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Nederlog

September 27, 2015
Crisis: About Corbyn, Pope On Climate, Volkswagen Fraud, Progressive Pope

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1. 
Jeremy Corbyn won. Handle it better
2. Pope's climate push is 'raving nonsense' without
     population control, says top US scientist

3. The Volkswagen Fraud
4. A Progressive Pope or Greenwashing the Vatican?


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, September 27, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. This has 4 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting article about Jeremy Corbyn, with an excellent term for the class of political careerists
that currently make politics: The caste; item 2 is about one part of the pope's message about climate change; item 3 has two dotted items about the enormous corruption in the top of Volkswagen, which the same - renewed - top tries to shift a lot lower, quite falsely in my and others' opinion; and item 4 is about another part of the pope's message about climate change (and I think both are true: he is a progressive; he tries to greenwash Catholicism a bit; but he remains a pope, and is not a real radical, nor a social democrat nor a socialist).

Incidentally: Is this too much on the pope? I think not, for he heads 1,2 billion Catholics, and he is fairly outspoken, with some good ideas. (But yes, he remains
a pope, and quite a few seem to read more in his messages than there really is.)

Also, what about Volkswagen in the crisis series? I think it is quite apt, in fact: At least 11 million cars have been frauded with, and Volkswagen may not be the only car company who tried to fraud the tests.

Anyway, here goes:

1. Jeremy Corbyn won. Handle it better

The first article today is by Ronan Bennett (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Once in a lifetime – once in a very long lifetime – the political stars align. With Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labour leadership, suddenly there is hope. Hope for the chronically sick whose benefits have been withdrawn. Hope for the stressed-out commuter contemplating the latest train cancellation or fare rise. Hope for low-paid workers denied employment rights or union protection.

There is hope, too, for the women and children locked up in Yarl’s Wood because they are poor and desperate. Hope for students and the parents of students who are forced to take on ever more debt. Hope for those in need of social housing and protection from rapacious landlords; for those deemed to have a bedroom too many; for exhausted doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff in hospitals, for overworked teachers. There is hope for the environment.

Actually, there is more hope in the article, which is well worth reading in full,
but I leave that to your interests.

But yes, I agree with this increase in hope, and I also say this is basically due to (1) Jeremy Corbyn's rather unique outspoken classical leftist position inside - and also before - the Blatcherist "New Labour" that Blair created - and before going on to the second point, this is from the Wikipedia lemma on Blatcherism:

Blatcherism can be defined as an emphasis on free-market policies, support for privatisation or the private ownership of former public services, a monetarist/neo-classical economics economic policy, and a retention of anti-trade union legislation. A convergence of such policies between the Labour and Conservative parties first emerged when Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party. Blair was elected Leader of the Labour Party in July 1994 following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. Under Blair's leadership the party abandoned many policies it had held for decades and embraced many of the measures enacted during Thatcher's tenure a who always lies and deceibess Prime Minister, including the Building Societies (deregulation) Act of 1986. Blair, in conjunction with Peter Mandelson, Gordon Brown and Alastair Campbell, created the New Labour ethos by embracing many aspects of Thatcherite beliefs into Labour as the "Third Way".

That seems to me to be quite true.

And here is point (2), for it is not only Jeremy Corbyn: It was also due to the Blatcherist "New Labour" created by the mega-millionaire (estimated at 50 million pounds + 30 million), Catholic, Tory-lite careerist and warmonger, the utterly hypocritical Tony Blair (and his three careerist friends, mentioned above) [1].

So taking both points together, I do believe that the resurgence of hope and the great number of new members of Labour (which is not the same as "New Labour", which is the Tory-lite careerist instrument of hypocritical careerists like Tony Blair) are due to Corbyn's defeat of the Blairites (<- Wikipedia, and there are many), and the hope that this may lead to a renewed and really leftist Labour Party.

Next, there is this:

Is this too much? Are these hopes misplaced? Not to judge from the reaction of what Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos leader, terms “la casta”, the caste – the political class whose sense of entitlement and undisguised condescension betrays its conviction that its members – and its members alone – have the right to pull the levers of power.

As to the hope: Clearly, Corbyn can't do it alone. I agree there is a lot more hope, but to realize those hopes, or a considerable part of it, needs a lot of work and persistence.

As tothe caste: That is an excellent term, and refers to a phenomenon I first became aware of in 1995, when the Dutch "New Labourist" "Quim Cock" (pronounced precisely as written, except for a missing "q") became prime minister in the Dutch Tory+New Labour cabinet (a feat repeated by the ever lying hypocritical Dutch careerist Samsom).

