April 11, 2019

Crisis: On Academic Freedom, Nethanyahu's Win, Brexit Extended, Trump's Legacy, U.S. Abortions

“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 11, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 11, 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 11, 2019:
1. Academic Freedom at Risk
2. Has the Israeli Left Reached a Moment of Truth?

3. EU Offers to Extend Brexit Deadline to Halloween

4. Trump’s Most Worrisome Legacy

5. Near-Total Abortion Bans Seek to Overturn Roe v. Wade
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. Academic Freedom at Risk

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title.
It starts with the following introduction:

As higher education faces an increasingly dire crisis of underfunding, we look at one of the consequences of this crisis: the growing threat to academic freedom. Academic and author Henry Reichman takes on this threat in a new book, out this week, titled “The Future of Academic Freedom.” In it, he writes, “Academic capitalism—or, as many term it, ’corporatization’—has greatly impacted academic work and the ability of the faculty to unite in defense of professional norms, including academic freedom.” Academic capitalism is just one of a number of topics Reichman tackles in the book, which starts by asking what academic freedom is, and expands to look at the loss of public funding for institutions of higher education and the harassment of faculty members for political speech.

Well... I treat this article because I do care for academic freedom, but I must add immediately that I do not care much for people like Reichman who complain about the loss of academic freedom only after academics like Reichman are being threatened by academic underfunding.

Also, I started to care about academic freedom over 40 years ago, after having heard that the professor who had been selected to do the public opening of the academic year 1978-1979 had insisted literally (in translation) on the fascistic or neofascistic sick and degenerate lie that

"Everybody knows that truth does not exist"

I disagreed, but it turned out in the next 20 years that I belonged to no more than 5% of the students: Everybody else - 95% of the students - accepted the above, and did so basically because this was combined with far less strenuous academic norms, such as academic freedom and academic degrees of knowledge, culture and civilization.

Also, in the end I was the only student since the end of WW II who was removed (in Holland) very briefly before I could take my - excellent - M.A. in philosophy, because I had criticized, in a public speech, the vast majority of the utterly incompetent sick and degenerate frauds who were supposed to teach me philosophy, but who in fact did nothing of the kind, and who hardly worked at all, and who also did not publish any academic philosophy (which they were paid for) because (they falsely claimed) "we are not vain".

Anyway... that is part of my academic background in serving the truth and academic freedom, and it is also (more than 25 years after postmodernism got dominant) why I cannot believe in present-day academics who now feel academic freedom is threatened, basically because there is less and less money to pay academics.

Back to this article. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: Since breaking, the college admissions scandal has laid bare the many ways higher education is rigged for the wealthy, from the ability to pay for tutors and test prep, to the staggering number of legacy admissions at many of the nation’s top schools.

Meanwhile, higher education faces an increasingly dire crisis of underfunding. We turn now to look at one of the consequences of this crisis: the growing threat to academic freedom. Academic and author Henry Reichman takes on this threat in a new book, out this week, titled The Future of Academic Freedom. In it, he writes, “Academic capitalism—or, as many term it, ’corporatization’—has greatly impacted academic work and the ability of the faculty to unite in defense of professional norms, including academic freedom,” he says.
Describe what’s happening on American campuses, what you’re so concerned about.

HENRY REICHMAN: Well, what I’m particularly concerned about is that in the past several decades we’ve seen a shift from understanding higher education as a common good for the entire society and more and more as something for the individual student to get out of it.

Once again: In Holland (where I live) this started in 1965 (54 years ago) when - to start with - the schools that had provided for 100 years good introductions to academic studies (which were the gymnasiums and lycea) were radically simplified, to the extent that examinations in 16 subjects were whittled down to examinations in 6 subjects (which is still the case).

This did not start - neither in Holland, nor elsewhere - in the last few decades in which the salaries of the academics now also are endangered.

Back to the article:

HENRY REICHMAN: Well, the more public funding is eroded and the more the public mission of the university is made secondary, the more university administrators look resources of funding, look for money. And it makes them vulnerable to the efforts of politicized groups from the outside.

Now, there have always been donors who want to fund the things that they support and not things they don’t support. That’s obvious. It’s logical. But in the past, hopefully, most colleges and universities held, “Well, but it’s got to be subject to the oversight of our faculty and fit in with our curriculum.” But increasingly, you know, these agreements are becoming secret. They’re not really in the interest of the entire university.

I am sorry, but I think this also was already the case (in Holland and other countries) over 40 years ago, though I agree it has been growing worse and worse the last 40 years.

Here is some more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking of tweeting, you have a whole chapter on this whole impact of social media on academic freedom, on the faculty’s right to speak. Could you talk about that?

HENRY REICHMAN: Yeah. Well, you know, we get a lot of attention paid from President Trump and others about, you know, the rights of these conservative outside speakers. But a far bigger danger right now are these systematic threats, often through blacklists, like this thing called Professor Watchlist, which lists professors who are allegedly too left and too liberal, and that result in these mob actions, literally, online. And it’s bad enough, of course, for those people who are the victims, and I outline a whole number of exemplary cases. But one has to think of all the other people who look at it and go, “Oh, I’ve got to be careful. I’m not going to say anything controversial from now on.”

