1. The U.S. Military—What a Waste
2. Vampire Squid Goldman Sachs Gets Away with $5 Billion
3. Americans Agree: It’s
Corporate Power That’s In Our
4. Glaciers and sex
5. We let the idiots take
the wheel: Donald Trump, Fox
News and how we let our
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, April 12,
crisis blog. As to today's title of Nederlog: it's my own (as always,
and finding fairly brief titles for some five or more subjects and
articles is not easy), after I realized this is an adequate
characterization of today's 5 items with 5 dotted links:
1. The U.S. Military—What a Waste
Item 1 is about what can only be called the Pentagon's gigantic
corruption; item 2 is about Wall Street's enormous
corruption; item 3 is about the ordinary Americans
who - it seems - massively agree on many things they did not
get since decades from the politicians who are supposed to
represent them; item 4 is about extremely
bad writing (even worse than the standard academic "style", which tends
to be bad); and item 5 is about the sick state of
America's current democracy.
As I indicated at the beginning, the title is my own summary of today's
content. It is a coincidence, but it does seem a fair summary.
first item is by William D. Hartung on Truthdig
and originally on TomDispatch:
This starts as follows:
$150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in
Afghanistan to blowing
$2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the
latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent
howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five
decades. Other hot-off-the-presses examples would include the
of helicopter gears worth $500 each for $8,000 each and the accumulation
of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be
used. And then there’s the one that would have to be everyone’s
favorite Pentagon waste story: the spending of $50,000 to
investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants.
(And here’s a shock: they didn’t turn out to be that great!) The
elephant research, of course, represents chump change in the Pentagon’s
wastage sweepstakes and in the context of its $600-billion-plus budget,
but think of it as indicative of the absurd lengths the Department of
Defense will go to when what’s at stake is throwing away taxpayer
This is the start of the article, and there
is a whole lot more on the gross corruption - for that is
evidently what we are talking about - of "the
Pentagon" in the article.
Most of this listing of corruptions (itself again a very small bit of
very much more) I leave to your interests, but there
seems to be also something like a systematic explanation for a very
long list of quite systematic corruptions that is summarized in
the above quote on some of "the most recent
howlers in a long line of similar stories
stretching back at least five
decades." (Bolding added.)
I shall return to this systematic explanation after the next quotation,
that insists - quite correctly, I am afraid - that corruption (for that
is what it is, much rather than "waste": someone, or several someones,
profit(s) enormously) is endemic to the Pentagon way of doing things:
Keep in mind that the above examples are
just the tip of the tip of a titanic iceberg of military waste.
In a recent report I did for the Center for International Policy, I identified
27 recent examples of such wasteful spending totaling over $33
billion. And that was no more than a sampling of everyday life in
the twenty-first-century world of the Pentagon.
The staggering persistence and profusion
of such cases suggests that it’s time to rethink what exactly they
represent. Far from being aberrations in need of correction to
make the Pentagon run more efficiently, wasting vast sums of taxpayer
dollars should be seen as a way of life for the Department of
Defense. And with that in mind, let’s take a little tour through
the highlights of Pentagon waste from the 1960s to the present.
And indeed William Hartung proceeds to
give something like a summary of the vast corruptions at the Pentagon,
which I leave (again) to your interests, and he then says:
One reason the Pentagon has been able to
get away with all this is that
it has proven strangely incapable of doing
a simple audit of itself, despite a Congressionally mandated
requirement dating back to 1990 that it do so. Conveniently enough,
this means that the Department of Defense can’t tell us how much
equipment it has purchased, or how often it has been overcharged, or
even how many contractors it employs. This may be spectacularly bad
bookkeeping, but it’s great for defense firms, which profit all the
more in an environment of minimal accountability
In fact - "Follow The Money!" - it seems
to me this can be extended:
The main purpose of the present Pentagon,
at least since Bush Jr., is to help make "the defense contractors" the
glorious profits they so eminently deserve and to provide their high
personnel cushy well-paid jobs in glorious housing.
