Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Politics

Hillary for president / Follow-up: A few thoughts on the U.S. election, Trump, and Kamala Harris

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Around 15 months ago (feels like an eternity), I wrote

[That Biden might step down] is not new, and I actually had genuine fears in the past that the reason that the DNC pushed for Biden was to have Hillary Clinton picked as running mate, in order to deliberately make her president through the backdoor—that he was chosen because of his degeneration, not despite it.

and

On the other hand, I find it very, very troubling that restrictions like “must be a woman” and “must be someone non-White” are even considered. This is a proof of a fundamentally flawed and anti-democratic attitude. The one positive thing is that once the U.S. has had a female president, this particular obsession might die down. It will certainly be very hard to push someone like Hillary again.

Today, I encountered Get Ready for President Hillary Clinton, which pushes the idea that “Democrats (i.e., the party of radical, insane and hateful socialists, Marxists and communists) are getting ready to install Hillary Clinton as president of the United States.”, by replacing Harris with Hillary and then forcing Biden out. This plays in well with Biden’s current state, Harris’s extreme unpopularity in virtually every circle, and recent tips* that journalists should look into the procedure for confirming a new vice president.

*According to several recent articles. I have not kept references.

Moreover, the author speculates on “Clinton/Obama in 2024.”, which, if they win, would likely imply Michelle Obama as a presidential candidate in 2028.

As this blog remains closed-ish,* I will not do a deeper analysis of his ideas, except as to note that I have toyed with the idea, myself, while coming down on the side that “Hillary probably is too unpopular in her own party”. (Then again, if not Hillary, then who? Looking at age, scandals, (un)popularity, (in)experience, (in)competence, (in)sanity, most or all nominally plausible candidates seem to be almost impossible—if not for the one reason, then for the other.)

*Honestly! Do not let such trifling details as the posts-per-month count fool you.

Excursion on other portions of my original text:
My early impressions of Harris, discussed in that text, have turned out to be very wrong. Like Biden, she is at least a candidate for worst ever holder of the respective position.

I also mentioned Thatcher and that “I would have been interested in seeing how she would have done as the next U.S president”. As things have played out, it is a very great shame that she was not the next U.S president.

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November 28, 2021 at 11:52 pm

The Left, the war on language, and the war on the individual

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I am so deeply disturbed by the language insanities of the far Left that I see myself forced to violate my blog-is-closed policy.

Consider e.g. the recent idiocy* of “chestfeeding”: Not only is this a very ugly construction and one that is intended to replace, on a whim, a word used without controversy for a great length of time, but it is also utterly pointless and shows a horrifying lack of insight into the English language.**

*This is, of course, just one of many. However, in many other cases, there at least seems to be some natural purpose behind it, as with e.g. the re-definitions of “racism” to push that intellectually dishonest Blacks-cannot-be-racist/all-Whites-are-racist rhetoric. A particular common problem is that the Left demands tolkningsföreträde when situations change or new terminology would have been beneficial, as with e.g. redefining “man” and “woman” from the age-old meanings, when it would have been so much better to keep the old meanings and introduce new words for e.g. a-man-who-feels-like-a-woman. (Who, of course, in a sane world is a transgender man, not a transgender woman.)

**To this might be added a number of practical complications, including what to do with existing literature (down the memory hole?) or with any differences that might or might not arise between e.g. U.S., British, and Australian English.

Firstly, the historical main meaning of “breast” is identical to that of “chest” (as an anatomical term). This meaning might have predominated as late as a hundred years ago and is still common in many other Germanic languages (cf. e.g. the Swedish “bröst” and the German “Brust”, which both have the same dual meanings of “chest” and (almost) “udder”). Replacing the one with the other would then only be a step on a euphemistic treadmill.

Secondly, in as far as we hold to the meaning of “udder”, “breastfeeding” is more precise and less confusing than “chestfeeding”. The latter could be taken to imply e.g. someone being fed while in a chest (box) or while merely resting on someone’s chest while being fed in a different manner. This even discounting the incompatibility with prior or international use.

Thirdly, this idiocy appears to be rooted in some transgender/-sexual pseudo-equality movement. However, here it misses the point entirely, because (a) the milk-giving parts would be referred to as breasts irrespective of any “transition”, (b) even the individual male parts analogous to the female can be legitimately referred to as “breasts” in the first place. The suggested/demanded-with-outrage change is, then, as idiotic as demanding that football be renamed into “lower-leg ball” in order to, say, make it less male supremacist—a complete and utter idiocy.

Looking at the overall societal crisis, I would suspect that the true goal is to destroy language, just like history and history education, previous culture, higher education, science, etc. is being destroyed. Once language has been reduced to a meaningless Humpty-Dumpty, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” swamp, the people can no longer rely on language and the Left can change meanings and intents of words as they see fit, enabling it to manipulate and distort in a horrifying manner.

