April 13, 2016

Crisis: Veterans, Panama Papers, Feminism & Payments, Big Frauds
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Days of Revolt: Why the Brutalized Become Brutal
2. Confessions of a Panama Papers Hit Man
3. The Gender Pay Gap Is Still About 21 Cents Per Dollar
4. Goldman and Wells Fargo FINALLY Admit They
     Committed Fraud


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 13, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting interview of Chris Hedges with two veterans; item 2 is about a useful article by the former "economic hitman" John Perkins; item 3 is about the fact that 49 years after I learned about feminism, the pay women get is still 4/5th of what men get, for the same work (plus some remarks/notes by me on feminism); and item 4 is about the fact that two of the biggest banks in the U.S. - at long last - admitted they committed fraud.

1. Days of Revolt: Why the Brutalized Become Brutal

The first item is b
y Chris Hedges on The Real News Network:
This is from an interview with two former American soldiers that was published on April 5 (when I missed it). Both are combat veterans. One served for 10 years, the other for three years with two deployments. Both are members of Veterans for Peace.

I think this is a quite interesting interview, in part because it is with soldiers who did do the fighting, and in part because of what these men say:
FANNING: I signed up after 9/11 to prevent another 9/11 from happening, but soon after arriving in Afghanistan I realized I was only creating the conditions for more terrorist attacks and it was a hard pill to swallow. I mean, we were essentially a bully, you know?
HEDGES: I mean worse than a bully, I mean, you know, we murder.
FANNING: Well we'd have a rocket land in our camp and we wouldn't necessarily know where it came from. It came from that general direction over there. We'd call in a five-hundred pound bomb and it would land on a village. I mean, we know [because of] the International Physicians Against the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, that a million people have been killed around the world since 9/11. You know, we know, conservatively, that at least 80 percent of those people have been innocent civilians. So, I think to understand Brussels you have to get to the root of some of this stuff.

I quite believe Fanning and also do not blame him for being deceived, but I do need to mention that the USA now, and since the 1970ies, has "a professional army", that is, an army of volunteers much rather than a drafted army (as faught - i.a. - WW II and Vietnam).

Also, I think that is a bad idea, for quite a few reasons, two of which are that the military is basically a force that is designed to do violence and is not democratic, while such a force is easier to control and oversee, in a democratic society, if anyone of the right age - including children of rich parents, confirmed resisters, university students etc. etc. - can be drafted.

There is this on "men of military age" who happen to be Iraqis:
HANES: And then if you happen to be a young man in there, in your early twenties or anywhere in that range where you can carry a weapon, then just by mere association of being a young male, a possible insurgent, Saddam Fedayeen loyalist, whatever the case may be, you were taken out of the home and taken somewhere to be interrogated.
HEDGES: And often tortured, especially if you were taken over to the Iraqis.
HANES: Exactly, I mean who knows what happened to them after we let them go to be interrogated. I know they were there all night interrogating them and who knows if they even made it back to their family or not.

And there is this on drone attacks:
HANES: With the drone attacks, I mean, you know you have a range, an outside range, where so many civilians are being killed from these attacks and it's really quite frankly it's a terrorist producing factory. If you lose your child, if you lose your mother, any of your family members to this - I mean we have to think about that. Put yourself in that position. If I lost my child I would be desperate, what would you do? It's easy to understand why someone would strap a bomb to themselves [crosstalk] and go blow themselves up.
I agree drones are "a terrorist producing factory", though in fact I'd say the same about the U.S. army:

You do produce willing terrorists if you attack and kill many civilians, which is what does happen, both in drone attacks and in military attacks, and the killings of civilians by the military are often acts of terrorism - that is, part of the reason the American military is "
a terrorist producing factory" is that it uses terrorist means (except that the American army never-ever - since Vietnam, to my knowledge - admitted it was or could be terroristic in any sense).

