Nov 3, 2016

Crisis: Reinventing Democracy (?), Neo-Nazis, American Imperialism, Theresa May
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Reinventing Democracy in America Starts by Voting,
     Then Building an Accountability Movement

2. Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Cook Up Idiotic Plan
     to Keep Black People From Voting

The Fatal Expense of American Imperialism
4. Theresa May Seeks to Reinvent Britain

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 3, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about reinventing democracy in the USA, but doesn't seem very inspired; item 2 is about American neo-nazis who may make problems for voters (but my guess is that there are not enough of them to succeed); item 3 is about American imperialism and is a devent article; and item 4 is about Theresa May in Spiegel International, but I found this article very disappointing (but lucky you will learn who designed Theresa's dress and what color pumps she wore to pray!).

I am a bit sorry there wasn't more to review, but then I did write 1380 files on the
crisis so far, and 301 in 2016.

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It was OK for two days now, but again didn't work out in Holland yesterday...

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. Reinventing Democracy in America Starts by Voting, Then Building an Accountability Movement

The first item today is by Eric Ortiz on Truthdig:
  • Reinventing Democracy in America Starts by Voting, Then Building an Accountability Movement
This starts as follows:

Voting is supposed to be a constitutional right in the United States. But the sad truth is that voting is a privilege. This reality has been made colder since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Steps have been taken to curtail the impact of that decision—Shelby County v. Holder—on the 2016 general election, but voter discrimination still exists. Some Americans have fewer rights than others. Compare minorities, the poor, immigrants, felons, ex-convicts and the elderly with well-off whites, the educated and so-called 1 percenters. Whose voices do you think are heard more? The current system has been designed to maintain the status quo and keep the disenfranchised from changing their status. Discriminatory voting laws compound the problem.

This is far from clear. First, I do not see why something - voting, or other things - may not be both a right and a privilege. Second, while I do not deny that voter discrimination exists, the argument that "[s]ome Americans have fewer rights than others" is far too general. (Of course the poor - for example - are less well heard than the rich. But that is not the point, which ought to be about voting rights.)

And also I do not think that "[t]he current system has been designed to maintain the status quo" is on the dot: Yes, clearly it is in some respects, such as the effective two-party system and the influence of non-elected persons. But it doesn't seem to work very well against Donald Trump, for example.

I skip a fair amount and arrive at this:

The article reviews a new book called “Against Democracy,” by Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown University who argues for “epistocracy,” a word (coined by another political philosopher, David Estlund of Brown) that means “government by the knowledgeable.” Brennan believes that uninformed voters do more damage than good, so decision-making should be left to the informed. In other words, voting should not be a duty for all.

That’s a radical idea. But in a way, such thinking aligns with how the Founding Fathers viewed the electorate, Crain acknowledges.
It is only since 1920 (less than a hundred years ago) that women got the vote in the United States (and also in Holland, by the way). Before that, there were several exclusions: Of women, of people paying too little tax, of people who had no education, of blacks etc.

The basic problem with denying the vote to some of the adults is that the exclusions tend to be on arbitrary principles, while te basic problem with giving the vote to every (sane, not imprisoned [2]) adult is that quite a few of them really lack the education to vote rationally. [3]

Then there is this advice from Eric Ortiz:

Over the 240 years of the American experiment, the nation has moved away from its early ideals. Democracy has been corrupted, becoming the perverted form of corporatocracy and plutocracy we now have. The only way we can fix the defects in our system is by voting in principled leaders, then insisting they follow through on what they promise. If they do not, we must vote them out and put people in power who do.

Start in your own community. It will require some sacrifice.
Really now?! First of all: How did democracy grow corrupted? Alternatively put: How could corporatocracy and plutocracy arise in a democracy? Note that I do not deny democracy grew (somehow) corrupted, nor do I deny that corporations and the rich have more power than the non-rich. I merely want to know what is wrong with democracy in Ortiz's eyes.

And second, if "
[t]he only way we can fix the defects in our system is by voting in principled leaders" (and "insisting they follow through on what they promise") I am very much afraid this simply will not work. Indeed, one of the problems of American democracy is that one only can get votes (whether or not one is "a principled leader") by having a whole lot of money.

We also get Winston Churchill quoted:

We accept in the fullest sense of the word the settled and persistent will of the people. All this idea of a group of supermen and super-planners, such as we see before us, “playing the angel,” as the French call it, and making the masses of the people do what they think is good for them, without any check or correction, is a violation of democracy. Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.

I am sorry, but this is nonsense. Here is why:

First of all, the "group of supermen and super-planners" is nonsensical baloney anyway, for such people just do not exist. Then again, it is very clear that the well-educated rich (a quite small group)have far more power than the ill-educated non-rich, also in that least evil system of "democracy" practised in Great Britain. Third, "the people" absolutely never ruled: Every complicated society has been pyramidical since several thousands of years, and was always governed by a very small set of well-educated people, who usually were at least well off. Fourth, "public opinion" never did "shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers": At the very best, the "Ministers" were nominated by a prime minister (in Great Britain) who won with a majority, but that is about the extent that "the public" controls "the politicians".
And fifth, the "Ministers" always were the masters of "the public" much rather than their servants (and indeed "the public" has far too many variegated opinions, values and desires to be well served by any "Minister" even if they wanted to, which they never really do).