A particularly nefarious use of such distortion is the after-the-fact blacklisting of innocents, e.g. by noting that some mid-19th century physician used the horrifyingly sexist term “breastfeeding”, proving himself to be a narrow-minded bigot whose every argument and scientific claim can be safely ignored—nay, must be ignored.

And, no, in today’s Western world this is not paranoia. Consider e.g. the fate which has already befallen authors, even anti-slavery or pro-black authors, who have used the word “nigger” in a historically correct manner in their works—and note that these works and authors are now increasingly blacklisted.* Similarly, there are cases of e.g. lecturers being condemned for merely uttering “nigger” in order to discuss topics around the word and its uses. That a word once was not in the least offensive does not seem to matter either: In my native Sweden, the word “neger” was considered entirely mainstream and unproblematic, more comparable to “negroe” or “black” than “nigger”, and without any of the U.S. historical load—until some point in the 1980s when someone, somewhere, without an ounce of justification, decided that “neger” was also offensive.** We then had a small band of fanatics demanding a ban—and they were ignored or ridiculed by the broad masses. However, after years of shouting “offensive” and “racist” they managed to change public perceptions and turn a perfectly harmless phrase into something that either a majority or a sizable minority unjustifiably considers offensive—a lie repeated often enough is ultimately taken to be the truth.

*Mark Twain and Harper Lee are likely the foremost examples.

**Even when it comes to the U.S. “nigger”, I am not entirely convinced that the word had a truly offensive character in the early days, and I am open to a process similar to the one taking place in Sweden. However, I have neither done the legwork on the issue, nor can I draw on personal experiences.

One of the more common PC abuses of language is the use of “they” not just as a generic singular (bad enough), but increasingly as a sole pronoun, including cases, e.g. regarding animals, where “it” was already established. Or consider the idiocy of “one” and variations of “they”—instead of correctly saying e.g. “one must eat one’s vegetables” formulations like “one must eat their vegetables” are used over and over again. (See e.g. [1] and [2] for earlier writings.)

This fits into another pattern, namely attempts* to destroy individuality—what can be more de-individualizing and humiliating than to be turned from a “he” or a “she” into a “they”? (Or, as in Ayn Rand’s “Anthem”, turned from an “I” into a “we”. The novella is disturbingly farsighted.) Even an “it” still has individuality, a right to be something or someone of and by it self. A “they” is just a worker bee or a member of the Borg Collective.

*This is not unique to today but a recurring issue with the Left. Consider e.g. the uniformity of clothing or address (“comrade”, etc.) pushed by some Leftist dictatorships.

This war on the individual is notable through e.g. the focus on aspects like ethnicity and sexual orientation over individuality, including demands that voters must vote according to these aspects rather than their personal convictions, e.g. the focus on having (or, in doubt, professing) the “right” prescribed opinion rather than one’s own opinion, e.g. the denial of inborn qualities in favor of an outdated-by-fifty-years attitude of “nurture only”—that we are just what others have molded us to be, and with another molding we would be someone entirely different.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 17, 2021 at 6:11 pm

COVID counter-measures (!) wrecking immune systems / Follow-up: COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?

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I just encountered a very disturbing read. Among* the claims made:

*I recommend reading the original text in full. The inconsistent quotation marks are present in the original.

Children need to come into contact with dirt (or put more scientifically: bacteria, microorganisms, viruses in general) in order to build immune systems that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

“All the sanitary measures necessary in a pandemic” have meant that this very necessary contact has been massively reduced, pediatrician Mário Cordeiro tells the paper, leading to babies and toddlers particularly becoming dangerously ‘vulnerable’.

This is yet another indication that the counter-measures against COVID are doing more damage than COVID—a cure worse than the disease by far. (And not a very good cure either, at that. Witness Sweden and Florida.)

Apart from the specifics of the article, there are at least two more abstract points illustrated, which, in turn, illustrate the problems with such massive interventions.

Firstly, any major (and many minor) changes of the status quo are likely to have unexpected* side-effects, especially when they are very prolonged. I would argue that even the highly predictable side-effects of the COVID lockdowns and other interventions, e.g. bankruptcies, should have been enough to bring more caution; however, the risk of unexpected side-effects makes it that much more important to be cautious.

*With hindsight (cf. excursion), I do not find this surprising and others might have seen the risk a lot earlier. Maybe, I just missed the risk because my main period of interest was over after the first few months; maybe, I would have missed it anyway. It seems fair to assume, however, that our nitwit politicians did miss it, as they failed to recognize even the more obvious and more short-term threats (and/or willfully choose to ignore them).

