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Nederlog

January 4, 2015
Crisis: North Korea, Bush's martial law, Kucinich, Torture
  "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. North Korea/Sony Story Shows How Eagerly U.S. Media
     Still Regurgitate Government Claims

2. Bush’s Enduring Theories of Martial Law
3. New Year's Resolution for America
4. Our New Politics of Torture
5. Brief note on myself and Hazlitt


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, January 4, 2015.

There are 5 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is Glenn Greenwald on North Korea's asserted but unproved responsibility for the Sony hack; item 2 is a good article on the - still, since 2001 - enduring martial law in the US; item 3 is about Denis Kucinich's resolutions for 2015; item 4 is a long interview on torture in the NYRB; and item 5 is a very brief note on myself and on Hazlitt.

1. North Korea/Sony Story Shows How Eagerly U.S. Media Still Regurgitate Government Claims

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The identity of the Sony hackers is still unknown. President Obama, in a December 19 press conference, announced: “We can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.” He then vowed: “We will respond. . . . We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”

The U.S. Government’s campaign to blame North Korea actually began two days earlier, when The New York Timesas usualcorruptly granted anonymity to “senior administration officials” to disseminate their inflammatory claims with no accountability. These hidden “American officials” used the Paper of Record to announce that they “have concluded that North Korea was ‘centrally involved’ in the hacking of Sony Pictures computers.” With virtually no skepticism about the official accusation, reporters David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth deemed the incident a “cyberterrorism attack” and devoted the bulk of the article to examining the retaliatory actions the government could take against the North Koreans.

There is considerably more that supports the very first statement that I will leave to your interests, though clearly I think Glenn Greenwald is right and Obama is wrong, indeed both morally and intellectually: it is possible North Korea made the attack on Sony, but not likely, and to say otherwise is to lie - which Obama did, but I do want to quote a more general point:
Yet none of this expert skepticism made its way into countless   media accounts of the Sony hack. Time and again, many journalists mindlessly regurgitated the U.S. Government’s accusation against North Korea without a shred of doubt, blindly assuming it to be true, and then discussing, often demanding, strong retaliation. Coverage of the episode was largely driven by the long-standing, central tenet of the establishment U.S. media: government assertions are to be treated as Truth.
Yes, the last statement is exactly right - while many intelligent journalists, unfortunately now mostly dead held (with I.F. Stone, whom I quote):
"All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed."
Let me give a few explanations for the last quotation:

Firstly, it clearly does not say that all governments always lie: it merely counsels that since in any country the government is the most powerful institution, while it also is usually headed by people who got to a first or second place in power by demagoguery, dishonesty and partiality (not all of which is necessarily bad!) anyone dealing with governmental sayings should distrust them.

Secondly, it also clearly does not say that everything that a government says will be disbelieved by rational journalists: What it counsels is skepticism plus a gathering of independent evidence, and only when this has happened to arrive at statements that assert some degree of belief in governmental claims.

But most journalists in the USA do not follow the second point these days:

Either they believe the government, indeed often because it is the most powerful institution, or they pretend to believe the government, for the same reason: it is so much easier to serve the strong, rather than to try to serve the people's rights!

And indeed I do think these journalists, precisely because they are journalists, who are supposed to inform the nation truthfully, since without knowing most of the truth - of any kind, pleasant or unpleasant - one cannot arrive at good rational  decisions, they also are the most prominent and indeed also the most guilty examples of Sheldon Wolin's inverted totalitarianism (<- Wikipedia).

Indeed, to quote Wikipedia from the last link:
(...) inverted totalitarianism is described as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics. In inverted totalitarianism, every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to collapse as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism.
Here is Glenn Greenwald's conclusion from the article under the last dotted link:
U.S. journalists don’t engage in this behavior because they haven’t yet realized this. To the contrary, they engage in this behavior precisely because they do realize this: because that is what they aspire to be.|
(...)
Many of them benefit in all sorts of ways by dutifully performing this role. Others are True Believers: hard-core nationalists and tribalists who see their “journalism” as a means of nobly advancing the interests of the state and corporate officials whom they admire and serve. At this point, journalists who mindlessly repeat government claims like this are guilty of many things; ignorance of what they are doing is definitely not one of them.
Yes, indeed - and note this also inverted the role of journalist: From a researcher into the truth into a singer of paeans of praise and adulation of the government.

