1. CIA Photographed
Captives Bruised, Blindfolded and
Bound Before Sending Them
2. FBI to Apple: Nevermind
Is What It's Like to Try to Sue Donald Trump
4. Entering Uncharted Territory in Washington
5. Does The United States Still Exist?
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, March 29,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item
1 is about CIA captives who get renditioned for torturing them; item 2 is about the battle between Apple and FBI:
Off/On hold; item 3 is about sueing Donald Trump; item 4 is about the uncharted territory that the USA
is entering (in fact: since 2000, I argue); and item 5
is about the question whether the USA still exists.
1. CIA Photographed Captives Bruised, Blindfolded and
Bound Before Sending Them Overseas
first item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on
This starts as follows:
The CIA took what one former U.S.
official described as “very gruesome” photographs of naked prisoners
before transferring the detainees to foreign partners to be tortured,
The Guardian reports.
In fact - it seems - these pictures are
taken to show the state of the prisoners before they were
"transferred" to be tortured.
Of course, a civilized democratic nation
does not render prisoners to "foreign partners" to be tortured,
but then this implies that the phrase "civilized democratic nation" has
completely changed its meaning, and namely to one
where one still
proudly attributes this phrase to the USA while it renders
prisoners to be gruesomely tortured by "foreign partners" (and also
while insisting this is - of course! - "To Preserve Our Democracy").
This is quoted from a Spencer Ackerman
piece in The Guardian:
Unlike video evidence of CIA torture at
its undocumented “black site” prisons that were destroyed in 2005 by a
senior official, the CIA is said to retain the photographs.
As I said, the reason seems to be
that the CIA wants "documentary proof" that the prisoners they sent out
to be tortured by "foreign partners", at "black sites" at unknown
places, were not too horribly tortured by the CIA until then.
But this is about all that seems to be "probably known" about the
torturing practices of the CIA:
It is not publicly known how many
people, overwhelmingly but not exclusively men, were caught in the
CIA’s web of so-called “extraordinary renditions”, extra-judicial
transfers of detainees to foreign countries, many of which practiced
even more brutal forms of torture than the US came to adopt. Human
rights groups over the years have identified at least 50 people the CIA
rendered, going back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.
This means in effect that the CIA has been
renditioning people to torture centers outside the USA since the
previous century, i.e. since more than 16 years.
Also, it is clearly completely illegal,
but it happens as a matter of course, and it can happen
that way because very few know much about it (most of it is
kept secret) and not many question these practices, and especially not
in the main media.
2. FBI to Apple: Nevermind
is by Common
Dreams Staff on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows, and probably is
the last in the series "Apple vs FBI" that I seem to have started on February 18, 2016:
Following a high-profile attempt by the
FBI and Department of Justice to force Apple to hack its own security
encryption features, the federal government threw in the towel on
Monday as it announced that it had successfully accessed information on
the iPhone belonging to one of the perpetrators of the mass shooting in
San Bernadino, California late last year.
I've also reported on that, and add here
that the FBI did not say how it did gain access to that
cellphone, nor did it say what it found on the phone.
The court case was withdrawn:
In a short court filing on
Monday, the Justice Department said the government "no longer requires"
Apple’s help in accessing the information. The DOJ requested the court
order which instigated the legal battle to be withdrawn.
Incidentally, the court case as formulated by
the DOJ was (in my eyes) a very odd document, because it did
presume (falsely) that the US government
has the legal right to know everything its citizens do
on a computer or cellphone, and also (falsely) that the U.S.
prescribe a corporation or a person to work for it so that the
government could get access to a cellphone (and also to any other
cellphone of that type).
But I suspect these governmental arguments will continue, for the
following reason (as explained by Axel Abdo, staff attorney of the
"This case was never about just
one phone," Abdo said in a statement. "It was about an unprecedented
power-grab by the government that was a threat to everyone’s security
and privacy. Unfortunately, this news appears to be just a delay of an
inevitable fight over whether the FBI can force Apple to undermine the
security of its own products. We would all be more secure if the
government ended this reckless effort."
Yes, but the government insists (falsely)
that it should have access to anyone's computer and cellphone (without
probable cause, without judicial oversight) and since it seems
free to proceed in implementing this very totalitarian
plan, there indeed will be - almost certainly - more court cases like
Is What It's Like to Try to Sue Donald Trump
The third item is by
Hannah Levintovah on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:
And the rest of the article gives a choice
from these "hundreds of lawsuits". I leave them to your interests after
observing that they show (it seems to me) that Trump is not
good businessman, and that he does have
an enormous fascination with his own family name. (He surely must be the greatest individual
Of the many targets of Republican
presidential contenders' attacks on Donald Trump—and there have been
plenty to choose from—one of their favorites has been Trump University.
The now-shuttered educational enterprise (forced to change its
name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative after the New York
education department found its moniker to be misleading) is accused, in
three separate lawsuits, of defrauding thousands of students into
taking on massive debt they now can't pay back by falsely marketing
itself as a road to Trump-level wealth and business success.
But Trump University isn't the only Trump
endeavor that has landed in court. The tycoon has launched—or lent his
name to—a slew of business ventures that have yielded frustrated
customers and investors who have sought legal recourse. There
are hundreds of lawsuits extending over 43 years that name Trump or one
of his businesses
in our whole universe, at the very least, or so it seems from his
But this is useful journalism: one does want to know
the claims of politicians are worth. (And the main media don't do this
anymore, and one reason - I suppose - is that Trump might get angry,
and start court cases.)
4. Entering Uncharted Territory
The fourth item is by Tom Engelhardt on
This starts as follows:
More than seven months before Election
Day, you can watch the 2016 campaign for the presidency at any moment
of your choosing, and that’s been true since at least late last year.
There is essentially never a time when some network or news channel
isn’t reporting on, discussing, debating, analyzing, speculating about,
or simply drooling over some aspect of the primary campaign, of
Hillary, Bernie, Ted, and above all -- a million times above all -- The
Donald (from the violence
at his rallies to the size
of his hands).
In case you’re young and think this is more or less the American norm,
it isn’t. Or wasn’t.
I am not young and not American, but I do
recall the American presidential elections from Kennedy onwards. I
think Tom Engelhardt is correct, even though from my European point of
view these American elections often were loud and a bit odd:
But take my word for it as a 71-year-old
guy who’s been watching our politics for decades: this is not an
election of the kind the textbooks once taught us was so crucial to
American democracy. If, however, you’re sitting there waiting for me to
tell you what it is, take a breath and don’t be too disappointed. I
have no idea, though it’s certainly part bread-and-circuses spectacle,
part celebrity obsession, and part media
But mainly - and this is honest, and
probably also rational - Tom Engelhardt sees that these are not
ordinary elections, but he cannot say what they are. (I can say
that they are extra-ordinary elections, but that much is surely obvious
But I can point to something Engelhardt
does not mention: Bush Jr. had the 2000 elections stolen
for him, by the Supreme Court (and Scalia, specifically), as was also mentioned by Gore Vidal. I do think
that is an important fact, but I agree that it is but one, in a
considerably longer history that starts in the early
1970s (with Lewis
Powell Jr.'s secret memo):
The present yawning inequality
gap between the 1% and ordinary Americans first began to widen in
the 1970s and -- as Thomas Frank explains so brilliantly in his new
Liberal -- was already a powerful and much-discussed reality
in the early 1990s, when Bill Clinton ran for president.
This is true (as I meanwhile found
for myself), and indeed:
The military-industrial complex and the all-volunteer
military, like the warrior
corporation, weren’t born yesterday; neither was our state of perpetual
war, nor the national security state that now looms over
Washington, nor its surveilling
urge, the desire to know far too much about the private lives of
Americans. (A little bow of remembrance to FBI Director J.
