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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Listening to Marvin Gaye, What is going on?

The minister of Education, Culture and Science presented a Vision (November 2014 in Dutch) w.r.t. the science research agenda till 2025. This April 2015 all Dutch citizens and their organisations can send in research questions.

You only need a one-liner and a short explanation of max 200 words. If you have an idea or want to check ideas from others, check their website here.

Eric van Damme opposes the minister

Eric van Damme (1956), professor of game theory, market design and competition, – not to be confused with Jean-Claude van Damme, the muscles from Brussels – holds that the ministerial approach is counterproductive, see his 10 page verdict – indeed written in English so that the world might avoid the Dutch policy disaster:

“These [policy choices] all follow from one major consideration: the desire to steer science in such a way that it becomes (even) more useful for Dutch society and to the Dutch business sector in particular.

I think, and will motivate in this document, that this idea is narrow-minded and misconceived. I am strongly convinced that following up on this idea can only be counterproductive, i.e., that it will hurt Dutch science and also the competitiveness of the Dutch economy.

Dutch politeness implies that I will say something positive about this latest science policy document. The “Vision” indeed acknowledges that the Dutch science system currently is performing very well: with limited means (i.e. government expenditures at the EU and OECD average, but limited outlays from the private sector), it belongs to the top world-wide (p. 5). It proposes that research in schools of higher vocational training be given more emphasis and that more attention be devoted to science communication and the popularization of research. Personally, I believe that multidisciplinary research indeed should receive more attention, but I acknowledge that I am not completely sure. The last sentence of the “Vision” is the best one, it acknowledges that the essence of science is curiosity about why and how things are as they are.

However, Dutch frankness also insists that, for efficiency’s sake, I am open and honest about what I think about the document. In short, I find it very disappointing. Rather than showing an admiration for science, it shows distrust, and a belief that the government, by steering and controlling, can improve matters. There is no recognition of the fact that such measures may stifle curiosity or may induce young researchers to turn their back on the Netherlands. Even in areas where the Dutch government clearly could (and I think, should) make a difference, such as with respect to the very low numbers of women in science (where the Netherlands is at the bottom in Europe), it is just proposed to follow European initiatives (p. 72).” (Eric van Damme, THE DUTCH “WETENSCHAPSVISIE 2025”: ILL-INFORMED, NARROW MINDED AND MISCONCEIVED, 2014-12-04)

Van Damme’s main criticism is that the “Vision” discusses science but isn’t up to scientific standards and wouldn’t pass peer-review. It are bureaucrats who didn’t make it into professorships who judge about the professors and their future research topics.

My problem now is that I didn’t read that “Vision” while Van Damme’s rejection is not inviting to start reading. It requires some masochism to read an ill-informed, narrow minded and misconceived text, only to verify that it is ill-informed, narrow minded and misconceived.

Eric van Damme and his books (Me Judice TV 201), Jet Bussemaker (Flickr PvdA) and Jean-Claude van Damme (Wikimedia)

Eric van Damme and his books (Me Judice TV 2010), Jet Bussemaker (Flickr PvdA) and Jean-Claude van Damme (Wikimedia)

Who is minister Jet Bussemaker ?

The minister of Education, Culture and Science is Jet Bussemaker (1961) – pronounce “Yet Buhs-seh-mah-ker”. She has a doctorate in political theory, but apparently didn’t develop adequate respect for science, at least to make Eric van Damme happy.

Van Damme claims that writing a thesis may also be good preparation for non-scientific jobs, but perhaps he ought to make an exception for the minister herself.

As a member of Dutch Parliament in 1998-2007 for the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) Bussemaker specialized in “employment policy, health care and taxes”. A doctorate in political theory need not qualify for economics. Still, studying political theory might come with the lesson that one might have to be flexible.

In any case:

  • Bussemaker in dealing with employment and taxes didn’t do anything about the censorship of economic science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) on my analysis on emploment and taxes.
  • Remember that this session of Parliament after 1998 dealt with some decisions on the euro, like the entry of Greece into the Eurozone. Check the amendment in 2000 by former professor of economics and then parliamentarian Henk de Haan that Greece shouldn’t enter, while minister of Finance Gerrit Zalm claimed that Greece was making impressive progress – see this article in De Groene 2011-06-08.
  • In 1997-2000 Finance minister Gerrit Zalm (VVD) and underminister Willem Vermeend (PvdA) presented a tax plan, with a crucial lie w.r.t. tax exemption with quite an impact on employment, see here. Obviously Bussemaker didn’t have sufficient background to keep track of what Zalm & Vermeend were doing. I didn’t check whether she was modest enough to say so.
  • In 2013 there was tax fraud by Bulgarians so that underminister Frans Weekers had to resign – but the real problem had been created by Zalm & Vermeend, see this paper in English and this summary in Dutch.
  • When the economic crisis started in 2007, Bussemaker became underminister for Health, Welfare and Sport, so that it might have been fortunate for her that she didn’t have to think about the economic crisis and the consequences for employment.

I am just being critical about my own domain. Obviously Jet Bussemaker must have done some good things in other areas.

The ideas will be judged by Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf

The ideas submitted for the agenda will be judged by Alexander Rinnooy Kan (1949) and Beatrice de Graaf (1976).

