February 7, 2016

Crisis: Torture, Racism, Koch Brothers, Bill Maher, Clintons' Payments
Sections                                                                  crisis index

Pentagon Releases 200 Photos of Bush-Era Prisoner
     Abuse, Thousands Kept Secret

2. Dog Whistle Politics
Koch Brothers' Propaganda Pushes Economic Pain on All
     But the Very Rich

4. Bill Maher Doubles Down on Bernie Endorsement: 'F*ck
     Yeah' He's Ready

Clintons Paid $153 Million in Speaking Fees

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, February 7, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about 200 photographs (from 2000) on abuses by the US military, that were released after 12 years of litigation; item 2 is about a theory on racial discrimination that I find too subtle; item 3 is about the Koch brothers: They are ideologists whose
ideology is neoconservative freedom for the rich to exploit the poor as much as they can; item 4 is about a video by Bill Maher that I like; and item 5 is about a higher estimate than was known to me for the Clintons' payments by the rich for services rendered: $153 million in 14 years.

1. Pentagon Releases 200 Photos of Bush-Era Prisoner Abuse, Thousands Kept Secret

The first article is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
The Pentagon on Friday was forced to release nearly 200 photographs of bruises, lacerations, and other injuries inflicted on prisoners presumably by U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The record-dump was the result of a Freedom of Information Act request and nearly 12 years of litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which fought to expose the Bush-era torture.

The images, the group says, prove that there was "systemic abuse of detainees." And while troubling, attorneys say that even more problematic is the roughly 1,800 photographs that the government refused to disclose.

"The disclosure of these photos is long overdue, but more important than the disclosure is the fact that hundreds of photographs are still being withheld," said ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer, one of the attorneys in the case.

I say. Here are a few additional remarks.

First, I clearly agree with the ACLU that the American military personnel did torture, and probably more on US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan than closer to the United States.

Second, 200 from 2000 photographs is 1/10th of the known photographs, which
is an unknown x-th part of all photographs, which very probably is in any case a very partial record of what US military personnel did to those they imprisoned.

Third, as is made clear in the article, three successive secretaries of defense - Gates in 2009, Panetta in 2012, and Carter in 2015 - effectively said "Fuck transparency!", "Fuck democracy!", "Fuck honesty!" (or whatever they say if
they do these things) and kept nearly all photographs secret, and still are keeping 9 out of 10 of the known photographs secret: This is news denied to the American people.

And this is Eliza Relman from the ACLU:

The photos still being withheld include those related to the case of a 73-year-old Iraqi woman detained and allegedly sexually abused and assaulted by U.S. soldiers. According to the Army report detailing the incident, the soldiers forced her to "crawl around on all-fours as a 'large man rode' on her,” striking her with a stick and calling her an animal. Other pictures depict an Iraqi teenager bound and standing in the headlights of a truck immediately after his mock execution staged by U.S. soldiers. Another shows the body of Muhamad Husain Kadir, an Iraqi farmer, shot dead at point-blank range by an American soldier while handcuffed.

At least the first example was simply very sick and cruel humiliation. But if getting 1/10th of the known photographs took "nearly 12 years" of litigation, it seems clear that there are probably very many more abuses by the US army than are known to the public (and the journalists).

And besides: This really is an argument for reinstating the draft. If sons and daughters of Congressmen can be drafted (as they cannot now, because Nixon
made the US army professional), and sons and daughters of rich persons can be drafted, there will be considerably more honesty about the American army than there is now. [1]

2. Dog Whistle Politics

The second item is by Louise Rubacky on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Ian Haney Lopez’s “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class” is as difficult to hold up as it is to put down. Not because of pounds of pages, but because it is another important book about race in America whose subject continues to be timely, and whose content is heavy and disheartening.

And that was Louise Rubacky, who also told me that Ian Haney Lopez is a legal scholar. I am not, but I do have an excellent M.A. in psychology, and I find Lopez's thesis implausible, at least as stated by Louise Rubacky.

Here is his position, in Rubacky's words (and there is more that I skip):

He writes that most white Americans no longer see themselves as racist, nor do they consciously harbor hatred for nonwhites. Lopez believes that most who are susceptible to the luring tones of dog whistle politics are good people who are shocked by expressions of white supremacy. But he also argues that being basically good provides no immunity from the manipulative predations of those who use coded wording and storytelling to engrain negative stereotypes about minorities and achieve ideological goals. So, are we a land of decent fools?

