April 8, 2019

Crisis: Green New Deal, "Fascism Is Left-Wing", Yellow Vests, On Meritocracy, "No More Judges"

“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 April 8, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 8, 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 April 8, 2019:
1. Could a Green New Deal Make Us Happier People?
2. The conservatives' fraudulent claim that fascism is a left-wing

3. France’s yellow vest revolt against Macron

4. The Myth of Meritocracy

5. Trump Says, 'And, Frankly We Should Get Rid of Judges'
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. Could a Green New Deal Make Us Happier People?

This article is by Kate Aronoff on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

For as long as climate change has been a part of America’s national consciousness, it’s been talked about in dire terms, evoking images of some hellish, Mad Max-style dystopia. The title and much of the content of David Wallace-Wells’s recent book is a variation on the same theme, stirring up hundreds of pages of images worth of an “Uninhabitable Earth” to make the case that the conversation has not been dire enough.

In describing the nature of the problem, drastic terms are of course necessary. Annihilation looms, and the chaos it threatens to bring about — stronger storms, more fearsome floods, unbearable heat — is truly the stuff of nightmares. But the apocalyptic framing of the problem has also shaped how we talk about solutions to it.

Well... I have two remarks on the above quotatiom:

First, I do not think that "happiness" is the right concept to discuss climate change (and most other human problems). And I do not mean that - at least in some sense - personal happiness is not or should not be important. I do mean that happiness is quite subjective, and rather difficult to get really well, especially if one does not consider one or a few persons, but millions of persons.

And second, I am definitely not interested in considering "how we talk", about happiness, horror or almost anything else, for the two simple reasons (there are more) that "we" is extra- ordinarily  vague, and besides, at present "we" tend to be somehow defined by the a-social media, indeed precisely because the a-social media are in fact being predominantly used by advertisers to push their wares on people.

So in fact I think both the question the title asks and the beginning of this article are mostly based on prejudices. Accordingly, I am a bit careful selecting bits from the present article.

Here is the first bit:

At the start of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that work weeks could dwindle to just 15 hours as people opted for more leisure time, their material needs being met and then some as living standards rose. The labor militants that helped push for and win the original New Deal also campaigned for shorter work weeks and higher wages, to allow more people to do less work overall while getting more of their basic needs met by a freshly minted welfare state. Combined with rising automation, many expected that shorter work weeks were all but inevitable as Keynes predicted. Yet years later work hours in the United States have ballooned and remain stubbornly high, thanks in no small part, as Schor documents, to the right wing’s persistent attacks on unions. Productivity has skyrocketed as wages have stagnated — a split that widened starkly as neoliberalism and the giddy consumerism it brought with it took hold.

This is more or less correct. Then there is this bit:
For example, the average German worker toils 23 percent fewer hours than their American counterpart, and the average German emits 46 percent less carbon.” None of that happened by accident, of course: In Germany, shorter work weeks have been a perennial demand of the country’s labor movement, which has a formal role in the governance of its biggest companies. Shorter weeks can go hand in hand with a job guarantee, too — if each person works less, there are more useful jobs to go around.
I take it this is mostly correct as well - and "23 percent" is a great difference, at least in my opinion.

Then there is this:

In order, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the Netherlands claimed the top five slots in this year’s UN World Happiness Report. This doesn’t mean Finns or their Scandinavian neighbors are a jolly bunch; they’re generally pretty restrained, even dour compared to us oddly smiley Americans. Researchers measure happiness based on six specific categories: GDP per capita in terms of purchasing power; life expectancy; social support from networks of friends and families; having the “freedom to choose what you do with your life;” generosity; perceptions of corruption; and both positive and negative affect, or, how often people reported experiencing positive or negative emotions. Aside from GDP per capita and life expectancy, the data for all of these categories is drawn from self-reported answers to the Gallup World Poll.

Well... I have lived nearly three years in Norway in the 1970ies, and should have stayed there, and otherwise I have mostly lived in Holland, where I have been treated horribly:

Awful "education", called "a fascist" and "a terrorist" for 12 years by the quasi-Marxists and postmodernists who ruled the "universities" in Holland from 1971 till 1995; having been kept out of sleep for seven years; having been quite credibly threatened with murder (by a madman and by illegal drugsdealers protected by Amsterdam's mayors and Amsterdam's police) for six years; having had "a serious chronic disease" for over forty years while this was denied for 39 years, and more.

I am willing to accept that these horrors were mostly caused (and certainly could continue year after year and decade after decade) by my being ill with ME/CFS (like my ex, who is also ill for over 40 years) which is a rare disease, but I am certainly not willing to accept the testimonies of "the Dutch" on their "happiness", for the simple reason that I know one thing for certain about the vast majority of the Dutch since more than 50 years: Almost all lie; almost all are hypocrites; almost all try to appear socially as better than they are.

And while I am quite certain about Dutchmen (having lived around 65 years amongst Dutchmen) and a bit less certain about inhabitants of other nations, I simply am not going to accept this UN World Happines Report that is based on "self-reported answers".