Rinnooy Kan has a background in mathematics and econometrics, was professor in operations research in Rotterdam, and became a pillar in Dutch society as rector magnificus, chairman of the employers union, member of the board of ING, chairman of the Social Economic Council (SER), and has now returned to a professorship in Amsterdam. Obviously he didn’t do anything about the censorship of science by the directorate of the CPB, but perhaps I should have tried to speak with him about that longer.

Rinnooy Kan was instrumental in getting his co-author and fellow operations research mathematician Jan Karel Lenstra to do something about the education in mathematics and arithmetic. Professor Lenstra however has no background in didactics of mathematics, so this became a disaster, and of course it is a breach in research integrity since scientists should not claim expertise which they do not have, see my protest.

Beatrice de Graaf grew up in Putten, where her grandfather managed to escape the German razzia in 1944 that deported more than 600 men of which only 48 returned. As a junior highschool student Beatrice watched with her father the TV series Tour of Duty (USA 1987-1990) about the Vietnam war, and that had a great impact on her. Her focus now is on terrorism, with lone wolves and methods for deradicalisation. One of her findings is that the “Dutch success” in preventing radicalisation like in Ireland (IRA), Germany (RAF) and Italy (Red Brigade) was a result of perhaps luck but at least incompentence by the Dutch counterintelligence (BVD, now AIVD).The German police approach was tough and repressive, which forced the RAF sympathizers underground with more group-think and radicalisation. The BVD / AIVD intended to copy the German approach, but were amateurs, which allowed Dutch radicals (Rode Jeugd, Krakers, RaRa) to have rather normal lives and deradicalise themselves. Dutch views on the situation in Germany affected the internal discussions however too, thus, the stick and carrot still apply.

For professor De Graaf I have these questions:

  • What good is it when those people in Putten were killed for defending freedom of thought, when the Dutch government censors economic scientific freedom since 1990 ?
  • How are you going to tackle terrorism when so many of the disadvantaged are locked in unemployment and poverty, caused by economic policies based upon censorship of science ?
  • How are you going to tackle terrorism that either seeks justification in religion or abuses religious ideas, when Dutch society is rife with closed minds on new insights on the relation between religion and mathematics ? (And with people perhaps not taking me seriously since my work on unemployment is censored anyway ?)

Let us compare, for the sake of clarity, the mental frame of terrorists with the (“autistic”) mathematical mind like of professors Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) or Jan Karel Lenstra (1947) who presume that they know plenty about didactics of mathematics simply because they are professors of mathematics, or, indeed with the minds of the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau, who think that they already know enough so that they can censor stuff that they perhaps don’t understand themselves since they don’t feel like they have to ask questions or permit others to ask questions ? Perhaps psychologists can explain to us how these minds work, how they block contrary views, and how these ego’s can terrorize the rest of humanity – either with bombs or just plain old bureaucracy ?

Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf (Source: wikimedia)

Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf (Source: wikimedia)

Some criticism for Eric van Damme

Who is free of sins may cast the first stone. It must be said that there might be some criticism for Eric himself too.

I did inform professor Van Damme about the censorship of economic science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau since 1990 – and he didn’t do anything about it.

I also informed Van Damme that one of the issues that is being censored is my paper on the 1951  Impossibility Theorem by Kenneth Arrow. See this weblog’s About page, on my book “Voting Theory for Democracy” (VTFD).

(1) This mathematical theorem on the aggregation of preferences actually falls in the field that Van Damme teaches about. He could have checked my result and have judged that the directorate of the CPB shouldn’t have censored my paper on this topic – or in Van Damme’s words they were and are perhaps ill-informed, narrow minded and misconceived – whence he could have supported my suggestion for a parliamentarian enquiry and a boycott of Holland till the issue is resolved. However, none of this.

(2) Van Damme’s inactivity on this hits himself with a vengeance. Namely, Arrow’s theorem that democracy would be mathematically impossible and that always some dictatorship would be required, has been feeding into the minds of the Western intelligentia since 1951. Importantly also into the minds of politicians and bureaucrats. Often also into the minds of students of political theory, for who this is a basic theorem, perhaps also those political theorists who become ministers of Science. Think of Jet Bussemaker. Thus, Van Damme had the opportunity to change those minds, didn’t do it, and now suffers the consequences – perhaps unaware how he helped cause his own misery.

Concluding: Could this be an opportunity for my own proposals ?

While I probably may well agree with Eric van Damme on his criticism on the Bussemaker report, I still did not read this. I am also inclined to optimism. People deserve a chance to change their minds.

When Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf suggest that they are open to new ideas, and indicate that they are going to study those, then this might also be an opportunity. Such an opportunity may be lacking in Russia or North Korea.

The Appendix contains the research questions that I have submitted till now to the Dutch science research agenda till 2025. The links are to their website, in Dutch.

