For hundreds of years, the thought prevailed in our aggressive civilization that when somebody fails a basic qualifying take a look at, it means they need to return to their research and hold a low profile till they felt able to show their capability to cross the take a look at. Somebody who fails a driving take a look at will probably be given an opportunity to come back again a second and even third time. However most individuals who fail three or 4 occasions will merely hand over making an attempt to swallow their pleasure and settle for their everlasting dependence on public transport, household and buddies. The identical holds true for regulation faculty graduates looking for to cross the bar or certainly college students in any faculty who repeatedly fails an examination.

On the earth of Silicon Valley, an entrepreneur whose first startup fails will get up, dusts off and returns to the race. The enterprise capitalists will usually take a look at a second effort after the primary one fails as proof of braveness and resilience. Three- or four-time losers, nevertheless, will normally get the message that it might not be price making an attempt once more. Within the meantime, the enterprise capitalist may have eliminated them from their information.


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Some privileged individuals and establishments exist who look like spared the indignity of getting to retreat after a sample of failure. The Afghanistan Papers revealed how the repeated errors of US army leaders over a long time not solely didn’t require them to return to their research, however duly rewarded them for his or her service.

Then there may be the US Division of Protection itself. In November 2021, Reuters provided this startling headline: “U.S. Pentagon fails fourth audit however sees regular progress.” Since 1990, Congress has obliged all authorities establishments to conduct an intensive audit. The Pentagon obtained a late begin however they’re already at their fourth audit. They usually have persistently failed. However like a backward pupil in an elementary faculty class, the authorities be aware that regardless of constant failure, they need to be inspired for making progress. Will they show to be higher at failing the subsequent time?

The Reuters article reveals the supply of the federal government’s hope. It isn’t about efficiency. Like all the pieces else in our society of spectacle, it’s all about favorability rankings. Our civilization has elevated the notion of rankings to the last word measure of advantage. Mike McCord, the Pentagon’s CFO, explains why, regardless of the failure, there is no such thing as a want to fret. “The division continues to make regular progress towards attaining a good audit opinion.”

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Our Weekly Satan’s Dictionary definition:

Audit opinion:

The rigorous normal by which essentially the most sacred a part of the US authorities, the one one which has achieved the standing of an object of worship, will probably be judged by

Contextual Be aware

Opinion is famously fickle, by no means extra so than within the hyperreal world of politics. Just like the wind, it will possibly change route at a second’s discover. Political professionals have change into adept at forcing it to alter. That’s what political entrepreneurs are paid to do. They usually measure their success by shifts within the largely unstable numbers that seem within the rankings. Every part turns into centered on the numbers produced by surveys of opinion.

Regarding the Pentagon’s audit, McCord did point out some spectacular numbers that went past registering opinion alone. The outcomes of the failed audit revealed “greater than $3.2 trillion in belongings and $3 trillion in liabilities.” Studying that the Pentagon’s steadiness sheet is $200 billion within the black can solely be encouraging. Any entrepreneur is aware of what meaning. In case of pressured liquidation, there could be a worthwhile stockpile of usable weapons to be bought to the very best bidder and nonetheless cash left over to repay all of the money owed. Or, extra seemingly, the entire operation could possibly be profitably bought to a competitor, say, Canada, Mexico, France or Israel at a good increased valuation. China could be excluded from consideration due to the feat, maybe on the UN, that such a merger would produce a worldwide monopoly.

Reuters reassures us that optimism is within the air: “Because the audits mature and testing expands, Division of Protection leaders anticipate findings to extend in quantity and complexity.” They underline the encouraging thought that “successive sweeps may expose extra profound issues.” Even the thought of exposing “extra profound issues” is promising. It means we might sooner or later perceive what’s behind the invention that the DoD — in accordance with a earlier audit — left $21 trillion of expenditure unaccounted for over the previous 20 years.

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The commentator Jonathan Cohn highlighted an apparent reality that ought to resonate with the general public in mild of current haggling in Congress over President Joe Biden’s agenda. “Not one of the ‘centrist’ Democrats or Republicans who complained about the price of the Construct Again Higher Act,” Cohn notes, “have stated a peep concerning the ever-growing Pentagon finances — and the truth that it’s someway nonetheless rising even regardless of the Afghanistan pullout. It has grown about 25% in dimension over the previous 5 years, regardless that the Pentagon simply failed its fourth audit final month.”

In his guide, “Conflict is a Racket,”, essentially the most adorned senior army officer of his time, Smedley Butler, defined the underlying logic that also holds true almost a century later. “The traditional income of a enterprise concern in the US,” Butler wrote, “are six, eight, ten, and typically twelve %. However war-time income — ah! that’s one other matter — twenty, sixty, 100, 300, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the restrict. All that site visitors will bear. Uncle Sam has the cash. Let’s get it.”

Plenty of firms — with names like, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Halliburton and Northrup — have managed to “get it.” These firms are very cautious with their very own audits as a result of they know that failing an audit, even as soon as, not to mention 4 occasions, would cancel their capability to maintain milking the Pentagon’s money cow. Fortunately, the Pentagon doesn’t have to fret about shedding its relationship with these firms merely on the grounds that it failed one more audit.

Historic Be aware

Scores, and extra significantly favorability rankings, are numbers with no steady that means. As a substitute of reflecting actuality, they merely register the state of shifting opinions about actuality. And but, rankings have change into a dominant power in 21st-century US tradition. That is maybe essentially the most important signal of a deadly decline of democracy itself.

The thought of democracy first launched in Athens almost three millennia in the past aimed toward spreading the duty for presidency among the many inhabitants at massive. Impressed by the Athenian instance, the founders of the US and drafters of the US Structure realized that what labored moderately effectively for the governance of a city-state couldn’t be straight utilized to a nation composed of 13 disparate British colonies. Drawing on England’s parliamentary custom, the founders substituted consultant democracy for Athenian direct democracy.

As a substitute of sharing the duty of governance with the final inhabitants, the brand new republic provided the individuals a easy instrument: the vote. It was accompanied by the concept any (male) citizen may search to face for election. The founders hadn’t absolutely appreciated the truth that this may result in the structure of a separate ruling class, an elite group of people that may compete amongst themselves to make use of the instruments of governance to their partisan ends.

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Nor did they anticipate the results of industrialization of the Western world that was about to unfold over the subsequent two centuries. It might not solely consolidate the notion of political group centered on partisan ends, it will in the end spawn the “science” of electoral advertising. With the start of technology-based mass media within the 20th century, that science would focus completely on opinion, branding and rankings, leaving governance as an afterthought.

By the 21st century, politics grew to become completely dominated by the race for recognition and the cultivation of methods to that finish. The emergence of tv within the second half of the 20th century, coupled with the presence of telephones in each residence, sealed the deal. The science of polling was born. As soon as that occurred, all the pieces in public life grew to become topic to rankings. On the earth of politics, the wants of “we the individuals” had been fatally subordinated to a give attention to the shifting and more and more manipulable opinions of those self same individuals. The science of electoral advertising definitively changed the thought of public service and the standard of governance because the dominant power in political tradition.

The one hint of uncertainty left is the well-known “margin of error” attributed to polls, normally estimated at round 3%. In distinction, the Pentagon’s margin of error is measured in a number of trillions of {dollars}.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Read more of The Weekly Devil’s Dictionary on Fair Observer.]

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.