who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. British agents may have
known of ‘odd case’ of CIA
torture, says Lord
2. Senate Report Condemns Government Torture Abroad
3. A Handful of Corporate Lawyers Have the Supreme
4. Answering Evil With Evil
5. The Abolition of
6. Untrained CIA Agents Were
Just Making Up Torture
Methods As They Went
Dollar Question: How Much of Our Debt is
This is a Nederlog of
Saturday, December 13. It is a crisis log.
There are 7 items and 8
dotted links: Item 1 is about how the British
cooperated with torture and Lord West tries to act as if this is
nothing; item 2 is about a fine piece by Ralph
Nader; item 3 is about the fact that around 66
corporate lawyers have the ears of the present Scotus; item
4 is about the debate about torture (that I - whose father and
grandfather were tortured by the Nazis - have a few uncommon ideas
about); item 5 is about Obama's great plans and
awful executions; item 6 is about the fact that
quite a few of the people the CIA employed initially were untrained for
their work; and item 7 is about debt, and pretty
fundamental and good.
In fact, at least five items are good (namely 2, 3, 4, 5, 7). Also,
this got uploaded a bit earlier than is normal. And here
1. British agents may have known of ‘odd
case’ of CIA
torture, says Lord
item is an article by Rowena Mason on The Guardian. This continues an
item from yesterday:
This starts as follows:
Let's start with
translating the first paragraph into decent English - and note I do not
blame Rowena Mason, but Lord West, who talks against the background of
lies, evasions and secrecy that is common in England as soon as the
GCHQ gets discussed:
British agents may have
been aware of the “odd case” of torture by CIA officers and may even
have been present while waterboarding was happening but a full public
inquiry would be a waste of time, Lord West, a former Home Office
minister and ex-chief of defence intelligence, has said.
The senior Labour
politician said there was no need for a new inquiry despite growing
political pressure for a full investigation into British complicity in
torture in the wake of a damning report about CIA torture of detainees
in the wake of 9/11.
Fresh calls for an
inquiry have been made after it emerged that UK intelligence agencies
asked the US to delete references to British spies from the Senate
committee report and that UK government representatives had 24 meetings
with members of the inquiry.
have been aware of the “odd case” of torture by CIA
officers and may even have been present while
waterboarding was happening but a full public inquiry would be a
waste of time very useful and important in a democratic
country interested in the truth, but since that is not Great
Britain at all, it will not happen, Lord West, a former Home Office
minister and ex-chief of defence intelligence, has said.
He did not say so,
but should have. O yes: torture is a war crime.
There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and
"Labour"-in-opposition may not quite agree with Lord West, who is from
"Labour"-in-government, but as my quote-marks indicate I think even calling
the Tory-lites created by Blair "Labour" is quite offensive.
In any case, nothing
will be done in this quite important matter until after the next
British elections in May 2015.
2. Senate Report Condemns Government
item is an article by Ralph Nader on his site:
This begins as follows:
The 528 page
Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. torture may come as a
shock to many, but would not have surprised the late Senator Daniel
Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). In 1991 and again in 1995, fed up with his
dealings with this agency, he introduced a bill for its abolition. Too
much secrecy that amounted to a blanket institutionalized cover-up, too
much bad or inadequate information leading to blunders, tragedies and
failures to anticipate events like the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Moynihan believed that secret government breeds disaster and shreds
To start with, I quite
agree with Patrick Moynihan - the CIA should have been shut down
completely long ago, and no I am not against secret services: I
am against incompetent, undemocratic and lying ssecret services - but I
have a small question:
How many pages have been released from The Torture
Report (as I shall call it)? I have read the last few days, always
from people who had read it or part of it: 600 pages, 550 pages, 528
pages, and (over) 500 pages, yet the only copy I have
downloaded is precisely 499 pages, which indeed is a number I have also
repeatedly seen used.