Appendix: Suggestions for the Dutch science agenda 2015-2025

(1) Is it true that the Trias Politica are failing and that an extension with an Economic Supreme Court is required ? (link)

(2) Is it true that the directorate of the Central Planning Bureau has been censoring economic science since 1990 ? (link)

(3) How can the Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) deal with collective breaches of integrity of science ? (link)

(4) Why don’t scientists make more flexible use of peer-review methods ? (link)

(5) What can be done about the gap in the general media between between reporting on science and reporting on economics & business – so that economic science is hardly reported on ? (link)

(6) How can a breach against scientific integrity be corrected on the educational site Kennislink.nl ? (link)

(7) Is it true that mathematicians have a basic training in abstraction that disqualifies them for when they enter the empirical field of didactics and teaching mathematics ? (link)

(8) Might Holland and in particular its educational system be willing to start deconstructing Christianity ? (link)

(9) How can scientists in the fields of ecology, environment and climate begin to see that economic scientists are failing in their judgements about the environmentally sustainable national income according to the definition by Hueting (eSNI) ? (link)

Addendum May 1

(10) Can and should the study of history not train stricter for science and respect for that ? (link)

(11) What regulations should be available for scientists for a flexible appeal to protection by the judiciary system and the police ? (link)

(12) What regulations should be available for scientists for a flexible appeal to legal protection by their employers and insurance ? (link)

(13) Is there any future for Mathix and Math-x: “A user friendly computer system based upon mathematics and cognitive psychology” ? (link)

(14) What can science say about the disarray in the debate about Black Pete ? (link)

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Listening to J.M. Jarre, The concerts in China,
and The Blooming of Rainy Night Flowers

Vladimir Putin called me on my fixed line and Xi Jinping was on my mobile phone. This difference already told everything.

They didn’t know that the other was calling me too- though I wonder about uncle Xi. They were negotiating and got stuck again.

See the map for their current division of Europe. The question mark gives the contested region. Neither of them wants it – so that it likely becomes an European Nature Park in which the European Bison on Wisent can roam freely again.

“Okay,” I asked Putin, “are those V.P. initials on Germany really necessary ?”

Vlad: “I lived there. Historians must know about the meaning of resentment, not just by Germans but by all people who have lived there.”

Division of Europe by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping

Division of Europe by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping whispered in my other ear: “Putin could have gotten all of Germany except for Bavaria, because we really want to have Bavaria. His initials now give us much of the Ruhr too. This is okay since we also get Rotterdam harbour. Do you notice that we divide Holland between the Protestant North and the Catholic South ? We presume that the Protestants will be a pain in the ass for Orthodox Christian Russia.”

Me to uncle Xi: “So you don’t get Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw Orkest and the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. Why didn’t you draw the line at Bremen ? They only have a statue of the Bremer Stadt musicians, of a rooster on top of a cat on top of a dog on top of donkey.”

Town Musicians of Bremen (Source: wikipedia commons)

Town Musicians of Bremen (Source: wikipedia commons)

Xi Jinping: “In the negotations last December, president Putin essentially gave us Eastern Siberia, though he doesn’t know this yet. So we want him to feel as if he gets the better deal. We presume that his daughter Maria who fled Holland wants to return there again.”

Vlad: “I am happy that I could secure Serbia and Greece because of the Orthodox Church. I am a bit worried about Amsterdam however. I don’t know whether I want Vincent van Gogh and those coffee shops within my sphere of influence.”

Me to Vlad: “Amsterdam wouldn’t mind being rejected by both Russia and China. It could become some free enclave, still a city rather than an European Nature Park with the natives running around in animal skins again. Though they pretty much already do so.”

Vlad: “My problem is that I have been watching some of the video’s that Xi Jingping has been sending me. Ever since I watched Girls of Ali Mountain I have not been able to sleep well. I am afraid that I am falling in love with one of those Chinese actresses.”

Me to Vlad: “I suffer with you. But aren’t you changing the rules of diplomacy again ?”

Vlad: “Whatever. Check this out. This mystery actress at minute 1 is fabulous.”

Girls of Ali Mountain, mystery actress, minute 1

Girls of Ali Mountain, mystery actress 1, minute 1:00

Vlad: “But this other mystery actress at minute 1:30 is perhaps even more fabulous ! What is driving me crazy is that all these Chinese actresses look just the same !”

Girls of Ali Mountain, mistery actress 2, minute 1:30

Girls of Ali Mountain, mystery actress 2, minute 1:30

Me to Vlad: “Some people have all the bad luck of the world ! So your next plan is to make a film with you yourself featuring as one of the boys of Ali Mountain, so that you can get to know them better ?”

Vlad: “A great idea ! I actually tried to both show an interest in Amsterdam and use it as a bargaining chip: Xi Jinping can have Amsterdam when he tells these actresses for me apart and sets up a date for me – or two if that were needed.”

Me to Vlad: “My wikipedia tells me that Ali Mountain lies in Taiwan. Xi Jinping has nothing to say about this, yet.”

The fixed line went dead with a curse. The mobile connection ended with a polite click.

Listening to Hatzidakis – Oi Geitonies tou Fengariou

One event that falls under the boycott of Holland is the Late Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, February 12 – May 17.

“The Rijksmuseum presents a retrospective of Rembrandt van Rijn’s later work for the very first time. In collaboration with The National Gallery in London, the exhibition ‘Late Rembrandt’ presents a comprehensive overview of the Master’s work from around 1652 to his death in 1669.” (A glimpse at the Rijksmuseum website.)

It is great but can also be crowded.

Don’t forget the BBC documentary on the Rembrandt by Himself exhibition last year in London. Because of the boycott we cannot have the BBC make a documentary of Late Rembrandt of course.

