1. FEC Commissioner,
Citing The Intercept, Calls for Ban
on Foreign Money in Politics
2. An Open Letter to Ivanka Trump From Michael Moore:
‘Your Dad Is Not Well’
3. Donald Trump Economic Adviser John Paulson
Billions in Auto Industry
'Politics Above Science': Obama Administration Keeps
5. Holding On to What Makes Us Human
This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 12, 2016.
There are 5 items with 5
dotted links: Item 1 is about something an FEC
commissioner did, but I think it is unlikely to succeed; item
2 is about an open letter Michael Moore wrote to Ivanka Trump (and
I think Moore forgot family loyalties); item 3 is
about how John Paulson made 5 billion dollars: by fraud (but he wasn't
punished, of course); item 4
is about marijuana, which is kept in the hardest and most forbidden
drugs classification in the USA (I think - but I have a lot of
experience - because this is in the interests of the secret services);
and item 5 is, in effect, about the destruction
of the universities, which has happened (in Holland at least:
"students" learn less than half of what I learned, in less
than half the time, for fifty to a hundred times more money).
And perhaps I should add that in items 4 and 5 I rely on my own
extensive experiences, but then again you can skip everything you don't
like. (I think it is interesting, but indeed I agree it is not
what the ordinary papers write - that in Holland at least, almost
completely avoid writing about marijuana or the universities,
since many years, also).
Commissioner, Citing The Intercept, Calls for Ban on Foreign Money in
first item today is by Jon Schwartz and Lee Fang on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Federal Election Commission member Ann
Ravel on Tuesday proposed a
ban on political contributions by domestic subsidiaries of foreign
Ravel’s proposal cites The
Intercept series last
week reporting that American Pacific International Capital, a
California corporation owned by two Chinese nationals, donated $1.3
million to Right to Rise USA, the main Super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s
Ravel wrote that as a result of Citizens
United and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, “our campaign
finance system is vulnerable to influence from foreign nationals and
foreign corporations through Domestic subsidiaries and affiliates in
ways unimaginable a decade ago.”
The 2010 Citizens United decision struck
down the prohibition on corporations spending their own money on
“independent expenditures,” thereby opening the possibility that
foreign money could flow into elections that way.
Ravel, noting The Intercept’s
stories, wrote that this was no longer “a hypothetical concern.”
I have copied this, and I also agree with
Ann Ravel, but I doubt very much that this will help, indeed
precisely because "the Citizens
down the prohibition on corporations spending their own money on
That is: I agree the Citizens United decision was extremely
bad, and I also agree it should be rescinded, but it hasn't
been, and that is the U.S. law.
Rescinding the advisory opinion would
not eliminate the loophole that makes foreign owned U.S. corporations
legally American. And since FEC enforcement is so notably lax these
days, due to a persistent 3-3 deadlock, it’s not entirely clear how
dramatic an effect it would have.
The proposal is set to be on the
FEC’s agenda for its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
So I don't expect anything from this. But
we will see, I suppose.
An Open Letter to Ivanka Trump
From Michael Moore: ‘Your Dad Is Not Well’
The second item is by Michael Moore on Truthdig and originally on
This is indeed (or so it
seems) an open letter by Michael Moore
(<- Wikipedia) to Ivanka Trump
(<-Wikipedia). I doubt this
was a good idea (see below) but it starts as follows:
I’m writing to you because your dad is
Every day he continues his spiral
downward—and after his call for gun owners to commit acts of violence
against Mrs. Clinton, it is clear he needs help, serious help. His
comments and behavior have become more and more bizarre and detached
from reality. He is in need of an intervention. And I believe only you
can conduct it.
I agree Donald Trump "is not well", but I very much
doubt that asking Ivanka
Trump (<- Wikipedia) to interfere will help. I do not know
Ivanka Trump at all, but neither does Michael Moore.
From what I read in the Wikipedia, I very
much doubt she is mad (as I think her father is)
but she is not much of an intellectual (she is a fashion model with a
B.S. in economics - which is not bad, but also not brilliant).