I am asking not because I think it is very important (more than
5400 pages of the report are still secret, which is itself a major
shame) but to illustrate how little really gets established even on the
level of extremely simple detail - an accurate page number -
especially in cases like this, where everything has to be
faught over with a corrupt non-democratic government that tries to
commit its many crimes in utter secrecy.
There is this on The
Intelligence Committee’s report, delivered by its chairperson, Senator
Diane Feinstein (D-CA) after a five year investigation revealed
torture, cover-ups, lying and a failure to achieve its objectives.
Actually, from my
understanding of Latin (I had some years) the C.I.A. has
answered the question “who
will guard the guards themselves”: The guards i.e. the CIA itself
oversees itself, in secrecy of course.
With a very ample,
multi-billion dollar, secret budget, near zero independent
Congressional oversight, and the omnipresent sheen of protecting
“national security”, the C.I.A. can never answer the old Latin
question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” or, “who will guard the
guards themselves?” No rule of law or externally independent monitoring
can contain this rogue agency driven by internal conviction and
This also is the literal truth, even though it was never meant to be:
The Senate should oversee the CIA, and indeed does so in a democracy,
but since it cannot even publish more than 9/10th of its findings, and
what is published is heavily redacted by the minions of the institution
it was supposed to control, the present situation, also thanks to
president Obama, is that the CIA has a secret budget and secretly
oversees itself (and publishes its great successes).
There is this on what the CIA has done, to the best of knowledge:
This is an accurate - in my
rather extensive knowledge - portrayal of what the CIA did to block its
being checked by the Senate (which has the formal right and duty to do
During the Bush years,
the C.I.A.’s unbridled forays were commonly marked by dictatorial
secret wars, secret prisons, secret courts, secret evidence, secret
law, and dragnet illegal surveillance.
In addition, there were no
criminal or civil prosecutions of any culpable bureaucrats either by
the Bush or Obama administrations
They blocked the
staff from proper access to documents, leaked false information to the
press, hacked into the Committee’s computers, and even urged the
Justice Department to criminally prosecute the Senate’s valiant
investigators. When all that failed, the C.I.A. delayed and delayed the
issuance of the report, while it pored over its contents and secured so
many redactions that readers would wonder what else they could possibly
Here is what the CIA did
do (among other things):
(..) the C.I.A.
contracted out torture to two psychologists [messrs. James
Bruce Jessen, blessed be their names: MM] - who promptly formed a company that received $81 million in
taxpayer money. To add to what one C.I.A. official quoted in the report
called “useless intelligence.”
There is this on Senator
Udall, followed by the honorable Obama's response:
“There can be no
cover-up. If there is no moral leadership from the White House helping
the public understand that the C.I.A.’s torture program wasn’t
necessary and didn’t save lives or disrupt terrorist plots, then what’s
to stop the next White House and C.I.A. director from supporting
torture?”, he concluded.
To end with, here are Nader's
comments on two general
The response from the
White House was President Obama expressing “complete confidence” in
C.I.A. Director John Brennan, and Mr. Brennan calling all his
subordinates “patriots.” The circle has closed once again.
First, the truly enormous costs of an utterly useless and
An even larger
consequence from the increasing disclosures of how Bush/Cheney and
Obama have responded in their “War on Terror” comes from the millions
of innocent children, women and men who were killed, injured or
sickened, millions more refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan, the loss of
American life and limb, and the trillions of dollars in public funds
that could have been used to rebuild America’s crucial infrastructure
to save lives and provide needed facilities and jobs.
Here it should be noted that
all these trillions are spend profitably: On every
bullet fired, every
bomb exploded, the military-industrial
complex makes a profit - that
disappears in their pockets, and not in rebuilding infrastructures or
increasing payments to the poor.
Second, the wilfull destruction of democracy:
terrorism with massive state terrorism and torture that strengthens the
former creates a deadly boomerang. It destroys our priorities, mutes
the waging of peace and corrodes our democracy with its purported rule
Note the quite
correct opposition-in-identity of "stateless terrorism" and "state
are forms of terrorism - but the second is far more
dangerous than the first, simply because unlike the first it is covered
and paid for by the state with the largest army, atomic weapons, a
great territory, and great riches.