In fact, I think most of the political elite that governs Europe - no more than at most several thousands of parliamentarians - belong to the caste, and are careerists pure and simple, and may indeed well be secretly paid for their specific votes, although I do not know this.

What I do know - and this is one of the reasons I don't vote - is that I trust only very few of them, and I can't think of almost anyone who is longer than ten years or so "a prominent politician" - often switching between special professorates and high-ranking political jobs, at least in Holland - whom I believe is not a pure careerist.

But what about Labour? Specifically, with conference under way, what about the parliamentary Labour party? Tens of thousands of people have flocked to the party because of the hopes Corbyn has inspired. Will MPs embrace the wave of new members and work with Corbyn and McDonnell? It has to be said, the signs are not encouraging.

I agree - but if I am right the Blatcherists have succeeded, in 21 years also, to replace most genuine leftists, genuine socialists and genuine social democrats by their own type of money-hungry political careerists, who also nicely performed as instructed from above - and see Blatcherism.

And I think the following is true of most of the Blatcherists who owe their parliamentary careers to "New Labour":

Many, I suspect, are simply hoping that he will implode and that the whole horrible, regrettable episode will pass and a suitably shiny PR-friendly replacement will be found from among the caste.
And this still may happen, though I hope not. Finally, here is Ronan Bennett's reason to vote for Corbyn:
This is about a mood in the country. It is about a mood across Europe. People have been up close and personal with free-market capitalism for a long time now. They know exactly what it is. They know what it does to lives and communities – to whole countries. And they want it gone. That is why they voted for Corbyn.
I hope he is right.

2. Pope's climate push is 'raving nonsense' without population control, says top US scientist

The next article today is by Suzanne Goldenberg on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

One of America’s leading scientists has dismissed as “raving nonsense” the pope’s call for action on climate change – so long as the leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics rejects the need for population control.

In a commentary in the journal Nature Climate Change, Paul Ehrlich, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, argues that Pope Francis is simply wrong in trying to fight climate change without also addressing the additional strain on global resources from population rise. “That’s raving nonsense,” Ehrlich told the Guardian. “He is right on some things but he is just dead wrong on that.”

I agree to that, though I have a few notes on Paul Ehrlich (<- Wikipedia).

But first a graphic that shows he is right about the human population:


   The growth of the human population in 12,000 years. Clicking leads to the original.

From 10,000 BC until AD 1 there was little growth; from AD1 to 1000 to around 1950, when there were around 2,5 billion human beings, there was considerable growth; since then it has exponentially increased in 65 years to over 7 billion (about 3 times as much in a mere 65 years).

Next, about Ehrlich. I read his "The Population Bomb" - I think the original 1968 edition - around 1973, from which I learned that (quoted minus a note number from the lemma on Ehrlich):
The original edition of The Population Bomb began with this statement: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate ..." This prediction turned out by the end of the 1970s to have been entirely false.
I was somewhat skeptical then, but more inclined to believe him then than I am now, or indeed since the late 1970s. Then there is this, quoted from the same source (and again quoted minus a note number):
During a 2004 interview, Ehrlich answered questions about the predictions he made in The Population Bomb. He acknowledged that some of what he had written had not "come to pass", but reaffirmed his basic view that over-population is a major problem. He noted that, "Fifty-eight academies of science said that same thing in 1994, as did the world scientists' warning to humanity in the same year. My view has become depressingly mainline!" Ehrlich also stated that 600 million people were very hungry, billions were under-nourished, and that his predictions about disease and climate change were essentially correct. Retrospectively, Ehrlich believes that The Population Bomb was "way too optimistic".
As I have tried to indicate, a considerable number of Ehrlich's early predictions failed, but I do agree that his basic prediction, based on over-population, still seems quite sound to me.

Then there is this in the article:

Ehrlich, in his Nature Climate Change commentary, accuses Francis of a dangerous flaw in his indictment of consumerism and its effects on the poor and the environment. The pope had fallen for the usual clerical “obsession” with contraception and abortion – when he could have instead broken new ground on the Catholic church’s approaches to women’s reproductive rights and family planning.
(...)
Those thrilled by the pope’s intervention on climate change – and Ehrlich counts himself among them – were troubled by Francis’s refusal to countenance the need to limit population, the scientist said. “It is crystal clear. No one concerned with the state of the planet and the state of the global economy can avoid dealing with population. It is the elephant in the room,” he said.
I agree - and see the graphic. Finally, there is also this:
Indeed, Francis in the encyclical explicitly rejects the idea of population growth as a strain on global resources. “Demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development,” the pope wrote. “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”

Ehrlich said that was a mistake. The global population, now over 7 billion, is projected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 according to the United Nations. “There is no competent scientist who would say there is not a problem with population growth. In other words, the pope is dead wrong. Here he is following an antique doctrine that it is impossible to change,” Ehrlich said. “I am sure he knows better, he is not a dope.”