Anyway... here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

“In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be,” Bertrand Russell wrote in 1932, arguing for shorter work weeks amidst a deepening Depression. “Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen instead to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines. In this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.”

I like and admire Russell, who incidentally thought that Keynes was the most intelligent man that he had ever met, and while I think the above quotation probably was a little optimistic, I also think most people who live in the West could do very well with less (such as cars).

Also, this is not a recommended article, simply because I do not agree with either its presumptions or its supposed facts.

2. The conservatives' fraudulent claim that fascism is a left-wing phenomenon

This article is by David Neiwert on AlterNet and originally on Daily Kos. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Jonah Goldberg just keeps inspiring people—whether he intends to or not.

Take Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, for example. Earlier this week, after visiting a Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Bolsonaro was asked whether he agreed with comments made by his foreign minister claiming that the Nazis of Germany were “leftists.”

He did: “There is no doubt, right?” he said to reporters. He added that the appearance of the word “socialist” in the Nazis’ official party name proved it.

In fact, I did not know who are David Neiwert and Jonah Goldberg until today. Also, I am not much interested because I think Goldberg is an idiot because he believes (or perhaps: "believes") that fascism is a left-wing phenomenon, which in fact can only be based on arguments like the above one (which is on an Archie Bunker level, or below) that it "is" so (without any doubt, and proved as well) by the fact that the Nazis called their party "national socialist".

Anybody who is convinced by that argument doesn't know Europe's history, and indeed I am not arguing with them.

Then again, the present article is written by Neiwert about Goldberg, and seems to be part from an ongoing argument since 10 years or more.

In fact, I also will not enter into that argument, but only consider two more points. The first is this:

Worst of all, [Goldberg] is far from alone. From Charlottesville to Portland to Christchurch, we’re awash in the effects of a resurgent white-nationalist movement that considers the “liberal smear” that fascism was a right-wing movement further evidence of a “cultural Marxist” campaign against white Western civilization.

Quite possibly so, but I do not read "a resurgent white-nationalist movement", and I certainly do not believe that they are right, or interesting, or informed, or intelligent.

What I do believe, and am afraid of, is that there are now 2 or 4 billion "publishers" (mostly on Facebook) who have for the greatest part no decent education, no brains, and no honesty, but again I will not write more about them in this article.

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

Fascism is fundamentally right-wing in large part because it is fundamentally anti-left. As George Orwell wrote, “the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world.”

Yes indeed, and if you want to read a sensible definition of fascism see the last link and also check this: On Fascism and Neofascism: DefinitionsAnd again, this is not a recommended article.

3. France’s yellow vest revolt against Macron

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on AlterNet and originally on Democracy Now!  I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Yellow vest protesters took to the streets of Paris on Saturday for the 20th straight week of anti-government demonstrations, in spite of the French authorities’ crackdown on the movement. Last month, the French government deployed military forces and banned protesters from marching on the Champs-Élysées and in other areas, after clashes with the police, nearly 200 arrests and damage to businesses by some protesters. Police used tear gas and water cannons on crowds in Paris. More than 33,000 demonstrators nationwide joined the demonstrations Saturday, down from nearly 300,000 in November, according to government estimates. The weekly protests began last year when France announced plans to hike gas taxes, with demonstrators across France taking to the streets to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s government. The demonstrators gained their name by wearing the yellow safety vests that French drivers are required to keep in their cars in case of emergency. Since then, in protests that have now lasted five months, the “yellow vests” have called out Macron’s pro-business economic policies, demanding fair wages for working- and middle-class citizens, and heavier taxation on the wealthy. We go to Paris to speak with Alexis Poulin, the co-founder of the news website Le Monde Moderne.

I think the above is mostly correct. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) The weekly protests began last year when France announced plans to hike gas taxes, with demonstrators across France taking to the streets to protest French President Emmanuel Macron’s government. The demonstrators gained their name by wearing the yellow safety vests that French drivers are required to keep in their cars in case of emergency. Since then, in protests that have now lasted five months, the yellow vests have called out Macron’s pro-business economic policies, demanding fair wages for working- and middle-class people, and heavier taxation on the wealthy.

Well, we’re going to Paris right now, where we’re joined by journalist Alexis Poulin. He is co-founder of the news website Le Monde Moderne.

Yes. And here is the first bit of Poulin:

ALEXIS POULIN: (..) And within the five months that have passed, the small protest on roundabouts become a urgent crisis and a sort of a—another one of these pick of revolution, like we had Nuit Debout, you had Occupy Wall Street, for example. And now the people are marching for Macron to stop his pro-business, neoliberal policies in France, and they demand tax justice, social justice and some clear, fair, yeah, state services for all, which is very different from the beginning. What’s amazing is that it is still on, five months down, and going on into the sixth month, and despite the violence of the police and the government trying to stop the movement.

I think the above is mostly true, and indeed I agree it is fairly amazing that these protests have been going on for five months.