I take it she is a fairly intelligent
normal person, but it is precisely this that makes me doubt Michael
Moore's letter, simply because I also would have rejected
people I don't know and who don't know my father to
advice me about my father's state of mental health.
Family loyalties usually outrank all
other loyalties, and Michael Moore seems to have forgotten this (and
no, I am not saying this is reasonable: I am
saying it is a fact).
Moore argues as follows in his open letter:
He trusts you. He believes in you.
Although I don’t know you personally, you seem to be a very smart and
together woman. I think he will listen to you. He must because he is
now not simply a danger to himself, he has put the next president of
the United States in harm’s way. He has encouraged and given permission
to the unhinged and the deranged to essentially assassinate Hillary
Clinton. Her life is now in worse danger than it already was—and should
anything happen, that will not only be on his head but also on those
closest to him if they stand by and do nothing.
I say this with the utmost kindness,
care and concern for you, and I know you will do the right thing. Bring
him in, off the road, away from the crowds. Now. Tonight.
I don't think this works. First, while I
agree Ivanka Trump is
probably "together", I don't think she is "very smart" (but I also
don't think it is very relevant how smart she is). Second, Moore should
not have called Clinton "the
next president of the United States" simply
because she isn't, yet. Third, I don't think an attributed
responsibility of "those closest to him" will make a real difference. (Family loyalties, again.)
Also, I don't think Ivanka Trump will
believe in Moore's "utmost kindness, care and concern for you", and Moore certainly doesn't "know you will do the right thing".
After this, there follow twelve paragraphs
of italic text that purport to show how Ivanka should talk to her
father. I'll skip them, but you can read them by clicking on the last
Moore ends his open letter as follows:
As I said, I don't think this will work.
Ivanka, I have faith in you that you can
do this. I know I’ve called your dad crazy before, but I was speaking
politically, not clinically. This has gone beyond crazy. The entire
nation—in fact, the entire world—needs you to step forward and do the
courageous thing history will praise you for: the loving act of a
brilliant daughter who also loved her beleaguered country enough to say
her father wasn’t well and needed help.
Thank you, Ivanka.
3. Donald Trump Economic Adviser John Paulson Took Billions in
Auto Industry Bailout
item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows (and seems based on
an item of the Real News Network):
Hedge fund manager and Donald Trump
adviser John Paulson made billions in the mortgage market collapse of
2007 and by holding the auto industry hostage for taxpayer money,
investigative reporter Greg Palast told
The Real News Network.
Paulson “is the guy who made more money
than anyone on the planet in a single year, $5 billion,” Palast said.
“They say he got that $5 billion by betting against the mortgage market
when the mortgage market collapsed. That’s really the wrong way of
putting it. He kicked the mortgage market over the cliff and bet that
it would crash when it hit the bottom.”
“Most people thought he was going to end
up in prison… but now I guess he’s Donald Trump’s economic advisor.”
“And the Times of London,” Palast
continued, “hardly a Marxist rag — it’s owned by Murdoch and very
right-wing — the Times of London said that JP, John Paulson, should be
paraded through the streets of London naked while people throw rotten
fruit at him for what he’s done. Just in England. And that was nothing
compared to what he’s done in the U.S."
I say. Also, I admit I picked this item
because I guessed John
Paulson (<- Wikipedia) either is the same as Hank Paulson
(one of those responsible for the banking crisis of 2008, who was also
nominated by George Bush Jr. to solve it) or else is a brother - but
according to Wikipedia their parents are different.
So I guessed wrongly, but both
Paulsons are extremely
rich and John Paulson's ways of becoming a billionaire - in 2014 he
owned over 13 billion dollars - are quite interesting. Here is Greg
GREG PALAST: (...)
to Wikipedia, John Paulson got - excellent - degrees in finance and
business administration. I'd say that while this is not quite
the same as economics, it is related.