Secondly, over-protection is a bad thing. Now, drawing the line between protection and over-protection can be hard, but most of the Western world is highly over-protective. Consider not just COVID and all the “for your own good” measures, but also e.g. colleges that try to prevent (!) students from coming into contact with claims that they disagree with; welfare systems that do not just help the truly needy, instead opting for an elimination of personal responsibility, giving incentives for low earners not to work at all, etc.; schools that do not allow children to walk between school and a near-by home; or so extensive healthcare that biological fitness, be it in evolutionary terms or, similar to the above, short-term individual fitness, is increasingly taken out of the equation, ensuring more and more medical troubles over time. Then (cf. excursion) there is the attitude of many parents …

Excursion on over-protection and myself:
I had an over-protective mother, of whom the above quote reminds me. I was big on putting sand, pebbles, whatnot in my mouth as small child, which always caused protests, often even physical interventions, from my mother. She was certainly well-intentioned and I have since grown to find the habit disgusting, but since I first heard claims like the first paragraph above, I have wondered whether she did not do more harm than good. Her over-protection definitely held me back at times. I can e.g. recall visiting my cousins, who showed me how to use a small* weed-wacker (?). While aunt and uncle were aware and said not one word of protest, my mother threw a fit when she returned and I proudly wanted to show her what I had learned—things like that are worse for a child than a largely imaginary risk of a minor injury.

*As in, could-cut-the-grass-around-a-fence-post-but-not-much-more.

Similarly, because she had a do-everything-for-the-children attitude, both I and my sister entered adult life woefully under-prepared. I enjoyed it at as a child, but adult me paid the price, as I was left to make many mistakes later than was needed (and when she could not help) and with too lacking experiences when it came to e.g. cooking and cleaning. What if she had not protected child or teen me from mistakes, but allowed me to make them and then helped with correcting them and drawing the right lessons?

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August 6, 2021 at 12:19 am

That noble distraction / Follow-up: That noble cause

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A few years back, I wrote about noble causes and how they are used and abused.

Since then, I have grown ever more suspicious that some of them might serve another purpose than I had anticipated—distraction. (Cf. the idea of starting a war to distract from internal problems.)

If the voters are in a near state of panic over global warming, COVID, “systemic racism”, or similar, chances are that they will be too distracted from worse or real* problems that are less publicized (or where the knowledge is deliberately suppressed)—for instance, the damage done by too large a government and too much government intervention, including high taxes and handing out money to the lazy, poorly controlled immigration, dysgenic pressure within the population, misconstructed** healthcare systems, the destruction of education and science, etc.

*Global warming might be real, but systemic racism is not—unless it is in a pro-Black, anti-White, anti-Asian sense. (As evidence e.g. by Blacks being admitted to college with far lower SAT scores than Whites and Asians, and how Blacks are less likely to be shot by the police than Whites in equivalent incidents.)

**For instance, by giving the potential patients incentives to seek help even when help is not needed, and for the healthcare providers to raise prices, because a third-party pays. Notably, health insurance should actually be health insurance, as in “if something really bad happens, the insurance pays”—not a redistribution mechanism, as in “no matter why I go to the hospital or what medication I want, others will pay for me”.

(And note that many of these problems, while bad for the people and/or the nation, are good for the politicians, in general, or the Leftist politicians, in particular, e.g. because they lead to less informed voters, give an excuse to increase government intervention further to buy votes or to create the impression that the government is a rescuing angel, or similar.)

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July 7, 2021 at 10:59 am

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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After watching the next episode (S05E01), I have to make a small addendum in Emily’s defense to my previous text:

I had entirely forgotten about her catching Ross about to go (at least officially platonically) with Rachel on what should have been Ross and Emily’s honeymoon. With that misunderstanding, Ross’s behavior must have appeared much more incriminating to her, which makes her later behavior a little more understandable.

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July 5, 2021 at 11:52 pm

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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I am currently re-watching “Friends”, and (as always) find it full of examples* of poor female behavior, many reflecting the political problems I suspect in e.g. [1]—as well as a male failure to hold women to a reasonable standard and to take a stand, which could also contribute to political issues. This in particular regarding Rachel and Ross and her double-standards, self-centeredness, disregard for the interests of others, and unwillingness to take personal responsibility. Rachel: Me! Me! Me! Ross: You! You! You!

*I caution that “Friends” is in many ways exaggerated and unrealistic, but many of the behaviors of both sexes match what I have experienced myself or seen/heard/read from others reasonably well in quality, if not necessarily quantity.

