Dec 18, 2016

Crisis: Torture & Trump, Kiriakou, US Economy Explained, Trump Nominees
Sections                                                                     crisis index

The Culture of Torture in the Trump Era
2. Whistleblower John Kiriakou Critiques the CIA’s
     Behavior Following the 2016 U.S. Election

3. CNN Host's Attempt to Explain the U.S. Economy Was So
     Bad I Started Yelling at the TV

4. Dangerous Americans: The Trump Nominees in Full

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 18, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about torture and Trump, and is quite good; item 2 is about a long interview with John Kiriakou that is interesting; item 3 is both about propaganda bullshit the mainstream media serve their viewers and about the US economy, that lost
so many jobs because of deregulations and not because of "technology"; and item 4 is about a good article about Trump's nominees (that probably will not make you happier, unless you are a sadist or a rich person or both, but that is how things are now).

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't (until and including the 16.xii).

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [0]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi and was correct since then (most or all days).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. The Culture of Torture in the Trump Era

The first item today is by Robert Crawford on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
“Would I bring back waterboarding?  You bet your ass I would. . . . It works.  And even if it doesn’t work they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.”

Among the anxieties about what Donald Trump will do once in office is whether the new president will carry through with his threats to bring back torture.

Yes, indeed. And one relevant point is that torture is forbidden by law, and another is that waterboarding is torture, and has been regarded as torture for some 400 years now, in fact.

Whether these facts make any difference to Trump is another question, which I don't know the answer to, for while it seems I know a fair amount about Trump's character (as a psychologist) and also a fair amount about his political
ideology, I do not know what his actual policies will be when he is president. (I can say I am quite pessimistic.)

Here is more:
There are four ways that Trump’s torture talk has harmed our political culture.

First, one of the most enduring struggles over the powers of government is about legitimate and illegitimate uses of violence. Examples include allowable violence for police and prison personnel, the death penalty, targeted assassinations, and acceptable violence toward enemy soldiers and populations in war zones. These examples remind us that limiting state violence is a work in progress.

Torture is a case in point.

Yes. And as a partial aside, I want to insist that (i) there is state-terrorism (by the police, the military, the secret services) and there is non-state- terrorism (by anyone engaging in terrorism who is not funded by or protected by a state), and (ii) state-terrorism is very much more dangerous than non-state-terrorism in terms of its numbers of victims (Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia are just four examples).

Incidentally, when I am talking about terrorism (and torture is a kind of terrorism), I mean this:
Terrorism: Attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder, directed especially at civilians.

Very many religious and political groups have indulged in terrorism, if given the chance, though the perpetrators of terrorism almost always call it by a different name, such as "fight for freedom", "guerilla", "righteousness of the faithful", or "Holy War".

One of the functions of the state is to protect its population from terrorism, which often happens by denying the population the right to bear arms. The great danger of states is that state-terrorism has been by far the most dangerous and succesful form of terrorism: Hundreds of millions of individual human beings were murdered in the 20th C alone by state-terrorism. (Fascism, Communism).

The normal effect of terrorists who oppose some state - including those merely called so by organs of state security - is to increase the powers and practices of state-terrorism in order "to fight terrorism".

Here is more by Robert Crawford:
Second, Trump’s torture rhetoric moved seamlessly from instrumental arguments about obtaining vital information to the language of revenge—a well-worn pathway to the acceptance of violence.  Trump’s “even if it doesn’t work  . . .” comment reveals that he is willing to disregard professional interrogators’ advice that torture is ineffective.  Instead, he promotes the regressive human urge to inflict pain for the sake of getting even.

As if torture of terrorist suspects were not enough, Trump also threatened to “take out their families.”  Never mind that collective punishment, like torture, is a war crime.

Yes indeed. Here are two additional points:

One. In fact, I don't know myself what to make of the statement that "
professional interrogators" have adviced "that torture is ineffective" and two of my reasons are that there are quite a few kinds of torture, while the above makes it unclear in what way it is "ineffective".

I suppose that the
"professional interrogators" were talking about getting detailed information from the people they interrogate, and they may well be right in that respect.

But extremely much pain may be given to people in one's power (e.g. by extracting their nails and putting electrodes on their genitals) that few can
resist for a long time, while it seems anyone can be eventually broken by enough tortures - and this seems to be often the point: It is less a matter
of getting information as of frightening others by the amounts of cruel sadism one uses.