Here is some more:

ALEXIS POULIN: (..) Their claims are for more democracy, more tax justice and a future for their kids. A lot of these people in the streets are in retirement age, and they are still saying, you know, “I think my grandson or grandchildren won’t have a better future than what I lived.” And this defense of the French welfare state has to be taken into account. And what’s different from the past, from May ’68 or the other manifestation we had, is that the unions are far behind the popular movement of the yellow vests. They are not clearly supporting it, and they’re trying to distance themselves from the yellow vest protests.

I am sorry, but I was in Paris in 1968, and I know the history of "May 1968" fairly well, and I am quite certain that in 1968 the unions (also) did not support the students. Poulin is simply mistaken about that fact.

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

ALEXIS POULIN: Well, that’s the big question mark. Is it—because May is coming, the spring is coming, so people could come back to the roundabouts and having more meetups and start again the movement with more power. Right now, clearly, there are less and less people in the streets because of the violence, because of the weather, because of the time—it’s been six months. But it could be that because of the conclusion of the “big debate,” there could be a national disappointment about what the measure will be, announced by Emmanuel Macron, and then will start again a bigger protest. Whatever happens is that people might stop or take out their yellow vest; the anger in the French society is still there, and it will be going on for a few years, without political solution.

I think that may well be a fair estimate, and this is a recommended article.

4. The Myth of Meritocracy

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Most Americans still cling to the meritocratic notion that people are rewarded according to their efforts and abilities. But meritocracy is becoming a cruel joke.

The Justice Department recently announced indictments of dozens of wealthy parents for using bribery and fraud to get their children into prestigious colleges.

But the real scandal isn’t how far a few wealthy parents will go to get their kids admitted (apparently $1.2 million in illegal payoffs), but how commonplace it has become for them to go almost as far without breaking any laws – shelling out big bucks for essay tutors, testing tutors, admissions counselors, and “enrichment” courses (not to mention sky-high tuition at private schools feeding into the Ivy League).  

Inequality is lurking behind all this, and not just because the wealthy can afford it.

Yes, I agree with the above, and also like to remark that "the meritocratic notion that people are rewarded according to their efforts and abilities" has never been true anywhere, in my own estimate, although I also agree that in some societies there was considerably more interest in promoting really intelligent poor people (provided they were conformists, for the most part) than in others.

But what I deny is that meritocracy was important
anywhere, for the simple reason that the majority of those who were promoted to leading roles mostly had parents (etc.) who were powerful or wealthy themselves (and thus came from the 1-10% rather than from the 90%).

Here is some more:

Most CEOs of big corporations, Wall Street mavens, and high-priced lawyers got where they are because they knew the right people. A prestigious college packed with the children of wealthy and well-connected parents is now the launching pad into the stratosphere of big money.

Elite colleges are doing their parts to accelerate the trend.

At a time when the courts have all but ended affirmative action for black children seeking college admission, high-end universities provide preferential admission to the children of wealthy alumni –“legacies,” as they’re delicately called.

Yes, I think this is also true. Here is some more:

Jared Kushner’s father reportedly pledged $2.5 million to Harvard just as young Jared was applying. The young man gained admission, despite rather mediocre grades.

About four in 10 students from the richest one-tenth of one percent of American families now attend an Ivy League or other elite university, according to a recent study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.

At some upscale campuses – including Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Brown – more students now come from the top 1 percent than from the entire bottom 60 percent put together.

I fear the above is also quite true. Here is some more:

The monstrous concentration of wealth in America has not only created an education system in which the rich can effectively buy college admission for their children. It has distorted much else.

It has created a justice system in which the rich can buy their way out of prison.
It has spawned a political system in which the rich can buy their way into Congress (..) and even into the presidency.

I think the above is also mostly true. Here is the ending of this article:

Meritocracy remains a deeply held ideal in America. But The nation is drifting ever-farther away from it. In the age of Trump, it seems, everything is for sale.

Yes, I take it that is also correct. Perhaps Reich should have added one more statement, namely "And what is for sale, especially if scarce, generally goes to the richest". Anyway. This is a recommended article.

5. Trump Says, 'And, Frankly We Should Get Rid of Judges'

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

President Donald Trump called for the end of the U.S. system that processes those seeking political asylum and refugee status on Friday and then added that it would also be good to "get rid of judges."

"Congress has to act," Trump told reporters outside the White House, referring to the asylum claim process and the broader immigration system. "They have to get rid of catch-and-release, chain migration, visa lottery, they have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn't work."

"And frankly," the president then added, "we should get rid of judges. You can't have a court case every time sets their foot on our ground."

Well... I have said since the beginning of 2016 that I am a psychologist who thinks that Trump is insane. I still think so, and now the USA has a president who says "we should get rid of judges" - which presumably means: Let the police do the arresting, the convicting and quite possibly also the punishing.

And I say again that a man who says things like this (and means it) very probably is insane.

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

While it was possible to interpret that president's comments as specifically referring to judges who hear immigration and asylum claims cases, that unstated specificity offered no comfort to critics who immediately lashed out at Trump for once again thumbing his nose at human rights and the rule of law.

Political activist Max Berger responded:

I agree with Berger 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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