June 16, 2019

Crisis: Everyone is Equal (?), On Hong Kong, Everyone Is An Idiot (?), Pilger on Assange

“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 June 16, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, June 16, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading (well... not today: only two out of four files, but it is Sunday today):

A. Selections from June 16, 2019:
1. Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?
2. Hong Kong Leader Delays Extradition Bill Amid Mass Protests
3. Will the World End in Fire or in Flood?
4. John Pilger: The Global War on Assange, Journalism & Dissent
The items 1 - 4 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 Can’t Everyone Get A’s?

This article is by Alfie Kohn on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose that next year virtually every student passed the tests. What would the reaction be from politicians, businesspeople, the media? Would these people shake their heads in admiration and say, “Damn, those teachers must be good!”?

Of course not. Such remarkable success would be cited as evidence that the tests were too easy. In the real world, when scores have improved sharply, this has indeed been the reaction. For example, when results on New York’s math exam rose in 2009, the chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents said, “What today’s scores tell me is not that we should be celebrating,” but instead “that New York State needs to raise its standards.”

The inescapable, and deeply disturbing, implication is that “high standards” really means “standards that all students will never be able to meet.” If everyone did meet them, the standards would just be ratcheted up again — as high as necessary to ensure that some students failed.

The standards-and-accountability movement is not about leaving no child behind. To the contrary, it is an elaborate sorting device, intended to separate wheat from chaff. The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.
I am sorry but Mr. Kohn is the type of utter idiot that collaborated with many to destroy all rational standards in education that I first heard 50+ years ago, in 1969. What he does not understand is that (i) all people differ from one another in many ways (ii) some people excel in a few ways - mathematics, languages, sports, music, facial beauty etc. etc. - from most others, and (iii) so far, at least, no one excels all or most others in more than 1 or 2 ways, out of many tens or possibly hundreds of various human talents.

But Mr. Kohn - if he is judged by many of the others I have read the last 50 years - does not have an excellent or a remarkable intellect; dislikes the few who do; and seems for that reason to want to destroy any difference whatsoever in all manners and schools of education, by destroying all tests that would make this clear.

I heard the same 50 years ago in Holland, and already then it had the sort of results Kohn wanted: It was considered very unfair that the very few who managed to score an average of a 7 1/2 or better (out of 10 maximal) in gymnasiums (that at that time still had 16 subjects to be examined in, including 5 foreign languages and mathematics, physics and chemistry) - which were then the preparatory school to be allowed to study medicine in Holland - were given the chance to study medicine, whereas those who did not quite make that had to be taken in by a lottery, for there were more students than places in medicine.

This was extremely unfair according to the majority of egalitarians, and indeed in 1969 or 1970 the very few who did score an 7 1/2 or better were denied the right to study medicine and had to take part in the lottery.

Since then both the preparatory education for the Dutch universities have been destroyed (only 6 subject were examined, of which 2 only verbally, which meant that by 2008 they had to impose half a year of - university! - education in mathematics for engineers etc.) and all the university educations were also very much less (at most half) of what they were between 1865 and 1965 in Holland.

But since there always are vastly more non-talented people than talented people, for each and every human talent, this whole so-called "democratization" of education, which was in fact an enormous simplification of all education, was an remained popular in Holland for 50 years, indeed thanks to the many Alfie Kohns who were Dutch in 1969 and later.

In case you doubt this: What if sports were "democratized" so that only average or worse people (in any sport) could take part in it? No one wants that, but the vast majority does still want an M.A. degree without any intellectual troubles, because that way they can make more money than those without an M.A. degree.

Here is one more bit by Alfie Kohn:

As Richard Kamber, a philosopher at the College of New Jersey, sees it, “If grades are to have any coherent meaning, they need to represent a relative degree of success.”

The goal, in other words, isn’t to do well but to defeat other people who are also trying to do well. Grades in this view should be used to announce who’s beating whom. And if the students in question have already been sorted by the admissions process, well, they ought to be sorted again. A school’s ultimate mission, apparently, is not to help everyone learn but to rig the game so that there will always be losers.