That is: the end is not to win wars, but to get the
greatest possible amount of money from the government for the purposes
of war, and in order to do that to continue wars wherever they go
on, and perhaps to start wars on other places.
Is this cynical? Yes, but it accords very
well with "Follow The Money!". And the article ends like this:
To put this in my words: Until the Pentagon
audited - which hasn't happened in 20 or more years, so far as I can
see - the Pentagon will get ever more money to be spend in completely
irresponsible ways, that one can only summarize by saying that "the
defense contractors" keep scoring enormous profits and the generals
keep having cushy jobs with the best possible amenities.
Undoubtedly, from time to time, you’ll
continue to hear outrageous
media stories about waste at the Pentagon and bomb-detecting elephants
gone astray. Without a concerted campaign of public pressure of a sort
we haven’t seen in recent years, however, the Pentagon’s runaway budget
will never be reined in, that audit will never happen, and the weapons
makers will whistle a happy tune on their way to the bank with our cash.
2. Vampire Squid Goldman Sachs Gets
Away with $5 Billion 'Non-Punishment'
is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
That denouncement seems quite correct. Here
is Matthew Zeitlin quoted on
Goldman Sachs—once described
as "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity,
relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like
money"—has agreed to pay $5.1 billion to settle a U.S. probe into
allegations that it misled mortgage bond investors during the financial
crisis, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) said Monday.
The penalty was
swiftly denounced as a "non-punishment, non-accountability
ritual that will do nothing to stop the Wall Street crime spree."
In brief, the schema runs as follows:
The deal fits the template
used by the Justice Department for several massive settlements with big
banks over their conduct related to the crisis: No criminal charges or
penalties for the individuals involved, alongside a grab-bag of
multi-billion dollar payments to regulators, states and consumers.
Other agreements that fit the
template: the more than $13 billion settlement the DOJ reached
with JPMorgan Chase in November, 2013; Citi’s
$7 billion settlement in July, 2014; the almost-$17 billion
settlement reached with Bank of America in August, 2014; and the $3.2
billion settlement with Morgan Stanley earlier this year.
bank engages in big crimes, and makes an enormous amount of money by
it; the DOJ "investigates" but always decides - "These are too big to fail, so we won't harm them" - to
"punish" the banks with a settlement for part of their
profits plus an agreement that neither the big banks nor their
managers did anything criminal - and the game can be repeated, and repeated, and repeated endlessly. And it is, also.
And here is Denis Kelleher quoted, who
explains why the settlement in the article's title was "a victory for
In brief: the net earnings were rather a lot
more than $9.5 billion dollars; on which they had to pay $5 billion;
which left them with probably a lot more than
First, it got to keep all the
ill-gotten gains for the last eight-plus years. Second, a $5
billion settlement is meaningless unless it is publicly disclosed how
much money was made from the illegal conduct and the total amount of
investor losses. Third, DOJ helped it cover up its illegal
actions by letting Goldman merely acknowledge a Swiss cheese ‘statement
of facts’ carefully crafted more to conceal than reveal what Goldman
really did here. Fourth, Goldman’s net revenue was $37.7 billion and
its net earnings were $9.5 billion in 2006 alone, just one year in the
midst of this multi-year scheme. Fifth, every single individual at
Goldman who received a bonus from this illegal conduct not only keeps
the entire bonus, but suffers no penalty at all. Sixth, more than half
of the $5 billion appears likely to be tax deductible, meaning U.S.
taxpayers will be required to subsidize this settlement.
$4.5 billion dollars plus a statement no one did anything criminal, and
could keep all the salaries and all the bonuses they had received. And
(probably) can deduct half of the $5 billion they have to pay, because
it is tax deductible.
