1. Stark New Evidence on
How Money Shapes America’s
2. Congress: AWOL and Out of Control
3. Why Is the Pentagon Hiding the Number of Troops in
Iraq and Syria?
4. Losing Trust: Frustrations Grow Over German
Response to Terror
5. The Pentagon Money Pit
This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 14, 2016.
There are 5 items with 5
dotted links: Item 1
is about the role of money in politics, which is denied or not
discussed by most "social scientists" (who act as if they don't know
anything about advertising); item 2 is about an
article by Ralph Nader on Congress; item 3 is about
the Pentagon's being quite dishonest about the numbers of troops (and
see item 5); item 4 is about a
about "the German response to terror" (which I again didn't like much -
and I mean the article, mostly)
and item 5 is about the Pentagon's administrative
capacities: In the last 20 years they just missed a mere 6,500,000,000,000 dollars
In brief: This is evidence about incompetent academics,
incompetent Congress, lying Pentagon, panicky Germans, and the trillions
of dollars that somehow got lost or were misadministered over
the last 20 years of utter
maladmini- stration by the Pentagon (that's allowed by Congress).
1. Stark New Evidence on How Money Shapes America’s
first item today is by Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Outrage over how big money influences
American politics has been boiling over this political season,
energizing the campaigns of GOP nominee Donald Trump and former
Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders alike. Citizens have long
suspected that "We the People" increasingly means "We the Rich" at
Yet surprisingly, two generations of
social scientists have insisted that wallets don't matter that much in
American politics. Elections are really about giving the people what
they want. Money, they claim, has negligible impact on elections.
Actually, I am not surprised at
all, but then I am
"a social scientist", having an - excellent - M.A. in psychology from
the University of Amsterdam. But first a small correction:
It are not precisely "two generations of social scientists"
who denied money matters in politics, for the simple reason that not
all said so, nor indeed did all who thought so say so, but
Parramore is probably correct that the majority of the social
scientists either said money is negligible in politics or else did not
say so but behaved as if they thought so. 
I'll turn to the reasons I know that do
account for these facts below. First some more information on the
and pundits of the social sciences:
Even today, many academics and pundits
still insist that money matters less to political outcomes than
ordinary citizens think, even as business executives throw down
mind-boggling sums to dine with politicians and Super Pacs spring up
like mushrooms. The few dissenters from this consensus, like Noam
Chomsky, are ignored in the U.S. as "unpersons," though they are
enormously respected abroad.
This is a scandal. It has stymied
efforts at campaign finance reform and weakened American democracy.
Again, I think this could have been
formulated considerably better, but I mostly agree with the point made,
for which Parramore proceeds to detail evidence.
I will skip that, except in saying that it
outlines a strong linear relation between spending on elections
outcomes: The more one spends, the more the outcomes will be as one
desired; and also conversely: the less one spends, the less will the
outcomes conform to one's desires.
Here is Parramore's summary:
What are the facts about total campaign
spending and election outcomes? As they write: "We can pool all
spending by and on behalf of candidates and then examine
whether relative, not absolute, differences in total outlays are
related" to the differences in votes received by the major political
Their answer is stunning: there is strong, direct link between what the
major political parties spend and the percentage of votes they win—far
stronger than all the airy dismissals of the role of money in elections
would ever lead you to think, and certainly stronger than anything you
read in your poli sci class.
Again I should say that I accept the
evidence, but I do not consider that "stunning" in any
way. Here is my main reason why this is not stunning at all:
Anyone who knows anything about selling
commodities of any kind knows that these are normally sold with enormous
amounts of advertisements,
indeed for at least 90 years now,
with ever increasing outlays also, which would not have
been spent on advertisements if these did not pay for
themselves, plus some profits, on average.
This is very obvious, to say the
and advertisement agencies are not
university academics: they are paid for by those who intend to profit
by buying advertisements for their products, and they will not
be paid anymore when the
advertising they produce is not profitable.
So what the social scientists who deny
money plays a role in politics all deny is more than 90 years of
evidence from advertising.
There is considerably more in the article
that I leave to your interests. It ends as follows:
If mainstream social scientists
are not pursuing the truth, what exactly are they pursuing? Whatever it
is, it does not appear to be good for democracy.