Late Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum (1)

Late Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum – a quiet moment

Late Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum - rather busy

Late Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum – rather crowded

Listening to Markopoulos, Chroniko

Rotterdam professor of economics Bas Jacobs (1973) is the (new) president of the Royal Dutch Association for Political Economy (KVS), founded in 1849, and supposedly the oldest of still existing associations of scientific economists in the world.

Literary writer Arnon Grunberg (1971) (website) didn’t finish highschool and is a selfmade man. He won prizes in Dutch literature but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. He was mentioned in the NY Times as:

“(…) often cited as one of the greatest living Dutch writers. A literary wunderkind, he founded a publishing imprint when he was 19, wrote a European best seller when he was 23 and has now published at least a dozen novels, two of which won the Dutch equivalent of the Booker Prize. In his downtime, he writes stories, plays, poetry, columns and journalism, including a series of dispatches from Afghanistan, where he reported on Dutch and American troops. He lives in old New York (once New Amsterdam).”  (Scott Hutchins, 2013-05-10, NY Times) (Another mention in the NY Times.)

They are both descendants of survivors of the holocaust in Holland 1940-1945.

The newspaper NRC-Handelsblad published a weekly exchange of letters by Jacobs and Grunberg with the title Capitalism and Freedom. The letters in Dutch from January 31 – April 11 are listed here, and my comment in Dutch is here.

In the last weblog I discussed professor Wolfgang Streeck who speaks about the End of Capitalism – which Grunberg compares to Armageddon.

Observations are:

  • The exchange appears to be rather decadent, and will not help the distressed in Europe.
  • Jacobs is a professor in economics who had nothing to lose, and who deals with a lay person who has no training in economics.
  • Grunberg has everything to lose, namely his reputation. He must entertain his readership, and walks down side-allies that a serious reader will not quite expect, which might suggest to a common readership that he has a quicksilver mind, but which on close inspection appears to consist of cheap tricks by someone who hasn’t studied economics or hasn’t even had a serious training in journalism. One trick is to mirror a question in different words, which merely suggests that you are dealing with the answer.
  • Jacobs is blind to the censorship of economic science in Holland by the directorate of the Central Planning Bureau (CPB). Jacobs does not inform Grunberg about my protest against that censorship.
  • Jacobs shares Streeck’s concerns but doesn’t see that Streeck overlooks the role of economic planning. He does not inform Grunberg about this either.
  • Jacobs sees a solution only in a revival of “liberal capitalism” – but also gives a diagnosis that this will not happen. He calls it a “political choice” if it would not happen, but also describes that the electorate suffers from lack of knowledge and information – which doesn’t sound much like a “choice”. He doesn’t mention my suggestion of an Economic Supreme Court that would make that information available. While Streeck concludes that he has no solution, Jacobs has no solution either – but shies away from that clarity of mind.
  • Grunberg appears to be a nihilist, with no academic training or interest, and with a rather simplistic sense of humor.

Jacobs actually asks Grunberg for help. He estimates the loss of welfare in Holland by the crisis as close to 10% of GDP, annually. His diagnosis is that austerity has made the loss larger instead of less. Europe is locked in masochism – punishment and stagnation – and policy makers no longer listen to advice by economic scientists. He almost begs Grunberg whether he as a literary writer might be able to break the deadlock, and find the proper words to get people and policy makers come to their senses. Grunberg’s reply is the joke: if people are masochistic then politicians like prime minister Mark Rutte might be sadistic.

A low point is – with also the weasel word “some people”, without indicating who would do this:

“For some people the difference between a euro and a muslim is minimal. They regard a muslim as a euro in the form of a human.” (Arnon Grunberg, 2015-01-31, NRC Handelsblad)

Bas-Jacobs-Arnon-Grunberg

Bas Jacobs (website, picture by Hartman) and Arnon Grunberg (wikimedia commons)

Listening to Markopoulos, Ta tragoudia tou neou patera

My correspondent from Amsterdam called in distress: Wolfgang Streeck of the Max Planck Institute had spoken about the end of capitalism, and claimed that no-one has an idea how to solve this.

Streeck had an interview (in Dutch) by the formidable Caroline de Gruyter, and a video interview (in English) with weblog Follow The Money. A good read is “How will Capitalism End?” in the New Left Review 87, May-June 2014. It seems that Streeck and I agree on much, except on the presence or lack of solution approaches. (Dutch readers will also benefit much from Michel Verbeek on the German Ordoliberalismus and the balanced budget rule for the euro.)

There is the book “Buying Time. The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism” 2014.

Wolfgang Streeck 2014

Wolfgang Streeck 2014

I don’t have to read the latter book since I have been studying this problem since I started studying econometrics in 1973 and solved it at the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) in 1990. The crisis since 2007 merely confirms my analysis. What is required, is to boycott Holland till the censorship of economic science at CPB is lifted and I can present my full analysis. See:

It seems to me that professor Streeck neglects – and correct me if I am wrong – that economic advice and in particular also economic planning are integral functions within the government of the modern state. To understand economic developments you also have to study the workings of that function. Economists who work in such functions are not per definition sadistically inclined, and rather follow the major economic science of their day. This is where my innovative contribution lies, that is censored by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning bureau, and which this weblog on the advice to boycott Holland is all about. Two points are relevant here:

  • some novel contributions to economic analysis, to improve economic science
  • the advice to amend the Trias Politica structure with an Economic Supreme Court, such that economic advice and planning can be truly scientific – rather than being embedded within political processes as is the case nowadays.

