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. CIA torture appears to have
broken spy agency rule on
Advocates Resign in Protest Over U.S.
Facial-Recognition Code of
3. How the Shenanigans in
Congress Over the TPP Trade
Deal Threatens the
Fundamentals of Our Democracy
4. On Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin
is a Nederlog of Tuesday June 16, 2015.
is a crisis blog,
though not a normal one:
I found just three crisis items I wanted to write about, but I also saw
yesterday two interesting films on Youtube, one on Marx and one on Stalin, and I
thought it worthwile to list their links and write some about them,
because Marx's writings strongly influenced the lives of some 2
billion persons, and because Stalin claimed to be a Marxist who
ruled over hundreds of millions of persons in Russia, and also
because both were - in some sense - prominent leftists.
Here are today's items: item 1 is about a major
contradiction in the rules that
are supposed to direct the CIA; item 2 is about
facial recognition by cameras; item 3 is a fine
item about how the TPP is in fundamental contradiction with
democracy; and item 4 lists two films - that last
together over 2 hours - that I found quite interesting and worthwile,
one about Marx and one about Stalin.
1. CIA torture appears to have broken spy
agency rule on human experimentation
item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for “human experimentation”
– before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees
– that raise new questions about the limits on the agency’s in-house
and contracted medical research.
It seems to me to be quite
clear why the CIA document this was quoted from was secret:
That the director of the CIA was abled (in secret) to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals
pertaining to human subject research” seems grossly illegal in
a real democracy, for it gives him far more powers than he should have.
Sections of a previously
classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower
the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals
pertaining to human subject research”. The leeway provides the
director, who has never in the agency’s history been a medical doctor,
with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to
preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.
CIA director George Tenet
approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding,
designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further
instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal
interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing,
about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.
Here is one reaction, that seems correct to me:
After reviewing the
document, one watchdog said the timeline suggested the CIA manipulated
basic definitions of human experimentation to ensure the torture
“Crime one was torture.
The second crime was research without consent in order to say it wasn’t
torture,” said Nathaniel Raymond, a former war-crimes investigator with
Physicians for Human Rights and now a researcher with Harvard
University’s Humanitarian Initiative.
There is also this:
The relevant section of
the CIA document, “Law and Policy Governing the Conduct of Intelligence
Agencies”, instructs that the agency “shall not sponsor, contract for,
or conduct research on human subjects” outside of instructions on responsible and humane medical
practices set for the entire US government by its Department of
Health and Human Services.
A keystone of those
instructions, the document notes, is the “subject’s informed consent”.
That language echoes the
public, if obscure, language of Executive Order 12333 – the seminal,
Reagan-era document spelling out the powers and limitations of the
intelligence agencies, including rules governing surveillance by the National Security
Agency. But the discretion given to the CIA director to “approve,
modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject
research” has not previously been public.
The reason that this
last statement "has not
previously been public" is
- it seems to me - simply because it is in clear and obvious
contradiction with the earlier part of the quotation, which
requires (quite correctly) the “subject’s informed consent”.
There is considerably more
in the article, which is recommended.
Advocates Resign in
Protest Over U.S. Facial-Recognition Code of Conduct
item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
lobbyists have so thoroughly hijacked the Commerce Department process
for developing a voluntary code of conduct for the use of facial
recognition technology that nine privacy advocates involved withdrew in
protest on Monday.
“At a base minimum,
people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that
companies they’ve never heard of are tracking their every movement
— and identifying them by name – using facial recognition
technology,” the privacy advocates wrote in a joint
statement. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement
even with that basic, specific premise.”
I say. I agree with the "privacy advocates", but indeed that is not the way
the ruling politicians want it: They want to know everything about
because this will give them absolute power (and not because
they want to
protect ordinary people from terrorism: that
is merely the pretext).
There also is this:
I quite agree, but our
rulers want to know absolutely everything about absolutely
But after a dozen
meetings, the most recent of which was last week, all nine privacy
advocates who have participated in the entire process concluded that
they were totally outgunned.
“This should be a wake-up
call to Americans: Industry lobbyists are choking off Washington’s
ability to protect consumer privacy,” Alvaro Bedoya, executive director
of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, said in a
“People simply do not
expect companies they’ve never heard of to secretly track them using
this powerful technology. Despite all of this, industry associations
have pushed for a world where companies can use facial recognition on
you whenever they want – no matter what you say. This position is well
outside the mainstream.”
3. How the Shenanigans in Congress Over the
TPP Trade Deal
Threatens the Fundamentals of Our Democracy
item is an article by Bill Moyers
(<- Wikipedia) and Bernard Weisberger that I found on AlterNet, but
that originated on BillMoyers.com:
This starts as
forces won a big victory Friday when they stalled the
top-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement backed by the
White House and the Republican leadership in Congress.
But it’s only Round One.
The unholy trio of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
(who has vowed to keep any of Obama’s nominees from being confirmed),
Speaker of the House John Boehner (who has thwarted just about every
Democratic legislative proposal of the past several years), and
President Obama (a Democrat, in case you are having trouble
remembering) are as one in a desperate effort to rescue their
Yes, indeed: it is "only Round One" and Obama is in alliance with McConnell and Boehner "in a desperate effort to rescue their
And this is a good
explanation. First there is this:
So now the president and
his sworn enemies are allied in a bizarre mutual embrace of voodoo
economics, assuring us that what’s good for multinational giants is
good for struggling Americans trying to pay their bills while waiting
below for the benefits of “free trade” to trickle down.
New York Times reported, corporate America has been nearly
unanimous in its support of the trade agreement. No surprise: their
lobbyists and lawyers practically wrote it.
This is simply true.
Then there is this:
The issue before us is
not “free trade,” which, like any policy, has its pluses and minuses.
The issue is that a multilateral trade agreement should not be
negotiated in secret, but in the open by our State and Commerce
departments, with input from all organizations concerned, including
those representing workers and environmentalists.
Then there should come a
draft document for all to see, to be laid before the people’s
representatives in Congress assembled. If and when a majority of them
ratifies the agreement, it can go to the president for signature. This
is how democracy should work.
Yet it’s the precise
opposite of how this agreement has come to be. We are being asked to
believe that the administration can argue with a straight face for a
deal conceived in secrecy, drafted largely by corporate mercenaries,
kept from public and Congressional view except with burdensome
restrictions, then presented to Congress for a vote up or down, neither
debate nor amendment allowed. It’s an absolute parody of the process
described in the Constitution.
And finally there is
This whole affair is
outrageous. After 226 years of constitutional government, is/ this
where we’ve finally arrived?
So what can we do against
so monstrous a lie? First, call this deal out for what it is — an
abomination. Then let the tsunami of popular outrage roll. Tell
Congress and the White House what you think. But hurry! Time’s running
out, and Obama, McConnell, Boehner and the lobbyists are working
overtime to get the locomotive back on the fast-track.
Yes, indeed. And this
is a fine article, that I recommend that you read all of.
Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin
item is not an article but consists of links to two films, one
on Marx and Marxism, and one
on Stalin and
his terror. They are here because I saw them yesterday, liked them, and
because they are relevant to the crisis, at least indirectly.
still relevant to the crisis, in large part because he is the most
leftist radical theoretician, and his books still are bought, mostly by intellectuals, and especially in times of crisis. How
well they are read and understood is another question,
that is fairly complicated to answer, but I will say something about it
It may be doubted
today - in 2015 - whether Marxism is still
relevant, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the
disappearance of the Soviet bloc, the collapse of most European
communist parties, and the radical shifts to the right of the social
democrats , who were mostly following Clinton
and Blair, and effectively - at least so far as the professional
politicians were and are concerned - turned into pro-capitalist careerists, but
then again China - with over a billion inhabitants - is still
ruled by the Communist party, which is still mostly inspired by
Marx's teachings, although it is quite difficult to say how
relevant Marx's writings or political communism are to modern China.
And I should also say
that my own relation to Marx and Marxism is rather complicated
and - perhaps - somewhat paradoxical:
My parents were
communists for more than forty years, and were rather prominent members
of the Dutch CP, which is how I came to read Marx (and Engels and Lenin
and Stalin) from age 14, because I was curious, and my father owned
Initially, I found
especially Marx quite convincing, but since I had a taste for
philosophy and logic I read a great amount of books between 15 and 20,
which convinced me by the time I was 20 that I was not a
Marxist anymore, mostly because I did not believe the Soviet bloc was
socialist; I could not believe Marx's economics nor his dialectics; and
I also was a firm anti-totalitarian.
Then again, I still was (and am) a leftist 
though I was from age 20 onwards much more interested in science than
The problem with my
position was mainly that I am a far more theoretical creature
than the vast majority:
For the vast majority
of Marx's followers were ideologists
rather than philosophers
(I studied philosophy and psychology and have an excellent B.A. in one
and an equally excellent M.A. in the other) whereas I believed
- in contrast with Marx's thesis that "philosophers have only interpreted the world
in various ways, the point is to change it" - that to change the world
in a rational fashion, one first has to understand it
in a rational way (and to try to change it in a non-rational
fashion was silly, since that makes it nearly certain one will fail).
The first item is a film
that was made in 1983 that lasts 54 minutes:
I liked this (without
being very enthusiastic): It was made by somewhat Marxist leftists and
it seems to me to be a reasonably fair, mostly sympathetic, portrait of
The film also is definitely dated, simply because in 1983 the
Soviet bloc still existed, and very few expected it to collapse soon; because there were still rather strong European communist and
social democratic parties; and because many who were active in the early 1980ies still had
lively memories of the leftist late Sixties, but this is also not
a fault of the makers of the film: it merely shows that the situation
was 32 years ago rather
what it has become since 1989.
Next, there is a rather good BBC-documentary from 2003 that lasts 1 h
I have seen several
films about Stalin, but this one is well researched and well made, and
is indeed also with Simon Sebag Montefiore, who published - in 2003 - a
good biography of Stalin, and with quite a few others, including
survivors of Stalin's family (that also was persecuted and killed in
the late 1930ies).
There are at least
two questions that I should (very briefly) answer:
(1) What does Marx have to do with Stalin?
(2) What does Marx have to do with the Soviet Union?
The first question is important because Marx was a real intellectual
and a real philosopher, who wrote quite complicated and quite learned
books that are - in fact - not widely read, also not by most of
(perhaps with the exception of the Communist
Stalin was a follower
of Marx, but he was neither a real intellectual (he loathed
intellectuals), nor a real philosopher, and the communist ideology that
Stalin created, although it was claimed to be derived from the
works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, was very much more of a
Marxist science (which is what Marx attempted to do).
The second question
is important mostly because the Soviet Union was claimed by its leaders
to be a socialism in the tradition founded by Marx and Engels. I think
the claim was propaganda,
and was false,
and I don't believe Marx
or Engels would
have had much sympathy for the effective dictatorship that was created,
in part at least, in their names.
each of these changes was a major change, that strongly
effected tens of millions or hundreds of millions of persons.
 I am a leftist, and even a fairly
radical leftist, though not at all a dogmatist, but I know a lot
more of philosophy, logic and science than most leftists, and I should
also add that my leftism is mostly moral (or ethical), is
and is very probably not widely shared for several
reasons, one of which is that I am - still - much more inclined
to science than to politics.