This again is utter baloney. Mr. Kohn apparently refuses to see that there are considerable differences in humans as regards to intellectual talents, and if he does see the differences, he wants to undo them by lowering the standards of education so that everyone passes.

I think he is an utter idiot but indeed many are like him. I am not, because I became an M.A. in psychology with an average of 9,3 out of 10 maximal, without following any lectures because I was ill all the time, but then I had an IQ of over 150 in 1978. I suppose the Kohns of this world really dislike such differences  between people, so he probably also enjoys the fact that I never made any money with my degree because I was too ill for that as well. This article is utterly worthless.

2. Hong Kong Leader Delays Extradition Bill Amid Mass Protests

This article is by Eileen Kurtenbach and Christopher Bodeen on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam sought to quell public anger Saturday by shelving an unpopular extradition bill that has highlighted apprehension about relations with mainland China, but opponents of the measure said it was not enough.

Activists said they were still planning a mass protest for Sunday, a week after hundreds of thousands marched to demand Lam drop the legislation, which many fear would undermine freedoms enjoyed by this former British colony but not elsewhere in China.

The battle over the proposal to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance to allow some suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts has evolved into Hong Kong’s most severe political test since the Communist Party-ruled mainland took control in 1997 with a promise not to interfere with the city’s civil liberties and courts.

Yes indeed. Then again here is more Lam (who was appointed by the Chinese government rather than that of Hong Kong) still wants to arrest those who dislike China and deliver them to the Chinese police:

But [Lam] insisted the bill was still needed.

“Give us another chance,” she said.

Beijing-appointed Lam said she had the central government’s backing for her decision to yield to the protests. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said in a statement Saturday that the Chinese government “expresses support, respect and understanding” for Lam’s decision.

Yes, I suppose because they think it will be a matter of time - say half a year or a year, in which they also may be right.

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

The extradition bill has drawn criticism from U.S. and British lawmakers and human rights groups, prompting Beijing to lash back with warnings against “interference” in its internal affairs.

But analysts say China also has to weigh the risk of seeing Hong Kong, a vital port and financial center of 7 million people, possibly losing its special economic status.

Under the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act, Beijing needs to abide by its “one country, two systems” promises to respect the territory’s legal autonomy for 50 years as promised under the agreement signed with Britain for the 1997 handover.

Already, many here believe the territory’s legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing’s insistence that it is still honoring those promises.

Yes, I think all of this is correct, and this is a recommended article.

3. Will the World End in Fire or in Flood?

This article is by David Bromwich on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. This is from near its beginning:

Can we still have inner weather when the outer weather changes so regularly and drastically? When 500 tornadoes rip through the country from Kansas to Pennsylvania in a matter of weeks? Or when 875,000 California acres burn down in the course of a summer? Rather than hear the message, we look into our smartphones or at our computer screens whose backgrounds may include breathtakingly lovely pictures of the planet — photos that show how beautiful a place it has been. As if we could have this Earth forever in reach, as if we could preserve it with a password or, by logging off, exchange it for another as lovely.

I say?! Why am I almost always getting demeaned if some journalist uses the word "we", which is to say "you, me and the other"?! I do not even have or want a smartphone; I have been worrying about the climate/environment ever since reading "The Limits to Growth" in 1972; I have been removed from the university just before taking my - excellent - M.A. in philosophy because I publicly criticized the utterly incompetent teachers I was given; I am a radical but not a Marxist, like both of my heroic parents were (who were in the real resistance against the Nazis in WW II) but hey - by simply writing about "we" and "us" all these differences between and others are simply denied and also, effectively, Mr. Bromwhich accuses everyone of not being willing to accept the truth if it is slightly painful ir worse.

I reject this bullshit for myself, and indeed for quite a number of informed and intelligent people, though I admit these are in a minority.

Here is more by Bromwich:

Greenhouse effect, global warming, climate change, climate disruption. Think of the succession of words we’ve used to describe the gradual onset of catastrophe and you see at once how inadequate words can be. In our time, corporate lingo has even rendered “disruptive” an admiring adjective for tech innovations on a par with “transformative.”

I say, again?! Well... words may be inadequate, but words and symbols are the only means we have to communicate most of our ideas.