What the reader should appreciate is that professor Streeck – like I do – considers the developments since 1970. Indeed, you can only appreciate what is happening when you take the longer view. For example: the years of Reagan and Thatcher were actually Keynesian years 1981-2007. Link up to World War I for the failure of the Trias Politica.

In “How will Capitalism End?” Streeck states:

“The image I have of the end of capitalism—an end that I believe is already under way—is one of a social system in chronic disrepair, for reasons of its own and regardless of the absence of a viable alternative. While we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and what will succeed it, what matters is that no force is on hand that could be expected to reverse the three downward trends in economic growth, social equality and financial stability and end their mutual reinforcement. In contrast to the 1930s, there is today no political-economic formula on the horizon, left or right, that might provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime of regulation, or régulation. Social integration as well as system integration seem irreversibly damaged and set to deteriorate further. [ftnt] What is most likely to happen as time passes is a continuous accumulation of small and not-so-small dysfunctions; none necessarily deadly as such, but most beyond repair, all the more so as they become too many for individual address. In the process, the parts of the whole will fit together less and less; frictions of all kinds will multiply; unanticipated consequences will spread, along ever more obscure lines of causation. Uncertainty will proliferate; crises of every sort—of legitimacy, productivity or both—will follow each other in quick succession while predictability and governability will decline further (as they have for decades now). Eventually, the myriad provisional fixes devised for short-term crisis management will collapse under the weight of the daily disasters produced by a social order in profound, anomic disarray.” (Wolfgang Streeck, “How will Capitalism End?” 2014)

We may imagine that major parts of Europe (Amsterdam) and the USA will start to look like parts of Syria and/or the Philippines.

From Azaz in Syria to Manila in the Philippines

From Azaz in Syria to Payatas – Manila in the Philippines (Source: wikimedia commons)

There are two important observations:

  • Professor Streeck will think that Holland is an open minded country, especially when they are so nice to give him all this attention. In this way he will not observe the closed Dutch mind. Nobody will tell him about the censorship of economic since since 1990 and the need to boycott Holland till that is resolved. Professor Streeck visited Holland and left it again, still thinking that no-one has any idea for a solution, while that solution has already been developed and the Dutch CPB (and put into a drawer).
  • A google also showed a book by Streeck and Thelen, Beyond continuity : institutional change in advanced political economies” (2005). It so happens that I sent this email to professor Thelen in 2013. Did she read it, comprehend it, and communicate it to Streeck ? The email mentions Gerrit Zalm who as CEO of ABN AMRO came up in our last weblog discussion on bank bonuses. It is a small world – and a small country.
Addition April 11

Some other websites on professor Streeck’s analysis – who all lack the notion of an Economic Supreme Court:

Listening to Saleas, I Paralia Ton Oniron Sou,
Love Dreams & Feelings, and
Live stin Tourkia sinaulia

Dutch television this 2015 Easter Sunday rehashed a potpourri of topics. Host Marcia Luyten spoke with journalist Tom-Jan Meeus, politician Halbe Zijlstra, Italian investigative reporter Loretta Napoleoni and Belgian author Tom Lanoye. I skip the last interview for practical purposes.

The Seattle Times on Warren Buffett exploiting the poor

Dutch journalist Tom-Jan Meeus reported how he had read an article in The Seattle Times about how Warren Buffett via his holdings in Clayton Homes exploited the poor (April 2, updated April 5). Sales tricks are being used that are similar to those that caused the collapse of mortgages and the housing industry in the onset of the current economic crisis. While Washington has been setting up new regulations to reduce or prevent such tricks, the lawyers of Warren Buffett would have been lobbying to have those regulations repealed or redrafted. If true, this report would surely taint Buffett’s image. The article appears to be a collaboration with the Center for Pubic Integrity.

Meeus also read a statement in The Washington Post by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., that “pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous” (March 29). Such laws would enable devout adherents of religion X to only have business with people fitting their religion X. It would be a step back from religious tolerance. Meeus’s analysis was that Republicans had started this attack on tolerance so that Democrats might perhaps succeed in its defence, but the attack would rally so much conservative backlash that Democrats would surely lose the real battle on neoliberal economics. Compare abortus, euthanasia, gay marriages, and where this got the US in terms of economics.

The most amazing thing is that Dutch television deems it relevant to educate its viewers on American newspapers, and that tv journalism can be reduced to headlines and coffee table gossip.

Loretta Napoleoni on the Islamic State (min 17 – 33 in English)

There was an interview in English with Loretta Napoleoni on the Islamic State. This might perhaps be of value for foreign viewers too. I am not following the events on Islam and/or the Middle East, had not heard about Napoleoni before, and suppose that you will have when you have been following those events.

