.

Finally, as I started with saying that I think Scheer is quite capable of making fine interviews with American (former) political radicals of my age, but I did not find the present interview very interesting, though it is recommended.

3. Rapid Loss of Biodiversity Placing Global Food Supplies at Risk of 'Irreversible Collapse'

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

A groundbreaking report by the United Nations highlighting the rapid, widespread loss of many of the world's plant and animal species should be on the front page of every newspaper in the world, argued climate action and food access advocates on Friday.

The global grassroots organization Slow Food was among the groups that called for far greater attention by world leaders to the "debilitating" loss of biodiversity and the disastrous effects the decline is having on food system, which was outlined in a first-of-its kind report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

"This should be at the top of every news bulletin and every government's agenda around the world," said Slow Food in a statement. "Time is running out, we must turn things around within the next 10 years or risk a total and irreversible collapse."

Yes, I basically agree. Here is more:

According to FAO's study of 91 countries around the world, the loss of thousands of plant and animal species is affecting air and water quality, tree and plant health, and worsening the spread of disease among livestock—all with dangerous implications for the human population and humans' food sources.

"Less biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk," said Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO's director-general.

Yes again - and besides (i) though these are recent findings, it seems as if many plant and animal species are collapsing, which again (ii) leads to more collapses because of - ever more and ever stonger - feedback effects (that I was worrying also about in 1972, when I read "The Limits to Growth").

Here is more:

According to FAO, at least 24 percent of nearly 4,000 wild food species, including plants, fish, and mammals, are declining in abundance—but the report is likely giving a best-case scenario of the crisis, as the status of more than half of wild food species is unknown.

Changes in land and water management, pollution, the warming of the globe and the climate crisis are among the factors that FAO is blaming for the catastrophic loss of biodiversity.

Declining plant biodiversity on working farms has meant that out of 6,000 plant species that can be cultivated for food, fewer than 200 are used significantly as food sources.

Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Of more than 7,700 breeds of livestock worldwide, more than a quarter are at risk for extinction, according to FAO, while nearly a third of fish species have been overfished and about half have reached their sustainable level, meaning humans must immediately stop driving them toward extinction in order to save the species.

In the United Kingdom, MP Caroline Lucas of the Green Party pronounced FAO's findings "terrifying" and demanded that governments take notice immediately to save world food sources.

I agree with Lucas that "FAO's findings [are] "terrifying"", and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. The Case for Sanders/Warren 2020

This article is by David Goodner on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In 2014, I gave a slight nod to Senator Elizabeth Warren over Senator Bernie Sanders in a widely read column on Common Dreams that went viral and was shared on social media by more than 100,000 people.

My analysis five years ago accurately predicted the impact a populist primary campaign from the left would have on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment. I was also right about the jump start such a campaign would give to social movement organizing and the progressive agenda after the election was over.

But Bernie wasn’t yet a proven star all the way back in November of 2014, and I incorrectly called Warren “far more charismatic and popular” when I argued she should lead the hypothetical populist dream team ticket.

I accept all of this, but I do not know who is David Goodner, and also do not think I reviewed his article in 2014.

Here is some more:

The Sanders campaign and its popular slogans of “political revolution” against the “oligarchy” and the “billionaire class” moved the goalposts of what is politically possible to the left by several football fields. Sanders inspired millions of people to stand up and speak out as part of a “grassroots movement” that has largely pushed on independently of him ever since. It’s been Bernie’s world ever since, the Democratic party is just living in it.

In fact, the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders and the democratic socialist movement is only really paralleled in this political moment by the ascension of Donald Trump and alt-right neofascism. Elizabeth Warren has already made her place in history, but it's not clear yet that she can build a winning campaign.

I think the above is mostly correct, although I probably do not agree with his analysis of the Democrats, for it seems to me there is a battle going on among - essentially - the rich or well-paid Democrats, who are mostly funded by Wall Street and recently elected Democratic radicals and quasi-radicals, but OK.

Here is some more:

Bernie would have won in 2016 – and he is the strongest and most credible candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2020. Sanders is independent of the two-party system in the eyes of most Americans. Only those seen as establishment outsiders win presidential elections in this country.

Unlike Elizabeth Warren, Sanders has proven he’s not afraid to go up against the Democratic Party – and he also appeals to a huge cross-section of Trump voters in battleground states like post-industrial Michigan that Clinton lost. An October 2018 Gallup poll showed Bernie has consistently been the most popular politician in America for the last two years.