Also, not only is democracy "corroded", and not only does the law get
replaced by articles I consider illegal: It destroys democracy,
destroyed most of democracy, namely by doing the most immoral things,
like torture, in secret; by spying on all Americans as if these are
criminal opponents of a legal government; and by helping the
bankmanagers to fraud, steal and become billionaires.
In brief: There really was a big change instituted by 9/11, and
that change was - as e.g. Gore Vidal
expressed it, quite rightly - the effective death of American
3. A Handful of Corporate Lawyers Have the
Supreme Court’s Ear
item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as
follows (and is based on a Reuter's report):
The marble facade of the
U.S. Supreme Court bears the words “Equal Justice Under Law,” but an
elite group of attorneys has emerged as first among equals, and they
represent corporations, not people.
A Dec. 8 report on
Reuters’ examination of the top court’s docket, the most comprehensive
of its kind ever performed, described today’s Supreme Court as “a place
where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who
reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed”:
Of the 66 lawyers mentioned
above, 51 worked for law firms that primarily represent business
interests. This means that over time corporate America cultivates a
small pool of lawyers who are better able to get cases before the
Supreme Court than any other attorneys in the country.
A Reuters examination
of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who
petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’
appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six
times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others
filed by private lawyers during that period.
The lawyers are the
most influential members of one of the most powerful specialties in
America: the business of practicing before the Supreme Court. None of
these lawyers is a household name. But many are familiar to the nine
justices. That’s because about half worked for justices past or
present, and some socialize with them.
They are the elite of
the elite: Although they account for far less than 1 percent of lawyers
who filed appeals to the Supreme Court, these attorneys were involved
in 43 percent of the cases the high court chose to decide from 2004
There is more there,
but I will quote only one more bit:
Michael Luttig, general
counsel for aerospace giant Boeing Co., said of the new class of
lawyers who are intimate with the Supreme Court, “It has become a
guild, a narrow group of elite justices and elite counsel talking to
each other.” The court and its elite bar have grown “detached and
isolated from the real world, ultimately at the price of the healthy
and proper development of the law.”
Or to put it in
semi-legal terms: This is massive corruption, but the kind of
corruption that the present Supreme Court welcomes and desires, in
majority, to be sure.
In case you want to know more: Here is a link to the - quite extensive
- report by Reuters:
4. Answering Evil With Evil
item is an article by Eugene Robinson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Well... yes and no. I
start again with quoting George Orwell, who saw very well what was
involved in 1945:
The “debate” over torture
is almost as grotesque as torture itself. There can be no legitimate
debate about the intentional infliction of pain upon captive and
defenseless human beings. The torturers and their enablers may deny it,
but they know—and knew from the beginning—that what they did was
We relied on legal
advice, the torturers say. We were just following orders. We
believed the ends justified the means. It is nauseating to hear
such pathetic excuses from those who, in the name of the United States,
sanctioned or committed acts that long have been recognized as war
"Actions are held
to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does
them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages,
forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery,
assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its
moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected
Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419,
written in May 1945.)
This is the position of
Fox News, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld etc. They can do all the evils
their opponents are guilty of, and more, but they are justified by
doing it "for our side". I'd say they also are intellectually primitive
or highly corrupt, but it seems they do believe as Orwell said
they believe: "America is awesome", in the words of a Fox News anchor,
and that justifies anything Americans do, at least against
This also means that I only partially agree to the quoted paragraphs:
While I agree torture is evil and a war crime, and indeed is very
widely seen as such, quite correctly also, I do not
think a debate about torture is senseless. Indeed, that is also
what Dick Cheney thinks. One reason I do not think so is that
both my father and grandfather were tortured by the Nazis, and then
locked up in concentration camps, as "political prisoners", which my
grandfather did not survive.