Here are some of my objections:

First, you should not appeal to such very vague concepts as - what you assert  - "most white Americans" think, believe or feel. This confuses rich, poor and what
remains of the middle class; highly educated, somewhat educated and mostly non-eductated Americans; the religious, the non-religious and the doubters etc. etc. "Most Americans" - with over 300 million of them - just is too vague.

Second, this is too Freudian, in insisting that if they are racists they are so unconsciously - which also completely avoids mentioning the lies, the deceptions, the intentional unclarities, and the partial falsehoods, that most people do use to discuss most things, and especially things they know they might get into trouble with. (And see my "Features of Moral Norms" for what happens in fact in discussions about morals.)

Third, what are the foundations for the thesis that most unconscious racists are basically "good people"?! I dislike racism; I think most racists are mostly conscious racists, but they also lie, deceive, remain intentionally unclear, and stick to consciously held falsehoods, indeed like most people do on most subjects. That is, they knowingly lie rather than that they are unconscious and deceived.

Fourth, I think all of what I just said is psychologically quite plausible. That is, I think most racists are mostly conscious racists, but they simply deny or strongly qualify their racism in  most contexts where they might get into trouble.

Fifth, I did not get any plausible list of coded words, though this might be due to the reviewer.

Sixth, it seems to me that Lopez may miss large amounts of stupidity and ignorance in many Americans:

According to Lopez, by linking crime and abuse of assistance programs like welfare and food stamps to blacks and other minorities, politicians — or “racial entrepreneurs” as he refers to them — subtly and steadily scared citizens to roll back government, and to vote against their own interests.

This seems to be the story of Reagan's black welfare queens who made hundreds of thousands through posturing. But this was neither subtle nor
did it use "coded words" (that I can see): It simply was a flat lie - that
indeed was widely believed by many of the stupid and the ignorant, and
was abused by many propagandists, who were mostly trying to push Republicanism.

So no, I don't think I believe in Lopez's thesis, and it seems much more plausible to me that many of the poorly educated and not well paid whites
are more or less as racist as their parents and grandparents were, and lie
about this, and do that lying today in a slightly more sophisticated form than their parents or grandparents did.

3. Koch Brothers' Propaganda Pushes Economic Pain on All But the Very Rich

The third item is by Chris Gelardi at Salon:

This is from near the beginning, and shows the powers of billionaires money,
that was set free by SCOTUS' "Citizens United" decision of 2010:

One year ago, the Koch brothers announced that they were budgeting nearly $900 million for campaign spending for the 2016 election year, a figure that was on par to match the spending of both major political parties. And according to Koch’s interview with NPR, he’s behind on that budget, and plans to really lay on the moola as the poltical battles start to heat up, especially those in Congress, prompting Inskeep to aptly label the Kochs as “a political force unto themselves.”

Who else has $900 million dollars available - less than 1/50th of the total wealth of the Koch brothers, by the way - to try to make the electorate vote for the rich, but the extremely rich?!

I think Gelardi has the Koch brothers mostly right:

What the brothers are really behind, a point that might be a bit foggy in this interview, is a libertarian ideology that is reminiscent of old-school, academic, Friedman-and-Hayek-   style classical economic liberalism.

Then again, since I have read some of Friedman and of Hayek, I certainly would not call them scientists: They were ideologists like the libertarians, and were so quite consciously.

There also is this curious argument:

They unabashedly criticize corporate welfare, and rather than blame billionaires for buying government officials, they blame government officials for selling themselves to the highest bidder.

The Kochs' criticisms of corporate welfare are evident lies from their mouths, while the blaming of the corrupt bureaucrats rather than the corrupting billionaires is a lot like saying "she asked for being raped, dressed in such short skirts - it's all her own fault". And the bureaucrats would not sell themselves if the rich who buy them were better controlled.

And I guess this is correct too:

Charles Koch is a capitalist puritan. Milton Friedman is his Jesus, Friedrich Hayek his Peter. His goal for his influence is to reindoctrinate the country according to the pure theory of capital, the sole principles of which are capitalism and freedom. Pure economic liberty is the only road to true prosperity, while government intervention is the road to serfdom.