Consider the last few episodes that I watched, centering on Ross and Emily’s London wedding. Examples include Rachel flying to London to wreck the wedding,* Emily freaking out about a venue problem to the point that she wants to postpone the wedding, leaving a number of overseas (and probably dozens more local) guests with wasted trips and parents with an expensively paid wedding, and Monica supporting this selfish idiocy—while Ross tries to take a stand, only to cave in the face of what amounts to “But this is really, really important to a woman/girl of five!”. That the woman was in singular and the guests in plural, that any sane person considers the marriage** far more important than the wedding, and that we sometimes have to swallow the bitter pill and do what is right, not what we want or what is easy, did not seem to figure into the equation.

*To her credit, she comes to her senses, possibly partially due to a stern talking to from Hugh Laurie (a man who took a stand). That the wedding ends up being wrecked (in the next season) was not her fault.

**Eventually, the wedding took place and the marriage crashed and burned in short order. Of course, the wedding did not take place because someone talked sense into Emily, but because Ross went out of his way to fix up the ruined original venue to cater to her childish ideas.

As to Ross’s classic line “I take thee, Rachel”, which crashed the marriage: I have considerable sympathies for Emily, as this must have been both humiliating and infuriating, but would not a reasonable person in a deep and loving relationship have been able to move past it? Either she was unreasonable for not doing so or for having pushed for a ceremony at a far too early date, before the two knew each other and the depth or shallowness of their love well enough.*

*Note that while Ross pushes harder for the marriage, per se, the extremely short time between proposal and wedding is Emily’s doing—and for a childish and superficial reason (wanting to be married in a particular venue, before it is torn down; again, missing the point of the marriage being more important than the wedding). With another few months to more than a year of engagement, they would have had so much better chances to straighten themselves out or to terminate a mere engagement instead of an actual marriage.

As to Rachel, in general, she is indeed a horrible, horrible woman (to paraphrase Hugh Laurie) and her personality defects ruined most of the Ross–Rachel saga for me. Her very first appearance on the show follows her running out on her own wedding, still in her wedding dress, and more-or-less assuming that she can move in with Monica, whom she had not dignified with her friendship in years (with some reservations for ret-cons).*

*And note that when Chandler does something similar, much later, he is talked back into the wedding, while Rachel was not. If anything, the general sentiment seems to be that Rachel did the right thing—no matter the damage to the groom, the guests, and the whatnot. By all means, she should not get married against her own convictions, but if she were to back out, she should have done so earlier, when the damage to others would have been small, and not on a last minute whim, when the costs for others were large.

Among her many other idiocies and selfish behaviors, I will give only three (watch an episode at random, if you want more):

Firstly, the whole “Were they on a break?” situation: Watch the relevant episodes, and you will find that immediately after the event Rachel (!) claimed that they were on a break, while Ross thought that they were broken up. Over time, Ross appears to have been a chicken and switched to Rachel’s position (on a break), with the effect that Rachel pushed her own position further to his disadvantage (not on a break). (Incidentally, this is another thing that well matches the current political Left. Give them an inch and they next demand an ell, instead of giving an inch of their own.)

Secondly, the events leading up to Ross’s drinking fat as an act of contrition:* Ross is in a hurry to get to an important event, likely one of career relevance to him, with her as his guest. She utterly disrespects** him and his justified (!) urgency with endless and unnecessary delays, eventually throws a childish fit, refuses to come and/or to dress, and behaves as if he had disrespected her … Eventually, in one of the most absurd scenes of television, the adult man has to earn the forgiveness of the spoiled child by drinking fat.

*That episode pisses me off to such a degree that I skipped most of it, this time around. I make corresponding reservations for vagueness and errors in detail.

**Note the hypocrisy and how the women on the show take the exact opposite attitude on so many occasions, when they are the ones believing something to be important. This is a good example of how turning the male and female roles in a certain situation around can be extremely revealing about the pro-woman double-standard that applies in much of modern society (and modern TV). Have a man be cavalier about an important career event (or a wedding!) and women hit the roof over the alleged egoistical pig. When a woman is cavalier? Not so much.

Thirdly, appearing to accept Ross back as her boyfriend, making him break up with his new girlfriend (Bonnie?)—and then springing an 18-page letter (“Front and back!”) upon Ross, making unconditional demands on him that he must accept in order to be her boyfriend. (Notably, demands that he disagrees strongly with.) As she had made him dump Bonnie, this was utterly unreasonable. If she had such demands, she should have brought them in play before the dumping, to give him an informed choice; after, she had made her bed and should have been forced to lie in it, to take responsibility for her own lack of timing. And what about poor Bonnie—either which way?