It is a complete "legal" corruption that makes billions of dollars each
year. Here is the end of the article:
Sanders himself, speaking to a
Albany, New York on Monday, said
the settlement was an example of "the corruption of our criminal
"Goldman Sachs is one of the major
financial institutions in our country," he said. "What they have just
acknowledged to the whole world is that their system…is based on fraud."
A Sanders television ad released earlier
this year zeroes in on precisely this corporate malfeasance, with a
narrator explaining that Goldman "just settled with authorities for
their part in the crisis that put seven million out of work and
millions out of their homes. Our economy works for Wall Street because
it's rigged by Wall Street and that's the problem. As long as
Washington is bought and paid for we can’t build an economy that works
3. Americans Agree: It’s Corporate Power That’s In Our Way
The third item is by
Robert Weissman on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
is widespread recognition among politicians and pundits that Americans
are sharply divided by party on virtually all of the big questions
facing our country.
knows this is just the way things are, and it’s why we have gridlock in
here’s one thing: That story is not true.
fact, Americans overwhelmingly agree on a wide range of issues. They
want policies to make the economy more fair and hold corporate
executives accountable. They want stronger environmental and consumer
protections. And they want to fix our political system so that it
serves the interest of all, not just Big Money donors. These aren’t
close issues for Americans; actually, what’s surprising is the degree
of national consensus.
problem isn’t that Americans don’t agree. The problem is that the
corporate class doesn’t agree with this agenda, and that class
dominates our politics.
Well... I have to say "yes and no" to this (and I also refer
you to item 5):
Yes, I agree many Americans "agree
on a wide range of issues". But no,
these agreements often seem forgotten when they are voting,
I also admit that many don't vote, and that those who do vote now may
not be a fair sample from the American
The explanation of this somewhat paradoxical fact is - I
think - that the agreements that Robert Weismann mentions tend
to be found by polls,
whereas the disagreements keep arising in ordinary voting,
a much more emotional event.
Here is some more on the agreements:
margins of about 2-1, Americans oppose
corporate trade deals like the TransPacific Partnership. Americans
believe such deals destroy more jobs than they create by a 3-1 margin.
including a majority of
favor breaking up the big banks. Over nine in ten voters
agree that it is important to regulate
financial services and products to make sure they are
fair for consumers, and four-fifths say Wall
Street financial companies should be held accountable with tougher
enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis. By
nearly a 3-1 margin, voters want to see more, not less, oversight and
regulation of financial companies.
out of five voters, including three quarters of Republicans, want to
expand Social Security benefits. Note: not just maintain, but
expand, Social Security benefits.
I say. As I explained, I think these figures are mostly
correct (and from polls rather than votes), and it is also true
that I do not see much of this in voting.
Here is Robert Weissman's inference:
So, for those who care to look at the data, it’s plain
enough what Americans want.
But we’re not getting it.
That’s because of the political power problem. Americans
know this, too, and they want far-reaching solutions. “With
near unanimity,” reports the New York Times, “the public thinks the
country’s campaign finance system needs significant changes.” Nine in
ten want to
get rid of secret money in elections. More than three quarters want
to replace super-rich funding of elections with a system that relies on
small donors and matching public funds. As ThinkProgress notes,
more Americans believe in witches and ghosts than support Citizens
United (no offense to witches intended). There is three-to-one
support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
It’s plain enough that public opinion is not enough. We need
massive public mobilization, to tear down the political barriers that
stand in the way of winning the policies Americans support but
I agree with the last bit, but I am afraid I am a little skeptical about "the
American public". For more, see item 5.
4. Glaciers and sex
The fourth item is by
Notes & Comments (?) on The New Criterion:
This starts as follows:
Back in 1946, George Orwell
observed that “In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art
criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long
passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.” Fast forward
a few decades and you have the owlish gibberish of deconstruction, the
inanities of postcolonial studies, and kindred exercises in
polysyllabic grievance-mongering, not to mention the grimly risible
productions from the repellent partisans of “gender studies.”
