1. The Unrelenting Pundit-Led
Effort to Delegitimize All
Negative Reporting About
2. Inside Bill Clinton’s nearly $18 million
job as ‘honorary
chancellor’ of a for-profit
3. Weapons of Math Destruction
4. America and the Plague of ‘Moral Idiocy’
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 7, 2016.
is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about Glenn
Greenwald on Hillary Clinton and her courageous defender Paul Krugman
(he thinks himself); item 2 is about Bill Clinton's enormous payments;
item 3 is about the role of mathematics in the present world: dangerous
and very ill- controlled; and item 4 is about the USA and a supposed
plague of "moral idiocy", in which I cannot believe: There are no
leading politicians and generals who are "moral idiots", but there are
a lot who knowingly break the laws because they also know they will not be
like to draw your attention to a
previous Nederlog, called Rewriting my site,
that is indeed about that, or more precisely: About a resized graphical
background that is necessary since I have now a normal sized squarish
monitor.  This will take quite a lot of
work, which I will continue after having finished the present crisis
item. (It will probably be done before the end of September. I do not
yet know when, but I will say so in Nederlog if it is finished.) And
here is the link to Rewriting
my site, that shows how much I have corrected.
Unrelenting Pundit-Led Effort to Delegitimize All Negative Reporting
About Hillary Clinton
The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as
In his New
York Times column yesterday, Paul Krugman did something
that he made clear he regarded as quite brave: He defended
the Democratic Party presidential nominee and likely next U.S.
president from journalistic investigations. Complaining about media
bias, Krugman claimed that journalists are driven by “the presumption
that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly
illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton
Foundation.” While generously acknowledging that it was legitimate to
take a look at the billions of dollars raised by the Clintons as
Hillary pursued increasing levels of political power — vast
sums often received from the very parties most vested in her
decisions as a public official — it is now “very clear,” he
proclaimed, that there was absolutely nothing improper about any
of what she or her husband did.
That very, very brave Paul Krugman!
Defending Hillary Clinton from journalistic investigations! Such enormous
Actually, I am speaking in irony. Here is a part of my reasons for
speaking ironically about Krugman - and this is quoted from January 29, 2016 (between
two occurrences of "---"):
(..) I'd like to insert my own
view of Krugman, simply because I have read him almost every
day now since more than 2 1/2 years, which is over 500 times. It comes
I started the crisis series on September
1, 2008 (in Dutch, but quite good) and wrote 189 Nederlogs on that
subject until I first read about Edward Snowden, on June 10, 2013. Since then I wrote
mostly about the crisis,
simply because it, together with the universal spying on everyone by
the Western secret intelligence services, is the most threatening
news there is, at least for ordinary (non-rich) Westerners. (It is
because all the rights of ordinary people, and all
their welfare, are very seriously threatened by the crisis and
by the secret spying. Also, the secret spying on everyone
would only be done in an undemocratic, authoritarian state, or
so I think.)
Since June 2013, I am each day
reading approximately 40 files to check the news, and to find
items I wish to review. For that reason, I also included Paul Krugman's
column in the New York Times in the list, which means I have
read his column at least 5 times a week since 2013.
So why did you almost never read
anything about Paul Krugman's opinions - while getting a lot about (for
example) Chris Hedges? Basically, because he doesn't have any interesting
opinions, and also because he is a far
lesser writer than is Hedges (with whom I also often do not agree, but
at least he is interesting and he writes well).
Finally, I still think that as an economist
Paul Krugman is more sensible than many - but that is only on
on politics, philosophy, psycho- logy or what not, and besides I don't
think present-day economics is a serious science (almost no economist
saw the crisis of 2008 coming, for one example).
In fact, the above was quoted from an
earlier take-down of Krugman by Greenwald. And I agree with
Greenwald that Krugman simply is boring most of the time,
indeed because he is too much middle-of-the-road.
Here is more Greenwald on Krugman, from yesterday, September 6, 2016:
Krugman — in a tweet proclamation
that has now been re-tweeted more than 10,000 times — heralded
himself this way: “I was reluctant to write today’s column because
I knew journos would hate it. But it felt like a moral duty.”