2. Bush’s Enduring Theories of Martial Law

The second item is an article by Todd E. Pierce on ConsortiumNews:
This starts as follows:

On Oct. 23, 2001, the Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion that would shock most Americans if they realized its full implications. By all appearances, it is still in effect, judging by military surveillance operations taking place in the U.S. by the Defense Department and its National Security Agency (NSA). The opinion was entitled: “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities within the United States” (emphasis in original).

What is the Office of Legal Counsel — or “OLC” for short — that made such a bold move? It is a secretive office in the Justice Department. The purpose of the OLC is straightforward. It sits as a de facto court for the White House that decides the legal questions that set the boundaries for how the federal government runs day-to-day. Be they the highest presidential appointee or lowliest bureaucrat, a government official who complies with the OLC’s opinion is generally immune from later prosecution or liability.

This is the first time (ever, and since 2001) that I am told there is a "secretive" (!) "office in the Justice Department" called OLC. And yes, it seems to me that this "legal opinion" (itself legalese for: any statement signed by some lawyer) is not consistent with the Bill of Rights.

Here is Pierce's explanation of what lies behind the OLC opinion:

The lawyers who wrote the OLC opinion about the use of military force within the United States were Robert Delahunty, now teaching “law” at St. Thomas University Law School, Minneapolis, and John Yoo, who is back teaching the same sort of “law” at Boalt Law School, University of California, Berkeley. By “the same sort of law” is meant their idiosyncratic belief that the President, acting as “Commander in Chief,” has dictatorial-like powers.

This is the “unitary executive theory” — a radically un-American, unconstitutional and extra-legal ideology that former Vice President and torture enthusiast Dick Cheney has been pushing since the Iran-Contra Affair. In other countries, but particularly Germany from 1933 to 1945, in which citizens lived under a dictatorship, this was called “prerogative” government, as described by German Jewish lawyers. Both Delahunty and Yoo continue working to shoehorn this radical legal theory into respectability with prolific writing of law review articles promoting it.

The argument was that because of these prerogative powers, the President was subject to no law — neither constitutional law nor international law. The Oct. 23, 2001 opinion is particularly dangerous, as it essentially granted the President martial law authority, meaning the authority to act outside the Constitution.

It also means that the President of the United States is free to act like a dictator:
"the President was subject to no law — neither constitutional law nor international law". For this means he can do as he pleases, and no one will have - granting the OLC's secret decision, of course - any legal motive or legal ground to criticize him.

More specifically (and Todd Piece is a retired Army major, who now serves as a legal defender of people imprisoned in Guantánamo):

This OLC opinion laid the foundation for all the extra-constitutional actions by the Bush administration that would follow. They are still carried on by the Obama administration today with their assertions that the President can kill American citizens with a drone without any due process whether inside or outside the U.S.
Next, there is this on the military dictatorship that is effectively in force in the USA, with the - secret, so-called "legal" - blessing of the OLC:
Though we don’t normally see troops on the streets controlling and keeping an eye on us, and most citizens have not felt the effects of a state of martial law, it is in effect with the constant NSA surveillance now permitted by law and the potential of military detention under Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
And there is also this on the secrecy (itself something that is, except in rare circumstances, completely incompatible with any real democracy):
Because everything is wrapped in secrecy, we have no way of knowing current interpretations, except that we know the NSA/military is still spying on us through all of our communications and Section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA is still on the books as public law, providing for military detention “pending disposition under the law of war.”
Congratulations for being Americans: Each and everyone of you is spied upon by the secret NSA, and may be arrested and kept indefinitely imprisoned "under the law of war" if you do or say something the NSA or the government is displeased with!

