March 14, 2019

Crisis: On Meritocracy, The Green New Deal, Conway´s Husband, The VIPS & Mueller, On War Powers

“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 March 14, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 14, 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:

A. Selections from March 14, 2019:
1. 'There Is No Meritocracy': College Admissions Scandal
2. It’s the Green New Deal or Else

3. Kellyanne Conway’s husband posts epic rant

4. VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings

5. 'This Is Historic': US Senate Passes War Powers Resolution
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. 'There Is No Meritocracy': College Admissions Scandal

This article is by Eoin Higgins on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The most far-reaching college admissions plot ever prosecuted, revealed on Tuesday by federal investigators, provides a window into how wealth and power operate in American society, progressives say. 

The scheme involved getting the children of wealthy people into the colleges of their dreams, often by manipulating sports scholarships, disability allowances on tests, and by inflating resumes.

Yes, quite so. Here is some more:

The scope of the scandal, and the fact that it's snared well known figures, made it front page news. But for a number of politicians, journalists, and commentators, the scheme exposed a deeper, uglier truth about the lack of meritocracy in America and how power works.

"I hope it's a wake-up call for people who have bought into the system that people become wealthy because they have worked hard," Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University, told Democracy Now! in an interview Wednesday. "It's a deception that's pervasive in our society."

Well... yes and no:

Yes, I agree this is a scandal, but no, I disagree with the thesis that there is no meritocracy: Clearly, there is, in the sense that a few have a high IQ and the many have not, and in the sense that a few have definite intellectual or artistic talents, like mathematics or music or drawing, and most have not.

In fact, what the scandal is about (and that is both true and a scandal) is that considerable amounts of money paid to educators or universities - as with Jared Kushner, whose SAT-scores were insufficient for Harvard, but whose father paid $2 millon dollars to Harvard to get him in, which succeeded - will get rich kids without talents in the places of kids with talents.

Here is some more:

Alexis Nedd, a reporter with Mashable, was wryly amused by the "fumbling" attempt at crime on the part of the parents.

Yes indeed, although I do not think that it is merely funny: I think the parents of rich but not genuinely intellectually talented kids are forced to turn to crime in order to proved their untalented rich kids with places meant for talented kids.

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

At Splinter, writer Libby Watson used the scandal as a teachable moment. 

"There is no meritocracy," wrote Watson. "Just remember that the next time someone tries to sell you on any vision of America's future that includes a supposedly benevolent and productive wealthy class, instead of just taxing them on the money they clearly have no idea how to spend."

Sorry, but that is bullshit, and confuses the meritocracy that consists in having riches or rich parents with the meritocracy that consists in having intellectual talents of some kind, irrespective of the wealth of one´s parents.

I have to add that I get quite angry when I read
"There is no meritocracy", for the following two  notions - ¨We are all equal, irrespective whether our IQ is 75 or 150 - together with the firm insistence on the fundamentally fascistic notion that ¨Everybody knows that truth does not exist¨ where characteristic for the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1977 and 1995 (when it was in fact in the hands of the students, which was undone by a parliamentary act in 1995).

Anyway... I think this is a scandal, but the scandal consists in the intentional and criminal confusion of a meritocracy based on intellectual talent irrespective of one´s parents money and a meritocracy based on wealth. Also, I think intellectual talent exists, is relatively rare, has nothing to do with wealth, and is as real as one´s length.

2. It’s the Green New Deal or Else

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

I suppose we all owe UCLA economist and Hoover Institution senior fellow Lee Ohanian a debt of gratitude for telling us how it is. The “free market” propagandist recently took to the pages of The Hill, a Washington, D.C., journal for political insiders, to explain that the holy laws of economics dictate that humanity must consent to its own extermination. In a piece titled “The Green New Deal is a Pipe Dream,” Ohanian drowned climate activists’ overheated dreams of ecological salvation in the icy waters of bourgeois reality, arguing that the proposed legislation’s advocates are, in fact, nefarious, big-government “command-and-control” zealots—eco-Stalinists—who want “to impose their social and economic preferences on others at an extravagantly high economic cost.”