And it’s not even just on Twitter and social media. It’s often sometimes they send students into class to surreptitiously film what professors are saying, and then edit it out of context.

Well... once again Reichman is less concerned with tweeting (that makes all rational discussion virtually impossible, because it is limited to a number of characters in which you only can sloganize and scream) than with other things (and notably with an "academia" which has not more money to pay academics like him).

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

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hank, I wanted to ask you about the whole issue of how the working conditions of faculty at the universities affect academic freedom. Several decades ago, two-thirds of most of the faculty at most universities were tenured faculty. Today it’s just the reverse. Only about a third are tenured or tenure-track faculty. The rest are contingent. They’re part-time lecturers. They have to cobble jobs at three or four different colleges together to make a full-time job. How has that affected academic freedom? And also, what about the argument that some people say, that, “Hey, no one is guaranteed a lifetime job. Why should university professors have tenure and be allowed to stay at the same job, no matter what they do?”

HENRY REICHMAN: (..) And you’re right. The erosion of the tenure system in the last several decades is, I would argue, the single biggest threat to academic freedom and, ultimately, to the quality of higher education in the United States, that now three-quarters of people who teach in American colleges and universities have—are not only not tenured, they have no access to the tenure track. The image of the privileged, elite professor who’s tenured is—it’s a shrinking group in every university, even in elite schools. And the result is very dangerous.

Well... yes: But where was Reichman two or three decades ago? And as I outlined in my comments, I do not care much for academics who only find that academia and academic freedom are threatened when the money to pay their academic jobs threatens to disappear: Academic freedom has been threatened already for 40, 50 or more years.

2. Has the Israeli Left Reached a Moment of Truth?

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Last week, on the eve of an election that pitted neo-fascist Benjamin Netanyahu against former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, New York Magazine’s Abraham Riesman posed a provocative question: What has become of the Israeli left?

On Tuesday, the nation’s electorate provided an answer of sorts. While final votes are still being tallied, Netanyahu will eke out a fifth term as prime minister, with Likud securing 65 seats in the Knesset to the opposition Blue and White’s 55. Perhaps more telling, the Labor Party, which governed Israel for the first 29 years of its existence, under different names and alignments, won just 4.5 percent of the vote. Labor’s six seats represents the party’s worst showing in its history. As the New York Times’ David M. Halbfinger observes, “It’s Netanyahu’s Israel now.”

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent re-election as prime minister of Israel,” he writes, “attests to a starkly conservative vision of the Jewish state and its people about where they are and where they are headed.”

Yes indeed, and I review this article basically because it gives the news that Nethanyahu did win the last Israeli elections. Then again, the rest of what the above bit says is also relevant: Israel has turned into a right-wing state, and the Israeli left has been reduced to a mere 4.5 percent.

Here is sme more:

“The Israelis have chosen an overwhelmingly right-wing, xenophobic, and anti-Palestinian parliament to represent them,” Hanan Ashrawi, who serves on the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement. “The extremist and militaristic agenda, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has been emboldened by the Trump administration’s reckless policies and blind support.”

Yes, I basically agree. Here is some more:

If British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s most lasting victory was the formation of a conservative opposition in the form of New Labour, then Netanyahu’s may prove to be the destruction of Israeli Labor itself. While Blue and White has emerged as the country’s putatively centrist coalition, there is virtually no daylight between it and Likud on the Palestinian question. Gantz even campaigned on bombing parts of Gaza “back to the stone age,” with multiple ads featuring the unabashedly authoritarian message “only the strong win.”

I say, for I did not know that Grantz also is a right-winger. Here is the ending of this article:

[The Israelis] can have a democracy or they can have a Jewish state, but they can’t have both.

I fear that is correct and this is a recommended article.

3. EU Offers to Extend Brexit Deadline to Halloween

This article is by Jill Lawless and Raf Casert on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

European Union leaders on Thursday offered Britain a delay to its EU departure date until Halloween.

Leaders of the 27 remaining EU member states met for more than six hours before agreeing to postpone Brexit until Oct. 31, two officials said. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations. European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed in a tweet that an extension had been agreed to, but he did not disclose the date.

I say, for I did not know this as yet (and I don't have a TV since 1970, and never will have one).

Here is some more:

May pleaded with them at an emergency summit to delay Britain’s exit, due on Friday, until June 30 while the U.K. sorts out the mess that Brexit has become.

Some were sympathetic, but French President Emmanuel Macron struck a warning note.

“Nothing is decided,” Macron said, insisting on “clarity” from May about what Britain wants.

“What’s indispensable is that nothing should compromise the European project in the months to come,” he said.

May believes that a June 30 deadline is enough time for Britain’s Parliament to ratify a Brexit deal and pass the legislation needed for a smooth Brexit.

