from September 1, 2018
This is a
Nederlog of Saturday,
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.
moment and since more than two years
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
I shall continue.
2. Crisis Files
five crisis files
that are mostly well worth reading:
A. Selections from September 1, 2018:
1. Interview With One of Brazil’s Leading Presidential
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:
2. The Collapse of the Middle Class and the Rise of a New
3. Capitalism Is Beyond Saving, and America Is Living Proof
4. It’s the Corruption, Stupid
5. Ten Years After the Financial Crash, the Timid Left Should
be Full of
With One of Brazil’s Leading Presidential Candidates, Ciro Gomes
This article is by
Glenn Greenwald (who lives in Brazil) on The Intercept. It starts as
Brazil’s October 7
presidential election is rapidly approaching, and perhaps its most
remarkable aspect is the utter lack of clarity about the likely
outcome. The world’s fifth-most populous country is mired in
so many sustained and entrenched crises — economic, political,
judicial, cultural, and an endless corruption scandal — that
all previous rules for understanding political dynamics seem
obsolete. And for that reason, and several others, the dynamic of
Brazil’s presidential race has international relevance: it
illustrates the chaos and extremism that can ensue when a large
sector of the population, for valid reasons, loses all faith in
institutions of authority and in the political class.
Yes, and while I knew all of
that, Greenwald knows a great lot more about Brazil, because he
speaks Portuguese and lives there since quite a few years.
Mixed into all of those
crises is enduring anger, and growing regret, over the 2016
impeachment of the elected center-left President Dilma Rousseff,
in favor of a center-right coalition that has proven to be criminally
corrupt, led by an installed President Michel Temer. (..) Temer is now,
far and away, the
most unpopular president in Brazil’s history.
Here is more:
Add to all of that
the bizarre fact that the clear poll leader — Lula, the country’s
former two-term president — is virtually certain to have his
candidacy judicially barred due to the fact that he’s currently in
prison after a criminal corruption conviction: the result of a judicial
process that even many of his critics who believe him to be corrupt
regard as a
highly flawed and politically motivated trial and appeal. If Lula
were to run, it is close to certain that he would win.
I have an addition to
this: Meanwhile, Lula has been barred judicially from taking
part in the Brazilian elections.
Here is more:
One of the leading
contenders for that second spot is the Democratic Labor Party (PDT)’s
Ciro Gomes, a mostly left-wing politician who insists, for strategic
reasons, on being called “center-left.” Gomes is a remarkable
paradox in many ways. For one, he has been at the highest levels of
Brazilian politics for decades — as mayor, as governor of Ceará, a
large and poor state in the Northeast, a minister in two prior
presidential administrations, including Lula’s successful first
term — yet has the comportment of, and is widely perceived as
being, an outsider and somewhat of a rebel. He is also
extremely erudite and well-educated, a professor of Constitutional
Law who has studied at Harvard, yet styles himself as a plain-talking
“man of the people” who has become notorious among Brazil’s
conservative media for his “unpresidential” behavior and temperament.
First, of the several presidential candidates that Greenwald mentioned
(read the article if you want to see them), Gomes is the only
one who is not a rightist or a fascist. And I also admit I
never heard of him.
And second, the second place in the elections for president is quite
important, because the presidential elections in Brazil is a two-stage
process, that seems similar to France: First the first two are
selected; then there is a choide out of these two.
Whatever else one
might think of him, Gomes is a very astute and insightful thinker, and
his answers offer insight not only into the Brazilian election but the
challenges of liberalism and democracy generally throughout the western
This is the end of Greenwald's
article in so far as the text is concerned. In fact, it continues
with an edited interview with Gomes, that is also subtitled (in
English). This is a recommended article.
Collapse of the Middle Class and the Rise of a New 'Precariat'
is by Robert
Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The numbers speak
for themselves. Since the Great Recession, which saw unemployment
explode and millions of Americans lose their homes to foreclosure, the
net worth of the top 10 percent is up 26.6 percent and down for
American families, just over 30 percent. During that time, the 1
percent’s control of overall wealth has climbed precipitously. As
Alissa Quart writes in her new book, “Squeezed,” the result has been
the formation of an entirely new class—a group she has dubbed “the
Yes indeed. Also, as far
as Alissa Quart is concerned, I do not doubt that Scheer likes her
book, which I haven't read, but she is not quoted in what follows
simply because she doesn't say anything interesting in this interview,
whereas Scheer does.