This does sound rather ridiculous for
someone with daily access to the papers and a Nobel
Prize in economy. But it may be - I don't know - an honest
reflection of Krugman himself on his own great courage.
Here is Greenwald on the current differences in American
journalism as regards the reportings on Trump and on Clinton:
There is probably no more
die-hard Clinton loyalist in the U.S. media than Paul Krugman. He has
used his column for years to defend her and attack any of her critics.
Yes, indeed. And this
is the other reason why Paul Krugman sunk a lot in my estimation: His
maligning Bernie Sanders. For I found not only I had to read
He spent the 2016 primary maligning Sanders
supporters as unstable,
losers (the straight, white, male columnist also regularly referred
to them — including female and LGBT Sanders supporters —
as “bros”). And now he’s assigned himself the role as Arbiter of
Proper Journalism, and — along with virtually all other
Clinton-supporting pundits and journalists — has oh-so-surprisingly
ruled that all journalism that reflects poorly on Hillary Clinton is
unsubstantiated, biased, and deceitful.
through very many quite boring bits by Krugman
that did not say anything interesting that I wanted to review;
he also - indeed - maligned Sanders.
And now - according to Greenwald, who is often correct - he sets
himself up as the "Arbiter of Proper Journalism" and - not really surprising, for such Arbiters -
uses "leftish"  totalitarianism
as his measuring stick: Whoever criticizes the divine Hillary must be
biased and deceitful.
That pattern is both very common and rather stupid. Clearly Hillary
Clinton is far from perfect, and clearly one should
continue to look critically at both Clintons, e.g. for facts like these:
Beyond quid quo pros, the
Clintons’ constant, pioneering merger of massive private wealth and
political power and influence is itself highly problematic. Nobody
forced them to take millions of dollars from the Saudis and Goldman
Sachs tycoons and corporations with vested interests in the State
Department; having chosen to do so with great personal
benefit, they are now confronting the consequences in how the
public views such behavior.
Yes, indeed. And here is more on Bill Clinton:
2. Inside Bill Clinton’s nearly $18 million job as ‘honorary
chancellor’ of a for-profit college
item is by Rosalind S. Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee:
This starts as follows, and I will quote
just one bit of it, to illustrate by what means poor
politicians like the Clintons originally were worked themselves up
to multi-millionaires, who now seem to own over $120 million.
They did it - among other things, like
requesting $250,000 for a speech of half an hour to superrich bankers  - by means like this:
While much of the controversy about
Hillary Clinton’s State Department tenure has involved donations to her
family’s charity, the Clinton Foundation, a close examination of the
Laureate deal reveals how Bill Clinton leveraged the couple’s
connections during that time to enhance their personal wealth —
potentially providing another avenue for supporters to gain access to
In addition to his well-established career
as a paid speaker, which began soon after he left the Oval Office, Bill
Clinton took on new consulting work starting in 2009, at the same time
Hillary Clinton assumed her post at the State Department. Laureate was
the highest-paying client, but Bill Clinton signed contracts worth
millions with GEMS Education, a secondary-education chain based in
Dubai, as well as Shangri-La Industries and Wasserman Investment, two
companies run by longtime Democratic donors. All told, with his
consulting, writing and speaking fees, Bill Clinton was paid
$65.4 million during Hillary Clinton’s four years as secretary of
The Laureate deal
brought Bill a mere $18 million, and altogether Bill scored $65
million in just four years, in which his wife was secretary of
There is a lot more
on the Laureate deal in the article. I'd say it illustrates how the
super rich and their politicians are beyond
the principles that regulate ordinary people. Thus, the Clintons get
paid for a speech of half an hour or an hour as much as I earn in 25
years (in dole money, for I am ill).
such payments are very sick major corruption, and indeed I am
not a relativist: The moral principles that apply to me are - broadly - the moral principles that apply to everyone.