Yes, I think that is correct. Here is Goodner's conclusion:

The smart money is to throw in all of our chips now and Bet Big on Bernie with the great and formidable talents of Elizabeth Warren as vice president.

I think that may well be a quite good idea, and it may emerge in the coming year: President Bernie Sanders with Vice-President Elizabeth Warren (which also may settle the problem mentioned above about Sanders' age). And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. The Man Who Questioned Everything

This article is by Lynn Hunt on The New York Review of Books and is basically a review of two books about Denis Diderot.

I review it because I am a philosopher (a real enough one to be quite sadistically thrown out of the philosophy department of the "University" of Amsterdam because I criticized the extremely incompetent "philosophers" who "taught" me, very briefly before taking my excellent M.A. in philosophy there, which accordingly I could not take) and because Diderot is one of the philosophers I really like.

It starts as follows (and this is not a crisis article):

The most radical thinker of the eighteenth century, Denis Diderot (1713–1784), is not exactly a forgotten man, though he has been long overshadowed by his contemporaries Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. After the French Revolution of 1789, the French right routinely blamed every ill of modern life on Voltaire and Rousseau. The expressions “It’s the fault of Voltaire” and “It’s the fault of Rousseau” became so familiar that Victor Hugo could satirize them in a ditty sung by the urchin Gavroche in Les MisÚrables (1862): “Joy is my character; ’tis the fault of Voltaire; Misery is my trousseau; ’tis the fault of Rousseau.” Voltaire and Rousseau were among the first to be buried in the French Pantheon of the nation’s heroes; Diderot has yet to be, despite a concerted campaign leading up to the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth in 2013.

Yes, quite so. Also, I think I should say immediately that I do not like Rousseau (and never liked him); I do like Voltaire; and I like Diderot the best of these three, for reasons that follow:

Diderot was simultaneously too much a man of his time and too much ahead of his time. He devoted the best years of his life to organizing, editing, and writing many of the 74,000 articles of the Encyclopedia (1751–1772), a vast compendium of knowledge amounting to seventeen volumes of text and eleven volumes of plates, and laced with acerbic commentary that alarmed the authorities for attacking religion and subverting government. Known mainly to scholars today, at the time the project served as a thrilling treasury of Enlightenment ideas, if you knew where to find the nuggets hidden under the most unlikely headings. In the article “Nonetheless, However, Nevertheless, Notwithstanding,” for example, Diderot argued that even anti-Christian—i.e., atheist—writers could “nonetheless” be good parents, good friends, and good citizens. Since many articles were unsigned and the known contributors came from every corner of French life, no one could be sure what other ideas were Diderot’s.

Yes, and my estimate for Diderot partially depends on the fact that he did compile the Encyclopedia and also wrote many articles in it, nearly all anonymously; that the Encyclopedia may have been the most important series of books expounding and defending the Age of Enlightenment; and is besides based on the fact that he was a great writer with very original ideas.

Here is some more on Diderot's radicalism:

When three of his most uncompromising works came to public attention in 1796, they inspired wildly divergent reactions, which is hardly surprising given their subject matter. The Nun is political commentary disguised as a licentious novel of convent life, including scenes of lesbian sex. Jacques the Fatalist and His Master is a reflection on fiction and a philosophical meditation on determinism composed in the form of a novel. Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville offers cheeky discussions of sexuality and cultural relativism under the guise of travel literature.

Yes indeed - and Jacques the Fatalist and Rameau's Nephew are both excellent and very amusing works, that I can very strongly recommend.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article (still not far from the beginning):

No wonder then that Diderot was one of Marx’s favorite authors. The father of communism was particularly fond of Rameau’s Nephew, a work that only became known when Goethe published a German translation of it in 1805 (the first French publication in 1821 was actually a translation of Goethe’s version). Goethe, Hegel, and Marx were all deeply impressed by this satirical novel, though in different ways. In it, the nephew of the immensely influential composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764) carries on a running dialogue with “me” (Diderot) in which “him” (Rameau’s nephew, an actual person fictionalized for Diderot’s purposes) mocks every traditional verity.

It pleases me that Marx liked Diderot. There is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended for everyone with a real interest in science, philosophy, literature or the Enlightenment.

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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