Here is more:
Scheer: Hi, I’m Robert Scheer, and this is another edition of
Scheer Intelligence. My guest today is Alissa Quart, who’s written a
really important book called Squeezed: The High Price of the
American Family. And I just have – Let me just be presumptuous and
sort of give an overall thesis, the way I read the book. You’re
basically saying that the DeToqueville dream of an ever-expanding
middle class of opportunity and stakeholders, that was sort of the
basic assumption of the American republic and democracy, is really
over. And we have a new class, the precariat–I don’t know if you coined
the term or it’s been around before–of people who think they’re in the
middle class, and they have the education, very often, and the skill
set that used to be associated with a rising income and
opportunity, and they find themselves in this incredibly precarious
position of living paycheck to paycheck, and depressed, and having
children is a disaster because you have to pay for child care and you
can’t afford it.
The summary of Quart's
book is quite interesting, and it requires several comments.
First, De Tocqueville. I have read - at least three decades ago, I
admit - the two volumes of his Democracy in America, and I was quite
impressed, both by the style and also by the accuracy and
farsightedness of many of his expectations. Also, I can recommend it to
everyone interested in the social sciences or in the USA.
Then again, I do not recall "the De Toqueville dream of an ever-expanding middle class of
opportunity and stakeholders".
I may be mistaken, and De Tocqueville was for the middle class,
but the attributed dream of his requires more than economical
changes, namely political changes, and legal changes to
bind and guide some of the economical changes.
Second, the precariat. I don't like the term, for one thing, but that
may be purely personal and is not important. Then again, I also do not
like the term because it will need explanations, whereas there is a
perfectly adequate term for them: Well Educated Poor (WEPs
if you must insist on abbreviations).
But yes, the rest is quite true, and here is more:
But let’s talk about this notion of class. Because you know, the whole
assumption of a middle class has always been a confusing one; is it
aspirational, does it mean opportunity, the meritocracy gets involved
with that. And what you’re really talking about here are people who did
work hard, and they played by the rules, and what happened was that
they got degrees in subjects that should be important [but were not -
MM], or got jobs that just don’t pay enough to live on. Meritocracy
today doesn’t mean being good in school and having a good skills set;
it means servicing and providing skills that Google wants, or some
other large corporation. Isn’t that the reality here? The very idea of
a meritocracy has broken down.
Yes indeed, and this
requires several clarifications.
First, the whole notion of "social class" is very vague. That
there are several social classes was argued by Karl Marx and
adopted by most socialists and all communists, and an important
reason for them to do so was their idea that the proletarians of all
countries (say, the poor) would feel a strong solidarity with each
other, that would strongly outrank their positive feelings for their
exploiters (say, the rich) and their nationalistic feelings.
You may think this is a plausible thesis, but I think it was massively falsified by the First World War,
where millions upon millions of the poor of one country were
slaughtered by the poor of other countries, and conversely.
If you want more of this, you should read "The
Irrational in Politics" by Chris Palis,
a prominent British neuroscientist and anarchist, which is quite
good and strongly recommended.
Second, something similar holds for the notion of "middle class": It is
so extremely vague, indeed in considerable part because virtually
everyone wants to be part of it, and very many pretend they do,
though in fact they are either too poor or too rich.
Third, on meritocracy: I mostly agree with Scheer (i) because I do
believe there is a rather small group of persons who are quite
talented, and who work hard (and no: they are not the
intellectual equivalents of people without high school and and IQ of
80), and (ii) because I agree with Scheer
that those who are now highly evaluated are not those
with a wide and extensive knowledge of civilization, culture, the
sciences and the arts, but those who are good at programming and
willing to work for Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.
There is more below, because I think this is quite important. This is
the last bit that I'll quote from this interview
breakdown, it seems to me, is it goes to this word meritocracy–we
no longer think it’s important to educate the population, including the
young. We no longer think the arts are important, literature is
important, understanding your political system is important. And
really, what we have is an extension of this free-market, libertarian
model that the merit you’re looking for is merit to be able to work for
some very successful cartel or corporation like Google or Apple. And
the rest of it, what society needs, is gone.