I say again, and do so for the following two reasons:

One. In fact, May got 4 months more than she asked for, which is on the one hand at least a little amazing, but which also may be an allowance from the Europeans for the combination of May's incompetence and the British parliament. (But I do not know.)

Two. As to the last quoted paragraph: I do not believe May, and I don't because she has been messing up Brexit (or no-Brexit) for the last two years. Then again, the Europeans may think the same (but I don't know).

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

May’s future is uncertain, whatever the EU decides.

She has previously said that “as prime minister” she could not agree to let Britain stay in the EU beyond June 30, and she has also promised to step down once Brexit is delivered. Many Conservative Party lawmakers would like her to quit now and let a new leader take charge of the next stage of Brexit. But they can’t force her out until the end of the year, after she survived a no-confidence vote in December.

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.

4. Trump’s Most Worrisome Legacy

This article is by Joseph Stiglitz on Common Dreams and originally on Project Syndicate. It has a subtitle:

As corporate giants capture the institutions that are supposed to protect ordinary citizens, a dystopia once imagined only by science fiction writers is emerging before our eyes

This is from near its beginning:

Trump’s immigration policies are appalling in almost every aspect. And yet they may not be the worst feature of his administration. Indeed, identifying its foulest aspects has become a popular American parlor game. Yes, he has called immigrants criminals, rapists, and animals. But what about his deep misogyny or his boundless vulgarity and cruelty? Or his winking support of white supremacists? Or his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty? And, of course, there is his war on the environment, on health care, and on the rules-based international system.

Well... yes, although I am not interested in saying which of Trump's policies is the worst (by what criterions?), but rather insist, as I have done from 2016 onwards, that I am a psychologist and a philosopher who agrees with what seem meanwhile at leas 70,000 psychologists, that Trump is insane and that he also is a neofascist - and you find both explained in the last two links.

Here is some more - and Smith is Adam Smith:

Smith himself was a leading light of the great intellectual movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment. The questioning of established authority that followed the earlier Reformation in Europe forced society to ask: How do we know the truth? How can we learn about the world around us? And how can and should we organize our society?

From the search for answers to these questions arose a new epistemology, based on the empiricism and skepticism of science, which came to prevail over the forces of religion, tradition, and superstition. Over time, universities and other research institutions were established to help us judge truth and discover the nature of our world. Much of what we take for granted today – from electricity, transistors, and computers to lasers, modern medicine, and smartphones – is the result of this new disposition, undergirded by basic scientific research (most of it financed by government).

Well... yes, but while I do like Smith, I think it is fair to insist that the "new epistemology, based on the empiricism and skepticism of science, which came to prevail over the forces of religion, tradition, and superstition" was the outcome of the European Enlightenment in general.

Here is some more:

One had to rely on reasoning and discourse – recognizing that no individual had a monopoly on our understandings of social organization. Out of this process emerged an appreciation that governance institutions based on the rule of law, due process, and checks and balances, and supported by foundational values like individual liberty and justice for all, are more likely to produce good and fair decisions. These institutions may not be perfect, but they have been designed so that it is more likely that flaws will be uncovered and eventually corrected.

Well... more or less, namely mostly in the minds of the more enlightened and the more intelligent (who unfortunately are always in a minority).

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

The attack by Trump and his administration on every one of the pillars of American society – and his especially aggressive vilification of the country’s truth-seeking institutions – jeopardizes its continued prosperity and very ability to function as a democracy. Nor do there appear to be checks on corporate giants’ efforts to capture the institutions – the courts, legislatures, regulatory agencies, and major media outlets – that are supposed to prevent them from exploiting workers and consumers. A dystopia previously imagined only by science fiction writers is emerging before our eyes. It should give us chills to think of who “wins” in this world, and who or what we might become, just in the struggle to survive.

I more or less agree, but I also have a more specific answer than Stiglitz: Trump is a neofascist who is trying to found neofascism in the USA, and who may well succeed (in part because he is not the only one by far). And this is a recommemded article.

5. Near-Total Abortion Bans Seek to Overturn Roe v. Wade

This article is by David Crary on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Emboldened by the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court, anti-abortion lawmakers and activists in numerous states are pushing near-total bans on the procedure in a deliberate frontal attack on Roe v. Wade.

Mississippi and Kentucky have passed laws that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — which means as early as six weeks, when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant. Georgia could join them if Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signs a measure that has been sent to him, and a bill in Ohio is nearing final passage.

Similar bills have been filed in at least seven other states with anti-abortion GOP majorities in their legislatures.

Alabama may go further, with legislation introduced last week to criminalize abortion at any stage unless the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

Staci Fox, Atlanta-based CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said these bans are “blatantly unconstitutional and lawmakers know it — they just don’t care.” The goal, she said, is to “challenge access to safe, legal abortion nationally.”

Activists and legal experts on both sides of the debate agree that getting a Supreme Court decision on such a defining case is unlikely any time soon.

The bans may face difficulties just reaching the high court, given that Roe established a clear right to an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.

Well... that does make a small positive difference, I'd say, and this is a 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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