Also, I believe that many of the perpetrators of torture may not
have known "that what they
did was obscenely wrong" in
part because they maintain their beliefs in the way Orwell
sketched: Our Side is always right, and therefore Our
never tortures, though they may do a little "enhanced interrogation"
(which also may kill "some folks", as president Obama put it, but then
"you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs", as was kindly
observed by that great saviour of mankind, Joseph Stalin).
This also means I have some understanding, though no
sympathy, for "We
relied on legal advice, the torturers say. We were just
following orders. We believed the ends justified the means."
For the same was said by the Nazis, and was probably as
correct: Yes, they did "merely follow orders" and "the end
justifies the means" etc., and yes, these concerns overrode any other
concerns they may have had (together with the good pay and - in their
eyes - the good and patriotic company).
And please note that I am not saying these helpmeets not
think very closely or rationally about what you are doing makes
them innocent. What I am saying is that these arguments worked
for most of them.
There is also
With this I agree, and indeed
- being a philosopher and a psychologist - for me it is sufficient that
torture is "clearly illegal
under U.S. and international law": That is more than sufficient, and
indeed I find it fairly odd to have read from many journalists
(who did not study philosophy, as Glenn Greenwald and I did)
that these matters were "settled since the Enlightenment": Whether or
not they were is not very relevant, especially in view of the
fact that ever since the Enlightenment enormously many people have
been tortured, and they have been tortured mostly by people who did not
know philosophy, nor much of law, nor indeed many other things, and
whose morals mostly reduced to "Our Side Is Always Good (And So We May
Do As We Please)".
The report seeks to
demonstrate that the torture was useless because valuable information
in the fight against al-Qaeda came from conventional interrogation
methods, not the brutal treatment. Torture’s apologists—including
Cheney, who says he’d “do it again in a minute”—claim otherwise. This
dispute cannot be settled. No one can say that a name, date or phone
number extracted by torture could never have been obtained by other
But efficacy is not
the point. What matters is not whether torture produces more
information or less. What matters is that torture is manifestly
immoral—and clearly illegal under U.S. and international law.
That is a kind of totalitarianism
that excuses anything "Our Side" does, but that again may also
not have been evident to many who did the actual torturing. And
it may - in some cases - be made evident by a debate.
The Abolition of
item is an article by James Carroll on Truthdig (and originally on
This starts as follows:
Well... it was good propaganda,
although it was no longer necessary to mislead the people to make him
president. Then again, he also got the Nobel Peace Prize, and that may
have been his end:
Mark these days. A
long-dreaded transformation from hope to doom is taking place as the
United States of America ushers the world onto the no-turning-back road
of nuclear perdition. Once, we could believe there was another way to
go. Indeed, we were invited to take that path by the man who is, even
today, overseeing the blocking of it, probably forever.
It was one of the most stirring
speeches an American president had ever given. The place was
Prague; the year was 2009; the president was the recently sworn in
Barack Obama. The promise made that day is worth recalling at length,
especially since, by now, it is largely forgotten:
“As the only nuclear power to have used a
nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act… So
today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek
the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not
naive. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my
lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now, we, too, must
ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to
insist, ‘Yes, we can…’”
Only months later,
he was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize, in large part because of this stunning commitment.
Here is what the ‘Yes, we can…’ man did in fact:
piece by New York Times science correspondent William J.
Broad made the president’s nuclear failure dramatic. Cuts to the U.S.
nuclear stockpile initiated by George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, he
pointed out, totaled 14,801 weapons; Obama’s reductions so far: 507
weapons. In 2010, a new START treaty between Moscow and Washington
capped future deployed nukes at 1,500. As of this October, the U.S.
still deploys 1,642 of them and Russia 1,643; neither nation, that is,
has achieved START levels, which only count deployed weapons.
(Including stored but readily re-armed and targeted nukes, the U.S.
arsenal today totals about 4,800 weapons.)
You can trust Obama. To
lie in public and serve the military-industrial complex and the big
banks in private.