This is a good article that deserves full reading.

3. New Year's Resolution for America

The third item is an article by Denis Kucinich (<- Wikipedia) that I found on Common Dreams but that originated on the Huffington Post:
This is from the beginning:

This New Year, let us, as President Lincoln once pleaded "highly resolve" and organize to recreate our nation, summoning the vision of the Founders' ceaseless quest, unfurled with the words, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union...."

This is my New Year's vision for our nation:

After which there follow six points, all with explanatory text. I copy the titles, and leave it to your interests whether you read the text:
1. Ensure a full employment economy by reclaiming control
     of our money system.

2. Reclaim our right to privacy.
3. Make America a more peaceful place.
4. Transform America's role in the world; focus on the needs
     of people here at home.

5. Establish a US Commission on Truth and Reconciliation.
6. Restore our relationship with nature and restore our
     planet.

I don't think this is as good as Senator Bernie Sanders' statement,  basically because it is less specific, but I like it. The reason to put it in Nederlog is in fact that while there are some more American politicians I like (more than not) this is a small minority.

4. Our New Politics of Torture

The fourth item today is an interview of Mark Danner by Hugh Eakin on The New York Review of Books:
This is an interesting interview that starts as follows:

Hugh Eakin: Nearly six years ago, you published the secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross documenting the CIA’s torture of more than a dozen “high value” detainees. And now we have the Senate’s extensive investigation of the torture program itself. What are some of the most revealing findings of the Senate report?

Mark Danner: There is a lot in the executive summary that we already knew but that is now told in appalling detail that we hadn’t seen before. The relentlessness, day in day out, of these techniques; the totality of their effect when taken together—walling, close-confinement, water-dousing, waterboarding, the newly revealed “rectal rehydration,” and various other disgusting and depraved things—is recounted in numbing, revolting detail. The effect can only be conveyed by a full reading, through page after awful page of this five-hundred-page document, which is after all less than 10 percent of the report itself.

What I think is strictly speaking new is, first, how amateurish the torture program was. It was really amateur hour, beginning with the techniques themselves, which were devised and run by a couple of retired Air Force psychologists who were hired by the CIA and put in charge though they had never conducted an interrogation before. They had no expertise in terrorism or counterterrorism, had never interrogated al-Qaeda members or anyone else for that matter. When it came to actually working with detained terrorists and suspected terrorists they were essentially without any relevant experience. Eventually, the CIA paid them more than $80 million.

The second revelation is the degree to which the CIA claimed great results, and did so mendaciously.
Yes indeed. There is a lot more in the interview, that is well worth reading in full.
I will quote no more from it, except for this:

We’re in this surrealistic world, in which, twelve years after these decisions to use torture have secretly been made, we’re seeing a public effort at disinformation spreading throughout the country, through all the media outlets, cheerleading for torture. It’s quite an astonishing thing: torture, which used to be illegal, which used to be anathema, has now become a policy choice.
Quite so. It is a great shame, but that is what it comes to.

5. Brief note on myself and Hazlitt

As for me: I am a bit better than yesterday, for I slept again reasonably last night, but I am still not back at where I was some weeks before December 25, last, when indeed I had slept very badly and was quite miserable, and most of
the day in bed. I do hope I will soon be back at where I was in the beginning of
December, but as it is, I am more limited than I was for nearly all of 2014 (which will have some effects on Nederlog as long as I am not feeling well).

As for Hazlitt: I am glad several were interested enough to download yesterday's file of Hazlitt-quotations, simply because he is one of the most intelligent and most knowledgeable people - about painting, English literature, and philosophy, especially - that I know of, who also had the great merits of being a genuine and great radical and a true liberal. And he really is best read if you try to read his essays, and one excellent start is
On Living to One's Self that is on my site with my notes.

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