In fact, if you look at his whole list,
they have one big thing in common: except for one guy on the whole
list, none of them are economists, whereas—I’m not a big Hillary
Clinton fan—but she did speak to dozens of economists, Nobel Prize
winners including Joe Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and many others, who’ve
never given her a dime for her campaigns. In fact, some opposed her
There’s no economists on Trump’s whole
group. And the rest of them are all his donors. So if you pay enough
money you get to run the U.S. economy. That’s a good deal. And you get
to set the policy to determine how much you will pay in taxes, et
So Paulson is the guy who crashed the
mortgage market in the U.S., he brought the Royal Bank of Scotland to
its knees, where it went bankrupt.
Then again, I agree that Hillary Clinton has quite a few supporters who
have degrees in economics, including several Nobel laureates. But since
I don't think economics is a real science (for if it were, many
more economics would have predicted the 2008 crisis), I don't care much
for the academic differences between business
administation and finance, and economics.
Next, here is an interesting question by Paul Jay, with an interesting
answer, that supports the idea that there are non-academic
differences between the two kinds of persons that support the two
I say. I did not know that: there is
an opposition beteween the commercial banks (that is, the rich
billionaires who support these) and the hedge funds (that is, the rich
billionaires who support these).
JAY: Greg, this kind of
parasitical finance, and most finance sector is parasitical, and
there’s plenty of hedge fund guys on Hillary Clinton’s side, as well.
Is there a reason why a certain sector of these hedge fund guys, these
parasites, if you will, gravitate towards Trump, and other sections
seem to gravitate towards Clinton?
PALAST: Well actually, what you
have with Clinton is really the commercial banks, like you have JP
Morgan, you have CitiBank people like Robert Rubin, Jamie Dimon, who
was Chase, the biggest bank in America. Because there’s actually a war
between the hedge funds and the commercial banks. For example, the
hedge fund guys are trying to destroy our allies like Argentina. They
just, you know, they buy old bonds and then they try to bankrupt these
guys, and they attack all the attempts to try to work out deals for
Greece or other nations in trouble.
This also harms the banks. So there’s,
right now, there’s kind of a rumble. It’s kind of like the Sharks and
the Jets in West Side Story, except it’s commercial versus hedge fund.
So the guys who are more invested in commercial banks and straight —
and straight investments and bonds, like, for example, Soros, Warren
Buffett, a Jamie Dimon, a [Robert] — go with Hillary Clinton. And
they’re under attack by the hedge fund billionaires, and those are the
guys who are tending now towards Donald Trump.
And I agree with Paul Jay that both types of billionaires are parasites.
Indeed here is what John Paulson did (according to Palast, to be sure):
Paulson, Trump’s guy, moved every single job, every single union job,
every one, to China. And out of the U.S. He shut every single union
plant in the United States. Paulson moved them to China. And now he’s
running Trump’s economic advisory council. Not just his big funder. But
he’s the guy who’s going to advise Donald Trump, the guy who says he’s
going to stand up to the guys who are going to stop sending jobs
overseas. These are the guys that sent the jobs overseas. These are the
ones. They are his council of economic advisors.
And he made 4 or 5 billlion
dollars doing that. And destroyed the jobs of God knows how many
millions of Americans. And now he is the economic advisor of Donald
Trump. I say.
'Politics Above Science': Obama Administration Keeps Marijuana
The fourth item is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I give three reasons why I selected this
The Obama administration has rejected
efforts to reschedule marijuana to a less restrictive drug category,
keeping it classified as a Schedule 1 substance—illegal for any purpose.
That means states that allow marijuana
for medical or recreational use will remain in violation of federal law.
The decision, announced by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Thursday, follows efforts by
lawmakers and activists to reschedule marijuana to a category in the
Controlled Substances Act (CSA) that would loosen restrictions on its
First, Obama himself smoked a lot of marijuana: He surely knows
it is not heroine or cocaine, although his goverment insists
that it is as dangerous as these drugs.