And here is what the
can…’ man is doing now:
He agreed to lay
the groundwork for a vast “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal,
which, in the name of updating an aged system, is already morphing into
a full-blown reinvention of the arms cache at an estimated future cost
of more than a trillion
dollars. In the process, the Navy wants, and may get, 12
new strategic submarines; the Air Force wants, and may get, a new
bomber force. Bombers and submarines would, of course, both be
outfitted with next-generation missiles, and we’d be off to the races.
The arms races.
There is considerably
more under the last dotted link.
CIA Agents Were Just Making Up Torture Methods
As They Went Along
item is an article by Jenna McLaughlin on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:
There is considerably
more under the last dotted link.
On Tuesday morning, the
Senate intelligence committee released an executive
summary of its five-year investigation into the CIA's interrogation
and detention program. (Read the executive summary here.)
Among the report's most
striking revelations is that CIA interrogators were often untrained and
in some instances made up torturous techniques as they went along.
7. Multi-Trillion Dollar Question: How Much of
Our Debt is “Odious”?
item is an article by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit:
In fact, he sketches a
theory I designed myself in 2008. I did not know this was also
in 1927, indeed for a similar or the same purpose:
For my theory of
2008 was this (which clearly did not happen: in fact the opposite
law, odious debt is a legal theory that holds that the
national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve
the best interests of the nation shouldn’t be enforceable. Such
debts are hence regarded as personal debts of the regime that incurred
them and not debts of the state.
The term was first coined in
the year 1927 by Alexander Sack, a Russian émigré legal
To reject the debts of the banks as accrued by unfair
(derivatives and selling houses to people with insufficient incomes,
precisely as president Bush advertised he would); to close the banks
when they did not have sufficient reserves; to refuse any
repay their debts; and to start completely new, without debts,
most banks, and on quite different principles of banking as had been
built up since 1980.
There is also this, which shows the idea has been practiced quite a
lot, indeed also in Iraq by the U.S.:
There is this (skipping a lot
According to Sack, the
reason why odious debts cannot attach to the territory of the state was
that “they do not fulfill one of the conditions determining the
lawfulness of State debts, namely that State debts must be incurred,
and the proceeds used, for the needs and in the interests of the State.”
Since 1927, the odious debt
doctrine has been used to demand write-offs of debt accrued by
member states committed an estimated total of nearly
€4.9 trillion (or 39 percent of total EU GDP) toward the rescue of
banks between September 2008 and
October 2012. Of that, €1.7 trillion, or 13 percent of
EU GDP (23 percent including the LTRO) will be directly
paid by taxpayers.
Precisely. Which means
that these debts are maintained to cream off as much wealth as can be
creamed off anyone who is not rich and not powerful,
Put simply, it is economic
madness on a scale never before seen. Not only is it morally perverse,
with the poorest and most vulnerable in society subsidising the
reckless greed of the richest and most powerful, but it is also totally
More perverse still is the
fact that most of this debt, with its ever-growing compound interest,
will never get paid. I challenge any two-bit Ph.D.-holding economist to
explain how Greece will pay its 321 billion euros of external debt; or
Italy, its 2.5 trillion dollars; or for that matter, how each citizen
of Ireland — babies, children and senior citizens included — will be
able to raise the 500,000 dollars necessary to pay off their nation’s
keep doing this till the end of time, given what the last paragraph
And I also agree with this:
But unless we
determine who it is we owe, and for what, and draw a big fat red line
through all the debt that has served absolutely no public good, this
super cycle of debt deflation will continue to spin faster and faster
out of our control.
Will this ever happen?
Well... yes, if Europe can avoid war and can get rid of its present
class of governing bureaucratic non-entities, but otherwise it will go
on and on, until Europe is sucked dry by the banks, and everyone is
either very poor or belongs to the 10% and is very to fairly rich.
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, that the governors do not
rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more
that law should govern than any one of the
citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the
supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to
be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file
from is quite pertinent.)
(that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: