August 19, 2015
Crisis: Money in Politics, Corbyn, Klein, Amazing Chart, The Death of Culture

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

Prev- crisis -Next


“You’ve Got to Cozy Up”: More Politicians Admitting That
     Money Controls Politics

2. Jeremy Corbyn is the curator of the future. His rivals are
     chasing an impossible dream

3. Meet the Whistleblower Who Exposed the Secret Room
     AT&T Used to Help the NSA Spy on the Internet

Chart of the Day: Here's Why the Recovery Has Been So
5. Book review: ‘Notes on the Death of Culture’ by Mario
     Vargas Llosa

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, August 19, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting article on The Intercept, that is assembling quotes from politicians who protested against the enormous influence money currently has on American politics;
item 2 is about George Monbiot on Jeremy Corbyn, who is supported by Monbiot;
item 3 is about an interview whistleblower Mark Klein gave; item 4 is about a quite
stunning chart that shows the influence of money in politics: the more money politicians receive, the less money any non-rich receive, with a striking chart; and
item 5 is about a recent book by Mario Vargas Llosa, who announced the death of culture or - alternatively - the replacement of real high culture by cheap low culture, also among "the intellectuals". (I agree, indeed since 1977.)

Also, I removed a number of breaks from yesterday's NL (on Hazlitt) which makes my
notes more readable. (And I like it quite a few picked this up!)

1. “You’ve Got to Cozy Up”: More Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics

The first article of today is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Three weeks ago I posted a collection of quotes from politicians acknowledging the obvious reality that money has a huge impact on what they do, and asked anyone with more examples to send them to me.

You really came through. Here are 15 more great examples, with credit to the people who suggested them.

Please keep them coming; I’m looking specifically for working politicians who describe a tight linkage between money and political outcomes. And I’d still love to speak directly to current or former politicians who have an opinion about this.

I’ll continue to add all of them to the original post, so you can bookmark that for the complete collection.

That is a fine idea! This is reader participation that is useful. Also, here is the link again to the original post from which I will quote some, but not all or most.

First, here is The Donald:
• “I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.” — Donald Trump in 2015.
Here is Jimmy Carter:
“Now [the United States is] just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers. … So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors …” — Jimmy Carter, former president, in 2015. (Thanks to Sam Sacks.)
And this is Bernie Sanders:
• “[T]he millionaire class and the billionaire class increasingly own the political process, and they own the politicians that go to them for money. … we are moving very, very quickly from a democratic society, one person, one vote, to an oligarchic form of society, where billionaires would be determining who the elected officials of this country are.” — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in 2015. (Thanks to Robert Wilson in comments below.) Sanders has also said many similar things, such as “I think many people have the mistaken impression that Congress regulates Wall Street. … The real truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress.” (Thanks to ND, via email.)
And here is Al Gore:
• “American democracy has been hacked. … The United States Congress … is now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.” — Al Gore, former vice president, in his 2013 book The Future. (Thanks to anon in comments below.)
There is a lot more from where that came from (the original post) and it is all very well worth reading.
2. Jeremy Corbyn is the curator of the future. His rivals are chasing an impossible dream

The next article is by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

On one point I agree with his opponents: Jeremy Corbyn has little chance of winning the 2020 general election. But the same applies to the other three candidates. Either Labour must win back the seats it once held in Scotland (surely impossible without veering to the left) or it must beat the Conservatives by 12 points in England and Wales to form an overall majority. The impending boundary changes could mean that it has to win back 106 seats. If you think that is likely, I respectfully suggest that you are living in a dreamworld.

In fact, in this contest of improbabilities, Corbyn might stand the better chance. Only a disruptive political movement, that can ignite, mesmerise and mobilise, that can raise an army of volunteers – as the SNP did in Scotland – could smash the political concrete.

Actually, I don't agree with Corbyn's opponents. I don't disagree with the calculation, but I argue as follows:

First, it is mostly bullshit in politics to predict who will win the elections in 5 years time. Very much may happen in five years. Second, if Corbyn doesn't win the leadership elections of Labour, the other candidates are mostly Tory-lite anyway, and even if they win the elections, it will be another Blairite government that may make these leaders New Labourites millionaires (Tony Blair is rumored to owe 80 million pounds: that is his personal brand of socialism!) but that will not do much for the many poor. Third, while I probably disagree with Corbyn on many policies, at least he seems both tested and honest, indeed unlike the fresh new Blairite faces he competes against. Fourth, the whole argument of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair against the Old Left (see: Third Way) was mere bullshit, mere propaganda, mere falsehoods.

Here is some more from the article:

Labour’s inability to provide a loud and proud alternative to Conservative policies explains why so much of its base switched to Ukip at the last election. Corbyn’s political clarity explains why the same people are flocking back to him.

That seems quite plausible.

And there is this on Thatcher, who was a rightist extremist compared to many in  the Tory party (of the seventies), like Blair was a rightist extremist compared to the many in the Labour Party (of the nineties): Thatcher made the Tories right wing; Blair made Labour Tory-lite:
In an openDemocracy article, Ian Sinclair compares Labour’s attempts to stop Corbyn with those by the Tories in 1974-75 to stop Margaret Thatcher. Divisive, hated by the press, seen by her own party as an extremist, she was widely dismissed as unelectable. The Tory establishment, convinced that the party could win only from the centre, did everything it could to stop her.

Anyway - my point is this, briefly: Jeremy Corbyn is honest and leftist, and both of his positions are real; the Blairites are neither honest nor leftist, but they are professional politicians capable of mouthing and promising anything (as their campaigns show).

I'd much rather have an honest leftist with whose policies I can honestly disagree, then professional politicians who speak the prose of public relations liars, and whose messages are mostly composed of
bullshit, falsehoods and empty promises-made-to- deceive, and who only serve themselves while pretending to help others.

This article is worth reading all of and recommended (though I don't agree with all of it).

3. Meet the Whistleblower Who Exposed the Secret Room AT&T Used to Help the NSA Spy on the Internet

The next article is by Amy Goodman  on Democracy Now!:

The whistleblower is Mark Klein (<- Wikipedia), who is the - former - AT&T employee who revealed that AT&T used a secret room to help the NSA.

There is a lot more in the interview, including a fairly absurd series of exchanges between Rand Paul and Chris Christie (with Christie being absurd, not Paul), after
which Mark Klein says this, quite correctly:

MARK KLEIN: Well, of course, you should get a warrant. They could have done that back then. They could have gone—used the FISA law. But George Bush simply disregarded the FISA law and approved it all on his own signature, which was totally illegal. So, you know, I might add that while there are a few dissidents in both parties, like Rand Paul in the Republican side and Ron Wyden on the Democratic side, both parties—the real political crime here is that both parties approved this when they passed the immunity bill for the phone companies in 2008, with the help of Barack Obama, I might add, and that killed the lawsuit.

Yes, indeed. And here is a final bit:

AMY GOODMAN: And, Mark Klein, when President Obama says, "Don’t worry. The reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act means the companies like yours, that you worked for, AT&T, will hold the information, not us"?

MARK KLEIN: Well, you should worry. They’re storing everything they collect, and they collect everything that they can get their hands on, as the NSA documents reveal. There’s no need for that. They should rip out the secret rooms. If they have some individual that they suspect, they can get a warrant for that individual, but they don’t have to collect billions and billions of communications, which is what they’re doing. That’s all too tempting for the government to use when they want to go after someone. And by the way, they didn’t stop a lot of attacks that happened. They had all this in place, and they didn’t stop the Boston bombing, for instance, even though they knew the perpetrators beforehand. So, this is all just an excuse to collect information on everybody, as far as I’m concerned.

Precisely - and as I've said many times: The point of "The War On Terrorism" was not terrorism, but to deregulate the laws that protected the American citizens from being the effective fully known, totally understood and completely manipulable non-individual non-citizens that function effectively as the slaves of the secret organizations their government uses to secretly know everything about their private lives, even if they don't know it.

We aren't there yet, but that seems to be the end of both the NSA and the governments since Bush Jr.: A society where everyone is fully known to anonymous secret service men who plunder his computer behind his back, without his knowledge or consent, and where everybody who opposes the government can be disappeared with secret court orders.

4. Chart of the Day: Here's Why the Recovery Has Been So Weak 

The next item is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

This is a brief article that starts as follows:
I don't really have any good hook for posting this chart, but it's one of the most important ones you'll ever see. It's from the Wall Street Journal and it shows total government spending (state + local + federal) during the recession and its aftermath:

And this is part of Kevin Drum's comment:
Instead of responding to a historically bad recession with a historically strong stimulus, we responded with the weakest stimulus ever. Government spending is now more than 25 percentage points lower than normal. If you want to know why the recovery has been so feeble and unsteady, this is it.
Yes, indeed.

5. Book review: ‘Notes on the Death of Culture’ by Mario Vargas Llosa

This last item is by Anne Haverty on The Irish Times:

This starts as follows - and I like to say that I saw this happening at the University of Amsterdam from 1977 onwards. See the columns I published in 1988 and 1989:
We may not be living in the worst of times, although a case might very well be made for it, but anyone with a thought in their head would be entitled to say that we’re living in the stupidest. Mario Vargas Llosa, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, certainly believes we are. In this series of coruscating and passionate essays on the state of culture he argues that we have, en masse, capitulated to idiocy. And it is leading us to melancholy and despair.
Yes, indeed. (Side note: In 1984 (!!) the average IQ of the students of the University of Amsterdam was 115; since then it probably sunk to 105.)