I quite agree, and I start
with quoting the best bit again, because I can date these
changes quite precisely: "we
no longer think it’s important to educate the population, including the
young. We no longer think the arts are important, literature is
important, understanding your political system is important."
Yes indeed (except that neither Scheer nor I nor others think so, so
"we" is a bit misleading). And I can date these changes quite
precisely, at least in Holland:
It started in 1971, when the Dutch
minister of education (I believe) Veerman, introduced a law - mostly
because he wanted to prevent attempted social revolutions like the
French one of 1968 - to effectively give all Dutch universities to
the students, and to reorganize the structure of the
universities rather like that in Dutch politics:
Every faculty had its council, which had to be voted for
every year (like cities); every university had its university
council, that also had to be voted every year (like Holland); there was
a small government next to the university council that consisted of
three men in the "University" of Amsterdam; and in the university
the vote of every employee or student - professor, lecturer,
academic, secretary, toilet cleaner and student - counted as one.
Also, all these elections were effectively faught by parties,
of which there were some 8, of which two or three were student parties.
And because there are far more students than employees, the
students always had the majority, and in Amsterdam that meant that
the student organization the ASVA had the majority, I think from 1971
Now the ASVA was in fact an organization led by the Dutch Communist
Party and it also had one dominant end: To make gaining an M.A.
degree as easy as possible. That is: They did not say
they were against education, science, civilization, literature and art;
they just wanted to exclude all difficult parts.
When I arrived from Norway on August 15, 1977 - the greatest mistake I ever made in my life:
returning to Holland - I was soon taken apart by some students who had
studied there a few years. I said (not wishing to speak of my
heroic communist father, grandfather and my own communist education)
that Yes, I know Marx,
but I like Charles
Sanders Peirce better as a philosopher. (Literally.)
They thought a moment; discussed in whispers and then said: Peirce was
an American, wasn't he?
Yes. Well, because the Americans are behaving like fascists in
Vietnam, and because you like this American, you must be something like
a fascist. (Almost literally, in translation.)
I was somewhat flabbergasted because this was the first time ever I had
been called "a fascist" (with a communist father knighted for making an
exhibition about concentration camps - of which he had survived four,
in 3 years and 9 months - and the resistance) and because the argument
was utterly and evidently totally fallacious, and in fact simply
But then, it seems mostly because I created a student party that
opposed the all-powerful ASVA and that wanted real and difficult
studies instead of unreal diploma-mills (my party got all
of 5% of the votes), I have been called "a fascist", "a dirty fascist"
and "a terrorist" (in 1988) for the next 11 years when I entered the
"University" of Amsterdam (where I did not study a number of these
years because my ex and I both had and have ME/CFS since 1979), and indeed was removed
from the faculty of philosophy in 1988 and denied
the right to take an excellent M.A. in philosophy because I had had
the temerity of publicly criticizing my utterly incompetent and
extremely lazy "teachers" of philosophy.
Also, by 1984 the average IQ of all students was at least 40 points
lower than mine (115), which probably explains why my ex (IQ 142) and I
did get good and excellent
M.A.s in the faculty of psychology, without ever following
lectures. By now, it is probably 105, whereas the universities in
Holland - that reverted in 1995 to their old extremely
authoritarian structure - are 20 to 50 or more times as expensive as
Anyway... there is much more to say, but this is not the place for it,
and this is a strongly recommended article.
Is Beyond Saving, and America Is Living Proof
is by Jacob Bacharach on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Policies that fail in the
same way over and over are not failing. Someone is lying
about their intent. The drug war didn’t fail to stem the flow of banned
narcotics and to stop epidemic abuse and addiction; it succeeded at
building a vast carceral and surveillance apparatus targeted at people
of color as a successor to Jim Crow.
The war in Iraq didn’t fail
to bring democracy to the Middle East; it smashed an intransigent
sometimes-ally in the region, and deliberately weakened and
destabilized a group of countries whose control of, and access to,
immense oil reserves was of strategic American interest.
The “end of welfare as we
know it” didn’t fail to instill in the nation’s poor a middle-class
sense of responsibility; it entrenched a draconian regime of
means-testing and a Kafkaesque bureaucracy for access to even meager
social benefits for a rapidly shrinking middle class.
It’s not that “Capitalism
isn’t working,” as Noah Smith recently
argued in Bloomberg. It’s that it’s working all too well.
