1. The Culture of Torture
in the Trump Era
2. Whistleblower John Kiriakou Critiques the CIA’s
Behavior Following the 2016
3. CNN Host's Attempt to Explain the U.S. Economy Was So
Bad I Started Yelling at the TV
4. Dangerous Americans: The Trump Nominees
is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 18, 2016.
is a crisis
log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about torture and Trump, and is quite good; item 2 is about a long interview with John Kiriakou that is interesting; item 3 is both about propaganda bullshit the mainstream media serve their viewers and about the US economy, that lost
so many jobs because of deregulations and not because of "technology"; and item 4
is about a good article about Trump's nominees (that probably will not
make you happier, unless you are a sadist or a rich person or both, but that is how things are now).
part, for the moment --
In case you visit my
Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in
But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't
(until and including the 16.xii).
case, I am now (again) updating
the opening of my site with the last day it was updated.
(And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times
last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. 
In case you visit my
Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi
and was correct since then (most or all days).
I am very
sorry, and none of it is due to me. I
am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that
also went well for 20 or for 12 years.
keep this introduction until I get three successive days
in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen
for many months now.
1. The Culture of Torture in the Trump Era
The first item
today is by Robert Crawford on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
“Would I bring back
waterboarding? You bet your ass I would. . . . It works.
And even if it doesn’t work they deserve it anyway for what they do to
Yes, indeed. And one relevant point is that torture is forbidden by law, and another is that waterboarding is torture, and has been regarded as torture for some 400 years now, in fact.
Among the anxieties about what Donald
Trump will do once in office is whether the new president will carry
through with his threats to bring back torture.
Whether these facts make any difference to Trump is another question,
which I don't know the answer to, for while it seems I know a fair
amount about Trump's character (as a psychologist) and also a fair
amount about his political
ideology, I do not know what his actual policies will be when he is president. (I can say I am quite pessimistic.)
Here is more:
There are four ways that Trump’s
torture talk has harmed our political culture.
Yes. And as a partial aside, I want to insist that (i) there is state-terrorism (by the police, the military, the secret services) and there is non-state- terrorism (by anyone engaging in terrorism who is not funded by or protected by a state), and (ii) state-terrorism is very much more dangerous than non-state-terrorism
in terms of its numbers of victims (Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia,
Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia are just four examples).
First, one of the most enduring struggles
over the powers of government is about legitimate and illegitimate uses
of violence. Examples include allowable violence for police
and prison personnel, the death penalty, targeted assassinations, and
acceptable violence toward enemy soldiers and populations in war zones.
These examples remind us that limiting state violence is a work in
Torture is a case in point.
Incidentally, when I am talking about terrorism (and torture is a kind of terrorism), I mean this:
Terrorism: Attempt to get one's way in
politics or religion by violence and murder, directed especially at civilians.
Here is more by Robert Crawford:
Very many religious and political groups
have indulged in terrorism, if given the chance, though the
perpetrators of terrorism almost always call it by a different name,
such as "fight for freedom", "guerilla", "righteousness of the
faithful", or "Holy War".
One of the functions of the state is to protect its population from
terrorism, which often happens by denying the population the right to
bear arms. The great danger of states is that state-terrorism has
been by far the most dangerous and succesful form of terrorism:
Hundreds of millions of individual human beings were murdered in the
20th C alone by state-terrorism. (Fascism, Communism).
The normal effect of terrorists who
oppose some state - including those merely called so by organs of state
security - is to increase the powers and
practices of state-terrorism in order "to fight terrorism".
Second, Trump’s torture rhetoric
moved seamlessly from instrumental arguments about obtaining vital
information to the language of revenge—a well-worn pathway to the
acceptance of violence. Trump’s “even if it doesn’t work .
. .” comment reveals that he is willing to disregard professional
interrogators’ advice that torture is ineffective. Instead, he
promotes the regressive human urge to inflict pain for the sake of
Yes indeed. Here are two additional points:
As if torture of terrorist suspects were
not enough, Trump also threatened to “take out their families.”
Never mind that collective punishment, like torture, is a war crime.
One. In fact, I don't know myself what to make of the statement that "professional
interrogators" have adviced "that torture is ineffective"
and two of my reasons are that there are quite a few kinds of torture, while
the above makes it unclear in what way it is "ineffective".
I suppose that the "professional
interrogators" were talking about getting detailed information from the people they interrogate, and they may well be right in that respect.
But extremely much pain may be given to people in one's power
(e.g. by extracting their nails and putting electrodes on their
genitals) that few can
resist for a long time, while it seems anyone can be eventually broken by enough tortures - and this seems to be often the point: It is less a matter
of getting information as of frightening others by the amounts of cruel sadism one uses.