“Napoleoni holds an MA in international relations and economics from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in terrorism from the London School of Economics. For her work as a consultant for the commodities markets, she met often with officials of many Middle Eastern nations. Her latest book is Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality (…).” (Amazon.com)

In the present interview:

  • She compares the meaning of Islamic State for jihadists with the meaning of Israel for Zionists.
  • IS came up not only because the US left Iraq but also because of a combination of focused leadership and Salafist finance. Al-Qaeda curiously had a distant enemy America, and got George W. Bush and Tony Blair to invade Iraq that had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, but IS focuses on local olicharchies and wants to take over now that both Saddam Hussein and the US are gone.
  • Fighting IS would only make it stronger.  The real challenge is to understand what is happening in the minds of young moslims, all over the world but especially in Western countries where they feel alienated.

This analysis fits my own: (1) that the West should get its economies into order, see the About page, and (2) that education on religion should focus on deconstructing Christianity. For Westerners there is little efficiency in first studying the complexities of Islam and then discovering that it is just another religion to deconstruct. It is more sensible that people familiar with Christianity start deconstructing this, and that people familiar with Islam take an example from the deconstruction of Christianity. The political divisions in the Middle East are complex too and the West better develops a sensible position of containment and economic development after the Bush & Blair crime against humanity.

Loretta Napoleoni 2014

Loretta Napoleoni 2014

Dutch politics and ABN AMRO bank (assets EUR 400 bn)

Marcia Luyten also interviewed politician Halbe Zijlstra on his views on (1) dictatorial regimes and (2) the public outcry on the salaries of the top management of the ABN AMRO bank.

Let me focus on (2). In the crisis since 2007 this bank collapsed and was nationalised in 2008 for around EUR 28 bn – presumably with losses for the Royal Bank of Scotland too – while its market value now might be around 15 bn.

The media last weeks reported:

“(Reuters) – The Dutch government will reconsider selling off ABN Amro Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, after senior managers agreed to give up a controversial pay rise that had stalled progress on the bank’s proposed share listing.

In the face of a widespread public outcry, the managers said they would give up raises of 100,000 euros ($110,000) each, which had been approved by the supervisory board for six members of the managing board, all but Chief Executive Gerrit Zalm.

Lawmakers, who must approve an initial public offering, had decried the raises as evidence that the bank’s management culture was still flawed. Dijsselbloem said on Friday he would delay privatisation until questions over the increase were resolved.” (Reuters 2015-03-29)

The following may help understanding the situation.

The Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) has a neoliberal conservative ideology, with occasional strains of a proper John Stuart Mill type of liberalism, but mostly thinking like Reagan & Thatcher. Johannes Witteveen (1921), former director of the IMF, has been a life-long member of VVD, but stands on the sidelines now, with his advice of a different economic policy than the Dutch government has been following since the onset of the crisis in 2007.

For the power brokers of the VVD three names are relevant here:

  • Gerrit Zalm (1952), economist, former civil servant at the Ministries of Finance and Economic Affairs (1975-1988), director of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) (1989-1994), where he started the censorship of economic science that this website protests about, minister of Finance 1994-2002, 2003-2007, one of the introducers of the euro, now CEO of ABN AMRO bank (assets EUR 400 bn).
  • Mark Rutte (1967), historian, currently prime minister of the VVD-PvdA coalition, and eventually he might move on to the European Commission, perhaps even succeed Jean-Claude Juncker – see Angela Merkel presenting him the Rathenau Prize he should not have received.
  • Halbe Zijlstra (1969), sociologist, leader of the fraction in Dutch Parliament.
Dutch neoliberal conservatives Zalm (1952), Rutte (1967), Zijlstra (1969)

Dutch neoliberal conservatives Gerrit Zalm (1952), Mark Rutte (1967), Halbe Zijlstra (1969)

In the interview Zijlstra claims:

  • Zalm would be out of the picture since his salary wasn’t raised: which is absurd since Zalm is the CEO who defended the raise, and thus is central in the picture.
  • Now that the board has erased the raise, everyone should maintain calmness and focus on the IPO: which is nonsense since the problem concerns the very mentality of the original raise.
  • The IPO would be important since a privatised bank increases competition while a nationalised bank is subject to more regulations from Brussels: which is disingenious since the currently discussed IPO concerns only 20% of equity, and the Dutch banking market is rather oligopolistic anyway.
  • Other models to restructure the Dutch banking sector are out of the question: which is manipulative since one can at least study such models before making a decision on content rather than on ideology. For example, see my paper Money as gold versus money as water.

While Zalm is an economist, he is not such a good economist, with no training in econometrics, and with a background in the civil service instead of economic research. He was appointed by politicians – minister Rudolf de Korte (VVD) – from the ministries into the CPB which should not have happened because of his lack of research background – just like is the case now with current director Laura van Geest. Zalm’s claimed success as minister of Finance is based upon the Dutch wage moderation policy, which is a beggar thy neighbour policy, with a structural surplus on the external account – see again the criticism by former executive director of the IMF Johannes Witteveen.

Zalm’s successors Rutte and Zijlstra are no economists, and thus must embrace the neoliberal ideology with the zeal of true believers – since they will not know what they are talking about economically.

For Dutch readers, my protest as an economic scientist against this situation w.r.t. Zalm is updated here. My advice is to boycott Holland, no bank excepted.