Since I am "a social
scientist" (albeit not a "mainstream" one), let me here answer what
most academic social scientists I have known, nearly all of whom -
psychologists, sociologists, pedagogues, to name some - I have known in
the University of Amsterdam, are "pursuing":
Their own riches; their own freedom to do as they please; their own
complete lack of any control by anyone; their own status; their
fame; and indeed also (and certainly in the University of
Amsterdam: their own freedom (if males,
least) to fuck their female students - which seems to have been the main
interest of nearly all academic "philosophers" employed there ).
Also, they can do all of this, for generations also, provided
abstain from one thing:
They should not ask any question which can be
empirically answered about anything real people do care a lot
about - such as the influence of money in politics; the lacks of almost
any accountability and any responsibility for anyone
who has an academic contract ;
the very much worsened medical care, and the vastly increased prices of
medical insurance; or the average IQs of students in universities.
All of these questions may give rise to political
difficulties, and that is the main reason why most
academic scientists (who in the social sciences are not so much real
scientists as clever propagandists
of their own excellencies) avoid asking realistic political
questions, although I do agree a minority does ask some of
2. Congress: AWOL and Out of Control
The second item is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams and on Nader's site:
This starts as follows:
I agree with Ralph Nader, although I can
explain that "strangest attitude toward the
Congress" to some extent, namely by
noting that only a relatively small minority of Americans are well
educated, and indeed also that it seems
Taken as whole, with exceptions, the
American people have the strangest attitude toward the Congress. Our
national legislature spends nearly a quarter of our income and affects
us one way or another every day of the year. Yet too many people
withdraw in disgust instead of making Congress accountable to them.
Warren Buffett once said, “It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to
remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.”
People have a low regard for Capitol
Hill. Polls show less than 20% of people approve of what Congress does
and does not do. In April a poll registered a 14% approval rate.
People know that Congress takes a lot of days off – all with pay.
Senators and Representatives work over 100 fewer days than average
Americans do. Specifically, members were in session 157 days in 2015
and 135 in 2014. This year the House is scheduled to be in session for
only 111 days, with the August recess alone stretching nearly six weeks.
to be a fact that no less than 60% of Americans believe in the literal
truth of the Biblical Ark of Noah story - which means that 6 out of 10
of the presently living Americans believe the same things as
Americans did in the 1600s.
Given that (which I take to be facts) it is considerably less
to see what most Americans make of their Congress, which indeed also
applies to the very low approval rate (which I think is
justified, though very probably not for the reasons most
Americans have in mind).
Here is some more on Congress:
People also know that these politicians
feather their own nests. At a minimum, members of Congress receive a
$174,000 annual salary, plus a great pension, health and life
insurance, assorted deductions and expenses. These are benefits that
many Americans can only dream of getting.
Even when Senators and Representatives
are in Washington, Congressional leaders expect them to spend about 20
to 30 hours per week dialing for campaign dollars – for their
re-election and for their Party’s coffers. Asking for money in or from
their office is illegal, so members of Congress trot out daily, on your
nickel, to “call centers” in nearby office buildings.
I do know that Senators and
Representatives are supposed to spend "20 to 30
hours per week dialing for campaign dollars",
though I also find it rather hard to believe that most spend a
considerable amount of the time they are awake on phonecalls that
amount to "Hey, as you know I am a political whore. How much can you
invest in me now, for later repayment by me?".
Then again, it does seem as if many do,
and it even seems that they do these kinds of things "honestly", that
is, from another bulding than their own office buildings (and
that is also all the honesty they invest, I suspect).
So here is a proposal that a naive reader
would think would be embraced by the vast majority of Congress
This is why Congressman Jolly introduced
the “Stop Act,” which would ban all federally-elected officials from
directly soliciting donations. Members of Congress can attend
fund-raisers but others would have to ask for the money. No more direct
telephone calls to the “fat cats” for checks. So far he only has nine
co-sponsors for his bill.
Congressman Jolly says this is not
“campaign finance reform,” it is “Congressional reform,” adding
“members of Congress spend too much time raising money and not enough
time doing their job. Get back to work. And do your job.”
It turns out that Jolly "only has nine co-sponsors for his bill". I say. Do you know
any better evidence that the average Congressman is corrupt and
desires to be corrupt?