Ohanian described the Green New Deal’s goal of net-zero U.S. carbon emissions in 10 years as an “infeasible” aim that demonstrates a failure “to understand basic cost-benefit analysis.” If that weren’t enough, the Hoover fellow noted that “the GND would be extremely expensive” and that America lacks “the technological know-how” to reach zero carbon emissions.

I say - but Street is quite right that this is what Ohanian said, and that it also is what the neoliberals tend to argue.

Then again, Street strongly disagrees with Ohanian:

Except, wait. Hold on. Maybe Ohanian is full of petroligarchic crap. Maybe there’s still hope for the species after all.

He is, and there is.

It’s simply not true that we lack the technological expertise to achieve zero carbon emissions. Writing for Scientific American, Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and University of California at Davis research scientist Mark Delucchi have shown repeatedly over the last decade that humanity could convert to a completely renewable energy-based system by 2030 if nations employ technologies vetted by scientists rather than those championed by private industry.

Yes indeed: I think Street and Jacobson are very probably correct. Here is some more:

Outsourcing, offshoring and automation are not without solutions, such as government and union restrictions; capital controls; green government jobs programs to absorb technically displaced workers; international efforts to raise wages and labor standards abroad; and guaranteed national incomes. Much of this is addressed in economist Robert Pollin’s important book, “Greening the Global Economy,” which advances “just transition” polices that include “solid pension protections, re-employment guarantees, as well as retraining and relocation support for individual workers, and community-support initiatives” for communities negatively affected by the suspension of fossil fuel extraction and burning.

I think the above is also probably correct, but I admit this is a bit less certain that the amount of CO2 in the air:

We currently stand at 410 ppm, the highest level of CO2 saturation in 800,000 years. The latest climate report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reflects the consensus opinion of the world’s leading climate scientists. It tells us that we are headed to a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) in the next 12 years. Failure to dramatically slash emissions between now and 2030 is certain to set off catastrophic developments for hundreds of millions of people, the report warns.

The IPCC finds that at our current pace, we are headed for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius (5.4 F to 7.2 F) temperature increase by the end of century. That will mean a planet that is mostly unlivable.

I think the above is probably correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The Green New Deal is, if anything, insufficiently radical. It does not go to the full class-rule taproot of the many deadly ecological rifts (the climate crisis is only the most urgent) opened by capitalism’s relentless, totalitarian drive to commodify everything on earth. Progressive-Democrat Green New Deal advocates have yet to join serious ecosocialists in calling for green investments to be garnered from massive reductions in the U.S. military budget, which eats up more than half of federal discretionary spending and sustains a global military empire that is the world’s single largest institutional carbon emitter.

And this is also mostly correct, in my view, although I personally disagree that there is a ¨class-rule¨ (in the more or less Marxist sense, at least) and I also disagree with calling ¨capitalism´s relentless (..) drive to commodify everything¨ (which is real) ¨totalitarian¨:
That simply is a confusion. But this is a recommended article.

3. Kellyanne Conway’s husband posts epic rant

This article is by Cody Fenwick on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

George Conway, a prominent conservative lawyer and the husband of former Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway, launched into a powerful rant against the president’s habit of pointless, absurd, and delusional lies Wednesday night.

In case you do not know who is Kellyanne Conway, this was a (Wikipedia) link - and here is also a Wikipedia link on Kellyanne´s husband George Conway.

Here are some of George Conway´s opinions:

“Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life?” Conway wrote on Twitter.  “One day he makes a harmless slip of the tongue, something any mentally balanced person would laugh off.”

He continued:

Well... as I´ve said quite a few times on Nederlog, I am (among other things) a psychologist, and I agree with George Conway on the above facts, which I explain, as a psychologist, by the thesis that Trump is insane (and this last link is a good link you should read if you did not already).

Here is more by George Conway:

He went on to argue that it’s a “pathological” and “self-defeating” form a lying because there’s no point to it. He’s not actually going to convince anyone, and it only further erodes his own credibility.