Two. "Taking out the families" of people the state's terrorists call "terrorists" seems to have been done systematically by Stalin. Again, Robert Crawford is quite right it is a major (war) crime, but I don't know this will stop Trump.
Here is more by Robert Crawford:
Third, torture is highly symbolic
of violence of a particular kind: the violence exerted by the
all-powerful upon a helpless victim. The will of the
jailor-interrogator cannot be opposed. The sense of vulnerability
induced by terrorist violence undergoes a psycho-political reversal via
a strongman willing to feed off fantasies of total dominance.
In fact, this is the attraction of sadism,
for that is what torture is. And sadism seems to be quite appealing to
Donald Trump, although he probably does not like the term.
It is this very quality of inflicting
torment on a totally helpless victim that has made torture so
reprehensible for those who still believe that human dignity is a first
principle of human relationships.
In fact, here is how I defined the term (which tends to be ill-defined):
pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others or from causing others
pain or misery.
I think sadism in the above sense, as derived from malice, is a very strong personal characteristic of Trump (and more so than in most others, in my opinion).
The term 'sadism' is derived from the
Marquis de Sade, who much exulted in sexual
pleasure derived from the infliction of pain and of cruelty to others,
and who wrote many books in praise of sadism, especially in the defined
When sadism is defined without necessary involvement of sexual
pleasure, but in effect as the human-all-too-human joys derived from
malice, it may be seen that
sadism, thus defined, accounts for many human acts, especially against
those whom the perpetrators dislike, consider as enemies, or believe to
Indeed, there is much more sadism in
human beings than
most are willing
to admit: Very many people derive much pleasure from being in
of power and by hurting, denigrating, demeaning or displeasing
others. It probably does not arouse most of them sexually,
but they wouldn't do it if it did not please them. And this kind
pleasure seems to be one of the
strongest motivators of those who desire to be boss: To let others feel
they are inferior.
"We never hurt each other but by
error or by malice."
Robert Chambers, possibly inspired by Dr. Johnson)
Together with stupidity,
sadism explains two famous and mostly correct observations on
"History is little else but the
register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"
l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."
For clearly most of the harm that human beings have done to human
beings - millions upon millions killed, tortured, raped, exploited,
starved, persecuted - was done on purpose, and willingly, and for the
noblest sounding moral pretexts.
Accordingly, this 'human-all-too-human' desire to hurt, harm, demean, denigrate,
abuse or exploit
others is one of the normally unacknowledged forces of
history, as is
It is probably the normal human reaction to
personal unhappiness: Make others suffer at least as much as one does
oneself; demean those who seem better of than oneself, if one can do so
without danger to oneself; and take vengeance for one's own pains, miseries
and disappointments by
wrecking even more of the same on the supposed enemies of one's society,
or on social deviants or dissidents, since then one also gains moral
credits easily, with the majority of one's peers.
Here is more by Robert Crawford:
Fourth, the rhetoric of torture
reinforces the false assurance that security can be guaranteed only by
a willingness to employ “any means necessary” against an intractable
enemy. From this premise, moral limits on means must be
subordinated to the presumed justification of ends. This is a
recipe for civilian, military, and security officials to “take the
gloves off” or “go to the dark side”—phrases that still haunt our
political culture from the early post-9/11 era of Bush, Cheney,
Rumsfeld and Tenet.
fact, "the rhetoric of torture" amounts to "the more sadistic we treat
our opponents, the better it is for us" and is both stupid (the enemy
will then be inclined to do the same), denies the possibility of any
compromise, and is itself out and out sadistic (which is not what most people want "their" military to be).
And Crawford is quite right that once the ends justify the means, all
moral norms of any kind will be discarded if these in any way oppose
the ends (as moral norms are supposed to do).
Here is the last bit that I'll quote:
Finally, the American people
cannot begin to grapple with the moral dimensions of torture until they
have full knowledge of personal and political consequences of the
Bush-Cheney torture years. President Obama could still help by
declassifying the full Senate torture report and thereby releasing it
to the public.
don't think Obama will help to declassify the full Senate torture
report. (I may be too cynical about Obama, but that is what I think.)
And I disagree with Crawford that "the American people
cannot begin to grapple with the moral dimensions of torture"
without full knowledge of what Bush and Cheney did: There is a lot of
information about torture, and - unless one is a sadist or a psychopath
- most of it is quite convincing in making people against its use.