The Kochs are not into science or honesty: They are into ideology (and are allowed by SCOTUS to spend $900 million on their ideology, because according to SCOTUS money = votes and corporations = persons).

And indeed their ideology does help them best, or so it seems [2]: No legal defenses, no social security, no medical aid, and indeed nothing at all from any government is extremely profitable for capitalist billionaires, for they are then totally free to exploit everyone who is poor to death, if they like.

So I understand why they have their ideology: it totally justifies them. Why anyone but an egoistic and greedy billionaire would support them is a bit of a mystery to me, but then I believe Justice Holmes had it right when he wrote
Taxes are what we pay for civilized society".

And indeed "freedom" is a cruel mockery when it means the freedom of the rich to do as they please with the non-rich.

4. Bill Maher Doubles Down on Bernie Endorsement: 'F*ck Yeah' He's Ready

The fourth item is by AlterNet Staff on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

On Friday night's Real Time Bill Maher made his love of Bernie Sanders even clearer and more unequivocal than before, issuing his most enthusiastic endorsement of the Vermont Democratic Socialist yet.

“This is a year when anything can happen," Maher told his panel. "I heard a lot about ‘Donald Trump will never, Donald Trump will never,’ and then Donald Trump did everything they said he would never do. I think the rules are out the window until proven otherwise.”

Well, yes and possibly no to that one: Yes, Donald Trump can more or less say and do as he pleases, but Trump is a billionaire, with a taste for litigation. But whether the rules are out for the many remains to be seen.

There is also this, which I like, simply because I think Bernie Sanders is the only decent presidential candidate (which doesn't mean he will get the candidacy):

When Wagner asked, "Seriously, do you think [Sanders] is at the level we need?" Maher fired back, "Fuck yeah! The guy who voted right on the Iraq War? Yes, I do."

Here is the video, which takes 5 m 52 s:

It is a nice video, I think.

5. Clintons Paid $153 Million in Speaking Fees

The fifth and last item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows - and one reason this is here is that I understated the Clinton's income over the last 14 years by "a mere" $33 million [3]:

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the speaking fees paid to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and an analysis published Saturday sheds some light on exactly how much Wall Street and other major corporate powers ponied up for the former Secretary of State and her husband, President Bill Clinton.

$153 million, CNN concludes, is the amount the power couple raked in between February 2001 and the launch of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid in May 2015. What's more, the Clintons received an average pay of $210,795 for each of the 729 addresses given during that time period.

I take it that is correct.

This also means that the two of them gave 1 speech every week (729/14 = 52 appr), for which they received $210,795 on average, which is about $3516 a minute if the speech was 60 minutes, and therefore slightly of $58 dollars per second, on the same assumption.

But neither Hillary nor Bill are corrupt, according to their very honest and forthright personal points of view:

During Thursday's Democratic debate, Clinton accused her primary challenger Bernie Sanders of an "artful smear" because of his repeated references to her exorbitant speaking fees, particularly those paid by banking giants such as Goldman Sachs.

I would say this was not an "artful smear" but was simply the truth about payments received for services faithfully rendered: Why else would the mega rich bank managers spend millions and millions and millions on a couple of Democrats? Who claimed to be poor by the end of Bill's presidency?

Here are some of the financial facts:

According to the analysis, Clinton collected at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches given to big banks, while the pair earned a total of roughly $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches to Wall Street.

As I said: By far the best explanation for all these millions (plus the rest) is that it were payments for services rendered, such as NAFTA and deregulation, both of which were extremely profitable for the big banks.


[1] I know this is unlikely in the present circumstances, but a drafted army, where everyone of the right age may be drafted, is one of the important arguments for securing a democratic state (and is known as such to me at least since I was 14 or 15 - and yes, I was drafted too).

[2] I said already they are ideologists much rather than scientists, and I added "
or so it seems" because I am completely certain that their ideology
of no or hardly any government cannot work as a society: it is mere wishful- thinking-from-a-billionaire's-interested-and-greedy-point-of-view.

[3] Which is about a mere 60 times as much as I earned in my whole life (in which I was and am ill since I was 28, is also true), all earned with a couple of speeches.
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