13, 2014
Crisis: British, Torture, Corporations, Evil, Abolition, CIA, Debts
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "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

Prev- crisis -Next

British agents may have known of ‘odd case’ of CIA
      torture, says Lord West

Senate Report Condemns Government Torture Abroad
A Handful of Corporate Lawyers Have the Supreme
      Court’s Ear

 4. Answering Evil With Evil
 5. The Abolition of Abolition
Untrained CIA Agents Were Just Making Up Torture
      Methods As They Went Along

Multi-Trillion Dollar Question: How Much of Our Debt is

About ME/CFS


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 goes:

1. British agents may have known of ‘odd case’ of CIA torture, says Lord West 

The first item is an article by Rowena Mason on The Guardian. This continues an item from yesterday:

This starts as follows:

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.

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 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 Torture Abroad 

The next 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 democratic societies.
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 Torture Report:
The Senate 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.

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 righteousness.

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.

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:

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
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 so):
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 be hiding.
Here is what the CIA did do (among other things):
(..) the C.I.A. contracted out torture to two psychologists [messrs. James Mitchell and 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.

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.

To end with, here are Nader's comments on two general themes.

First, the truly enormous costs of an utterly useless and evil war:
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:
Fighting stateless 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 of law.
Note the quite correct opposition-in-identity of "stateless terrorism" and "state terrorism": Both 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, and has 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 democracy.
3. A Handful of Corporate Lawyers Have the Supreme Court’s Ear

The next 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”:

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 through 2012.

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.

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 legal 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

The next item is an article by Eugene Robinson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

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 obscenely wrong.

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 crimes.

Well... yes and no. I start again with quoting George Orwell, who saw very well what was involved in 1945:
"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 non-Americans.

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 Side 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 to 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 this:

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 means.

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.

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)".

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.

5.  The Abolition of Abolition

The next item is an article by James Carroll on Truthdig (and originally on Tomdispatch):
This starts as follows:

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…’”

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:
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:
A recent 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 ‘Yes, we 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 long-range strike 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.

6. Untrained CIA Agents Were Just Making Up Torture Methods As They Went Along

The next item is an article by Jenna McLaughlin on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:

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.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

7. Multi-Trillion Dollar Question: How Much of Our Debt is “Odious”? 

The next 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 invented in 1927, indeed for a similar or the same purpose:

In international 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 theorist.
For my theory of 2008 was this (which clearly did not happen: in fact the opposite happened):

To reject the debts of the banks as accrued by unfair means (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 obligation to repay their debts; and to start completely new, without debts, without 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.:

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 tyrannical dictators.
There is this (skipping a lot about Spain):
Across Europe, 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.
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 socially destructive.
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 external creditors.
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, and to
keep doing this till the end of time, given what the last paragraph says.

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.
[1] 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 government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper 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 I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (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:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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