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Nederlog

October 2, 2015
Crisis: Mass shootings, Snowden et al, Isis, Sanders*2, Psychologist's Explanation

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1.
'Another mass shooting in America'
2. Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda Call
     for Global Privacy Treaty

3. ISIS, The New Israel
4. Bernie Sanders’ Money Haul Should Make Hillary Clinton
     Nervous

5.
A Psychologist Puts Trump and the GOP on the Couch
6. Why the Washington Post’s Attack on Bernie Sanders is
     Bunk


This is a Nederlog of Friday, October 2, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a recent mass shooting, and tries (briefly) to investigate how many Americans
have been killed in mass shootings since 9/11, without finding an answer,
except that it is very probably a lot more than the many victims of 9/11; item 2 is a fine article about an initiative by Snowden, Miranda and Greenwald that I welcome; item 3 is the report of a conversation between Alnasseri and Hedges
that gives some interesting information about the attractions of Isis; item 4 is
an interesting article about the fact that Sanders is currently pulling as much money (from the many) as Clinton does (from the few); item 5 is about a psychologist's explanation of the GOP (which I reject, and replace by a more plausible sociological one); and item 6 is about Reich's rebuttal of an attack on
Sanders, which is mainly here because I like both (without agreeing about everything).

1.  'Another mass shooting in America'

The first item today is an article by Chris McGreal, Amanda Holpuch, Eric McCann and Jason Wilson on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The US is reeling from another school shooting, the 45th this year, after a 26-year-old gunman murdered as many as nine people and wounded seven more at a community college in Oregon before he was killed.

In fact, this is here mostly because of the "Another" in the title plus the difficulty of finding out how many victims fell in how many mass shootings - for there are many mass shootings in the USA and they make many victims.

But first the president, who complained:

Hours after the killings, President Obama, clearly agitated at making his 15th statement on shootings since taking office, said “There’s been another mass shooting in America” and spoke of the country being numbed by the repeated massacres.

“As I said just a few months ago and I said a few months before that and each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It does nothing to prevent this carnage being inflicted some place in America, next week or a couple of months from now,” the president said. “Somehow this has become routine.”

Actually, the president seems to be saying that "thoughts and prayers" achieved precisely "nothing to prevent this carnage being inflicted some place in America", which seems quite sensible to an atheist like me, but is at least a bit doubtful from "a committed Christian".

But I leave this for what it is and turn to the real thema of this review:

Since Obama’s reelection in November 2012 there have been 993 mass shooting events in the United States, not including Umpqua. Almost 300 of them have occurred in 2015.

That means that there is nearly every day a mass shooting in the USA.
But one problem is that "mass shooting" is not clearly defined, if I judge by Wikipedia, which has an item Mass shooting, that starts as follows (quoted minus note numbers):

Mass shooting refers to an incident involving multiple victims of gun violence. There is no official definition or criteria according to criminologists and United States officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). While the U.S. has 5% of the world's population, 31% of public mass shootings occur in the U.S.

Not only that: There is no unanimity on their number, though this appears to be around once a day, nor are there easily findable numbers for the mortal victims in these (almost) daily mass shootings.

While there is a fair amount of text in the lemma Mass shooting there is nowhere a number of victims (indeed also not if I know them, as e.g. is the case fpr the Norwegian mass murderer Breivik).

Mass shootings and the frequencies of these mass shootings in the USA also are a bit doubtful. This is from the Wikipedia lemma (minus note numbers):

In 2015, The Washington Post reported 204 mass shootings occurring in the U.S. in that year alone, according to ShootingTracker.com. In August 2015, the Washington Post reported that the United States was averaging one mass shooting per day.

But it seems none of the compilers of the item knows how many were shot altogether in "one mass shooting per day".

Supposing that number to be correct and to hold since 2001, there were 25,550 persons killed in these
"one mass shooting per day" if the average number of those killed is put at 5. (There are three assumptions here, not because I like assuming things, but because the right numbers are hard to find.)

But I really don't know - except that it seems a fair guess that considerably more persons were killed in the USA in mass shootings than by "Muslim terrorists", also when one includes the many deaths of 9/11.

I say.

2. Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda Call for Global Privacy Treaty

The next article today is by - it seems: there is no explicit author mentioned - Edward Snowden, David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald:
This starts as follows:
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, Brazilian privacy activist David Miranda and others have launched a new campaign to establish global privacy standards. The proposed International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers would require states to ban mass data collection and implement public oversight of national security programs. The treaty would also require states to offer asylum to whistleblowers. It is being dubbed the "Snowden Treaty."
That seems a very good idea to me. In the rest of this review I only discuss text of Edward Snowden, not because the other two don't have anything interesting to say, but simply for reasons of space.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: We’ve already changed culture. We can discuss things now that five years back, if you had brought them up in a serious conversation, would have gotten you sort of labelled as a conspiracy theorist or someone who really was a—was not really thinking about what governments reasonably are likely to do. Now, the danger of this is that we’re always living in a circumstance where governments go a little bit further than what any public would approve of if we knew the full details of government.

Now that we’ve established at least the bare facts of what’s going on in the arena of our basic liberties, what happens as we transit through a city, as we talk to our friends, as we we engage with family, as we browse books online, all of these things are being tracked, they’re being intercepted, they’re being recorded. They’re being indexed into a sort of surveillance time machine that allows institutions that hold great powers, whether they are public institutions, whether they’re private institutions, such as corporations—they’re empowering themselves at the expense of the public.

Yes, precisely - and as I have been saying since 2005 (here, in Dutch): I think that was the main point: Governments and private corporations that enormously increased their own powers on the pretext of doing so "to fight terrorism".

And as was just mentioned, we see that in many countries around the world governments are aggressively pressing for more power, more authority, more surveillance rather than less. And this is not just in foreign states. This is not just in what we would consider traditional adversary states such as, you know, Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, whoever you’re really afraid of. It’s not just people who are different from us. This has happened in Australia, where they now have mandatory retention of everyone’s data without regard to whether they’re involved in any sort of criminal activity or if they’ve even fallen under any sort of criminal suspicion. We see the same proposals put forth and adopted in Canada. We see the same thing occurring in the United Kingdom. We’ve seen the same thing pass in France.

And what’s extraordinary about this is that, in every case, these policy proposals that work against the public are being billed as public safety programs.

And these are lies: This is not done for the safety of the public but to increase the power of the governments and of the private corporations who help collecting them, but mainly of the governments (which are very small groups of people).

And so, this raises the question: Why are programs being billed as public safety programs when they have no corresponding public safety benefit? And the unfortunate reality is that while these programs do have value—you know, the government is not doing this for absolutely no reason—the value that they have is based on intelligence collection.

Precisely - but even that is not enough: Their value is based on intelligence collection that scouts for people who are not very ordinary consumers, and who think for themselves (not necessarily rationally).

This is not a problem exclusive to the United States or the National Security Agency or the FBI or the Department of Justice or any agency of government anywhere. This is a global problem that affects all of us. What’s happening here happens in France, it happens in the U.K., it happens in every country, in every place, to every person. And what we have to do is we have to have a discussion. We have to come forward with proposals, to go, "How do we assert what our rights are, traditionally and digitally, and ensure that we not just can enjoy them, but we can protect them, we can rely upon them, and we can count on our representatives of government to defend these rights rather than working against them?"

Yes, precisely - but anonymous "we" cannot protect our rights when all our private information is stolen by the NSA, the GCHQ and all other govermental secret institutions that enormously increased the power of the very few who govern, and we also can count on the solid majority of "our representatives of government" not "to defend these rights": Most work for the very few who have power, and want more power instead of more democratic responsibility.

This is a good article that deserves full reading.

3. ISIS, The New Israel

The next article today is by - it seems - Sabah Alnasseri and Chris Hedges, on the Real News Network:
This is originally a video, which you can see by clicking the last dotted link. I did not do so, since there was a transcript (and I read a lot faster than I speak).

This is from the beginning, and what is excerpted here is excerpted because it explains various things about the successes of Isis:
ALNASSERI: (...) the failure of this peaceful, nonviolent revolutions, this amount of violence, of counterrevolutionary violence, created this Frankenstein, this phenomenon. So you can say ISIS is a Hegelian-Fischer synthesis of two form of violence. Now, what is so interesting about ISIS and why it is so attractive for many young, unemployed, mostly Arab fighters--most of the fighters, by the way, they come from Libya or Tunisia and so on, less from Europe, etc. It's mostly from the Middle East. What attracted them to ISIS is that when these peaceful revolution failed, revolutions turn into kind of jihadism, that ISIS is much more effective in its leadership, organization, logistical structure, and its geologies, than all the other peaceful, nonviolent movements, mass movements
OK - but because Isis is not peaceful, it also has (in principle, at least) a lot more to offer for those who take part in it, as we also shall see below.

Next, on the same theme of the attractions of Isis there is this:

ALNASSERI:  So what I was saying is the first type of violence was the physical military intervention of violence. The second one is the systemic corruption, the expropriation and dispossession of the majority of the people of their resources, public resources. And this is very clear in Iraq. The way the United States institutionalized the political system and all these formula of muhasasa, you know, power-sharing formula, it actually debriefed all the Iraqi people from the access to the public resources they used to have.
HEDGES: And I think we should just interject here by saying that before the war, Iraq had a very vibrant middle class.

So here are three causes for the attractions of Isis: First, the "military intervention of violence"; second, " the systemic corruption, the expropriation and dispossession of the majority of the people", and third, the fact that in Iraq the fall was deep, for many, for there was a strong middle class.

Here there are some details about the attractions of Isis:
ALNASSERI: Exactly. In May 2003, the privatization and the institutionalization of the U.S. strategy of shock and awe, which is state-sponsored terror, on the one hand, and cash, corruption, using money to buy and corrupt some forces in Iraq, it was institutionalized. So the outcome of this: you have one of the most corrupt states on the face of this earth. So the majority of the people in the Middle East, the absolute majority--up to 65 percent under 24 in Iraq--45 percent of the young people are under 14. So it's the youngest population probably on a worldwide scale. Now, what do they see? They see at the top of the state a systemic corruption, you know, the systematic plundering of the resources of the country, and they transfer all these resources to outside the country. There's no health care, no education, no jobs, no pension, no nothing. On the other hand, they see ISIS. Okay. They pay you $500 a month and they share with you any resources they plunder, be it oil or gas or taxes.
That is to say: Mostly very young people, who have seen the violence, the terror and the enormous corruption, and are offered $500 a month to fight, plus a share in the resources that Isis takes.

Not only does Isis pay its fighters and share with them, they are also good against corruption:

HEDGES: These are the fighters.
ALNASSERI: The fighters. And if they occupy a territory, if there's oil, gas, whatever resources they take, they redistribute the resources among their followers and they collect taxes.
HEDGES: And they're very good against corruption.
ALNASSERI: And they're good against corruption. And they bring services, basic service to the people. In Mosul now you have electricity, but not Baghdad and Basra. Why is this the case? Because most of the--at least the leadership of ISIS, most of them used to be Iraqi bureaucrats and officers and generals, people who have enormous institutional experience. They know how to run things compared to the current corrupt political class in Iraq. So they know how to deal with this everyday life. They know how to bring services to the people.

And that is a final detail: In Iraq - according to Alnasseri, to be sure, but he is an Iraqi, originally - the leaders of Isis aare mostly former "Iraqi bureaucrats and officers and generals".

I say - but it does explain several things about the attractions of Isis, and this
is a good interview that deserves full reading.

4. Bernie Sanders’ Money Haul Should Make Hillary Clinton Nervous

The next article is by Eugene Robinson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

First came the big crowds, now comes the big money. At this point, anyone who doesn’t take Bernie Sanders seriously must not be paying attention.

Sanders’ campaign announced that it raised an eye-bugging $26 million in the third quarter—essentially matching the $28 million raised during those three months by Hillary Clinton, long considered the presumptive Democratic nominee. If that doesn’t make Clintonistas nervous, they need defibrillation.

On paper, Sanders is wildly unlikely as a Democratic nominee. He’s hardly even a Democrat—he represents Vermont in the Senate as an independent. He proudly describes himself as a socialist, hanging around his own neck a label that is supposed to be fatal in American politics. And he’s 74, making him the eldest among the Democrats’ gerontocratic field.

Yet polls show Sanders leading Clinton in New Hampshire and essentially tied with her in Iowa. It is possible that Clinton could lose the first two primary states and still win the nomination, but only two Democrats have accomplished this feat—Bill Clinton, who didn’t even campaign in Iowa in 1992, and George McGovern, for whom the subsequent 1972 general election did not work out well.

I say - and it is especially the fact that Sanders pulls about as much money lately as does Clinton, which is pretty amazing, also because Sanders mostly gets his money from many small donors, while Clinton gets her money mostly from a few big donors.

Here is Robinson's explanation for Sanders' success (so far):

I believe his success to date is due to insight and ideology. Sanders was perceptive enough to frame a message that is perfect for the zeitgeist: The system is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. And having identified the problem, he offers clear and internally consistent remedies.

Sanders wants truly universal health care—something Clinton, too, once supported. He wants child care and family leave for all. He wants tuition to be free at every public university in the nation. He wants to expand Social Security benefits, not cut them back. He wants to raise taxes on those who can afford to pay. He wants to expand the scope of government as instrument of the popular will and guarantor of the people’s well-being.

This clarion call arrives at a time when polls show that Americans across the political spectrum are disillusioned by politics, fed up with politicians and worried about the state of the nation.

I agree.

5. A Psychologist Puts Trump and the GOP on the Couch

The next article is by Michael Bader on AlterNet:

This starts as follows (and was chosen by me in part because I am also a psychologist):

But while all politicians pander and throw authenticity under the bus of political expediency, the current plague of high-visibility GOP candidates project two especially pathological themes that they’ve decided will resonate with the feelings of millions of voters: paranoia and grandiosity.

As a liberal and a psychologist, I think it’s important to understand the nature and meaning of this resonance.
I say. Well... I am a liberal and a psychologist as well, but - as it happens -
I am much more interested in the many who vote than in the psychology of the few they vote for, though I am willing to agree that many presidential candidates,
and especially those of the GOP, seem megalomaniac, paranoic or grandiose to me, in some sense, and indeed also seem psychopathic in their almost complete
disregard for factual truths.

Bader explains his terms as follows:

Grandiosity and paranoia—we’re the greatest, but we have to vigilantly remind ourselves and everyone else of that fact because we’re also threatened. A great “us” has to be continually reinforced by invoking threats from a demeaned “them.”
I do agree on the importance of Us and Them (as the reader may check, there are brief entries for both in my Philosophical Dictionary, indeed since 2004), but I explain them in terms of groupthinking, and my notion that most groups are more totalitarian than not (in my - meanwhile quite extensive - experience).

Then Bader says:

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see that the adolescent tough-guy primping we see on the GOP presidential debate stages is the political manifestation of commonplace psychological mechanisms regularly seen in individuals, namely, desperate attempts to defend against dangerous and painful feelings and fears.
But who is Bader addressing here? The GOP candidates or their audience? And supposing the GOP candidates to be or act as if they are grandiose paranoics,
why would these appeal to their audience? Since the audience is - in the end -
around 300 million American voters, it seems unlikely that the majority of these
also are grandiose paranoics (if the GOP candidates are), for one thing.

Here is part of Bader's answer:
The answer is that the threats that grandiose and paranoid attitudes defend against involve feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness and self-hatred—all of which are arguably greater now than ever in our culture.
But this involves at least three different assumptions: First, most the GOP's presidential candidates are acting like grandiose paranoics. Second, they are
doing so to appeal to the "
feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness and self-hatred" in their audience. Third, they are successful in doing so.

In fact, I think all three assumptions are likely to be false: "Paranoia" is an ill-defined term, as is "grandiosity"; even if most GOPs would act like them, it
seems a large and implausible assumption they are acting like that to appeal to
the stated feelings in their (largely unknown) audience; while that they are successful in doing this requires both previous assumptions to hold.

In contrast, my own explanation seems a lot more plausible (but I am partial):
The main factors that get candidates elected are the stupidity and ignorance in their audience - and I insist both are statistical facts. That is: There are many Americans who are neither stupid nor ignorant, but overall this is a minority.

The majority of the voters are neither intelligent nor learned, and therefore can be easily manipulated. Politicians know this, and adapt their public performances.

And that's it, basically. I agree most of the GOP's candidates seem a little mad to me, but I don't know them at all. I don't need to psychoanalyze them either (which is rather difficult to do if one doesn't know them), for whether they are
elected depends much less on them than on their audiences.

There is also this by Bader:
Ultimately, the appeal to an imaginary but reassuring sense of community undergirds all of these platitudes about American greatness, strength and antipathy toward the “other.” The latent message is: there is an “us” here, a great “us” full of power and noble intentions, an “us” to which everyone can belong as long as we keep “them” away or subjugated in ways that render them non-threatening (bombing them, building walls, deportation, etc.). Who doesn’t want to belong? To be part of an “us?” 
Well...yes, but that holds for virtually any group, and most of these groups generate their own kind of groupthinking. And I suggest that to explain why
the GOP's candidates act and talk like they do is better explained by the
mostly sociological considerations of groups and groupthinking, which again
are both joined to the intellectual average of most groups, that is not high
and not informed.


6. Why the Washington Post’s Attack on Bernie Sanders is Bunk

The last article today is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

The Washington Post just ran an attack on Bernie Sanders that distorts not only what he’s saying and seeking but also the basic choices that lie before the nation.  Sanders, writes the Post’s David Fahrenthold, “is not just a big-spending liberal. And his agenda is not just about money. It’s also about control.”

Fahrenthold claims Sanders’s plan for paying for college with a tax on Wall Street trades would mean “colleges would run by government rules.”

This is mostly here because I like both Bernie Sanders and Robert Reich (without agreeing with them on all things), and also because it seems as if Reich may have changed his loyalty (if that is the right word) from Hillary Clinton - whom he has personally known since 25 years at least - to Bernie Sanders (which, if true,
seems a good development to me).

Here is part of Reich's answer to Farenthold:

The real problem is too many young people still can’t afford a college education. The move toward free public higher education that began in the 1950s with the G.I. Bill and was extended in the 1960s by leading public universities was reversed starting in the 1980s because of shrinking state budgets. Tuition has skyrocketed in recent years as states slashed education spending. It’s time to resurrect that earlier goal.

Here is another bit of false nonsense by Farenthold:

Fahrenthold similarly claims Sanders’s plan for a single-payer system would put healthcare under the “control” of government. 

But health care is already largely financed through government subsidies – only they’re flowing to private for-profit health insurers that are now busily consolidating into corporate laviathans.

Anyway - you probably got the idea: The attack is the usual bit of falsehoods and nonsense (aka "Bunk").

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