Edgar Hoover is in order here.)
There is more on
"the national security state" (an apt term) and the Pentagon, both of
which are very much alive, unlike real democracy and
real law, but for this you have to go to the original.
And there is this, indeed about real democracy and real
law or rather the lack thereof:
Of course, Congress no longer plays any
real role in decisions about American war making. It no longer
declares war on any group or country we fight. (Paralysis!)
War is now purely a matter of executive power or, in reality, the
collective power of the national security state and the White House.
When was it, by the way, that “the people” agreed that the president
could appoint himself assassin-in-chief, muster his legal beagles to
"law" that covered any future acts of his (including the killing
of American citizens), and year after year dispatch what essentially is
his own private fleet of killer drones to knock
across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa?
Incidentally, all these facts came about
through a collapse of real democracy, and all these facts go
against the real laws (that still exist in part, on
Here is a basic conclusion of Tom Engelhardt:
Do I understand it? Not for a second.
This is not war as we knew it, nor
government as we once understood it, nor are these elections as we once
imagined them, nor is this democracy as it used to be conceived of, nor
is this journalism of a kind ever taught in a journalism school. This
is the definition of uncharted territory.
I can add at least two things:
One quite important reason why "war", "government", "elections" and
"democracy" have all changed meaning (or so it seems) is that there are
many more lies,
that also enabled many more non-legal practices by the government.
And one reason this was possible - systematic governmental lying
without much criticism - is the combination of 9/11
and the collapse of the free press, as far as the main media
are concerned, and this basically for lack of advertisements.
But I think that I mostly agree with Tom Engelhardt, although I
probably date and explain it (in so far as possible) somewhat
Ever since Bush was falsely
assigned to be the winner of the 2000 elections by the Supreme Court,
the USA has been moving into a new territory, that is not
consistent with how
"government", "elections" and "democracy" were understood by most
intelligent and informed people until 2000, and that has been
pushed forward by propaganda,
false and wild assertions about "terrorism" and
its supposed implications for governmental powers.
And while the new territory is mostly uncharted, it is
well known from history:
Far more powers for the
rich and for the government, far less powers for the non-rich
and those who don't make part of the government; far less
democracy and far less equality; an executive
government that decides who is to be killed, tortured, rendered to
"partners" for more torture, or detained without trial forever; a
military and Pentagon that grows ever stronger and lays claim to an
ever larger part of the taxes; media that no longer are guided
by the ideal of telling the truth, but but by the
ideals of amusement, fruitful and creative lying, and being
a faithful government speaker; and a "law" that is no longer
directed by ideals of justice, but by
making the most profitable deals.
But we will see how this evolves, and will
know more by December 2016, when the next American president is
supposed to be agreed to.
5. Does The United States
The fifth and last item today is by Paul
Craig Roberts on his site:
This starts as follows:
To answer the question that is the
title, we have to know of what the US consists. Is it an ethnic group,
a collection of buildings and resources, a land mass with boundaries,
or is it the Constitution. Clearly what differentiates the US from
other countries is the US Constitution. The Constitution defines us as
a people. Without the Constitution we would be a different country.
Therefore, to lose the Constitution is to lose the country.
Does the Constitution still exist? Let
us examine the document and come to a conclusion.
The Constitution consists of a
description of a republic with three independent branches, legislative,
executive, and judicial, each with its own powers, and the Bill of
Rights incorporated as constitutional amendments. The Bill of Rights
describes the civil liberties of citizens that cannot be violated by
I take it all of this is known to most
intelligent adults , as is the following:
That is, these are the ideals the
Constitution was intended to serve. What is left of these ideals?
Article I of the Constitution describes
legislative powers. Article II describes executive powers, and Article
III describes the power of the judiciary. For example, Article I,
Section 1 gives all legislative powers to Congress. Article I, Section
8 gives Congress the power to declare war.
The Bill of Rights protects citizens
from the government by making law a shield of the people rather than a
weapon in the hands of the government.