Then there is this on military heroes:

FANNING: You know, if you're a hero you don't do anything wrong; the mission that you carry out is just and should have happened. Soldiers are not encouraged to talk about the realities of war when they come back. They're labeled hero or warrior. I think that's a major problem and I think that only leads to further seclusion, isolation with soldiers. We talk about the suicide rates amongst veterans, you know 22 a day in this country. It's because we're not allowed to talk about what we saw overseas; how unjust it was, how we feel like bullies, how many innocent people have been killed since 9/11. I think throwing out words like heroes really does a disservice to the experience of veterans and all the innocent people that've been killed since then.
I agree with Fanning, although I have no idea how widespread his ideas are among veterans. Specifically, someone is not a hero simply because he was
a soldier. But that is what they are being called or "labeled" as: "You faught in our war, therefore you are a hero". (And in case you don't know, check out the
My Lai Massacre and Lieutenant Calley on Wikipedia.)

There is this on moral injuries to soldiers and on the causes of the very many
suicides among veterans:
HANES: Moral Injury, and moral injury is huge with the conflict with Iraq and Afghanistan and I think that has a direct reflection with the extremely high suicide rate that we see that is estimated about 22 per day.
HEDGES: There are Iraq and Afghan vets?
HANES: Yes. Yeah, twenty-two per day.
HEDGES: Just from Iraq and Afghanistan? Wow, I didn't know that.
HANES: Right. That's a tremendously high number. We're sold the idea of, hey, we're going to go liberate a people. We're fighting terrorism and then we get in the mix of things and realize we're the ones terrorizing the people there. That really torments you psychologically. I've lost a few friends due to suicide.

This is a likely explanation, although I do not know how widespread ideas like those of Hanes are among the veterans. I take it there are quite a few more, but I also think another part of the reason that so many veterans commit suicide is that often there is very little help while they have been seriously wounded of harmed. (In case you don't know, check out Tomas Young on Wikipedia.)

There is this on "
the ubiquitous nature of the US military right now":
FANNING: To not speak out against that and to also not speak out against the fact that we spend ten times the amount of money we spend on education, on our military. We have 700 military bases around the world. This is completely unsustainable on all different types of levels. To not be speaking out against, you know, the ubiquitous nature of the US military right now. We've invaded, we've had military operations in 49 of the 54 African countries since 2011. Why isn't anybody talking about this stuff? National security does not exist, I mean national sovereignty does not exist for any country around the world except the United States.
Quite so. Finally, there is this about the plight of women in the military:
FANNING: One in three women I think are sexually assaulted HEDGES: On Okinawa?
FANNING: In the military
HEDGES: Oh, within the military? Yeah. I once talked to a Canadian woman officer, she was in Afghanistan, and I said, What was the most dangerous part? She said, going to the latrines at night and not getting raped by the marines, and I kind of chuckled and she said, no, no, that was the most dangerous part.
HANES: And that's another war in itself right there that females are dealing with in the military.
Possibly I am an oldfashioned leftist, but - in any case - I have never thought the army is a place for women [1], and this last segment bears this out:

If a woman officer thinks the most risky part of her job in Afghanistan is to avoid getting raped at night by the marines, and if one in three woman who are in the army is being sexually assaulted or raped, this seems to give sufficient grounds.

In any case, this is an interesting interview and article, which is recommended.

2. Confessions of a Panama Papers Hit Man

The second item is
by John Perkins on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and in case you do not know who John Perkins is, check out the first link in this item):
The Panama Papers should be no surprise. I was there in the 1970s, when the system they’ve exposed was set in motion. As an Economic Hit Man (an EHM), I helped forge this global economy that is based on legalized crimes. It’s a system in which 62 individuals have as much wealth as half the world’s population, and a handful of the super-rich control governments around the globe. Big corporations benefit from infrastructure and social services without having to foot the bill. Instead, average U.S. citizens pay for it with their hard-earned tax dollars, while the very rich and their corporations shelter their incomes in tax havens like Panama.
Everything from "It's a sytem" seems literally correct. I do not quite agree with the first statement, but that is no criticism of John Perkins. Speaking for myself: I was surprised, and notably by the impertinence, the blatancy and the insane amounts of money that are - impertinently, blatantly - stolen by the already very rich.

