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. 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
4. Our New Politics of
note on myself and Hazlitt
This is a Nederlog of
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.
Korea/Sony Story Shows How Eagerly U.S. Media Still Regurgitate
item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
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.”
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
The U.S. Government’s
campaign to blame North Korea actually began two days earlier,
when The New York Times – as
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.
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
"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
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:
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
Here is Glenn
Greenwald's conclusion from the article under the last dotted link:
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.|
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.
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.
Enduring Theories of Martial Law
The second item is an article by Todd E. Pierce
This starts as follows:
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.
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
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.
Here is Pierce's explanation of what lies behind the OLC opinion:
It also means that the
President of the United States is free to act like a dictator:
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
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 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):
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.
Year's Resolution for America
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
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:
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:
a full employment economy by reclaiming control
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
of our money system.
Reclaim our right to privacy.
Make America a more peaceful place.
Transform America's role in the world; focus on the needs
of people here at home.
Establish a US Commission on Truth and Reconciliation.
Restore our relationship with nature and restore our
Our New Politics of Torture
The fourth item today
is an interview of Mark Danner by Hugh Eakin on The New York Review of
This is an interesting interview that
starts as follows:
Yes indeed. There is a
lot more in the interview, that is well worth reading in full.
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
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
The second revelation is the
degree to which the CIA claimed great results, and did so mendaciously.
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
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
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
Self that is on my site with my notes.