Why Is the Pentagon Hiding the
Number of Troops in Iraq and Syria?
item is by Sarah Lazare on Naked Capitalism and originally on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
It has been more than two years and 14,000 coalition bombings since
President Barack Obama launched his open-ended war against ISIL under
the dubious authority of a 15-year-old
law authorizing military attacks. As the mission creeps to Libya, where military
officials say there is “no end point” in sight, the Pentagon is
refusing to disclose how many U.S. troops are currently deployed to
Iraq and Syria.
The military does reveal the “force
management level,” or full-time troops deployed to Iraq and Syria.
According to a June 2016 statement from the White House,
“The Force Management Level for U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq currently is
4,087. The Force Management Level for U.S. Armed Forces in Syria is
Yet, journalist Kristina Wong reported Thursday for the Hill that
a Central Command spokesman acknowledged “that some troops that
temporarily deploy aren’t counted”—and this number could be far higher.
There are two points I want to make about
First, Obama's "justification" for
conducting his war without any agreement by Congress indeed is based on
a 15-year-old law, that in fact is totally out of date. But then again,
almost nothing that relates to the many wars the USA is conducting does
go according to the US laws that are in force.
And second, for some strong
the US laws are not applied, see item 5,
Next, there is this:
Again I make two points on this bit:
Any final tally of U.S. forces would
have to include the droves of U.S. contractors in Iraq and Syria, exact
number unknown. The Pentagon revealed in late July that Six3
Intelligence Solutions—which is now owned by CACI International—won a
windfall $10 million no-bid contract from the Army for “intelligence
services” in Syria. As Kate Brannen noted in the Daily Beast, “details
are scant,” with the military refusing to disclose the most basic
information about how many contractors will be deployed and what they
CACI International faced global
condemnation for its role in torturing and dehumanizing
people held captive at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
According to Wong’s calculations, “the
total amount of troops and Defense Department personnel involved in the
[ISIL] fight could be anywhere from to 8,252 to 10,152.” This is well
above the “FML” estimates officially provided by military officials.
Ghraib (<-Wikipedia, well worth reading) happened in
2003, and got known in 2004. CACI International is still being
paid tens of millions 12 years after it became known it helped to
"physical and sexual
abuse, torture, rape, sodomy,
And second, in fact Wong's calculations of "the
total amount of troops and Defense Department personnel"
is not merely "well above" the estimates that military officials
publish: It is about three times as high (though it is quite
that "military officials" just neither count nor see "Defense Department personnel" that
are not military themselves - and I am guessing).
Here is a last bit:
The Obama administration is
refusing to disclose other key information about the military campaign,
including the numbers of civilians who are dying at the hands of
U.S.-led forces. The Pentagon’s public estimates of civilians
killed and wounded in its attacks fall well below the calculations of
witnesses and journalists. According to the journalistic
organization Air Wars, which monitors international bombings, a minimum
of 1,568 civilians have been killed by the U.S.-led coalition’s war on
Yes indeed. And again, independent
jpurnalists and organizations count at least four times (or
killed civilians than the American army reports.
Incidentally, the last
of the above links seems a good survey of what is really
4. Losing Trust: Frustrations Grow Over German Response to
The fourth item is by Spiegel Staff (a mere eight journalists, this
time ) on Spiegel International:
This has a subtitle that's worth quoting
(bold in the original):
In the wake of recent
attacks, Germany's conservative Christian Democrats over tripping over
themselves with proposals for tightening anti-terror laws. Instead of
calming the people, they are simply confusing them.
(I don't think this is proper English but let
that be: The first "over" probably should be replaced by "are".) This
starts as follows:
I clearly agree with the messages
Germans should "Stay levelheaded. Keep calm." - but then I am doubtful about what Spiegel thinks about
this, for reasons that follow.
Stay levelheaded. Keep calm. That was
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière's message after a mass
shooting and two terrorist attacks jolted the country last month. Do
not overreact. Make no rash decisions. First wait for the
investigations to be completed in Würzburg, Ansbach and Munich.
Two and a half weeks later, de Maizière
is back in the same place, on the ground floor of his ministry in
Berlin. Behind him is the German eagle, black on a dark blue wall. De
Maizière is about to present a raft of proposals that he and his
colleagues consider necessary to combat terrorism. "Measures to
increase security in Germany," he calls them.