Then again, he is the pope, and he can't discard the Catholic teachings. But I do agree with Ehrlich here, although I know he has been mistaken on quite a few of his more specific predictions: There simply are too many human beings to decently feed, dress and warm all, given the present technical and social conditions.

3. The Volkswagen Fraud

The next article today is by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Top-ranking Volkswagen officials on Friday cast blame for the company's large-scale diesel emissions-fixing scandal on a small number of unidentified and relatively low-level engineers and technicians.

In public statements issued at the company's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, new CEO Matthias Müller condemned the "unlawful behavior of engineers and technicians involved in engine development."

Müller, former head of Porsche, took over after Martin Winterkorn resigned from the position of CEO earlier this week claiming he is "not aware" of any wrongdoing on his part.

The company built a software "defeat device" that allowed cars to cheat on emissions control tests and spew up to 40 times the level of pollutants legally permitted. The scandal is now known to have affected 11 million cars worldwide.

I say?! What interests did these "engineers and technicians" have for fraud? Did they profit from the sales of Volkswagens? Clearly not, I'd say: Those who did were the very top, and therefore it is far more likely that the very top initiated the major fraud.

Besides, while at present 11 million Volkswagens are far more polluting than their fraudulent tests indicated, I see no reason to assume only Volkswagen frauded with its tests, indeed precisely because it is very profitable to cheat both customers and states
by selling a car that is reputed to be very soft on the environment, while in fact it isn't.

But leaving the other car companies alone for the moment, here is someone else who reacted as I did: 

Mother Jones political blogger Kevin Drum wrote Saturday that he is not buying the company's claims.

"This is ridiculous," Drum argued. "What incentive do low-level engineers and technicians have to do this on their own?"

"Hell, they couldn't even take on a project like this unless their managers OKed the time to do it, and their managers wouldn't do it unless they were being pressed by higher-ups," Drum continued. "Anybody who's ever worked at a big corporation knows this perfectly well."

Precisely! Here is the article:

And here is another pasage from that article:

I'll call BS on UBS, which apparently thinks this scandal "could signal the eventual end of the combustion engine." Please. There's no difficulty "amassing accurate data" on engine emissions, as one of their analysts suggests. VW amassed very precise data. They just chose to hide it by means of a calculated, premeditated, multi-year fraud.

Yes. As I indicated, there are many more car companies where the top of the management has a strong reason to fraud, although they haven't been found so far.

As to Volkswagen: The story they try to spin is indeed complete - and evil - bullshit, in my opinion at least, and my guess is that they are going to have a lot more trouble, and that Matthias Müller soon will follow his fleeing predecessor.

4. A Progressive Pope or Greenwashing the Vatican?

The last article today is by Chris Hedges and Paul Jay, and is based on a video interview of the first by the second, on The Real News Network:
This starts as follows:

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network, and welcome to Reality Asserts Itself. I’m Paul Jay.

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently they reject the right of states charged with vigilance for the common good to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies, and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power.

To all of this, add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possession knows no limits. And in the system which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market which becomes the only rule.

Well, that could have been written by our next guest. But actually it was written by Pope Francis in 2013. Now joining us is our next guest in the studio, Chris Hedges. Thanks for joining us, Chris.

And that is an excellent introduction, for indeed Chris Hedges might have written much like pope Francis did, whose prose was quoted. In fact, in a way this continues item 2, but the criticism is a bit different here.

Here is first some more by Paul Jay:

JAY: So those are powerful words. A French reporter recently asked the pope whether he was really a European social democrat, and the pope kind of laughed, saying, well, don’t put me in a box. But in fact, this is in the tradition of actually some of the more, you could say more militant European social democrat language. But most of today’s European social democrats wouldn’t even go as far as the pope did.