Second, Obama and his government should have known (and very
probably do know) that in Amsterdam (and in Holland) marijuana
and hashish were easily available at several places since 1967
or so, and have been extremely widely available - in
hundreds of coffeeshops, just in Amsterdam alone, and then all through
Holland - since 1988, and that in these almost fifty years
(!!) there were no deaths nor any serious harm done to or by smokers of
marijuana and hashish (due to either drug, that is).
Third, a point also made by Noam Chomsky: There is a very strong
association between illegal recreational drugs (like marijuana
and hashish, and also like cocaine and heroine and more) and the
actions of secret services, that is in part explained by the fact
that selling illegal recreational drugs in
great quantities realizes enormous amounts of money and enormous
amounts of profits (which then can be used in part by secret
services to finance political operations of many kinds).
I look differently upon this, because of my
The Washington Post explains
the impacts of the decision:
The current federal status of
marijuana makes it impossible for state-legal marijuana businesses to take the same
afforded to other business, with
some marijuana operations complaining that their effective tax rates
the range of 60 percent to 90 percent, according to a Denver
accountant who works with such businesses, Jordan
Cornelius. Federal restrictions also
make banks reluctant to work with marijuana businesses, leading
many of them to become all-cash operations — with
all the risks that entails.
Legalization advocates were disappointed
by the ruling, but saw a minor victory in the DEA's decision that it
would end its monopoly on marijuana research, which Michael Collins of
the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) said
would remove some obstacles.
I have been kept out of sleep for nearly four years by illegal
drugsdealers who had gotten personal permission
of mayor Ed van Thijn of Amsterdam to deal illegal (!!) drugs from the
bottom floor in the house where I lived, simply because absolutely
every bureaucrat and every politician who worked for the City of
Amsterdam protected these illegal drugsdealers, also after they
had tried to gas me, and nearly succeeded, and also after they
were arrested with several kiloos of cocaine and heroine: I was denied
the right of complaining.
I was treated as if I was a subhuman fascist, or asked things
from people who did not really differ from subhuman fascists,
for I was constantly lied to for nearly four years by absolutely
every Amsterdam bureaucrat and every
Amsterdam policeman, and also by both the Amsterdam
ombudsman, and by the national ombudsman: All evidently
thought that my human rights and my
civil rights counted as nought compared to "the rights" of the illegal
drugs dealers to make as much money as they could, and meanwhile
destroy my health.
And indeed they made enormous amounts of money, and they
destroyed my health ever since 1991, which is meanwhile 27 years of
pain, tiredness and lack of energy.
But nobody official in Amsterdam cared one whit for my fate, an nobody
official in Amsterdam even answered my letters and my mails - in which
I said every time I was ill, I could not sleep, and had been very
credibly threatened with murder by the illegal dealers, and also had
been gassed by them: All of this was allowed in
Amsterdam, for four years; all of this was defended by
Amsterdam bureaucrats and Amsterdam mayors and Amsterdam aldermen and
Amsterdam district attorneys, none of whom did anything
for me, ever.
So here is how I look upon this:
Clearly, an illegal business in Holland that makes 25 to 50 billion
dollars a year by selling illegal drugs (which they do, according to the Parliamentary Van Traa Report
of 1996) is so important to Dutch politicians and the Dutch secret
services that they will do anything
to keep these businesses working and profitable. (They did so in my
case, for four years, and have been doing this since 1988, since when
thousands of coffeeshops got "permission" by mayors to deal in illegal
The Dutch bureaucracies and the Dutch politicians have defended the
dealing of illegal drugs (for all recreational drugs
except alcohol are forbidden in Holland since 1965) for something
like 50 years now, I take it because they partake in part
of the enormous profits (but I have no proof, and it is also
not my duty to produce one).
The amount of money the Dutch politicians and bureaucrats could count
on differs between 225 million dollars (at 1 promille) to 50 times as
much (at 5 percent), which is over 10 billion dollars, both over a
period of 25 years. (And both are easily paid by the buyers of
And I also think that the secret services want to keep this source of
enormous amounts of secret money in tact, which means that they will
insist on keeping illegal drugs illegal, also if they know - as
they do, in the case of marijuana and hashish - that these are
much less dangerous than alcohol.