First, here is a summary of Maizières plans and what went on before
Before de Maizière's
much-heralded public statement, a so-called "Berlin Declaration," made
the rounds among conservative state interior ministers belonging to de
Maizière's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister
party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). It was originally supposed to
be published next Thursday. The six-page paper begins with a turgid
quote from Prussian philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt: "Without
security, there is no freedom." This is followed by a list of 27
proposals. More police. More powers for Germany's Bundeswehr armed
forces to be deployed domestically. More data retention. A ban on
burqas. Sanctions against new arrivals who refuse to integrate, "up to
the point of expulsion."
Actually, this looks rather like Geert
Wilders' (<-Wikipedia) plans for Holland. Why? According to the
committee that wrote
the Spiegel article, this is the reason:
The conservative interior
ministers' proposals highlight to what extent fear has become a driving
political force in Germany. Citizens fear terrorism and violence,
while politicians fear the will of voters.
I take it that - if this is correct, which I
shall assume - the same holds for most journalism, including the
journalists of the Spiegel: You reflect the fears
of the population, and you do not - for one example - point out
the chances of being killed or harmed by a terrorist still are far
smaller than the chances of being killed or harmed in an accident.
Not everyone follows the many:
The cacophony of voices around
the issue of security is also upsetting some within conservative
circles. Sources within the Christian Democrats say that if the goal
had been to provide a show of strength in the run-up to elections in
Berlin and the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, then the party
has failed. "First a packet of anti-terror laws, then a nine-point
plan, now a 'Berlin Statement,' and then de Maizière on top of it all
-- this is not exactly how you create more security," the source says.
But this Spiegel article ends as follows:
Domestic security has always been
one of the conservatives' key issues. But now it could be said: Fear
eats the soul.
Which leads me to ask: Does Spiegel really
want to counter the excessive fear that haunts large parts of the
German population, or are they also hoping to cash in on it? (You
Pentagon Money Pit
The fifth and last item is by Dave Lindorf on Counterpunch:
This starts as follows:
What if the inspector general of the
Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5
billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and
untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65
billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or
for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.
But how about a report by the Pentagon’s
Office of Inspector General saying that the US Army had $6.5 trillion in unaccountable expenditures for which there is simply no
paper trail? That is 6,500 billion dollars!
Have you heard about that? Probably not. That damning report was issued
back on July 26 — two whole weeks ago — but as of today it has not even
been reported anywhere in the corporate media.
I say! Incidentally 6,500 billion dollars
= 6,500,000 million dollars, which again equals a mere 6,500,000,000,000 dollars - so yes: These are huge
sums of money.
And Dave Lindorf does present the evidence
(which I skip: it is under the last dotted link) and then says this
(with boldings added):
This dense bureaucrateze doesn’t mean
that $6.5 trillion has been stolen, or that this is money in
addition to the $600 billion that the Pentagon spent in fiscal
2015. It means that for years — and $6.5 trillion represents at about
15 years’ worth of US military spending — the Department of Defense
(sic) has not been tracking or recording or auditing all
of the taxpayer money allocated by Congress — what it was spent on, how
well it was spent, or where the money actually ended up. There are
enough opportunities here for corruption, bribery, secret funding of
“black ops” and illegal activities, and of course for simple waste to
march a very large army, navy and air force through. And by the
way, things aren’t any better at the Navy, Air Force and
Incredibly, no mainstream reporter or editor in the US has seen
this as a story worth reporting to the American public.
So, to put this in perspective: The $6.5 trillion has not been stolen and also doesn't
this or the previous year. It results from an extremely shoddy
in the Pentagon - which also can be seen from the following, that shows
the very special position the Pentagon has, compared to the
agencies of the American government:
All the other agencies that are
responsible for those other outlays, like the Dept. of Education, the
Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development,
etc., have been required by Congress since 1996 to file reports on
annual audits of their budgets. The Pentagon was subject to that same
act of Congress too, but for 20 years and running it has failed to do
so. It has simply stonewalled, and so far has gotten away with it.
Nobody in Congress seems to care about
this contempt of Congress. Neither of the two mainstream political
candidates for president, Republican Donald Trump nor Democrat Hillary
Clinton, seems to care either. Neither one has mentioned this epic
And yet the military doesn’t have to account for any of its trillions
of dollars of spending on manpower and weapons — even though Congress fully
a generation ago passed a law requiring such accountability.
In brief, the main reason for 20 years
(!!) of successive extremely shoddy
in the Pentagon is simply that those who are supposed to hold them
accountable and see to it that they spend their money responsibly
Congress - did not.