Weapons of Math Destruction
item is by Peter Woit on his Wordpress site:
This starts as
Cathy O’Neil’s important new book
Weapons of Math Destruction, is out today, and if
you’re at all interested in the social significance of how mathematics
is now being used, you should go out and get a copy.
is an American theoretical physicist and mathematician, whose site I
regularly follow because I am interested in mathematics and physics;
because I agree with him on string theory (it is untestable, and
therefore not real science); and because he seems a sensible guy.
And the idea of "weapons of math destruction" is rather interesting (1)
because most American mathematicians these days end up as
spies who work for the NSA, while (2) Godfrey Hardy
(<- Wikipedia) insisted as late as 1940, in A
Mathematician's Apology (<- Wikipedia), that he
studied pure mathematics (in which he excelled) because "it could not
be misused to cause harm". (Quoted from the last
I mention Hardy mostly because I did read his booklet more than
forty years ago (and he was a great mathematician), but clearly I never
believed he was right in maintaining that pure mathematics "could not be misused to cause harm":
Evidently it can, and indeed it is, lately, and in a lot of ways.
Here is Woit on some of the harm mathematics and mathematicians did
As far as I’ve ever been able to
figure out, the role of mathematical modeling in the mortgage backed
securities debacle was as a straightforward accessory to fraud. Dubious
and fraudulent lending was packaged using mathematics into something
that could be marketed as a relatively safe investment, with one main
role of the model that of making it hard for others to figure out what
was going on. This worked quite well for those selling these things,
with the models successfully doing their job of obscuring the fraud and
keeping most everyone out of jail.
Yes, I quite agree - and this was
also a main cause of the collapse of 2008. Here is a brief
recommendation of Woit:
While this part of the story is
now an old and well-worn one, what’s new and important about Weapons
of Math Destruction is its examination of the much wider role that
mathematical modeling now plays in our society.
I agree about mathematical modeling, but did
not read Cathy O'Neil's book. Here is O'Neil quoted:
I fear that O'Neil is quite correct,
and that the two main reasons she is quite correct are that (1) in fact
few people except mathematicians do understand
In fact, I saw all kinds of parallels
between finance and Big Data. Both industries gobble up the same pool
of talent, much of it from elite universities like MIT, Princeton and
Stanford. These new hires are ravenous for success and have been
focused on external metrics – like SAT scores and college admissions –
their entire lives. Whether in finance or tech, the message they’ve
received is that they will be rich, they they will run the world…
In both of these industries, the real
world, with all its messiness, sits apart. The inclination is to
replace people with data trails turning them into more effective
shoppers, voters, or workers to optimize some objective… More and more
I worried about the separation between technical models and real
people, and about the moral repercussions of that separation. If fact,
I saw the same pattern emerging that I’d witnessed in finance: a false
sense of security was leading to widespread use of imperfect models,
self-serving definitions of success, and growing feedback loops. Those
who objected were regarded as nostalgic Luddites.
I wondered what the analogue to the
credit crisis might be in Big Data. Instead of a bust, I saw a growing
dystopia, with inequality rising. The algorithms would make sure that
those deemed losers would remain that way. A lucky minority would gain
ever more control over the data economy, taking in outrageous fortunes
and convincing themselves that they deserved it.
mathematics, and (2) the mathematicians, for the most part, have one
rather peculiar talent, namely for mathematics, but are otherwise like ordinary people
, which is to say they are easily
corrupted by promises of money and the assurances that "they will be rich, they they will run the world…"
To end this, here is more Woit:
I quite agree, and indeed I myself completely
avoid Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and I am meanwhile also
convinced that one of the
Finally, there’s a chapter on Facebook
and the way political interests are taking advantage of the detailed
information it provides to target their messages, to the detriment of
To me, Facebook is perhaps the most
worrisome of all the Big Data concerns of the book. It now exercises an
incredible amount of influence over what information people see, with
this influence sometimes being sold to the highest bidder. Together
with Amazon, Google and Apple, our economy and society have become
controlled by monopolies to an unparalleled degree, monopolies that
monitor our every move. In the context of government surveillance,
Edward Snowden remarked that we are now “tagged animals, the primary
difference being that we paid for the tags and they’re in our pockets.”
A very small number of huge extremely wealthy corporations have even
greater access to those tags than the government does, recording every
movement, communication with others, and even every train of thought as
we interact with the web.
main things that threaten that neofascism will be the
social system of tomorrow are the computer and the cellphone:
I do not want to be tagged
and traced by assholes who spy on everyone for the government or for
dataminers, simply because they are paid a lot and said goodbye to all
moral norms, all decencies, and all moral principles of legal equality
4. America and the
Plague of ‘Moral Idiocy’
item is by Lawrence Davidson on Consortiumnews:
This starts as
It was on Aug. 12, 1949, that the
nations of the world, with Nazi atrocities still in mind, updated what
are known as the Geneva
Accords. This constituted an effort to once again set limits on
the wartime behavior of states and their agents.
Among other things, the accords set the
range of acceptable behavior toward prisoners of war, established
protections for the wounded and the sick, and the necessary protections
to be afforded civilian populations within and approximate to any
war-zone. Some 193 countries, including the United States, have
ratified these agreements. Now, as of August 2016, they are
67-years-old. Have they worked? The answer is, in all too many cases,
In just about every major conflict since
1949 the Geneva Accords have been partially or completely ignored.
Certainly that was the case in the Vietnam War, where civilian deaths
came close to 1.5 million people. The treaties have had minimal impact
in Afghanistan (during both the Russian and U.S. invasions), Iraq, the
Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, Russia’s military
activity in Chechnya, and various conflicts in Africa and Asia.
So there you are: There are very
widely signed legal agreements that attempt to limit
the horrors of war, since 67 years no less, but these legal agreements
are usually broken in cases of real wars.
That is the fact, and I agree to it. Here
is the first reason these legal agreements have been very widely
broken, by virtually all nations that
went to war since 1949:
There are likely two main reasons why
the Geneva Accords have had so little influence on behavior: hypocrisy
As to hypocrisy, it is the case that,
except in rare instances, there are no serious consequences for
violating the law. Particularly, if you are agents of a strong state,
or the ally (like Israel) of a strong state, the chances of state
leaders or agents being arrested for war crimes or crimes against
humanity is exceedingly low.
I completely agree on the hypocrisy. Then
there is this about ignorance:
As to ignorance, to date it is obvious
that the politicians and soldiers who wage war, or who are responsible
for the arming and training of allies who do so, do not regard
seriously, and in some cases are not even familiar with, the Geneva
Accords. In my experience, they often cannot, or will not, discuss them
when asked, and regard statements referencing the disobeying
of illegal orders in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to
be rightfully honored only in the breach.
And that is the important point. We can
safely say that when it comes to waging war, or for that matter, aiding
and abetting others doing so, the accepted behavior of both soldiers,
statesmen, and diplomats is that called moral idiocy.
I agree that most warring parties simply
act as if they don't know the Geneva Accords, or indeed only
demand that their enemies satisfy them.
But real ignorance of the Geneva
Accords, which certainly exists, is no good as an excuse,
and is not for the same reason that I cannot plead
ignorance of the Dutch laws that I broke as a Dutchman: "Every citizen
is supposed to know the law" (which is an article of the Dutch
laws, even if very few read all of the lawbooks).
At least the same holds for any
politician and any general who is involved in war: They must
know what laws do apply. Ignorance of the laws that do apply is, in
their cases, simply a proof of incompetence.
And I do not agree that dishonest
hypocrites can be excused as moral idiots:
I am a psychologist (with an
excellent M.A.) and I should say that (1) I never heard of
either the term or the idea during my studies or after it; (2) there
also is no Wikipedia item "moral idiocy"; and I should add that
(3) I also disbelieve in both the term and the concept as they
are defined here.
Moral Idiocy is not something this
writer, creative as he is, has simply made up. It is a real concept in
psychology that has been around for over a century. However, in our
increasingly relativistic societies, it has fallen into disuse.
Briefly, it means the “Inability
to understand moral principles and values and to act in
accordance with them, apparently without impairment of the reasoning
and intellectual faculties.” The key word here is “understand.” It is
not that moral idiots do not know, intellectually, that something
called morality exists, but rather they
cannot understand its applicability to their lives,
particularly their professional lives.