I mostly quite agree,
but I have a remark on capitalism: If "capitalism" is defined in
economic terms, like so
in which the economy is based on the private initiative of individual
entrepreneurs or limited companies, and where the prices of goods are
determined by the forces of the - supposedly free - market.
then Bacharach is quite
right. But a society does not reduce itself to its economy (except in
fairly primitive Marxism),
because there always also are laws and politics, and more,
of which especially the two named ones may have strong influences on how
economical capitalism can and cannot be run.
Then again, one of the
things Bacharach may have in mind was discussed in my Crisis:
It's the deregulation, stupid! and that is that mostly corrupt politicians have
diminished the influence of reasonable laws, and indeed often of laws,
by the process of deregulation, which in effect means that the
rich get the powers the government once had.
Here is more - and these are consequences
of deregulations since Reagan was president:
Real wage growth has been
nonexistent in the United States for more than 30 years. But as America
enters the 10th year of the recovery—and the longest bull market in
modern history—there are nervous murmurs, even among capitalism’s most
reliable defenders, that some of its most basic mechanisms might be
broken. The gains of the recovery have accrued absurdly, extravagantly
to a tiny sliver of the world’s superrich. A small portion of that has
trickled down to the professional classes—the lawyers and money
managers, art buyers and decorators, consultants and “starchitects”—who
work for them. For the declining middle and the growing bottom: nothing.
Quite so. Here is more:
Capitalism isn’t broken;
it’s working precisely as it’s supposed to: generating surpluses and
giving all of them to a small ownership class. The New Deal and postwar
prosperity, which barely lasted until 1980, represent historic
outliers—the one significant period in which growth at the top was
somewhat constrained and a relatively large share of wealth went to the
middle. It was possible only through massive government intervention
and redistribution, combined with a powerful labor sector backed by
that same federal government. It took the collective power of entire
societies to briefly restrain capitalism, which, left to its own
devices, will do what it has always done: make the already very rich
infinitely richer. Capitalism is “working” just fine.
Yes, again - and to put
the following in my terms: Prosperity in the West including the USA "was possible only through massive government
intervention and redistribution, combined with a powerful labor sector
backed by that same federal government" i.e. was done by massive government legal regulations plus protected
Here is the last bit
that I quote from this article:
In America today,
supposedly the most prosperous society ever to exist on earth, nearly a
third of families report experiencing economic hardship. Sixty
percent—60 percent!—say they could not cover an unexpected expense of
$1,000, and nearly 40 percent have less than $500 in savings. People
with good insurance get
billed $100,000 for having a heart attack. People commute
four hours a day because they can’t afford to live in the cities
where they work.
The barbarians aren’t at
the gates. They’re already here in the boardrooms; they’ve been here
Quite so, although I should
add that they are protected and promoted and voted for by the
vast majority of American politicians. This is a strongly
the Corruption, Stupid
is by Bob Burnett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As we head for the November
6th midterm elections, it's worth remembering that Donald Trump
was elected President because he promised to "drain the swamp." Instead
of doing that, Trump has unleashed a tidal wave of corruption. Over the
next two months, Republican corruption is the key topic Democrats must
Well... with Hillary and
Bill Clinton as extremely corrupt persons ("earning" over $100 million
after Bill's presidency), and - who knows - with Hillary Clinton as
(again) Democratic presidential candidate?!
You must be joking - and besides, I don't think it will
happen, simply because the Democrats may be a little less corrupt than
the Republicans, they are quite corrupt, and none of the corrupt ones,
of either party, wants to see his or her corruption discussed in public.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The most recent USA
Today/ Suffolk University poll asked:
"During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised to 'drain the
swamp'—to reduce corruption in Washington. Which comes closer to your
view?" 57 percent of poll respondents said, "The swamp has gotten
worse during the Trump Administration."
Nah. They could almost
just as well call the Democrats the Party of corruption, especially because the
Democrats, unlike the Republicans, pretend to be there (among other
things) to protect the interests of the poor and the middle class.
A recent Pew Research poll
found, "about half of Americans (54%) say they trust what Trump says
less than they trusted what previous presidents said while in office."
(In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 percent of
respondents disapproved of Trump's job performance.)
As a consequence of Trump's
diminished credibility, voters have begun to label Republicans as the
Party of corruption.