Here is more by Bromwich:

The issue that should dwarf everything in sight today is planetary climate destruction. It’s happening in plain sight and all around us, and most of us clearly can’t bear to think about it. Why not? Because we are creatures of habit and immediacy, because the imagination can’t fix for long on a distant and unbearable future. Habit disposes us to normalize the abnormal. It’s a human propensity as natural as the protective mechanism that helps us not get stopped in our tracks by the painful things we did or suffered.

I say, once more, which I do because Bromwhich insists that "we are creatures of habit and immediacy, because the imagination can’t fix for long on a distant and unbearable future. Habit disposes us to normalize the abnormal." WE. That is: ALL of us.

Well thank you, but I neither am an idiot nor do I accept this bullshit. Here is the ending of Bromwich:

Let us be optimists and suppose our luck holds out for another generation. Suppose we are spared destruction by fire. Climate change remains and its effects will be devastating, even though those effects are regularly dealt with as if they belonged to separate categories: immigration, inequality, environmental destruction, and war. There will be wars as a result of climate change; there will be mass migrations; there will be environmental destruction almost beyond imagining; and there will be increased inequality from all of those causes. Meeting the disruption that is already upon us will require kinds of planning and international arrangements that are foreign to our habits as the last superpower.

If I had been an American I'd also be accused by him of having the "habits [of] the last superpower". My goodness! This is another worthless article.

4. John Pilger: The Global War on Assange, Journalism & Dissent

This article is by Denis Bernstein and Randy Credico on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
The muckraking work of Oscar- and Emmy-award-winning filmmaker John Pilger is revered and celebrated by journalists and publishers all over the world. While still in his twenties, Pilger became the youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, “Journalist of the Year,” and was the first to win it twice.
Yes indeed, and this is also a fairly good interview. Here is some more:
In this interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico, Pilger talks about what is happening to his friend and colleague Julian Assange, founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, and how his persecution could be the beginning of the end of modern investigative reporting as we know it. Since Assange’s high-profile arrest and maximum-security imprisonment on a bail-jumping charge, journalists and whistleblowers have been pursued, arrested and have their documents and hard drives seized in the U.S., France, Great Britain and Australia.
Yes indeed. Here is more by Pilger:
Pilger: Well, it’s happening all over the world now and certainly all over that part of the world that regards itself as the enlightened. We are seeing the victimization of whistleblowers and journalists who tell the truth. There is a global war on journalism. More than that, there’s a global war on dissent. The speed with which these events has happened is quite remarkable since April 11th when Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police. Since then, police have moved against journalists in the United States, in Australia, spectacularly, in Latin America. It’s as if somebody has waved a green flag.
Yes indeed (and there are examples in the article). Here is one from several:
Pilger: There is an “Assange Precedent” at work all over the world. In Australia there was a raid on the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where the federal police marched in with warrants, one of which gave them the authority to delete, change and appropriate the material of journalists. It was one of the most blatant attacks on journalistic freedom and indeed on freedom of speech that I can remember. We saw even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation attacked.

The political editor of one of Murdoch’s papers, The Sunday Telegraph, watched as her house was ransacked and her personal belongings, intimate belongings, rifled. She had reported on the extent of official spying on Australians by the Australian government. Something similar has happened in France where [President Emmanuel] Macron’s police have moved against journalists on the magazine, Disclose.

Assange predicted this while he was being smeared and abused. He was saying that the world was changing and that so-called liberal democracies were becoming autocracies. A democracy that sends its police against journalists and carries away their notes and hard drives simply because those journalists have revealed what governments have not wanted people to know is not a democracy.
Yes, I quite agree and especially with the last paragraph.

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

Pilger: The WikiLeaks disclosures were, if not co-published, were picked up by newspapers and journals and investigative programs on television all over the world. That makes all the journalists involved, all the producers, all the presenters, all of them complicit. And, of course, the hounding of Assange and the intimidation of others make a mockery of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that you have every right to publish; you have every right to “publish and be damned.” It’s one of the demonstrably noble principles of the U.S. Constitution that has been thrown away completely.
Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is also a lot more than I quoted. 

[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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