So this was just a bit of bullshit served by a rich British aristocrat to "the people".

And I am afraid that this article also isn't worth much: Voting and accountability are nice, but they are not enough to realize a real democracy. But how to realize a real democracy in the USA does not get clarified in this article.

2. Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Cook Up Idiotic Plan to Keep Black People From Voting

The second item is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:

  • Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Cook Up Idiotic Plan to Keep Black People From Voting

This starts as follows:
On Tuesday, the Crusader, the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan, published a lengthy editorial supporting the presidential bid of Donald Trump. The glowing review of Trump’s candidacy is just one of many efforts by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other avowed racists to get out the vote for the Republican candidate.
Incidentally, this article starts with a picture of Trump giving Hitler's greeting (with an outstretched right arm) against a background of three swastikas. And while the above quotation is no doubt correct, and while I have no adequate ideas about how many "neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other avowed racists" there are in the USA, I doubt there are many real neo-Nazis (percentually).

But there are some, and here is one:

Andrew Anglin, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as the founder of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, is all in for Trump and claims to be behind a large effort to get likeminded white voters to cast their ballots for Trump. Politico says Anglin sent an email stating he has a “big voter registration drive” underway, and that he is “sending an army of alt-right nationalists to watch the polls.”

“Jews, blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected—and he’s happy about it,” Anglin said back in April. “This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man.”

Someone who hates "jews, blacks and lesbians" (or indeed any other large group of persons that are different from oneself) seems a clear idiot to me, and I also do not believe he will be very popular.

Indeed, that is a relevant consideration:

It’s hard to know how many of the claims by white nationalists and other groups is real and how much is bluster, because we're talking about neo-Nazis—as a rule, not the most trustworthy or honest group. The Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage told Politico it is unlikely Anglin will “get even close” to pulling off the effort he’s boasted about. He is worried that groups like the Oath Keepers, a militia outfit Politico describes as “drawn largely from the ranks of former military, law enforcement, intelligence and first responders and a track record of mustering heavily armed members in public places” will be more organized and targeted in its voter suppression efforts.

Perhaps. Then again, it is my guess that there are not enough neonazis to make real problems for the national elections. (I may be wrong, but one of the reasons for my guess is that there simply has been very little news about the neonazis, which suggests that they are not important, indeed in spite of their "bluster".)

3. The Fatal Expense of American Imperialism

The third item is by Jeffrey D. Sachs (<-Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:
  • The Fatal Expense of American Imperialism

This starts as follows:

The single most important issue in allocating national resources is war versus peace, or as macroeconomists put it, “guns versus butter.” The United States is getting this choice profoundly wrong, squandering vast sums and undermining national security. In economic and geopolitical terms, America suffers from what Yale historian Paul Kennedy calls “imperial overreach.” If our next president remains trapped in expensive Middle East wars, the budgetary costs alone could derail any hopes for solving our vast domestic problems.

It may seem tendentious to call America an empire, but the term fits certain realities of US power and how it’s used. An empire is a group of territories under a single power. Nineteenth-century Britain was obviously an empire when it ruled India, Egypt, and dozens of other colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. The United States directly rules only a handful of conquered islands (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands), but it stations troops and has used force to influence who governs in dozens of other sovereign countries.
Yes, indeed: War and peace are of fundamental importance [4] and the USA is an imperial nation, as gets next explained:
The scale of US military operations is remarkable. The US Department of Defense has (as of a 2010 inventory) 4,999 military facilities, of which 4,249 are in the United States; 88 are in overseas US territories; and 662 are in 36 foreign countries and foreign territories, in all regions of the world. Not counted in this list are the secret facilities of the US intelligence agencies. The cost of running these military operations and the wars they support is extraordinary, around $900 billion per year, or 5 percent of US national income, when one adds the budgets of the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, homeland security, nuclear weapons programs in the Department of Energy, and veterans benefits. The $900 billion in annual spending is roughly one-quarter of all federal government outlays.
All I say here is: What gets spend on military purposes does not get spend on other purposes - and 1/4 of the federal governments' outlays is very much.