For this is also what happened in Holland, where there are excellent
empirical reasons for several tens of years (!!) that marijuana and
hashish are not dangerous at all. And - I take it - the same
holds for the USA:
agree with Tvert that marijuana is "less harmful
than alcohol and many prescription drugs. It is less toxic, less
addictive, and less damaging to the body." And I
also agree - in part, at least - because I know enormous
amounts of (illegal) marijuana and hashish have been sold in Amsterdam
and Holland without doing any harm over the course of the
last fifty years.
Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the
Marijuana Policy Project, agreed.
"The DEA's refusal to remove marijuana
from Schedule I is, quite frankly, mind-boggling," he said Thursday.
"It is intellectually dishonest and completely indefensible. Not
everyone agrees marijuana should be legal, but few will deny that it is
less harmful than alcohol and many prescription drugs. It is less
toxic, less addictive, and less damaging to the body."
"We are pleased the DEA is finally going
to end NIDA's monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research
purposes," he continued. "Removing barriers to research is a step
forward, but the decision does not go nearly far enough. Marijuana
should be completely removed from the CSA drug schedules and regulated
similarly to alcohol."
But I think the reasons for keeping it illegal are different, and are
mostly connected to the needs of the various secret services to have
quick and easy access to enormous amounts of uncontrolled
This makes it quite unlikely - in my opinion, to be sure - that
marijuana and hashish will be legalized in the USA, indeed for the same
reasons as marijuana and hashish have not
been legalized in Holland, in spite of 50 years of evidence
are far more harmless than alcohol.
But we will see what happens.
5. Holding On to What Makes
The fifth and last item today is by L.D. Burnett on The Chronicle of
This starts as follows:
A few years after I graduated
from college, short on cash, short on space, and short on hope that I
might ever again spend at least part of my days reading and writing and
thinking, I made a decision that I have wished many times I could take
back: I sold almost all of my textbooks.
I take it that I am at least thirty years
older than L.D. Burnett. In any case, I started buying books when I was
15, mostly second hand, and over 50 years later I still do, and
sold any book I bought (except for a few real bad ones), and indeed
never felt I had to, although I probably earned less in my life than any
other Dutchman of my age. (Never more than the dole paid me, which is
less than the legal income. Since I never got more than the
dole, I am one of the poorest Dutchmen there is.)
The experiences of L.D. Burnett in university also are quite
different from mine:
For many reasons, college was a
revelation. I had never bought books of my own before I went. Nor did I
know that people wrote in the margins of any books other than their
well-studied Bibles. In college, I proudly bought Norton critical
editions and anthologies of fiction and poetry, Penguin Classics and
mass-market paperbacks, and I wrote in them all. When pressed to choose
between buying my books and, say, eating more than one meal a day for a
few weeks, I chose the books.
I grew up in Amsterdam (where I also was
born), which explains in part why it was easy for me to buy -
cheap - second hand books since I was 15, but I knew people wrote in
the margins of books much earlier than she did (for my father
did), and indeed that was one of the main reasons for buying
books that I had: To be able to see later what I had underlined and
Then again, she and I are similar in preferences: I even starved to get
some books I wanted very much (like Bertrand Russell's, for example).
She is also similar in another respect:
In the face of our inevitable
annihilation, what do we do?
That is: I agree with her on the purpose and
ends of a university education - to
question, that problem, has been much on my mind lately, particularly
as it relates to the fate and future of the university as an
institution or even as an idea. Policy makers and the public view the
purpose of college as purely vocational, and see humanistic inquiry —
the study of literature, the arts, history, anthropology, philosophy —
as a waste of time and money.
In these circumstances, what do we do?