Years After the Financial Crash, the Timid Left Should be Full of
is by Larry Elliott on Common Dreams and originally on The Guardian. It
starts as follows:
Placards are being
prepared. Photo-opportunities are being organised. A list of demands is
up by a coalition of pressure groups, unions and NGOs. Yes,
preparations are well under way for protests to mark next month’s 10th
anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers – the
pivotal moment in the global financial crisis.
Make no mistake, the fact
that events will take place in all the world’s financial centres is no
cause for celebration. On the contrary, it is a sign of failure. The
banks were never broken up. Plans for a financial
transactions tax are gathering dust. Politicians toyed with the
idea of a green
new deal and then promptly forgot about it. There never was a huge
swing of the pendulum away from the prevailing orthodoxy, just a brief
nudge that was quickly reversed. The brutal fact is that the left had
its chance, and it blew it.
Well... yes and no. I
mostly agree, but my question is: Did "the left" really have its chance, or did this just appear
so, but did not work out (at all) simply because most of the
Democrats are corrupt? In any case, they mostly voted as if
they were, that is, for the banks and against the non-rich,
and this is also why almost nothing changed in a positive (leftist)
way, and why none of Wall Street's criminals had any problem with the
police or with justice.
Here is more:
Yes, with the
qualification that the social democratic parties (Elliott is British
and writes for a British daily) may have failed miserably because they were stimulated financially
to do so (in secret). Which is corruption.
Ten years on, international
finance is as powerful as it ever was. There has been only cosmetic
reform of the banking industry. Corporate power is ever
more concentrated. The benefits of the weakest
global recovery from recession in living memory have been captured
by a tiny minority. Wages and living standards for the majority in
developed countries have grown only modestly, if at all.
September 2008 was a
near-death experience for global capitalism. At one point there were fears
for the entire western banking system; when the recession was at
its worst, industrial production was collapsing more quickly than it
had in the early stages of the Great Depression. It was that bad. The
moment was ripe for politicians brave enough to state the obvious: that
the crisis was the result of removing all the shackles on global
financial capitalism put in place for good reason in the 1930s.
But social democratic parties failed miserably to come up with a
progressive response to the crisis that would have involved redressing
the imbalance between capital and labour.
Now, I do not know what percentage
of the American Democrats, or the Dutch social democrats, or the German
social democrats is corrupted, may be corrupted, or has been corrupted,
and I do not know because all these things are kept secret. I do
know that corruption is a fine explanation for the
fundamentally quite strange fact that the "social democratic parties failed miserably to
come up with a progressive response to the crisis".
The contrast between
Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and Barack Obama is telling. Both men
arrived in the White House in desperate times. Both had a mandate for
change. Roosevelt thought reform was necessary to save capitalism from
itself. It was this intellectual framework that resulted
in the Glass-Steagall Act to separate banks’ investment and retail
operations; public works schemes for the unemployed; and laws to make
it easier for trade unions to organise. Obama, like most of his fellow
centre-left politicians 10 years ago, was a technocrat who broadly
accepted the status quo and never seriously contemplated taking on
finance. Wall Street detested Roosevelt. It found Obama much more
Yes, this is true,
although I believe Eric
Holder, one of Obama's key men, was corrupt, and should have
appeared himself in court for refusing to prosecute large
criminals on Wall Street.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The left remains
divided between those who think – as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did –
that the only choice was to work with the grain of global capitalism;
those who think, as Roosevelt did, that a more root-and-branch approach
is needed; and those who think capitalism is so rotten it is beyond
Well... Clinton and Blair
apparently both had it as their personal end in life to become
quite rich, and they succeeded very well. Both are strong supporters of
capitalism, and indeed also of deregulated capitalism.
Roosevelt was a liberal and meant well, but it is true that one of his
major ends was to save capitalism by various legal, economic and
Finally, there is another position, and I do not know whether it is
shared by many leftists:
Undoing most of the deregulations that were made by
Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr, Obama and Trump.
There are nearly all legal changes. I think they are quite
possible, but I have no idea of probable they are, and I fear they are
rather improbable. Anyway... this is a recommended article.
end of 2015 that
xs4all.nl 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.
claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie.
They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.
just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my
ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years
as if they are the
eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I
from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).
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 (!!).