Excursion on Emily and red flags:
Looking at Emily, she had a number of earlier events, including in her very first scene, when she comes across as bitchy, but most of them, at least when taken alone, seemed to have legitimate causes. That someone is in a bad mood after a long plane ride, followed by a body-cavity search, followed by falling into a puddle, followed by (apparently) being stood up is understandable.* However, with hindsight, they could be seen as early warning signs, and it might pay to take such warning signs seriously in real life. For instance, if a girlfriend flips out once a week, chances are that a better wife can be found and that a proposal should not take place. (And, certainly, the current disastrous political situation follows decades of warning signs that have been ignored by too many until it was too late.)

*To some approximation her state during that first scene. I might have the details wrong, however.

Excursion on the Left and a childish worldview/moral system:
It strikes me again and again that most people on the left move on an apparent level of (not just women but) children in terms of how undeveloped their worldviews and moral systems tend to be. Pick up a typical children’s book or comic and chances are that exactly their type of thinking will be found, e.g. in that the protagonist is always (morally) right, that the “strong” must selflessly help the “weak” without looking into why help is needed, that the “strong” are always wrong in a conflict with the “weak”, that if the one has then he must share, etc. To some part, this might be because the authors are disproportionately often Leftist, but mostly, I suspect, it is simply that Leftists often have not moved on from ideas popular with children. Compare this with e.g. Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.

An interesting case is the Swedish comic “Bamse”, which features an eponymous bear who gains superpowers by eating a particular type of honey (similar to Pop-Eye and his spinach). Either the “bad guys” do what Bamse want, or they are beaten up—with no sign of true moral reflection, e.g. about who is in the wrong and who is in the right. (With reservations for what might have changed in the comic since my own childhood.)

Excursion on Ross and errors:
Ross was by no means ideal either, even if we disregard his weakness and how easily manipulated he was, but, interestingly, the one (off the top of my head!) truly major point where I find him in error, saw him acting in a manner more stereotypically expected of a woman and Rachel of a man: out of jealousy or love he kept pestering Rachel in her office, leading up to an attempt to force her to an anniversary (?) picnic in her office, at a time when she made clear that she had a crisis to handle and that he simply had to wait. Of course, if we switch the roles again, with Ross in the office and Rachel pestering him, chances are that she would have reacted even more negatively than Ross did—and that the female viewers would have lined up to support her.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 4, 2021 at 10:10 pm

Deliberate lies, threats to freedom of speech, etc. based on “Unsettled” / Follow-up: Various.

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A while back, I wrote ([1]):

Indeed, these constant cries of wolf have strongly contributed to my changed take on man-made global warming, from “definitely real” to “I do not know”—my previous belief was based on claims made by journalists and politicians, experience shows that I cannot trust their claims, and I have (to date) never done the leg work to actually form an independent opinion on the matter.

I am currently trying to get some of that leg work done by reading Koonin’s “Unsettled”, but find the most interesting observations with regard to my own thoughts not in the area of the climate, but in the discussions of knowledge and free speech that are present in e.g. [1], [2], [3], and [4], as well as some of my many COVID discussions.

This both with regard to the contents of the book and the reactions against it.

I lack the time for a deeper analysis, but the problems discussed include topics like:

  1. Misleading reporting of science (notably through poor choices of what data to include in graphs and how to present that data), often with each layer of reporting distorting the actual finding further.
  2. Scientists being loathe to speak up for fear of repercussions.
  3. The possibility that some journalists and politicians take it upon themselves to deliberately exaggerate or distort so that the broad masses will be convinced of the “right” opinion, while being robbed of the right to form their own opinions.

(Of course, very similar issues can be found in e.g. I.Q. research, research into biological differences between men and women, and any other academic area which comes into contact with the Left and/or the PC crowd. Ditto COVID-related topics. )

Particularly telling is his repeated references to e.g. Einstein and Feynman with regard to a duty to truth, intellectual honesty, and similar in science. Consider e.g. Einstein’s

The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.

I note e.g. my own suggestions for a new press-ethics in [3], where the very first item is:

To always report the facts in a manner that allows the readers to form their own opinions—even if they happen to deviate from the journalist’s. This includes not selectively filtering facts that that are unpleasant or incongruent with the journalist’s world view, and not presuming to be an arbiter of what is relevant and what not.

In a bigger picture, I have long been concerned that systematic lying and distortion in line with this quote is taking place—an adult version of the “snus” example from [2]. Indeed, much of the discussion in [2] is highly relevant. This tendency has been very, very clear during the COVID-era, where any claim deviating even slightly from the official line is to be stomped out as inexcusable heresy and misinformation—even when the speaker is a legitimate scientist, even when the science is not yet settled, and even when the facts might support the claim.