I say, which I do say not because I
disagree nor because I did not know this, but because I faught the
fight with the obscurantist academics since 1977, and indeed I
also lost it, not because I could not win the discussions, but because
there simply was no discussion. (And see item 5.)
And there was no discussion because almost everyone agreed
with the obscurantists' utterly false moral claims that they
were morally good, and anybody who attacked them was morally
bad or - as I was declared, for a mere 12 years - "a
(dirty) fascist" (which was contemptible slander in my case,
and was in fact motivated by the admitted fact that I was not a
Marxist, which was the pretended faith of those who accused me,
and of most in the University of Amsterdam at that
time, for that was from 1971 till 1995 in the hands of the students
- who made a frightful mess out of it).
In any case, this is an interesting and recommended article
that I will leave mostly to your interests, for I will quote only three
extremely obscure quotations from it
that show academic bad writing (for most writings of most academics are
quite bad ) at its pretty spectacular worst, and I will quote the
end, because I do have to say something about it.
First, here is a quote by the (late) incredible philosophical genius Roy
Indeed dialectical critical
realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucauldian strategic
reversal—of the unholy trinity of Parmenidean/Platonic/Aristotelean
provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of
foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and
irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power
or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source)
new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy,
ontological monovalence, and its close ally, the epistemic fallacy with
its ontic dual . . .
In fact, this is total deluded crap. It also
seems to be of the later Roy Bhaskar, while there is a pretense
he wrote better when he was younger, but that seems
false to me. For I did read part of Bhaskar's first
book from 1975 (long ago), and laid it aside because it was full of
similar crap, though I fully grant the possibility that he wrote even
worse later on.
Anyway, that was philosophy. Here is literary criticism, from the
astounding genius of marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson:
“The visual is essentially
pornographic, which is to say that it has its end in rapt, mindless
fascination; thinking about its attributes becomes an adjunct to that,
if it is unwilling to betray its object; while the most austere films
necessarily draw their energy from the attempt to repress their own
excess (rather than from the more thankless effort to discipline the
This is in fact more totally deluded crap.
And Mr Jameson is 82 and seems to be still at it!
Here is the third bit, by the feminist all knowing universal genius
Judy Butler (I was repeating some of the claims I have read about her, long ago):
The move from a structuralist
account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in
relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power
relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation
brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and
marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural
totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the
contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of
hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the
rearticulation of power.
You see? In fact, this was again totally deluded utter
crap. Each of these bits (and extra-ordinarily much more) is an
excellent example of quite intentional utter bullshit.
But: Two of these three utter incompetents still are at their academic
positions, sometimes more than 20 years after publising the above, and
they still produce similar bullshit, and seem quite incapable of
producing anything much better.
Here is the end of the article:
George Orwell understood that bad
writing was generally the sign of bad thinking. But even he didn’t
appreciate quite how out of touch with reality pampered intellectuals
could get. The bad writing we have adduced here betokens not just
cognitive confusion but a deep moral failing: a failure to face up to
the basic realities of our common life. So-called “higher” education in
America circa 2016 is anything but “higher.” The question is,
how long will a credulous public go on supporting an enterprise that is
not only irrelevant to the better aspirations of our culture but is
positively antithetical to them.
Yes, indeed. As to the "[s]o-called “higher” education in
America", see the end of the next and last item:
We let the idiots
take the wheel: Donald Trump, Fox News and how we let our democracy rot
The fifth and last item today is by David Masciotra on Salon:
This is here in part because it - sort of -
balances item 3, which made some decent points, but
which also seems to take a quite optimistic view of both
the native gifts and the degree of education of average ordinary
I collected three quotes. First, about "Islamic terrorism":
Meanwhile, the cowardly obsession
surrounding “Islamic terrorism” continues to play out like a scene of
absurdist theater. Tragedies and atrocities, like recent bombings in
Brussels and Pakistan, demand sympathy for mourners and vigilance
toward the perpetrators, but standard methods of statistical evaluation
demonstrate that an American has a one in 4 million chance of
dying in a terrorist attack. The average American is more likely to
drown in the bathtub.