Then there is this:

Over the past 12 years, the system that helped create it has spread from developing countries to the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world. The result: a failed global economy: Two and a half billion people live below the poverty level, on less than $2 a day. Seven out of 10 people live in countries with worse inequality than 30 years ago. Less than 5% of the world’s population lives in the United States, yet consumes 25% of the world’s resources. Less than 1% of that 5% dictate not only U.S. policies, but those of most other countries. It is an economic system based on debt, fear, militarization, and the extraction of the resources that support it, consuming itself into extinction.
Again I think all of this is more or less literally correct, although I don't know on what "the past 12 years" is based on (though it may be Iraq).

Finally, I quote this:
There’s a lesson here. In this election year, we must understand that the next U.S. president has very limited powers. The powers rest in the big corporations and the people who run them. When billionaires are able to get laws passed such as the US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement of 2012 and NAFTA, giving their corporations more power than sovereign nations, it’s time for change. We must create an economy dedicated to cleaning up pollution, developing new technologies that recycle and spare the earth, and creating systems that alleviate desperation, poverty, hunger, and the causes of violence and terrorism. This system must include fair taxation: those who benefit from the infrastructure must help pay for it.
I have said, repeatedly also, that the NAFTA (Bill Clinton's creation) and the TTP, TTIP, TiSA and CETA are in fact fascistic plans, and my main reason to do so is clearly stated here: These "agreements" give "corporations more power than sovereign nations", and that is the essence of fascism (and will be used to bring down most laws and most activities of most governments, for these are not compatible with the maximum profits CEOs of corporations want).

And I do not agree to "
we must understand that the next U.S. president has very limited powers", for I don't think "we" (which in this case also includes me) really understand what the president does nor what he, legally speaking, can do. (I have some ideas, but I didn't study U.S. law, for one thing.)

Besides, however "limited" the powers of the president may be, he (or maybe she) has very much more powers than almost everybody else, so I say that - even if the "
powers rest in the big corporations and the people who run them" -
it is a mistake to insist that the president of the USA has "very limited powers".

But overall this is a good article that is recommended.

3. The Gender Pay Gap Is Still About 21 Cents Per Dollar

The third item is
by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows - and is the case since before 1970, which is about when the second wave of feminism had started:

Today [April 12 - MM] is Equal Pay Day, so let's break down the numbers for the gender pay gap. According to an up-to-date study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, the current wage gap for annual earnings is 21 cents: On average, women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns.

I am pretty certain this was also the case in 1970, that is 46 years ago. And I found it then a shame, and I find it now a considerably bigger shame, even though I am definitely not "a gender feminist", while I am at most a hesitant "equity feminist".

But the reasons for these disagreements [2] have little to do with women as such, while having much to do with my strong distaste for nonsense, and my knowledge of very much philosophy and logic.

Then again, as to pay: Clearly women should get the same pay for the same work, completely independently from anyone's positions on feminist issues. And
this I have thought my whole life, very probably because my parents [3] thought the same.

Here are some more specifics:

When you look at the whole picture, women are punished financially in three different ways: because "women's jobs" have historically paid less than jobs dominated by men; because women are expected to take time off when they have children, which reduces their seniority; and because even when they're in the same job with the same amount of experience, they get paid less than men.

To me the three "different ways" seem quite common: "Listen women! You get paid less because you deserve less! And you deserve less, because you lack the
essential ingredient to human excellence: maleness."

It's a very stupid and quite nonsensical argument, but - so far - it works.