Finally, I have previously argued that being right or wrong is not the only thing that matters, e.g. in [4]. Based on my experience and readings since [4], including the massive suppressions and distortions relating to COVID, I would suggest at least the following three questions to consider:

  1. Is a certain opinion correct?
  2. Is a certain opinion, its correctness or incorrectness aside, held for a good reason? (cf. [4], especially.)
  3. Has a certain opinion been freely formed by its holder? (As opposed to instilled in him by another party through means like indoctrination, selective reporting of facts, emotional manipulation, or other intellectually dishonest means.)

Of these, I consider the last the most important—and one likely to be answered with a resounding “NO” for most people and most opinions in today’s world. This failure is a far worse threat to civilization than COVID and climate change put together. It could kill science, democracy, and societal progress. It could ensure that more and more opinions are and remain incorrect as there is no competition between ideas, and as ideas will go untested once deemed the “official truth”. Etc. This is the realm of Soviet-style dictatorships and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

Casting a slightly bigger net, we might add a “Is the opinion professed the true opinion of the speaker?” (as opposed to a claim made for fear of repercussions, in order to seem enlightened, or similar).

Excursion on the climate and “Unsettled”:
Roughly half-way through the book, my impression of climate change and climate science is mostly unchanged, i.e. (a) there is likely something too it, but (b) there is a lot of exaggeration and panic-mongering going on, (c) what e.g. journalists claim does not automatically match what scientists say (in this and countless other fields), and (d) I still have not done enough leg work for a firm own opinion.

Something very interesting, however, is that “Unsettled”, in my reading, largely comes down with a “global warming is real” (etc.) take,* while others seem to read the opposite, e.g. (paraphrased) that “Finally, someone proves us skeptics right!” or “This is just a pseudo-scientific attempt to discredit the very real threat of climate change!”. This discrepancy between contents and reactions are not only another example of how dangerous the political climate is in the U.S. (in general) and on the Left (globally), but also plays in well with some of my recent thoughts around “The Bell-Curve”. Contrary to being e.g. “racist” or “White supremacist”, that book could be argued as anti-racist: If we look at what individuals from the broad masses with e.g. an anti-Black attitude say, it often amounts to “Blacks have some natural propensity towards crime [or whatnot], which makes them unsuitable for this-and-that.”. In contrast, “The Bell-Curve” has a take of roughly “those with low I.Q.** tend to end up in jail more often, and race is very secondary to I.Q.”, etc. If the Leftist hate-mongers had not been so keen on shouting the book down as racist, this could have been a very strong anti-racist argument, led to a far greater degree of tolerance, and led to policies much more likely to benefit all races over the long term.

*That the science and science reporting is criticized does not imply that the overall picture is rejected. Here, again, I suspect a strict policy of “either you are 100% with us, including by supporting any of our misinformation, or you are against us”.

**The authors usually deliberately do not speak in terms of I.Q., but the end result is the same and my last reading is too far back for me to remember the exact term used.

Written by michaeleriksson

May 25, 2021 at 11:11 pm

COVID curfews / Follow-up various

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I have repeatedly mentioned the risk that curfews will be imposed in Germany. In particular, in [1] I wrote:

As to [a suggested nightly curfew], what is that supposed to achieve?!? The nights are the times when the streets are almost free of people anyway, when there is the smallest risk of infecting or being infected. By locking people in at night, they either lose an option of fresh air and exercise for no good reasons or are forced to move these activities to the day time, when the risks are larger … Utterly idiotic. (Note that bars, discos, and the like are closed to begin with, irrespective of this curfew.)

Nevertheless, nightly curfews have become more and more common in Germany. Beginning today,* these curfews are pushed through on the federal level and imposed nationwide. The rules, however, are quite confusing and inconsistent, e.g. in that it is forbidden to leave one’s residence after time X**, unless it is done for exercise (or some other limited reason), in which case time Y** applies.

*Probably and with some reservations for the local incidence rate. Cf. excursion.

**I have seen conflicting claims and have not verified which exact numbers apply at the moment. The earlier, more local, Wuppertal curfew probably had X as 9 P.M. and Y as midnight.

This re-raises the question: Given that there already are strict restrictions on inter-household contacts (irrespective of time of day), that discos, bars, restaurants, etc. are all closed to begin with, that the few stores that are open close at 9 P.M.* anyway, that most workplaces close a lot earlier, etc. what could the purpose of this be?

*Going by the grocery stores in my neighborhood—other localities might have (or have had, pre-COVID) longer opening hours. Non-grocery stores typically close even earlier.

There is, obviously, some chance that this is yet another case of politicians making incompetent decisions, possibly just for the purpose of showing that “we are doing something” (even should what is done be ineffectual or do more harm than good).

In light of the exceptions, however I see a suspicion supported that I have hitherto left unstated for fear of looking paranoid, as it points to something truly nefarious, an inexcusable GDR-level agenda—that these curfews are intended to make it easier for the government to enforce other restrictions. Effectively, they are not there to (directly) combat COVID, but to give the government the tools to force the people to compliance (even be it with the indirect purpose of combating COVID).