Here is more on the USA's imperialism:
The United States has a long history of using covert and overt means to overthrow governments deemed to be unfriendly to US interests, following the classic imperial strategy of rule through locally imposed friendly regimes. In a powerful study of Latin America between 1898 and 1994, for example, historian John Coatsworth counts 41 cases of “successful” US-led regime change, for an average rate of one government overthrow by the United States every 28 months for a century. And note: Coatsworth’s count does not include the failed attempts, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
That seems quite convincing evidence to me that the USA is indeed imperialistic.
Here is some on the costs of (just) the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War:

This tradition of US-led regime change has been part and parcel of US foreign policy in other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Wars of regime change are costly to the United States, and often devastating to the countries involved. Two major studies have measured the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One, by my Columbia colleague Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard scholar Linda Bilmes, arrived at the cost of $3 trillion as of 2008. A more recent study, by the Cost of War Project at Brown University, puts the price tag at $4.7 trillion through 2016. Over a 15-year period, the $4.7 trillion amounts to roughly $300 billion per year, and is more than the combined total outlays from 2001 to 2016 for the federal departments of education, energy, labor, interior, and transportation, and the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In other words: During the last 15 years of continuous wars (and not only in Iraq and Afghanistan) more money was spend on just two wars in foreign countries than was spend on all of: "education, energy, labor, interior, and transportation, and the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency" combined.

I say. There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

4. Theresa May Seeks to Reinvent Britain

The fourth item today is by Christoph Scheuermann on Spiegel International:

  • Theresa May Seeks to Reinvent Britain
This starts as follows:

In the middle of her most difficult week thus far as British prime minister, Theresa May steps into Westminster Abbey through a side entrance to pray. She's wearing a blue dress from the British designer Amanda Wakeley beneath her overcoat, and a pair of black-and-pink pumps on her feet. It's a relatively expensive ensemble. May is 1.72 meters (5'6") tall and is by far the most elegant woman in the church. The gazes of the other worshippers follow her as she walks down the center aisle.

I am getting extremely sick of journalistic intros like this utter bullshit: I am not at all interested to know that she is "wearing a blue dress from the British designer Amanda Wakeley", nor that she has "pair of black-and-pink pumps on her feet", nor whether she is 5'6", and not at all that she is "the most elegant woman in the church", nor that the "gazes of the other worshippers follow her".

This is such sick writing up of the English Leader! For consider: Mr Scheuermann could just as well have told his public what is May's IQ, May's education, May's (real and pretended) political principles and priorities etc. But instead we are told who designed her dress and what kind of pumps she wore. [5]

The following happens to be true:

Since the referendum, the British pound has lost almost a fifth of its value against the dollar while banks and large corporations are considering relocating outside the country. Moreover, the government is tangled in a judicial battle regarding the formalities of leaving the EU, which could delay the process.

And this is more baloney:

She is a disciplined, tenacious strategist who is used to getting her way. Europe, though, doesn't work that way. European politics takes place during late-night meetings in Brussels and is the polar opposite of efficient. May needs something that thus far hasn't been one of her strengths: patience and the ability to win people over. The negotiations promise to be just as difficult for her as for the rest of Europe. She has replaced her "Brexit means Brexit" mantra by saying that Britain seeks the "maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the single market".

For one thing: I do not see why or how European inefficiency is relevant for "a disciplined, tenacious strategist" (other than that it may take her longer to get to her targets). And for another thing... The rest of this article is like its beginning. It's just baloney, and reading it was a waste of my time.

I am sorry, but - as I said before - Spiegel really seems to have changed quite a lot compared tot the Sixties, and it did not get better. [6]

[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] Being sane is one criterion to select voters; being not in prison is another. I am not argueing here whether these are correct criterions, but only that they have been fairly widely accepted in various countries.

[3] I agree with the point - there are a considerable number of voters who really lack the education to vote rationally - but on what principle shall they be excluded? Having finished high school, for one example? But then there are quite a few - quite possibly the majority of them - who did not finish it but who are rational. Having finished college? If one accepts that then one already is only allowing a minority to vote. (Etc. etc.)

[4] Yes, indeed. If I compare my life with that of my parents, who were born in 1912 and 1920, I must say that - even while I am ill for nearly 38 years now - my life has been rather a lot easier than their lives:

My father lived during two World Wars, one major and long lasting economical crisis, and the poverty of the 40ies and 50ies, and my mother did the same, apart from being born too late to live during WW I, and in both their cases, WW II made an very deep impression on them, indeed in good part because both went into the real resistance (which few Dutchmen really did).

And wholly apart from myself and my family, war is horrible, while some 40 years of the 20th Century were given to two World Wars and one very major crisis.

[5] I am quite open to the real possibility that Mr. Scheuermann does not know May's IQ, May's education, nor May's real and pretended political  principles and priorities. (He could have found out a little about her education: she won a place in a grammar school, and she got a BA in geography from the University of Oxford. This is from the Wikipedia.)

Even so, why his readers are informed about the color and the designer of her dress (Amanda Wakeley! Amanda Wakeley!
Amanda Wakeley!) and the color of her pumps (black and pink, black and pink, black and pink!), in what purports to be an article about a politician completely escapes me. (And no, it is not because she is a woman, for they do similar things with male politicians.)

[6] I am really sorry and the review is here because I did not find much today that I want to review. And I let it stand mostly because of the opening, which uses a - quasi-personalized - style that already sickened me in 60ies. As to Spiegel: I did read it regularly during the second half of the 60ies, but not much since. And I liked it in the 60ies (without agreeing), while I don't much like it now, and my reasons are mostly the style. (It's not always bad, I grant.)

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