4. Goldman and Wells Fargo FINALLY Admit They Committed Fraud

The fourth and last item today i
by Washington's Blog on his site:

I will quote only the beginning and the end. The beginning is this:
Goldman Sachs has finally admitted to committing fraud.  Specifically, Goldman Sachs reached a settlement yesterday with the Department of Justice, in which it admitted fraud:
This is not special because this is the first time Goldman Sachs did fraud, for they are doing frauds since over 20 years at least, to the best of my knowledge; it is special because for the first time Goldman Sachs admitted fraud.

The frauds are documented in the article, but I leave that to your interests.

And it is also said that Wells Fargo - currently the third largest U.S. bank -
also admitted deceiving the U.S. government between 2001 and 2008 (which just happened to be the years Bush Jr. strongly recommended buying houses, many of which were then lost in the crisis of 2008) namely for falsely certifying that many of its home loans qualified for Federal Housing Administration insurance.

I say. Here is the end of the article:

Why should we care?

Because Wells Fargo received a $25 billion dollar bailout and Goldman received $10 billion in one bailout and $13 billion in another.

Moreover, fraud was one of the main causes of the Great Depression and the Great Recession … which cost tens of trillions of dollars in losses. But nothing has been done to rein in fraud today. And governments have virtually made it official policy not to prosecute fraud criminally. (Background.)

Fraud is an economy-killer, and trying to prevent a depression while allowing a breakdown in the rule of law is like pumping blood into a patient without suturing his gaping wounds.

Yes, indeed.
[1] I am sorry, but that is what I think.

I think soldiering is bad; I think women are on average weaker, smaller and less aggressive than men; and I think these are sufficient reasons (apart from the highly increased probability that female soldiers will get raped, namely by male soldiers of the same military force)
to say women should not be in the army. (Also, anyone who says this is reprehensible discrimination does not seem to understand that men and women are different.)

Since I am on the theme of the differences between women and men (which gave this heterosexual male lots of joy), let me also say that I am not in favor of women who have to go to work.

And my reason is not that I think women are inferior (I don't think so): It is that I think nearly all work is unpleasant, boring or dangerous, uncreative, and for the most part forced. Few men would work, in the work they are daily doing, if they were not forced to in order to get money.

In other words: Most work most men do and have done was forced labor by what are fairly called wage slaves. To say to women that they should work, is to recommend to most of them that it is good to do forced labor and be a wage slave.

I do not think that is good or desirable (but I also know that wages have been hollowed out so much that these days most men and most women have to work in order to raise a family - which again is a serious setback in my eyes).

Finally, I also wish to note that about the only women I have heard or read who recommended that it was "emancipatory" ("freeing", "liberating", "good") for women to work, were all academic women who never knew what ordinary non-academic work is like (from having to do it day in, day out, year in, year out, for little money, leaving you little time or energy for other things, while the work is at best boring).

Most work is little better than forced slavery for some pay. To represent that as something "good" and "desirable" was one of the very big and dirty lies.

[2] Incidentally (and I know about feminism since 1967 or 1968), I wonder how many women or feminists know the differences between gender feminism and equity feminism? I really don't know, and I am asking because the Wikipedia (and the links in this note are all to Wikipedia) seems rather strongly gender feminist, and puts most of the writings of equity feminists under the heading of ... antifeminism (see "Antifeminist literature"). (And I think that was a moral or political choice. With which I disagree.)

[3] Both of my parents were quite intelligent though not highly educated persons, who acted very courageously in WW II, in which they were in the resistance (and my father and his father, also a communist, in concentration camps as "political terrorists"), because they were members of the communist party, which they remained for 40 or more years.

I did not agree with their marxism or communism since I was 20, but that was mostly due to my having read Marx, Engels and Lenin quite well, and having found serious mistakes, in which I also was right (as possibly was best explained - if limited to one book - by Ian Steedman's (<- Wikipedia) "Marx after Sraffa", which does need some mathematics).

Then again, I did and do agree with their moral values, which were not like those of average Dutchmen, and I suppose I am still more like them than like
other Dutchmen.

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