Overall conclusion

A recurrent problem in cases like these is that Dutch journalists will not inform foreign guests like Loretta Napoleoni and Tom Lanoye about my new economic analysis since 1990 that would allow the tackling of the Great Stagflation since 1970 and the current crisis since 2007. Napoleoni and Lanoye may think that their interviewer Marcia Luyten is competent and that Dutch tv is open and interesting – certainly when the Dutch pay attention to what they have to say – but hence they will not observe how very closed the Dutch mind actually is.

My advice remains: boycott Holland till the censorship of economic science is lifted.

Listening to Theodorakis & Saleas, Weeping eyes
and Anna RF,  Weeping eyes

Some authors look at the links between Greece and the Near East in their ancient myths and literature. Apart from mythology this mainly concerns Homer with the Iliad and the Odyssee – but we should not exclude the philosophies from Pythagoras onward. For the Near East think about e.g. Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible (the Tenach ~ Old Testament).

Three authors caught my attention. I am no student of this realm and hesitate to read their books. However, I can roughly understand what is reported about this area of research, and then wonder what may be relevant when we consider what mathematics education can contribute to the education on Jesus and the origin of Christianity. Mathematics deals with more than numbers and space, it also deals with patterns.

These three authors are:

A comment by Ready on Louden seems to hold for all authors:

“What is more, Louden’s book continues to refine the Homeric comparative project as a whole in three ways. First, the relationship Louden detects between the Hebrew Bible and the Odyssey is for the most part genealogical, not historical. [ftnt] He imagines some sort of common source used by, not direct, purposeful contact between, Greek and Israelite cultures (see, e.g., 11 and 121). But finding numerous and close connections between the Odyssey and Genesis, Louden hypothesizes “that the Odyssey, in some form, served as a model for individual parts of Genesis (particularly the myth of Joseph)” (324). Indeed—and this is the point I wish to stress—Louden reminds us that the transmission of motifs and tales was not solely westward: “Greek myth should be seen in a dialogic relation with Near Eastern myth, with influence running in both directions, during several different eras” (12). As another example of how Louden notes the possibility of movement eastward from Greece, I cite his speculation on a Greek origin for stories about a man wrestling a god (see 121). I hasten to add, however, that, although he ponders the matter in the book’s Conclusion, Louden is not really concerned with the actual mechanisms of transmission. His exercise is a heuristic one: “the main reason I adduce OT myths is because their parallels provide a tool for our understanding and interpretation of Homeric epic” (11). Second, Louden reaffirms the value of comparing Homeric epic with non-epic literature from the ancient Near East. After all, the Hebrew Bible may contain elements associated with epic or even epic material but is not itself epic. Nonetheless, comparatists need not fear connecting the text with Homeric epic. If we insist on comparing Homeric poetry only with that which we precariously define as epic, we shall deny ourselves access to a wealth of useful data. Third, I return to a point mentioned above. Louden consistently notes when different versions of the same episode, myth, or story pattern do different things (see, e.g., 176). This flexibility in his analytical program is most welcome, for the comparatist should delve into the discrepancies along with the convergences.” (Jonathan L. Ready in this review of Louden)

A question on the Zodiac

The Zodiac is one crowning achievement of neolithical times and early history. Because of lack of cameras and lack of writing, early observations were couched in narratives. Such narratives would discuss gods and goddesses. For some, the narratives would start lives of their own. One question that arises is how the Zodiac relates to these ancient tales, like Gilgamesh or the travels by Odysseus. In my book The simple mathematics of Jesus I pointed to the use of the Zodiac as some kind of a map for the New Testament. I also observed that the NT ~ OT. (See some reasons to summarize the OT into the NT.) Hence, if OT ~ Homer then we may surmise that the Zodiac would also be relevant for understanding the Odyssee.

This argument holds in more cases. A criticism on Macdonald is that passages in Mark refer to passages in the OT, so that Macdonald is erroneous in linking Mark to Homer. However, when the OT is also based upon Homer, then the link could still be correct. The only inference that would change is that Mark might be less Hellenizing than Macdonald suggests.

A surprise on Plato’s cave

I was much surprised by this:

“And the great Hellenistic thinker, Plato, composed a tale that has epitomized the best of Hellenistic values and Western values since. His allegory of the cave tells us how a would-be saviour of a people will do all he can out of compassion to rescue others. But at the same time those he loves and would save will not recognize him or his claims. They will even scoff at him, and even eventually seek to kill him if they ever have the chance.

This is the essence of the Gospel message about the nature, reception and fate of Jesus. Jesus is very much the classic Hellenistic (cum Roman) hero of the gentiles. He is like Achilles and like the saviour in the parable of the Cave.” (Neil Godfrey, vridar.org, 2011-03-17)

LXX and rabbits

A standard notion is that Ptolemy Soter (367-283 BC) introduced the syncretic god Serapis to unify the beliefs of his Greek soldiers and his Egyptian subjects. A hypothesis by Russell Gmirkin is that also the Septuagint was a deliberate creation and no mere translation of what already existed in completion – see this discussion at vridar.org. An argument is that Ptolemy’s actual name was Lagos – Rabbit – and that there is no explicit mention of rabbits in the Septuagint. The latter might however also be accomplished by mere editing, so we would want to consider more arguments.

