From The Washington Post, a fun fact that is unlikely to go viral in the MSM:
Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.
I find the whole situation surrounding the upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu endlessly fascinating. As you’ve no doubt read Speaker Boehner has invited the PM to address the House of Representatives, which is not in itself unusual. But the context is troubling: here in the US the Senate is considering new sanctions on Iran in the very midst of negotiations with that country over the future of its nuclear program, sanctions that are explicitly aimed at scuttling the negotiations undertaken by the Obama administration. The PM’s speech will almost certainly argue in favor of the sanctions, another blatant interference in US politics by a old pro looking for personal advantage in muddy waters.
In Israel, there’s an election coming up, a surprise election in that Netanyahu called it before he was required to by law, which presumably means he considered it politically preferable to do so. The speech is now scheduled for two weeks before the election, a date apparently set at the PM’s request, and one that will have him on Israeli TV a great deal just as the election approaches looking diplomatic and looming over his competitors on the world stage.
Icing on the cake is that Israel’s current Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, negotiated the arrangements for the speech with Boehner’s office in secret. Dermer, in fact, met for a couple of hours with Secretary of State Kerry on the day before the speech was announced and failed even to mention it to Kerry. In personal life that would be considered a pretty serious slight, and from what I understand it’s a pretty serious one for diplomats as well.
At TPM Josh Marshall rounded up the current knowledge and reporting on the topic. Of the Dermer/Kerry meeting he said, “In almost any other case, such bad faith and duplicity would lead a host country to ask that an ambassador be withdrawn.” There are undoubtedly many reasons why that wouldn’t happen in this case, from the supposed blow such action might deliver to the special relationship to the possibility that Netanyahu would publicly consider refusing to withdraw until after the election, and the more likely possibility that the request to withdraw would be received in Israel as an inappropriate attempt to interject into the election the contempt the two leaders hold for each other.
Now, though, the President and Secretary of State have both refused to meet with the Prime Minister during his visit; the tide seems to be turning against Netanyahu’s political maneuvering (though as many have pointed out he is a political grandmaster) — even Fox News pundits have criticized the speech; and the Ambassador’s role in secret and even duplicitous negotiations with Speaker Boehner is public knowledge. While the White House might be politically barred from requesting withdrawal, it couldn’t be more obvious that the Ambassador will henceforth be considered unworthy of trust by the very individuals he’s sent here to work and communicate with. Israelis arguing that Netanyahu has already endangered the special relationship would thus seem to have some hard data, in fact almost-real-time play-by-play, showing how the PM puts his own political fortunes ahead of the interests of the country. It’s hard, after all, to argue that Dermer is anything but useless as ambassador to the US until such time as Republicans control the White House.
Finally, if I can think it through this far, I expect Netanyahu can as well. What is his strategy? Does he imagine that the GOP now has its act together enough to elect his man-bae Mitt? Crazy as that sounds, I think he shared, perhaps still shares, pollsters with the Romney campaign, so maybe he’s similarly misguided. Is this an act of political desperation, scrambling for anything that floats? Or perhaps it has become natural to him to think first of how he might muddy the waters. He has maintained himself at the top of the heap for longer than anyone since ben Gurion despite having little personal support from the public at large, few long-time allies, and no obvious powerful coalition or interest behind him. In the US that wouldn’t work, but in the world of Israeli politics where the smallest and most extreme parties often determine the top office-holders, Netanyahu makes it fly. This sort of maneuvering works best in complex, unclear, even muddy sitations. Perhaps Bibi has a plan, despite how it looks right now. Though we can certainly hope not.
Like all truly workable, practical, sensible and desirable political proposals in the world’s greatest democracy, this one too ain’t never gonna happen. It comes from a comment to this posting on The Dish.
Forget the draft. The way to make both politicians and the electorate think more carefully about our use of military force would be a war tax. Imagine if every foreign military intervention automatically triggered substantial increases in income tax rates, especially in the top tax brackets. It could be arranged so that multiple simultaneous foreign interventions would cause multiple increases, with two or more interventions leading to essentially confiscatory taxes on incomes over $1M.
I don’t know whether a draft would really cause anyone to think more about their foreign policy choices, but if I know Republicans, confiscatory taxes would definitely do the trick. It also seems more just: the draft idea deprives young people of their freedom and possibly their lives in an attempt to influence the donor class’ political choices, while the war tax would leave young people alone and directly target the kinds of people who hold influence over politicians.
From Fox News:
Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin is saying she is “seriously interested” in running for president in 2016, injecting some intrigued into next year’s race and the already crowded field of potential GOP candidates.
Palin — also a former vice presidential nominee and a perennial potential candidate — has twice told reporters over the past several days that she is interested in running.
The 50-year-old Palin made her comment before speaking on Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit, the first big conservative gathering of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
Palin first told ABC News, while serving wild boar chili on Thursday to the homeless in Las Vegas, that she is interested in the 2016 presidential election.