Two. "Taking out the families" of people the state's terrorists call "terrorists" seems to have been done systematically by Stalin. Again, Robert Crawford is quite right it is a major (war) crime, but I don't know this will stop Trump.

Here is more by Robert Crawford:
Third, torture is highly symbolic of violence of a particular kind: the violence exerted by the all-powerful upon a helpless victim.  The will of the jailor-interrogator cannot be opposed.  The sense of vulnerability induced by terrorist violence undergoes a psycho-political reversal via a strongman willing to feed off fantasies of total dominance.

It is this very quality of inflicting torment on a totally helpless victim that has made torture so reprehensible for those who still believe that human dignity is a first principle of human relationships.

In fact, this is the attraction of sadism, for that is what torture is. And sadism seems to be quite appealing to Donald Trump, although he probably does not like the term.

In fact, here is how I defined the term (which tends to be ill-defined):
Sadism: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others or from causing others pain or misery.

The term 'sadism' is derived from the Marquis de Sade, who much exulted in sexual pleasure derived from the infliction of pain and of cruelty to others, and who wrote many books in praise of sadism, especially in the defined sexual sense.

When sadism is defined without necessary involvement of sexual pleasure, but in effect as the human-all-too-human joys derived from malice, it may be seen that sadism, thus defined, accounts for many human acts, especially against those whom the perpetrators dislike, consider as enemies, or believe to be inferior.

Indeed, there is much more sadism in human beings than  most are willing to admit: Very many people derive much pleasure from being in positions of power and by hurting, denigrating, demeaning or displeasing others. It probably does not arouse most of them sexually, but they wouldn't do it if it did not please them. And this kind of pleasure seems to be one of the strongest motivators of those who desire to be boss: To let others feel they are inferior.

"We never hurt each other but by error or by malice." 
   (Sir Robert Chambers, possibly inspired by Dr. Johnson)

Together with stupidity, sadism explains two famous and mostly correct observations on history:

"History is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"

"Presque toute l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."

For clearly most of the harm that human beings have done to human beings - millions upon millions killed, tortured, raped, exploited, starved, persecuted - was done on purpose, and willingly, and for the noblest sounding moral pretexts.

Accordingly, this 'human-all-too-human' desire to hurt, harm, demean, denigrate, abuse or exploit others is one of the normally unacknowledged forces of history, as is stupidity.

It is probably the normal human reaction to personal unhappiness: Make others suffer at least as much as one does oneself; demean those who seem better of than oneself, if one can do so without danger to oneself; and take vengeance for one's own pains, miseries and disappointments by wrecking even more of the same on the supposed enemies of one's society, or on social deviants or dissidents, since then one also gains moral credits easily, with the majority of one's peers.

I think sadism in the above sense, as derived from malice, is a very strong personal characteristic of Trump (and more so than in most others, in my opinion).

Here is more by Robert Crawford:
Fourth, the rhetoric of torture reinforces the false assurance that security can be guaranteed only by a willingness to employ “any means necessary” against an intractable enemy.  From this premise, moral limits on means must be subordinated to the presumed justification of ends.  This is a recipe for civilian, military, and security officials to “take the gloves off” or “go to the dark side”—phrases that still haunt our political culture from the early post-9/11 era of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Tenet.
In fact, "the rhetoric of torture" amounts to "the more sadistic we treat our opponents, the better it is for us" and is both stupid (the enemy will then be inclined to do the same), denies the possibility of any compromise, and is itself out and out sadistic (which is not what most people want "their" military to be).

And Crawford is quite right that once the ends justify the means, all moral norms of any kind will be discarded if these in any way oppose the ends (as moral norms are supposed to do).

Here is the last bit that I'll quote:
Finally, the American people cannot begin to grapple with the moral dimensions of torture until they have full knowledge of personal and political consequences of the Bush-Cheney torture years.  President Obama could still help by declassifying the full Senate torture report and thereby releasing it to the public.

If the damage caused by Trump’s language of violence is to be reversed, we must not abandon a moral understanding of politics—a politics about what kind of people we want to be, what we want this nation to stand for and the future our children will inherit.
I don't think Obama will help to declassify the full Senate torture report. (I may be too cynical about Obama, but that is what I think.) And I disagree with Crawford that "the American people cannot begin to grapple with the moral dimensions of torture" without full knowledge of what Bush and Cheney did: There is a lot of information about torture, and - unless one is a sadist or a psychopath - most of it is quite convincing in making people against its use.