If the damage caused by Trump’s language
of violence is to be reversed, we must not abandon a moral
understanding of politics—a politics about what kind of people we want
to be, what we want this nation to stand for and the future our
children will inherit.
Finally, if we "abandon a moral
understanding of politics" we abandon politics, and exchange it for sadism, militarism and many tortures.
And this is a strongly recommended article.
2. Whistleblower John Kiriakou Critiques the CIA’s Behavior
Following the 2016 U.S. Election
The second item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This is from near the beginning:
Yes, I agree with Kiriakou. Also, there is this rejection of the whole story by some of the best former members of the NSA: William Binney, Ray McGovern and Other Intel Experts Call Russian Hacking
Allegations ‘Baseless’ (from December 14, last). I think myself that is quite plausible.
Scheer: Let’s start obviously
with the CIA and there’s been anonymous sources in the Washington Post,
I’m sure you followed the story. Today, there’s discussion of Vladimir
Putin being involved in hacking our US election. What do you make of
Kiriakou: Honestly, in my gut, this
just feels like a red herring to me. First of all, nobody has really
defined what hacking means. Are the Russian being accused of having
hacked in the voting machines to steal the election? I’ve not seen that
yet. Have they been accused of hacking emails? Yes, but if so, what was
the fallout? I mean, this is something that the big powers do to each
other all the time, and God knows the United States has a very long
history, a rich history of interfering in the elections of other
countries. I’m not really sure what the outrage is.
indeed, but what Kiriakou doesn't mention here is that The Washington
Post has been bought in 2013 by billionaire Jeff Bezos (who also owns
Amazon and $66.6 billion), which may explain a fair amount of the
Washington Post's "very dramatic move to
the right over the last couple of years".
Kiriakou: (..) I think the issue
is deeper, but first let’s talk about the Washington Post. It’s funny
to me that the Washington Post and elements of the Democratic Party
have flipped sides, flipped positions with the conservative movement in
this country. The Washington Post, for example, last week, listing
websites that they’re accusing of being Russian influenced without any
proof at all. That bothered me very much. In fact, several are websites
that I write for regularly, including Truthdig. I happen to know the
proprietors of Truthdig and I know that they’re not Russian agents.
That was very disappointing to me.
I would also say that Donald Trump aside, I
have found that the Washington Post has made a very dramatic move to
the right over the last couple of years.
Then there is this about the CIA:
Scheer: (...) Is this
something where the CIA might be afraid of what Trump might do to the
I say, for I didn't know that. (And I don't think "breaking up the CIA" is "about as bad" as not being listened to: That's an exaggeration, especially if they still
Kiriakou: Yeah. You know Josh, I
think that’s a very important point, and I think the answer is yes. I
still stay in touch with a lot of CIA people, and just across the
board, their opinion is that this is bad. I think most Americans don’t
realize how bad this is, if you’re in the CIA, because for the first
time, really, since John Kennedy was president, you have a
president-elect who just simply doesn’t trust the organization.
Now, Kennedy famously wanted to break up
the CIA. Trump hasn’t said anything like that, but ignoring the CIA and
its analysis is just about as bad if you’re on the inside.
get all the money they want.)
Here is the final bit I'll quote from this article:
Kiriakou: (...) The CIA
has had a very close relationship with Barack Obama, not just because
John Brennan was a campaign official and was Obama’s counter-terrorism
czar on the NSC for four years, but also because of Leon Panetta and
the personal closeness between Panetta and Obama. Sure, the CIA is very
close to Obama personally and to the Obama administration, but it was
also very close personally and organizationally to the Bush
administration before it.
I say again, for while I knew something like this is the case, this gives some more detail.
This is an interesting article and there is considerably more, e.g.
about John Sterling, who is in prison with a serious heart complaint.
3. CNN Host's Attempt to
Explain the U.S. Economy Was So Bad I Started Yelling at the TV
The third item is by Les Leopold on AlterNet:
This is from near the beginning (and the italic part is quoted from a CNN program, with Harlow being the CNN host):
Yes indeed - and this is a good example of how TV and the mainstream media engage in propaganda: THE reason why US corporations left the USA and restarted in India and other low wage countries is that the deregulations started under Reagan and continued by Bill Clinton allowed them to stop using American
HARLOW: What is the number-one thing
you would like to see the incoming administration do that you think
will help people in your situation? Because, you know, Donald Trump
points to global trade as being the reason that your jobs are going
away. That's not all of it. A lot of it is, as you know well,
automation and technology.
FELTNER: These companies are leaving
to exploit cheap labor. That's plain and simple. If he can change those
trade policies to keep those jobs here in America, that's what we need.