They say that the first person in any political argument who stoops to invoking Nazi Germany automatically loses. But you can look it up: According to a 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the English word “privatization” derives from a coinage, Reprivatisierung, formulated in the 1930s to describe the Third Reich’s policy of winning businessmen’s loyalty by handing over state property to them.
In the American context, the idea also began on the Right (to be fair, entirely independent of the Nazis) — and promptly went nowhere for decades. In 1963, when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mused “I think we ought to sell the TVA”— referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant complex of New Deal dams that delivered electricity for the first time to vast swaths of the rural Southeast — it helped seal his campaign’s doom. Things only really took off after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sale of U.K. state assets like British Petroleum and Rolls Royce in the 1980s made the idea fashionable among elites — including a rightward tending Democratic Party.
From the The Guardian:
As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet, the Pentagon said.
During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1bn to more than $11.4bn, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8bn.
Repeated clicking on the screen grab above will result in nothing but finger fatigue, whereas a single click here brings up video of game highlights. The price? For you, nothing.
From the Associated Press:
Department spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Wednesday that the new rugs at the sheriff’s administration building say “In Dog We Trust” instead of “In God We Trust.”
The forest green rugs with the sheriff’s yellow badge were in the entrance area for a couple of months when the error was discovered.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center is looking to hire a college student or recent graduate—
—able to travel on a regular basis, as much of our work involves overnight (Mon-Thurs) travel to east Texas and southeast Louisiana. Individual trip duration will vary from 1 night to 4 consecutive nights. The student will be exposed to year-round field conditions including extremes of temperature, humidity, and rain. In addition, field work involves long days/nights traversing through swamps, streams, and other wetlands. Many field work days are in excess of 8 hours, sometimes not returning to the hotel/Wetlands Center until 2 a.m. or later. Many field locations are in remote areas with snakes, alligators, bees, wasps, mosquitos, and spiders. The student must be comfortable with catching amphibians and reptiles (excluding venomous snakes and alligators). The student must also be comfortable riding in boats and canoes, and wading in waist-deep waters.
Those interested may apply to Hardin Waddle at email@example.com.
…except that the Supreme Court has since declared legal the whole corrupt process described below by Henry George, Jr. in The Menace of Privilege (1906). Which is, I guess, one way of stamping out crime.
There would, perhaps, be little need for the creating of corporations were it not for the granting of privileges. But artificial persons, which have more powers than natural persons and life-everlasting, are far better suited than natural persons to take care of privileges — to fight for their continuance and extension. As a consequence it has now become almost an invariable rule either for artificial persons under the general corporation laws to receive from Government the special grants of power; or else such privileges, being granted to natural persons, are at once by them turned over to corporations or artificial persons. And these artificial persons possessing Government grants, are the most active and most potent of all persons in politics.
The very significant aspect of the Presidential contest of 1904 was the charge by opponents against the managers of each of the two great parties of receiving campaign contributions from the large privilege-possessing corporations. More significant still was the common belief that the charge was true, the partisan view being that, while the opposing candidate would of necessity be contaminated by such money, their own candidate was too upright and too strong to be swerved in the least from principle, affected in the least for evil. Yet Presidents are but men, subject to men’s strengths and weaknesses. And just as Mr. Buchanan was most complacent in face of the growing aggressiveness of the slave power which seated him and supported him in the Presidency, so monopoly powers might reasonable expect at least protection from a Chief Executive which their money and their efforts materially contributed toward seating in the White House.
In what wonderful new ways will 2015 lift America up, up, and away from the political morass and income stagnation of 2014? The New York Times is on the case:
“Among Democrats, that means greater government spending on education, infrastructure and even direct job creation. Among Republicans, it means far-reaching shifts in taxation and regulation.” [Question to ponder: in what ways are these strategies revisions of the Democratic and Republican playbooks?]
Democratic strategy starts with improved education and training to enhance workers’ skills and productivity:
More than $500 billion a year, “across as many dimensions as you could,” from early education to community college to vocational training matching worker skills to employers’ needs [Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, formerly chairman of the Obama Council of Economic Advisors]…
“Direct government job creation to tighten labor markets, bid up wages, and enhance prospects for the long-term unemployed.” [Jared Bernstein, former chief economic advisor to vice president Joseph Biden]…
Support infrastructure spending to create short-term jobs and boost long-term potential with better seaports, airports and highways…
$200 billion annually in new public and private infrastructure spending for ten years [Lawrence Summers, former director of the National Economic Council and president of Harvard University]…
For Democrats especially, boosting economic growth is only part of the solution. Another part is countering economic trends that have most benefited the highest-earning families…
Expanding incentives for workers to acquire stock in their employers, and for employees to offer workers incentive pay tied to the firm’s profitability [Richard Freeman, Harvard labor economist; “We presented some of these things to the Obama administration and the Wall Street guys just killed them.”]…
The Republican debate consists largely of getting government out of the way:
Reducing occupational licensing for some industries, like cosmetology [Michael Strain “of the conservative YG Network”]…
Shorter copyright terms for books, movies and other intellectual property would spur fresh innovation and job creation [James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute]…
Lifting the long-standing ban on United States oil exports and relaxing restrictions on liquefied natural gas exports [Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office under G. W. Bush]…
Moving away from taxing income toward taxing energy sources [Steve Bell, long-time Senate Republican aide now at the Bipartisan Policy Center]…
But the most popular conservative idea for boosting incomes is overhauling corporate taxation…Because loophole beneficiaries do not want to give them up, “revenue neutrality” makes cutting rates much harder [for Congressmen]. Casting off this constraint and simply lowering rates, said Kevin Hassett, and economist at the American Enterprise Institute, would cause corporations to rapidly bring overseas jobs home.