For instance, without a curfew, family A could go visit family B, and unless they are observed together, a disgruntled family member tattles, or similar, the police would not be able to do very much. With a curfew? Nick them for violating the curfew on the way over, instead of the actual “crime” that they were about to “get away” with. (Conveniently, the exercise exemption is limited to one or, possibly, two persons, while the visiting restrictions have a similar one-person exemption.)

Looking at the future, this is could be highly problematic on at least two counts: Firstly, restrictions on civic rights are becoming ever more extreme and the ever more extreme is becoming “normalized”.* Secondly, this attitude of curfews and whatnots for the purpose of controlling the people could easily find a post-COVID** continuation, e.g. in that curfews are imposed to prevent AfD*** members from coordinating or that you-are-not-allowed-to-surf-the-Internet-anonymously-lest-you-spread-Rightwing****-hate-speech suggestions resurface.

*Notably, restrictions of dubious justification relative the crisis and the foreseeable benefit.

**If there is such a thing as post-COVID. Another immense danger is the COVID might remain and/or be milked by the politicians for so long that the next pandemic or whatnot appears in time to make the situation permanent.

***A popular-with-many-voters and hated-by-the-old-parties political party which is demonized and used as a threatening specter by the German Left—they must be suppressed or in a few years we will be gassing Jews and invading Poland.

****And note how often the focus is on explicitly “Rightwing” this-or-that, despite the Left almost invariably being the bigger sinners.

Excursion on governmental duty to inform:
As I noted in [2], there is too little information flowing in an explicit manner from the government. In effect, the citizens are supposed to hang on every word the press says, and hope that the press has got it right, in order not be ignorant of the current regulations. (And, again, not limited to COVID.)

This situation simply is not conscionable, especially with the way that the government dithers back on forth on some issues (note the Easter topic from [2] and some earlier texts) and with the often varying regulations on the federal, state, and municipal levels. Indeed, I outright missed the original imposition of a local Wuppertal curfew, only learning about it several days after the fact, because it did not find mention in any of the more nationwide sources that I had read. (And, frankly, I do not read that much German news anyway—in part, for lack of quality sources; in part, because of the high degree of paywalling.)

It absolutely, positively, and categorically must be the responsibility of the government to ensure that such information is given to the people—not the responsibility of the people to research whatever the government is currently up to. (The “how” I leave open for now, but this is one of the few areas where an email newsletter might make sense. With COVID and the often very short time from suggestion to decision, even putting paper notices in mailboxes might be justified.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 24, 2021 at 11:15 am

Follow-up II: Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey

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As I wrote last week ([1]), the German government has been jumping back-and-forth on the topic of an Easter ease-up, clamp-down, or business-as-usual (by the COVID standards).

It appeared that the last bid had been “business as usual”, but, as I learned a few days later,* this was not the case. The individual German Bundesländer (“states”), to some degree individual municipalities**, are allowed to set their own rules, within some limits, and it appears that they are doing so. In the case of Wuppertal, where I live, I have been unable to find a reasonable description of the exact rules that will apply, but it appears that stores may only be visited after a “rapid test” (“Schnelltest”) during the Easter days. I am taking the safe course and treating the situation as a five-day*** everything-will-be-closed. Correspondingly, despite having been grocery shopping yesterday, I went again today to load up a little.

*I had not originally looked into the details, but merely noted the repeated pin-the-tail attitude.

**With reservations for what exact word applies.

***There appears to be some unclarity over the time spam, but my impression is that the Sunday (everything closed anyway) and the two holidays (everything closed anyway) are complemented by restrictions for both tomorrow/April 1st (ha!) and Saturday (April 3rd).

Here we have two issues: Firstly, does it really matter from a COVID-POV whether I went to the store today or whether I had done so on Saturday (as originally planned)? I doubt it. Secondly, quite a few other people seemed to have had the same idea, making the store unusually full for the time of day (and likely to grew much worse as the day progresses). Considering the governmental obsession with keeping distance, would this not make matters worse from a governmental perspective than if the store visits had been spread over several days? It would not surprise me.

The bigger picture also raises at least two other issues:

Firstly, federalism and subsidiarity. Normally, I am in favor of this more often than not; however, here we see it backfire. One of the most important points behind these principles is to protect the citizens (and other entities, including individual states and municipalities) from too arbitrary, too undiscriminating, too self-serving, whatnot decisions “from above”. If we look at the U.S. and the COVID approach of e.g. Texas and Florida, we see how this can work well.* In Germany, however, there appears to only be two approaches—hard lockdowns and harder lockdowns. Here subsidiarity does not serve to protect the citizens from the federation but to screw them over even when the federation does not. (While I have not looked into the details on other issues, my general impression is similar: if the federation does not screw something up, count on the Bundesländer to do so; if the Bundesländer do not, count on the municipalities.)