But many, perhaps most, Americans are
worried about terrorists and terrorism, and indeed "the news"
(incidentally also in Holland) is every day full of "terrorists and terrorism" - for which there is no objective
reason (other than
announcers on radio and TV who use the term "terrorist" in every second
Second, there is this on the educational gifts of average Americans:
Forty-two percent of the
public does not believe in evolutionary biology, while 24 percent
believe that the sun orbits the earth.
Nearly a quarter of Americans read below
the fifth-grade level, which helps to explain why only 29 percent read
a newspaper, and why 24 percent of Americans do not read even one book
To divorce the abysmal state of
education from the downward turn of American politics straight into the
sewer is to deny the connection between drinking battery acid and
Third, there is this on the
educational gifts and the native intelligence of the most intelligent
This was just the same in Holland in 2008, and is probably still
the case, except that neither "the press" nor the media pays any
attention to it (for - who knows? - this might disquiet the public).
According to the National Center for
Public Policy and Higher Education, nearly 60 percent of first-year
college students have to take remedial courses in mathematics or
English. Clearly, if a high school graduate is earning acceptance into
a college, he is not the worst of the worst, yet it is likely he does
not read, write, or perform arithmetic at the level of a high school
So here, to conclude this item (and indeed also the previous item), is my
Brief Review of Pre-University Education In Holland From 1865 - 2015:
1865-1965: A hundred years of decent education: Pupils preparing for university did examinations in around 15 subjects, mostly both written and oral, and in three to five
(3 to 5) foreign languages, history, geography, chemistry, physics,
mathematics, and more. In terms of IQs they had IQs of 125 or higher.
One serious setback was that almost only children of well-to-do
parents could study, for there were no student grants. (There were only
a few special grants
for extremely gifted students.)
1965-2015: All the schools I went to disappeared, as types; from 1965 onwards the schools preparing for university were radically simplified, and by the 1970ies people did examination in 6 subjects, with one
(1) foreign language (usually English); already in the seventies
students needed only to be able to read English; there were grants -
until ca. 1990 - for everyone who wanted to study, and many did, for a
degree meant more money. By 1984 the average IQ of the Amsterdam
students was 115; by 2008 all studies had been halved in time; studying had become expensive; grants had almost totally disappeared; and most students entering studies with mathematics or engineering needed remedial teachings in maths
(in the first of three years studying), and also most students were no
longer capable of writing good and grammatical Dutch. Then again, I
suppose that by 2008 most students in most studies with IQs of 105
could become B.A. (with a little application).
But in Holland since 1965 extremely few people cared, and many
rejoiced, for at long last almost everyone with any IQ over 100 - with
the money, and the remedial teachings - was capable of becoming a B.A.
In brief, I am not optimistic, but the great majority of the intellectually ungifted Dutchmen got what they wanted:
An education in which at least half of everyone could make "a
university degree" (with sufficient money and remedial teachings).
I take it the Americans have by and large a similar system to give the brightest the best education - except that they still have some universities which do make high demands, and except that this murdering of the education of the best by the best (where it happens) is not done as it was done in Holland: In the name of the absolute equality of everyone.
Apart from these differences, ""higher" education" seems similar these
days in the USA and in Holland, and can be summarized by a quote from
the previous section:
So-called “higher” education (..) circa 2016 is anything but “higher.”
Yes, definitely! And I know because I have read very many writings of academics. And incidentally: I said "most", and not "all": A few can write, but indeed not many.
 Incidentally, this is the ideal
of Tony Blair: That half of the people of the correct age - everyone
with an IQ of 100 or more - can finish a university. (Of course, in
sports the standards are quite different, but that is really important: Sport. In top sport only extreme talent can make it; in today's highest education half of everybody can get a degree.)