We need American jobs, not just union jobs.
HARLOW: But you agree it won't save
all of them, because of automation, because of technology.
Please Poppy, come off it! Feltner is
right. Offshoring is about the rush to cheap labor, not about
automation and new technology.
laborers and instead use the very much cheaper Indian (etc.) ones.
Indeed here are the facts, when Germany is compared with the USA:
I think that is a very good analysis - and again, it are the deregulations that
Instead of regurgitating meaningless
economic platitudes, newscasters and pundits should confront some facts
about Germany's extensive manufacturing sector.
Fact #1: Germany uses the most advanced
technologies in the world.
Fact #2: Manufacturing workers in
Germany earn much more than their U.S. counterparts:
44.7% more in textiles, 44.6% more in chemicals, 34.2% more in machine
tools, and 66.9% more in the automobile industry.
Fact #3: Manufacturing jobs make up 22%
of the German workforce and account
for 21% of the GDP. U.S. manufacturing jobs make up only 11% of our
workforce and only 13% of our GDP.
Fact #4: The economic gods either speak
German or the Germans are doing things differently from their U.S
Rather than divine intervention, German
manufacturing depends on producing high-quality products that are so
good people the world over are willing to pay a premium for them.
allowed the USA's rich to drop the USA's working men and women, and gain
more profits from exploiting the poor in poor countries. Technology has
nothing to do with it; profits, deregulations and greed of the rich
And here is what really takes place and took place in the USA - and in what follows the operative term is "stock
buy-backs in fact take away the powers investors and speculators had over
CEOs and give these powers to the CEOS, who then are free to enormously
American manufacturers have chosen a
different path. Their CEOs grow wealthy by financially strip-mining
their own companies, aided and abetted by elite financiers who have
only one goal: extracting as much wealth as possible from the company
while putting back as little as possible into production and workers.
The heroin driving their addiction is stock
buybacks—a company using its own profits (or borrowed money) to buy
back the company's own shares.
increase their own incomes and to do as they want.
Here is one highly relevant question plus its answer:
Wait, wait, isn't this stock
manipulation? Well, before the Reagan administration deregulated them
in 1982, stock buybacks indeed were considered stock manipulation and
one of the causes of the 1929 crash. Now they are so ubiquitous that
upwards of 75% of all corporate profits go to stock buybacks.
And that has been going on now for 34 years. Here is the end of the article, that is completely correct:
Brother Feltner is right.
Corporations are moving offshore to cut their wage bills. But they are
not using that money to reinvest in their companies to improve the
product and train the workforce. Instead, they are offshoring to gain
cash flow to finance their fix. They want more stock buybacks which in
turn enrich top executives and Wall Street investors. Automation and
technology have nothing to do with this perilous addiction.
Precisely. And this is a strongly recommended article.
4. Dangerous Americans: The Trump Nominees in Full
The fourth and last item today is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout:
This is from near the beginning:
I left shock behind weeks ago, and now
greet these appalling cabinet nominations with what could be called a
feeble grunt. Andrew Puzder hates workers? Labor Secretary! Scott
Pruitt hates the EPA? EPA Secretary! Tom Price hates contraception?
Health Secretary! Betsy DeVos hates public schools? Education
Secretary! It's like "Opposite Day" around here. Anyone at the
inauguration party who sees fava beans and a nice Chianti on the menu
should run for their lives.
Sometimes you have to laugh because the
truth, as it stands, is terrifying.
In fact, this is the beginning of a fairly long and quite good article in which most of the nominations of Trump get discussed, and indeed get discussed in terms I consider appropriate.
I will leave all of that to your interests, but it is recommended. Here is the end of this article:
People in this country become obsessed
with the individuals running for president, and always manage to forget
that some 4,500 other people follow the election's winner into the
White House. Far more than any president, these are the people who make
and set real policy, and who have the most real impact on everyday
lives. This rogue's gallery is, far and away, the worst, most
unsuitable, most unprepared, most dangerous rack of nominees ever
assembled. Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice collapsed the economy
and got millions of people killed. These people could very well leave
that pestilent record in deep shade.
They are only nominees for now, but
given that the Senate is owned by the Republicans and the Republicans
are owned by Trump, the possibility of thwarting any of them -- much
less all of them -- is murderously slim. Bannon wants to tear
everything down, and Trump enjoys making people suffer. They will both
get their wish ere long.
Yes indeed. I fear William Rivers Pitt is quite right, and this is a recommended article.
this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for
months now. I
do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of
KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from
2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control
myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because
"you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which
is the perfect excuse never to do anything