I guess so, but then (1) few of the elected social democrats are real social democrats: Most - in England, in Holland, in Germany, for example - are Tory-lite political careerists, and in fact I would assume that (2) most of the elected politicians of most parties are frauds who belong to the caste - see item 1 - of eager careerist servants of their own career and incomes, and of whoever best supports that. [2]

Next, there is this by Paul Jay, that explains part of the motives of the pope, and also explains the title of the article:

JAY: Now he’s speaking, first of all, to his own flock, which is rather big still. Apparently about 1.2 billion people, half of all Christians on the planet. But is he playing a role in the sense that it’s good for the Catholic church to sound this way. The institution itself needs to be revived, particularly in Latin America, which has a real leftward turn.
(...)
And that, in a sense it’s a kind of greenwashing.

In fact, I'd say about the title of the article that it is a bit of both: The pope is more progressive than his predecessors, and he is also trying to wash his church greenish -
but in both he is not a real radical.

Indeed Chris Hedges agrees:

HEDGES: So it is a good thing, yes, without question that the pope is acknowledging the effects of climate change, is acknowledging the effects of neoliberal economics and globalization. But as I said before, acknowledging it at this point is simply acquiescing to a reality that most of the members of the Catholic church already know.

Yes, though it is a lot more effective if the leader of the Catholic church explicitly agrees with what "most of the members" of his church "already know".

Then there is this on Obama and his government:

JAY: But the pope lauds President Obama’s environmental policy, which is–.

HEDGES: Well, which is horrible. I mean, he has a horrible–he just opened up the Arctic for summer drilling. He had the whole Atlantic coast, you know, public lands. He drills like Sarah Palin. He’s proved utterly ineffectual to address climate change. And has, you know, kind of held off on the Keystone XL pipeline, but his environmental record is appalling.

I agree (and am no fan of Obama). And here is Chris Hedges on the pope's message:

HEDGES: So he’s reading between the lines, he’s asking for a kinder, gentler system for people to take into account the suffering that global capitalism has inflicted, lifting up the voices of the poor. But in the end as far as I can tell, it’s about charity. It’s not about justice. And that’s how he can stand next to Obama. He’s not–he’s, you know, even in the passage you read he’s critiquing the excesses of the system, and nowhere does he critique the system itself.

Actually I differ a little: The pope may have asserted a critique of the system itself, e.g. when he wrote:

To all of this, add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possession knows no limits. And in the system which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market which becomes the only rule.

Then again, he can't go all the way as pope, and indeed must more or less stand in the middle of his congregation, and also inbetween politics and religion, while his function and role are considerably more religious than political.

There is also this by Paul Jay, that is perceptive:

JAY: It raises a question, as well. This language, as I said earlier, is kind of in the realm of kind of social democracy, which means can we get rid of the excesses of capitalism but you don’t have to actually challenge who owns stuff and change who owns stuff, and not really change who has power.

Yes, and that is one of the differences between (real) social democrats and (real) socialists, where the "(real)" is added to indicate that of both political positions there also is a caste - see item 1 - of political careerists who only pretend: They talk the language of social democracy and socialism, but only because it helps them getting elected, and not because they agree - they are merely careerists, only interested in their own financial advances.

Here are some facts quoted by Chris Hedges on the enormous amounts of money the US spends on making wars:

HEDGES: And if we don’t confront the disease of empire and an arms industry that is now swallowing–I mean, the best estimates are about $1.6 or $1.7 trillion a year. I mean, officially it’s about 54 percent of the budget, about $600 million. But then they hide all sorts of military expenditures, the Veterans’ Affairs administration, the nuclear weapons industry and research. As well as all sorts of black budgets that go into military activities that we as citizens are not allowed to see.

Yes, indeed. And here is Hedges' diagnosis of the pope:

HEDGES: (..) And you know, and it allows you to kind of read things into the pope that probably aren’t there. I mean, what he’s really presenting is very basic Christian theology against idolatry. I mean, that’s where it comes from. It’s against idols. And that’s been part of Christian theology since before Augustine.

I think that is basically correct, though I am willing to grant him a bit more: For a pope, he is quite progressive, and for a pope, he is quite radical, but indeed both are true for a pope.

And indeed as pointed out in item 2, the pope is quite mistaken about population growth.

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] In case you disagree: I really dislike Tony Blair, from first seeing and hearing him in 1994 or 1995. (And you can't disagree with
me that he made 50 million pounds + 30 million, or more, according to two of his biographers.)

[2] Incidentally, when I say most belong to the caste, what I am saying is that most are nothing special, and nothing different from most ordinary folks: They pretend to do what they do for "the nation", "the people" or "my party", but in fact they are only sitting where they sit because it pays well and gives status. I think real politicians must be considerably more intelligent and more moral than the people they lead, but in fact the opposite types - hardly more intelligent and certainly less moral - have become the norm.

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