We have abandoned the former minority culture, which was truth-seeking, profound, quiet and subtle, in favour of mainstream or mass entertainment, which has to be accessible – and how brave if foolhardy of anyone these days to cast aspersions on accessibility – as well as sensation-loving and frivolous.

Value-free, this kind of culture is essentially valueless.

Actually, "being value-free" is not being value-free, but being quite dishonestly in favor of the best pay, and support for those who pay the best, indeed regardless of all other non-monetary values.

There is also this:

We live in the Society of the Spectacle. A name that recalls the bread and circuses offered to a debased populace in the declining Roman empire. Exploited by the blind forces of rampant consumerism, we are reduced to being spectators of our own lives rather than actors in them.

Our sensibilities, indeed our very humanity, is blunted by those who traditionally saw their role as the guardians of it.

The intellectuals, the supine media, the political class have abandoned substance and discrimination and with treacherous enthusiasm adopted the idea of the image as truth. The liberal revolution of the 1960s, especially the events of 1968 in France, and French theorists such as Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard come in for a lot of invective. They have turned culture into “an obscurantist game for self-regarding academics and intellectuals who have turned their backs on society”.

Yes, I think that is mostly right - and indeed that is what happened at least in all the Dutch universities, which have been turned over to the students in 1971, which led to 25 years of merely verbal extremists fighting for their personal advancements led by degenerates from the Dutch (New) Labour Party. [1]

Finally, a summary of his diagnosis:

Vargas Llosa is pessimistic about the survival of literature, which is to say books that aren’t primarily entertainment or pragmatic. He’s pessimistic about how a society can live without coherent religious belief (although he himself can) and not fall into despair, about our abandonment of the concept of privacy. To put the inner self on public display in the way we’re expected to do is to revert to barbarism.

And the most cultured countries are the most guilty. We will decline – like many a civilization before us? – having squandered our inheritance, “this delicate substance” that has taken millennia to develop and imparted sense, content and order to our lives. The words “inanity”, “idiocy” and “banality” appear again and again in Vargas Llosa’s discourse.
I probably would not put it as Vargas Llosa did, but yes: the education I received at the University of Amsterdam (in which I did make an excellent B.A. and a very excellent M.A.) in fact was inane, idiotic, banal and also completely worthless:

I did not learn anything I didn't know already, and most of the others who were supposedly "educated" there mostly learned only slogans and propaganda, and especially in the softer studies i.e. sociology, psychology, pedagogy, Dutch, and philosophy, though there were many more such "academic studies".

And one of the saddest things was - in a university were the average student had an IQ of 115, "studying" for a diploma that would make him or her money - that the vast majority was too dumb or too egoistic to protest about the level of non-education offered to them, and also was too egocentric to say so once they had a diploma.

[1] The Dutch situation in the universities between 1971 and 1995 is quite unique, and incomparable: In 1971 the universities were effectively handed over to the students, who from then on ruled until the end of 1995, and until the mid-80ies led by the Dutch communist party (especially in Amsterdam). As expected, the students made an enormous mess, and upset all studies that do not require real talent (mathematics, physics, chemistry) or dedication (medicine). Then again, since nearly everyone collaborated (as in WW II, when over 1% of the Dutch population was murdered by the Nazis for being of the wrong race, which was far more than anywhere else, except Poland) almost nobody ever discussed that time, and certainly not honestly.

I will not do it here and now either, but these are the facts, as is the fact that I am the only student who was removed as a student from a Dutch university because of his opinions (!!), briefly before doing my M.A. in philosophy, and while I was seriously ill, which also is something the University of Amsterdam refused to discuss with me in person, in mail, or in letters, while every Dutch lawyer I turned to refused to work for me "because that is too political for me". And I was removed for publicly asking these questions.

But I will say this: My grandfather was murdered in a German concentration camp as a "political terrorist"; my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days of German concentration camp as a "political terrorist"; and I was removed from the Amsterdam
faculty of philosophy as a "fascist terrorist", while I also was an invalid. My grandfather got nothing; my father a minimal "resistance pension" and a knighthood very briefly before he died; and I got minimal dole, without even an admission that I was and am ill, and then I was gassed - literally! - because I protested against the noise the mayor's illegal drugsdealing friends made...

That is the Dutch civilization, from my point of view: Sick, degenerate, hypocritical, egoistic and only interested in money, which is made in part illegally by selling lots of illegal drugs (over $250 billion since I was gassed!) "with permissions by the mayor". whom, you must believe because he honestly says so, doesn't make a penny...

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