Finally, if we "
abandon a moral understanding of politics" we abandon politics, and exchange it for sadism, militarism and many tortures.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Whistleblower John Kiriakou Critiques the CIA’s Behavior Following the 2016 U.S. Election

The second item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This is from near the beginning:

Scheer: Let’s start obviously with the CIA and there’s been anonymous sources in the Washington Post, I’m sure you followed the story. Today, there’s discussion of Vladimir Putin being involved in hacking our US election. What do you make of all this?

Kiriakou: Honestly, in my gut, this just feels like a red herring to me. First of all, nobody has really defined what hacking means. Are the Russian being accused of having hacked in the voting machines to steal the election? I’ve not seen that yet. Have they been accused of hacking emails? Yes, but if so, what was the fallout? I mean, this is something that the big powers do to each other all the time, and God knows the United States has a very long history, a rich history of interfering in the elections of other countries. I’m not really sure what the outrage is.
Yes, I agree with Kiriakou. Also, there is this rejection of the whole story by some of the best former members of the NSA: William Binney, Ray McGovern and Other Intel Experts Call Russian Hacking Allegations ‘Baseless’ (from December 14, last). I think myself that is quite plausible.

Kiriakou: (..) I think the issue is deeper, but first let’s talk about the Washington Post. It’s funny to me that the Washington Post and elements of the Democratic Party have flipped sides, flipped positions with the conservative movement in this country. The Washington Post, for example, last week, listing websites that they’re accusing of being Russian influenced without any proof at all. That bothered me very much. In fact, several are websites that I write for regularly, including Truthdig. I happen to know the proprietors of Truthdig and I know that they’re not Russian agents. That was very disappointing to me.

I would also say that Donald Trump aside, I have found that the Washington Post has made a very dramatic move to the right over the last couple of years.
Yes indeed, but what Kiriakou doesn't mention here is that The Washington Post has been bought in 2013 by billionaire Jeff Bezos (who also owns Amazon and $66.6 billion), which may explain a fair amount of the Washington Post's "very dramatic move to the right over the last couple of years".

Then there is this about the CIA:
Scheer: (...) Is this something where the CIA might be afraid of what Trump might do to the CIA?

Kiriakou: Yeah. You know Josh, I think that’s a very important point, and I think the answer is yes. I still stay in touch with a lot of CIA people, and just across the board, their opinion is that this is bad. I think most Americans don’t realize how bad this is, if you’re in the CIA, because for the first time, really, since John Kennedy was president, you have a president-elect who just simply doesn’t trust the organization.

Now, Kennedy famously wanted to break up the CIA. Trump hasn’t said anything like that, but ignoring the CIA and its analysis is just about as bad if you’re on the inside.
I say, for I didn't know that. (And I don't think "breaking up the CIA" is "about as bad" as not being listened to: That's an exaggeration, especially if they still
get all the money they want.)

Here is the final bit I'll quote from this article:
Kiriakou: (...) The CIA has had a very close relationship with Barack Obama, not just because John Brennan was a campaign official and was Obama’s counter-terrorism czar on the NSC for four years, but also because of Leon Panetta and the personal closeness between Panetta and Obama. Sure, the CIA is very close to Obama personally and to the Obama administration, but it was also very close personally and organizationally to the Bush administration before it.
I say again, for while I knew something like this is the case, this gives some more detail.

This is an interesting article and there is considerably more, e.g. about John Sterling, who is in prison with a serious heart complaint. Recommended.

3. CNN Host's Attempt to Explain the U.S. Economy Was So Bad I Started Yelling at the TV

The third item is b
y Les Leopold on AlterNet:

This is from near the beginning (and the italic part is quoted from a CNN program, with Harlow being the CNN host):

HARLOW: What is the number-one thing you would like to see the incoming administration do that you think will help people in your situation? Because, you know, Donald Trump points to global trade as being the reason that your jobs are going away. That's not all of it. A lot of it is, as you know well, automation and technology.

FELTNER: These companies are leaving to exploit cheap labor. That's plain and simple. If he can change those trade policies to keep those jobs here in America, that's what we need. We need American jobs, not just union jobs.

HARLOW: But you agree it won't save all of them, because of automation, because of technology.