I take it this will continue, but I
agree I am not an optimist.
lying in politics and related subjects is passive lying, that
is, the people who know what the facts are, but choose not
to report them because doing so might affect their livelihoods - rather
like most people could give quite a bit of criticism of their own
employers, but don't because this would probably cause
other trouble for them.
I think it is just the same in politics, although precisely there it
should be different: Most politicians lie a great amount, but indeed
the largest amount of that is staying silent about things they
were paid for to criticize, and know to be in bad
And the reason for this massive political silence - and see
also items 2, and 3 and 5 - is somewhat like those of ordinary people:
Usually money has been found that helps them to shut up about
the things they were voted in for to speak out about.
Of course, this political corruption is considerably worse than
the somewhat similar corruption of ordinary people (since the latter
are not paid to expose problems).
 In case you
disagree: I did make an excellent
M.A. in psychology, without following any lectures because I was ill; I
protested a lot as a student, and created a student party for that
reason; I found in the end that in the whole University of Amsterdam in
the 1980ies I could find only two professors (in three
fulltime studies I did) whom I could regard as intellectually
intelligent and morally decent; and all the rest, like 19 out
of 20 students, were there really not out of interest in
science or knowledge, but were there out of interest in easy
well-paid jobs with high status, which indeed all arrived
did have and do have.
And as to the high status, which academics do have: The secret behind
that is in fact - and for the last 50 years also - that extremely
little is reported about the goings on in universities, and what is
reported tends to serve and defend the very high academic status most
You may disagree, but you very probably do not have my
proletarian background, do not have real communist parents; did
study in Holland between 1971 amd 1995 (when the universities were in
fact in the students' hands - who made a corrupt mess of it); did not
create a student party; was not removed - ill also -
from the faculty of philosophy briefly before taking an - excellent -
M.A. there; did not tell your mostly incompetent, lazy
parasites who "taught" you that they were incompetent and lazy; did not
spend his own life among the poorest in the
country; and also did not get an M.A. with very high marks.
I did all of that (and more), and these are part of the
reasons I insist on my opinions: I met hardly one honest
lecturer or professor in the University of Amsterdam between 1977 and
2005. (They were there. But in a small minority. And I "merely"
studied three fulltime academic studies there.)
Oh, as to the fucking: None of "philosophers" who "taught" me
and removed me when I said - completely truly - that they were
incompetent and dishonest published anything in 30 years
(because, they said, "we are not vain"), while all of them (if
male) did fuck Connie
Palmen (a writing Dutch woman, who studied philosophy) according to
her own testimony, that never was contradicted.
So that is what "the philosophers" employed by the University
of Amsterdam did for thirty years: Absolutely nothing except
giving extremely bad education, a few hours a week, while the only
noteworthy thing they did besides in these thirty years was fucking
Connie Palmen (all of them, also). I say...
 Here it may be
that the Dutch situation (which I know far the best) differs
from the situation elsewhere.
In any case, in Holland it was the case, until well into the 2000s, and
for many decades, that everyone who got an
academic position, thereby became a bureaucrat
of either the City or the State, which also meant that (i) such a
person was almost impossible to dismiss and (ii) all such persons got
luxurious benefits and pensions, and (iii) all professors and lecturers
earned an income as high as the highest 5% (until 2000 or so, to be
It is this that also moved me - already in 1972 - to conclude
that, in Holland at least, being an academic corresponded quite
well to being a member of the nobility (in the 1800s): One guy
I knew survived very
well for many years by "working" from August till December for an
excellent income; then getting into payments for people without work
that paid him 85% of his salary to do nothing; and repeating this the
next year etc.
etc. (I knew him quite well, and there were quite a few like him. He
still did this 20 years later, and always was well-paid.)
And given that these highly paid bureaucrats are (or were at
least, for over 40 years also) nearly impossible to dismiss; did earn a
lot; were hardly criticized or mentioned in the ordinary press; and did
get luxurious benefits of many kinds, it ought to be quite clear that
they could do and say almost anything they wanted (apart
from criticizing the University or its personnel, of course), which
of them also did.
 I am mentioning this because (i) I don't much believe in
writings - good writings, real writings - by committees, and
(ii) because I found that the present-day Spiegel is rather
different from the one I recall (from well before 2000, to be sure).