A major problem is that the OT assigns full power to the priests in Jerusalem, and it is not clear why Ptolemy would create such an OT, and why he didn’t want full power to the king, who would he himself.

It depends however upon the period. The Ptolemies and Seleucids would battle about Palestine. In the period from Alexander till the arrival of the Romans, Palestine changed hands five times. Perhaps some Ptolemaic ruler wished for an independent Palestine like a buffer state ?

It is not clear whether Godfrey develops this argument himself or copies it from Gmirkin, but check the text at vridar.org for the clou:

“Rather, one only has evidence as late as ca. 400 BCE or what Wellhausen called “Oral Torah,” that is, an authority vested in the Jerusalem priesthood rather than in a written code of laws.” 

“But there is one detail Aristobulus gives us that may be a more certain clue to the date the Septuagint was composed. In the fictional Letter to Aristeas (recall that Gmirkin believes this to have been written by Aristobulus) he tells us that the Septuagint was written at the time Arsinoe II was the wife of Ptolemy II. Though this datum is in a fictional letter, it is nonetheless true that this Arsinoe, who was the full sister of Ptolemy II, did marry her brother (according to Egyptian royal custom) some time between 279 and 273 BCE. She died in July 269 BCE.” (Neil Godfrey, vridar.org, 2012-12-30)

Elsewhere we read:

“These documents tell us of Palestine under the rule of Ptolemy 11 [sic] Philadelphus (283‑246 B.C.E.). The country was often beset by Seleucid attacks and Bedouin incur­sions. Ptolemaic military units were stationed throughout Pal­estine, and many Greek cities were established.” (MyJewishLearning.com, Palestine in the Hellinistic Age)

Thus, if we concur with the notion that the Torah (Pentateuch) was written around 270 BC then Ptolemy II had control over Palestine, and:

  • either wanted to turn Palestine into a buffer state under control of Jerusalem
  • or overlooked the possibility of taking control (by creating a suitable syncretic text)
  • or did create a syncretic text – so that the original oral tradition “was much worse”.
With all this Hellenizing, Socrates (ca. 469-499 BC) can be Jesus too

All this connects with an insight that I easily recalled from a course in philosophy in 1973:

“If one only regards the little that we know about Socrates really for certain, one would be inclined to ask: How is it possible that such a man, although he was a personality with a deep moral nature, and who died for his convictions, whose proper philosophy however is hardly seizable, has had such an immeasurable influence? One would point out that the comparison of the death of a martyr by Socrates with that of Christ and those of the earliest christian martyrs – which the texts of earliest Christianity indeed point out – have sustained a passionate memory of Socrates. But the real answer rather must be, that the impact of Socrates resides in his entirely exceptional personality, which can be humanly very close to us even after more than twenty centuries, rather than on what he taught. With him, namely, something entered into the history of mankind, what hence has become an ever deeper working inner force: the unwavering, self-sustaining, autonomous moral personality. This is the ‘Socratic Gospel’ of the internally free human, who does good only for the good.” (Hans Joachim Störig, “Geschiedenis van de filosofie”, part 1, p143, Prisma 409)

Thus, when we consider the creation of a syncretic gospel that had to combine both Judaism and Greek thought, then the authors may well have been tempted to take Socrates as the most powerful story available, and put a personage like him in the lands of Palestine.

Both Socrates and Jesus were convicted by a trial. The idea of a court trial that judges on the hero is ancient enough: compare the Osiris myth.

The best book on the trial is likely by I.F. Stone (1907-1989). Beware of hero worship however, not only w.r.t. Jesus but also w.r.t. Störig on Socrates:

“Actually, in spite of the journalistic pose, [Stone] is in Greece on a mission, having had a clear view of what he wants to do before he went. He wants to cleanse Athens of the Socratic blood guilt. Athens is a tragic protagonist, having itself violated what it holds most dear, its sacred principle of free speech. Socrates and his propagandists, Plato and Xenophon, succeeded in making Athens look bad to all later times. Socrates poses as the disinterested seeker for the truth, the man trying to turn from the darkness of the cave to the light of the sun, brought down by the prejudice of the city. Stone turns this around: Athens sought the truth and was tricked by the duplicitous Socrates. He really did engage in a conspiracy to discredit democratic openness and succeeded in getting Athens to betray itself. Lesson: philosophic detachment is inauthentic, a snare and a delusion. The thinker must be a participant in the progressive struggle of the people against the dark forces of reaction. History is the triumph of reason; distancing oneself from it in order to be reasonable is unreasonable and merely disguises old class interests. The true philosopher is éngage or committed. Thus Stone is Socrates’ accuser, the voice of Athens now become fully self-conscious and philosophic.” (Allan Bloom, review of I.F. Stone on Socrates, 1988)

I.F. Stone 1988

I.F. Stone 1988

Addendum April 8:

(1) While the Church destroyed documents with alternative views, or stopped others from copying them, the same has been done in philosophy by followers of Plato, see Michel Onfray, Les sagesses antiques

(2) In religion, there is the distinction between the theology and the daily practice (mass, births, weddings, funerals). My essay SMOJ suggests that Plato’s philosophy didn’t develop into a religion since he forgot to develop a liturgy and to train priests who would do the rituals. It may however well be that Plato did develop such a religion, namely what became known as Christianity.