Please Poppy, come off it! Feltner is right. Offshoring is about the rush to cheap labor, not about automation and new technology.
Yes indeed - and this is a good example of how TV and the mainstream media engage in propaganda: THE reason why US corporations left the USA and restarted in India and other low wage countries is that the deregulations started under Reagan and continued by Bill Clinton allowed them to stop using American
laborers and instead use the very much cheaper Indian (etc.) ones.

Indeed here are the facts, when Germany is compared with the USA:

Instead of regurgitating meaningless economic platitudes, newscasters and pundits should confront some facts about Germany's extensive manufacturing sector.

Fact #1: Germany uses the most advanced technologies in the world.

Fact #2: Manufacturing workers in Germany earn much more than their U.S. counterparts: 44.7% more in textiles, 44.6% more in chemicals, 34.2% more in machine tools, and 66.9% more in the automobile industry.

Fact #3: Manufacturing jobs make up 22% of the German workforce and account for 21% of the GDP. U.S. manufacturing jobs make up only 11% of our workforce and only 13% of our GDP.

Fact #4: The economic gods either speak German or the Germans are doing things differently from their U.S counterparts.

Rather than divine intervention, German manufacturing depends on producing high-quality products that are so good people the world over are willing to pay a premium for them.
I think that is a very good analysis - and again, it are the deregulations that
allowed the USA's rich to drop the USA's working men and women, and gain
more profits from exploiting the poor in poor countries. Technology has nothing to do with it; profits, deregulations and greed of the rich everything.

And here is what really takes place and took place in the USA - and in what follows the operative term is "
stock buybacks":

American manufacturers have chosen a different path. Their CEOs grow wealthy by financially strip-mining their own companies, aided and abetted by elite financiers who have only one goal: extracting as much wealth as possible from the company while putting back as little as possible into production and workers.

The heroin driving their addiction is stock buybacks—a company using its own profits (or borrowed money) to buy back the company's own shares.
Stock buy-backs in fact take away the powers investors and speculators had over CEOs and give these powers to the CEOS, who then are free to enormously
increase their own incomes and to do as they want.

Here is one highly relevant question plus its answer:
Wait, wait, isn't this stock manipulation? Well, before the Reagan administration deregulated them in 1982, stock buybacks indeed were considered stock manipulation and one of the causes of the 1929 crash. Now they are so ubiquitous that upwards of 75% of all corporate profits go to stock buybacks.
And that has been going on now for 34 years. Here is the end of the article, that is completely correct:
Brother Feltner is right. Corporations are moving offshore to cut their wage bills. But they are not using that money to reinvest in their companies to improve the product and train the workforce. Instead, they are offshoring to gain cash flow to finance their fix. They want more stock buybacks which in turn enrich top executives and Wall Street investors. Automation and technology have nothing to do with this perilous addiction.

Precisely. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Dangerous Americans: The Trump Nominees in Full

The fourth and last item today is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout:

This is from near the beginning:

I left shock behind weeks ago, and now greet these appalling cabinet nominations with what could be called a feeble grunt. Andrew Puzder hates workers? Labor Secretary! Scott Pruitt hates the EPA? EPA Secretary! Tom Price hates contraception? Health Secretary! Betsy DeVos hates public schools? Education Secretary! It's like "Opposite Day" around here. Anyone at the inauguration party who sees fava beans and a nice Chianti on the menu should run for their lives.

Sometimes you have to laugh because the truth, as it stands, is terrifying.

In fact, this is the beginning of a fairly long and quite good article in which most of the nominations of Trump get discussed, and indeed get discussed in terms I consider appropriate.

I will leave all of that to your interests, but it is recommended. Here is the end of this article:

People in this country become obsessed with the individuals running for president, and always manage to forget that some 4,500 other people follow the election's winner into the White House. Far more than any president, these are the people who make and set real policy, and who have the most real impact on everyday lives. This rogue's gallery is, far and away, the worst, most unsuitable, most unprepared, most dangerous rack of nominees ever assembled. Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice collapsed the economy and got millions of people killed. These people could very well leave that pestilent record in deep shade.

They are only nominees for now, but given that the Senate is owned by the Republicans and the Republicans are owned by Trump, the possibility of thwarting any of them -- much less all of them -- is murderously slim. Bannon wants to tear everything down, and Trump enjoys making people suffer. They will both get their wish ere long.

Yes indeed. I fear William Rivers Pitt is quite right, and this is a recommended article.

[0] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all"(really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

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