And of course, he noted, this is nothing new — there are dozens of these examples every week, if not each day.

“It’s nuts. It’s a disorder,” he said.

He concluded: “Whether or not impeachment is in order, a serious inquiry needs to be made about this man’s condition of mind.”

Yes indeed: I completely agree on this with George Conway, indeed without having any delusions on our agreements on wider political issues. And this is a recommended article.

4. VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings

This article - actually, a memorandum - is by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). It starts as follows:
Media reports are predicting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is about to give you the findings of his probe into any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. If Mueller gives you his “completed” report anytime soon, it should be graded “incomplete.” Major deficiencies include depending on a DNC-hired cybersecurity company for forensics and failure to consult with those who have done original forensic work, including us and the independent forensic investigators with whom we have examined the data. We stand ready to help.

We veteran intelligence professionals (VIPS) have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.
Yes, I agree with the VIPS, and do so for quite a long time now. I also will not trouble you in the present DNL by - once again - writing out my agreements: Check the yearly indexes for Nederlog and search for ¨VIPS¨ and ¨Russiagate¨ if you are interested.

Here is some more:
We have scrutinized publicly available physical data — the “trail” that every cyber operation leaves behind. And we have had support from highly experienced independent forensic investigators who, like us, have no axes to grind. We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails- for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.
Precisely. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
We do not claim our conclusions are “irrefutable and undeniable,” a la Colin Powell at the UN before the Iraq war. Our judgments, however, are based on the scientific method — not “assessments.” We decided to put this memorandum together in hopes of ensuring that you hear that directly from us.

If the Mueller team remains reluctant to review our work — or even to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, we fear that many of those yearning earnestly for the truth on Russia-gate will come to the corrosive conclusion that the Mueller investigation was a sham.
Yes, I agree, although I fear that those who would conclude from the above eventuality that ¨the Mueller investigation was a sham¨ will be in a minority (for the simple reason that all of the mainstream that I have seen insists that Russiagate is real without giving any real evidence). And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. 'This Is Historic': US Senate Passes War Powers Resolution

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

In a major step toward ending U.S. complicity in the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the Senate on Wednesday passed a War Powers resolution to cut off American military support for the Saudi-led coalition's assault on Yemen.

The final vote count was 54-46.

"This is historic. For the first time in 45 years, Congress is one step closer to withdrawing U.S. forces from an unauthorized war," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the lead sponsor of the resolution, declared following the vote. "We must end the war in Yemen."

I say, for - in case you did not notice - this was 54-46 in the Senate (where the Republicans have the majority), and I also agree that this was ¨historic¨, indeed for the given reason.

Here is some more:

Passage of the resolution comes as the Saudis continue to launch deadly airstrikes in Yemen with U.S. backing, worsening a crisis that has already resulted in mass suffering and tens of thousands of deaths. Earlier this week, dozens of civilians—including women and young children—were killed by Saudi airstrikes in Yemen's Kushar district.

According to the United Nations, 14 million Yemenis could soon be on the brink of starvation if the bombing continues. Save the Children, a London-based human rights organization, estimated in a report last November that 85,000 Yemenis under the age of five have starved to death since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing the country.

And here is some more:

In addition to putting an end to America's role in the slaughter of Yemeni civilians, supporters said the resolution also reasserst Congress' constitutional authority over war.

"Congressional authority over war was designed to avoid the type of situation that’s been unfolding in Yemen, where unauthorized U.S. military support began without public debate or scrutiny," Martin said. "The Senate's vote to end the U.S. role in Yemen is also a vote to re-democratize our nation's foreign policy."

Yes, I tend to agree, indeed especially because the Republicans have the majority in the Senate.

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

"Ending U.S. support will put even more pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to change their tactics and finally negotiate an end to the war," Martin concluded. "Now that the new Senate has passed the resolution, the House needs to pass the same clean version of the resolution to finally send it to the president’s desk."

Yes indeed, and this is a strongly recommended article.

[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 3 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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