There are these facts, to start with:
The Constitution’s grant of “all
legislative powers” to Congress has been overturned by executive orders
and signing statements. The president can use executive orders to
legislate, and he can use signing statements to render sections of laws
passed by Congress and signed by the president into non-enforced
status. Legislative authority has also been lost by delegating to
executive branch officials the power to write the regulations that
implement the laws that are passed. The right that Section 8 gives to
Congress to declare war has been usurped by the executive branch. Thus,
major powers given to Congress have been lost to the executive branch.
But this just the beginning: In fact -
according to Paul Craig Roberts, but I tend to agree - the
fundamental laws of the Bill of Rights are all either "compromised",
"routinely violated" or "a dead letter".
This is too long to quote, but I refer you to the
original. That sum-up ends like this:
It is paradoxical that every
civil liberty in the Bill of Rights has been lost to a police state
except for the Second Amendment, the gun rights of citizens. An armed
citizenry is inconsistent with a police state, which the US now is.
Actually, that the US is a police state is
asserted but not proved in this article.
And I would say it is and it isn't: It is, by
reference to the enormous powers
the American police has as regards unpunished killing of - especially -
black males, and by reference to its military armaments and styles
(including jackboots) and its illegal gatherings of evidence; it isn't,
by reference to the American laws, that - so far - have not
been changed. (And see item 4).
There is also this on the law in the U.S.A., which also shows by what
manner of arguments the law has been broken down:
Today law as a shield of the
people has been lost. The loss was gradual over time and culminated in
the George W. Bush and Obama regime assaults on habeas corpus and due
That is, in many cases the - more or less
fair, more or less balanced - laws were cut down, because these
prevented doing what some politician insisted needed doing, while
cutting down the law to enable prosecutions or arrests in these extreme
cases, also cut down the legal protections of many more people.
We cut down the law so that we could better
chase after the Mafia. We cut down the law so
that we could better chase after drug users. We
cut down the law so that we could better chase after child abusers. We cut down the law so that we could better chase after
“terrorists.” We cut down the law so that we
could better chase after whistleblowers. We cut
down the law so that we could better cover up the government’s crimes.
The principle is often the same as the principle that "justified"
treating everybody as a possible terrorist:
"Because" anyone might be a terrorist, everybody - including
all citizens who are not Americans - deserved to be
treated as a possible terrorist, which means that his total
computer, all his privacy, and all of his cellphone are
to be open to secret inspection by anonymous
government employees, who here also abuse the fact that so far very
little is effectively encrypted. (This is dealt with above as: "We cut down the law so that we could better chase after
“terrorists.”" - and the law has been
cut down because the law used to be that no one is
researched without probable cause. Now everyone is constantly
researched not because there is any proof he or she is (the
great majority is not), but simply because he or she might be.)
The article ends as follows:
An attack on abortion rights, for
example, produces a far greater outcry and resistance than the
successful attack on habeas corpus and due process. President Obama was
able to declare his power to execute citizens by executive branch
decision alone without due process and conviction in court, and it
produced barely audible protest.
Historically, a government that can,
without due process, throw a citizen into a dungeon or summarily
execute him is considered to be a tyranny, not a democracy. By any
historical definition, the United States today is a tyranny.
Again I say that this article does not
prove that the U.S.A. is a tyranny, and again I say it is and it
isn't: It is, to the extent that these things happen; it isn't, to
the extent that these things do not happen to most U.S.
citizens (who are not Muslims, and - perhaps - also not black). 
In fact, this suggests Sheldon
Wolin may have seen it correctly, when he wrote (in 2002) that the
USA is an inverted totalitarianism: It is totalitarian
(to a larger extent than not), but it is inverted because it
successfully pretends it is not.
These are - according to my oldfashioned use of terms - in a minority.
 Also, a small point of logic: If the
USA does not exist, then also it is not a tyranny. (But this is an