Does it even matter?
help making intelligent persons make as much as possible of their
talents and their possibilities and to develop intellectual curiosities
of many kinds, joined to a well-trained intellect - but I also strongly
believe that (i) such ideals about what a real university is and should
do belong to the past, because (ii) the real
universities have been killed, and have been replaced by vocational
schools for the teachings of skills that are useful in businesses of
At the same time, the "universities" now are much more
expensive than they ever were; they are open to far more
people (around half of the population can now finish a university);
they have far less ambitious ends (hardly anyone who arrives
there wants to know: almost everyone wants an easy degree that
will make them earn more); and indeed they are no longer real
universi- ties, but are rather a kind of somewhat extended high
And I have seen this happening from the time I started in university,
which was in 1977: Since then, the universities I have known
(which were good till the Sixties) have been completely killed,
although the name "university" still exists, as do quite a few
of their pretenses,
mostly - it seems - to help them make more money. (A year of
medicine now costs over 30.000 dollars to pay the courses. When I
started, this was around 30 dollars, for one relevant difference. And
my time the universities weren't richer, although they did get more tax
Next, here is some more by L.D. Burnett:
Let us resist perishing. But if
we must perish, let us perish resisting. This should be our credo as
humanists in the 21st century. We must not concede to the actuarial
ethos of the corporatized university that reduces all discussions of
value to questions of profit and loss. Economic arguments for the value
of a humanistic education will not save the humanities, and we should
stop making them. The value of the humanities as the heart of a
university education does not lie primarily in "transferrable skills"
nor in the "critical thinking" that employers presumably want. Instead,
a core education in the humanities gives students the intellectual
space to grapple with questions of enduring importance. The value of
knowing how humankind has tackled those questions and taking part in
that endeavor can never be measured in dollars and cents alone.
I agree on the ends of a university
education: This is - or rather: this was to acquire "the
intellectual space" - in terms of the appropriate knowledge and the
right skills to work with this - "to grapple with questions of enduring
But this has been given up a long time, at least in my
I argued the same in the early 1980ies to all
students of the University of Amsterdam, and indeed I also was heard,
but even then there was about 1 in 20 who felt likewise, while 19 in 20
wanted the easiest road there was to give them what they
wanted: An M.A. that would increase their earnings, regardless
of its contents, which indeed is what most of them got.
Since then, matters only got worse, and worse, and worse, while the
prices for the "education" on offer (which was much worse than the
foregoing) went up, and up, and up.
Here is the last bit by L.D. Burnett that I'll quote:
I agree with her sentiments, but I
have seen for more than twenty years how a genuine
university education was strangled in Holland, and I think,
for those reasons (which are far better than those of most: I really
was involved, and I saw much more than most because I was ill,
which also lengthened my stay in the university - or rather: the
"university") that "the very heart of the
university is lost", and indeed was lost
in Holland back in the previous century.
But the value of what we study, of what
we teach and what we learn, is that such learning can help keep the
human spirit alive — alive and alert to possibilities that lie beyond
our present horizons. That may not be what employers or state budget
committees want to hear — and that is precisely why we need to deliver
such a message. We must insist on the importance of sustaining other
values besides the purely pecuniary. That is the ground upon which we
must stand to defend the place of the humanities in higher education,
to defend the opportunity for our students to grapple with ideas and
questions of enduring value. If that ground at the very heart of the
university is lost, whatever still remains will hardly be worth
keeping, whether or not we ourselves are by some miracle still standing.
So for me the universities are dead. What are called
"universities" these days consists mostly of an extended high school
education, which is severely limited by the very high costs to the
students, by the courses on offer, by the time available for studies
(no more than 4 years, for most studies) and also by the extremely
easy access (most "studies" now can be done quite easily by most people
with an IQ over 100: all you need is money, for brains are no
longer really necessary).
And as I found out myself in the 1980ies, most "students" these days agree
with what's on offer for them: All they want is the easiest road to an
M.A., which will allow them to earn more money, which is their
ideal in life.
Finally: Will the real universities ever return? My own
answer is this: Not in my life, and probably also not until after a
very major economical crisis, that - for those who survive it - will
allow to do most things in different ways than they are done now.
But that is the uncertain future. For now, the
"universities" have been mostly killed.