*Generally, my fears of the complete corruption of the U.S. in the wake of Biden have been slightly reduced in light of my growing awareness of the power remaining with the individual states and that the GOP might have fared better on the local level than on the federal level. (Nevertheless, the picture is very, very bleak. By the next federal elections in 2022, the damage will be absolutely horrifying, if things continue down the current path—even COVID aside.)

Unfortunately, I have no good solution to offer that would also preserve the positive aspects of federalism and subsidiarity, but a general principle might be that a “lower” entity may only ever weaken restrictions and regulations, reduce taxes, and whatnot compared to what a “higher” entity suggests. (Possibly, with some exemptions for extraordinary circumstances, say a local natural disaster or local riots.)

Secondly, communication: It absolutely, positively, must be mandatory that the involved entities communicate various rules in an explicit, clear, and timely* manner. This, notably, not restricted to COVID but in general. For instance, I have had massive problems, because my (now de-installed) gas heater was subject to various obscure, counter-intuitive, internationally unusual laws and regulations, spread over several different texts, none of which I had even encountered during my twenty-something years in Germany—until a belligerent and incompetent piece-of-shit of a chimney-sweep sics the authorities on me.** Given these laws, even discounting that they are unreasonable to begin with, it should have been the governments responsibility to inform me that I had to pay attention to certain regulations—which would have been trivial in light of both the heater being on registry and my purchase of the apartment being registered. Given the extreme size and complexity of current laws, and how often they go against common sense and/or vary drastically from place to place, the principle of ignorantia juris non excusat simply is neither conscionable nor compatible with Rechtsstaatlichkeit when the government has not actively informed the citizens or when the need for citizen to inform himself is obvious.

*To the degree that the situation allows. That e.g. an explosion in the infection rates can force a short-term measure is understandable, but this is not the case here where politicians have just been pinning-the-tail, and often concurrently.

**I will not go into details of the overall situation, but as a for instance: portions of the regulations are buried in the “Schornsteinfeger-Handwerksgesetz” (“chimney-sweep trade law”). That a regular citizen would even contemplate investigating what appears to be regulations strictly for the chimney-sweep trade is highly unlikely. Would you bother to read a “dog-groomer trade law” in order to find out e.g. whether pets must be spayed and neutered? Hardly. Would you even be aware that one existed? I doubt it. (That there is a “chimney-sweep trade law”, at all, might be seen as proof of over-regulation, even if the justification is larger than for dog grooming.)

As a minor correction to [1], it appears that Merkel’s back-tracking was only partially caused by the public outcry. Another part came from a business outcry, a “we simply cannot reasonably shutdown with such short warning”. This is certainly a legitimate concern, but one that should have been obvious to the government and one which I assumed had been taking into consideration, e.g. through discussing this with relevant business organizations. Apparently, this was not the case, and that makes the approach the more amateurish. To take just one example from my own professional experiences: In my last project, the topic of bank holidays was important, e.g. to calculate payout dates, often a week or more in advance. Assume that such a date is calculated and communicated today, and arrangements are made for payouts and book-keeping, based on a certain set of bank holidays, possibly spanning several countries. Assume next that tomorrow someone adds a new holiday, retroactively making these dates incorrect. Now, how are we going to resolve this? Without massive additional effort and chain-reactions affecting other businesses, the best bet might be to just send apologies (“due to circumstances outside our control, blah blah”) and hope that no-one is sufficiently dissatisfied as to sue, shorten payments, or jump to another provider.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 31, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Follow-up: Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey

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I have repeatedly compared government policy regarding COVID to pinning-the-tail, most notably in [1]. This especially regarding my local German situation.

This includes a statement that I considered hyperbole at the time:

Grab a pin-board. Pin notes with possible counter-measures on the board. Put on a blindfold. Throw darts at the board. See what counter-measures were hit. There we have this weeks policy. Next week? Who knows.

Today, I am wondering whether it actually was that hyperbolic: A few weeks ago, there was considerable talk of easing up on the restrictions over Easter, to allow this special-to-many occasion to actually take place in a reasonable manner. But, no, suddenly there was a drastic course reversal—the lockdown must be made even harsher than before, lest Easter turn into a major occasion for infections instead of celebrations. Cue public outcry—and suddenly the harsher lockdown is off the table again.

We still have a few days left. I wonder whether Frau Merkel will throw another dart …

Written by michaeleriksson

March 26, 2021 at 2:54 am