At best they think it is a personal
thing that operates between friends or relatives and goes no further –
a reduction of values to the narrowest of social spaces. This is
paralleled by the absence of such values as guiding principles for
one’s actions in the wider world.
There are innumerable examples of such
apparent moral idiots acting within the halls of power. The following
short list specific to the U.S. reflects the opinion of this writer:
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Oliver
North, Richard Nixon and, my favorite, Henry Kissinger. Those reading
this both in and outside of the United States can, no doubt, make a
list of their own.
That is, I simply deny that there is an "[i]nability
to understand moral principles and values and to act in
accordance with them, apparently without impairment of the reasoning
and intellectual faculties" (as applied to leading politicians).
And what I affirm is that all normal people, including
politicians, are quite capable of understanding moral principles and
moral norms (if they were not, they would never be politicians), but
that most normal people and most politicians use the moral principles
and norms they do understand normally in
hypocritical and dishonest ways, and demand something
close to perfection from their enemies, while they hardly
demand anything of their own groups, other than conformism to
the accepted attitudes in their own groups.
Also, to say that - quite ordinary, quite normal - hypocrisy and dishonesty about
moral norms, that are quite differently evaluated when speaking of
one's own groups
and friends than when speaking of the groups one opposes and the people
one dislikes, does not amount to hypocrisy and dishonesty, but
amounts to a specific blindness called "moral idiocy", in fact
makes excuses and puts up lies to defend one's own willful breakers
of moral norms.
They are not blind; they know what they do; they serve
their own groups and their own interests; and they quite
well know what moral norms are.
They only do not want them to be applied to their own groups.
And if this is not clear yet, it gets clear when one considers
those given as example of "moral idiots": Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Nixon
and Kissinger, among others.
Come on!! These are not moral idiots: they are moral
criminals, who ought to appear or have appeared in courts
of international law. And the reason that they don't appear in
such courts is simply that the USA is the most powerful nation on
earth. It is not that those named committed no crimes, nor is
it that those named did not know they were crimes. They
committed them because they knew that the chances that they would ever
be prosecuted were nil.
The article ends as follows, in a way I cannot agree to:
Moral idiocy can be seen as a
very long-standing cultural flaw that often gives license to the
violence that law and cultural mores are, simultaneously, trying to
control. And, who are those who most often take advantage of this
loophole? Ironically, it is the very people who lead our societies and
those assigned to defend the culture and enforce the law. Lack of
accountability makes for very poor public hygiene.
No. US war criminals - by the standards of
the Geneva Accords - are not moral idiots who could be
excused because they just can't see what other people can see quite
clearly: They are war criminals.
And the reason they are not prosecuted is simply that the USA
is too strong and doesn't allow it.
 Incidentally: I do
want to keep my sites to look reasonable on the monitors (and computers
and OSs) that I use, and I am trying to do so for
the new monitor I have, but I gave up (by 2012) trying to
I do take care it works well on Firefox, on Ubuntu, on a normal
sized squarish monitor, but I will not check anymore how my
site is displayed on other monitors, other OSs and other
much work for my health. (I guess it works on most systems,
since it is html that ought to work the same everywhere, but
I lack the health to check and repair.)
 My reason to
write "leftish" - between quotes - is mostly that I reject
the idea that many of the modern "leftish" groups and persons (like the
multi- millionaires Tony Blair and Bill Clinton) are in almost any
way Leftish as my own parents and grandparents were:
They are not, for they are usually only concerned with political
correctness and the rights of LGBTQ people, and possibly the
environment, while my parents and grandparents, who were real
Leftists, were concerned with inequalities, underpayment, exploitation,
trade unions, resistance against Nazism and fascism, the law and its
abuses, and the chances for a socialist revolution.
The themes of what made someone a Leftist and what makes modern
"leftists" were and are completely different.
 This means that the Clintons are
supermen who earn with one speech of half an hour to an hour
what I earn in 25 years. (And I do not think that is fair, indeed.)
 As I have said
quite a few times in Nederlog: There are many human talents,
but very few humans have any of them in a great way,
though some do, while almost no one has two
major talents (or more) in a great way.