And so, dear friends … on to 2015!
Iowa center Bethany Doolittle goes up as Rutgers goes down, 79-72, on Saturday in Piscataway. Which is in New Jersey. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
For a good time, listen to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, describe his experiences researching several endangered species for a BBC radio documentary entitled Last Chance To See. These are animals that are being driven to extinction by mankind’s thoughtless intrusion into their habitats. If this doesn’t turn you into a conservationist nothing will, but his description of traveling through places like Madagascar, Komodo Island, China and New Zealand will have you rolling on the floor, so laugh and cry at the same time. You’ll be glad you watched this. Really, you will.
Adams died of a heart attack just a couple of days after this talk. I imagine he would be saddened, though not the least bit surprised, that things have only gotten worse over the last decade.
Happy New Year to Bad Attitudes readers! I hope this year brings you whatever you need.
And I’m hoping that for the world, too, though in the latter case I remain somewhat skeptical. In the US, as we stare down the barrel of a Hillary Clinton presidency, with a possible challenge from Jeb Bush, it’s good to be reminded that other civilized countries — perhaps I should omit “other” — are not as locked into the old order as we remain. In fact there are active movements to change that order, for example in the two parties I mentioned in a previous post, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. The ranks of both parties were empty a few years ago, and now the powers that have controlled the government to the benefit of their own class at the expense, both fiscal and moral, of the rest are feeling the heat. The level of panic is evident in their actions, such as the surprise call for snap elections in Greece after the third failure of the legislature to elect a president, a largely honorary role in that country’s system; the maneuvering among old-order parties in Spain to overcome existing differences and partner against the new power that has arrived so recently yet seems so fearsome; and even the uncertainty in the UK about the upcoming election and the probability of another coalition of convenience or some other form of minority government.
As usual, Seamus Milne puts it better and more clearly:
The powers that be in Europe are determined to prop up a failed economic model regardless of the cost — as they will be in Britain if Labour wins the general election in May. The aftershocks of the breakdown of that neoliberal regime are still being felt across the world economy — in falling commodity prices, capital flight, stagnation and recession. But the interests that depend on it won’t let go without a serious challenge.
That’s just as true in terms of global power. The US and its satellites, including Britain, may have suffered a strategic defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan — symbolised by last weekend’s ceremony to mark the end of Nato’s combat mission, held in secret for fear of Taliban attacks. But they’re not letting go either. Some 13,000 troops are staying on as “trainers”, just as thousands of western troops have been returning to Iraq for the war against Isis — the al-Qaida breakaway spawned by their own invasion and occupation — with talk of a major assault in the spring.
In the same spirit, every effort was made at the time of the Arab uprisings of 2011 to hijack, control or crush them. Some of the results can be seen today in the disaster zone across the Middle East, the growing power of the western-backed autocracies of the Gulf, the brutality of Egypt’s new dictatorship and the maelstrom in post-intervention Libya, whose civil war is likely to intensify in the coming months.
Here’s hoping the world finds ways to cope, and we all live long and prosper!
According to the latest Gallup Poll, Hillary Clinton is the most admired women in America, and she has been for 17 of the last 18 years. This will be used to help create the Hillary Is An Unstoppable Juggernaut narrative that is just getting underway and will soon become unendurable. The same process that brought us Regular Guy George W. and Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is now going to sell us Hillary Clinton, Unbeatable Titan of 2016, and maybe even The Most Beloved Women in America Since Eleanor Roosevelt!
It’s just another bullshit media narrative. Once the meme machine shifts in gear it can con you into believing anything. It can convince you that goose eggs are caviar and grape soda is wine if powerful people want it that way, but it would still be bullshit. Hillary Clinton and the Beltway claque can delude themselves all they want about her inevitability and her appeal, the fact is it won’t matter when the campaign starts in earnest. She’s popular right now because nobody has seen her lately. She occasionally makes pronouncements about Important Events, but apart from that she’s largely been out of the public eye. Well, everybody loves their mother-in-law when she’s back home in Olathe, but during a two week’s visit at Christmas her virtues quickly fade.
Will Hillary Clinton still be the most admired women in America six months deep into the campaign? Will wall-to- wall coverage of her robotically calculating, condescending, transparently cynical politicking still warm the hearts of Americans? It won’t, and half the country will view her just like they viewed Ann Romney: an arrogant and entitled aristocrat who thinks the little people smell.
Meanwhile, another bullshit narrative will come barreling down the road and catch Team Clinton utterly flat-footed, just like in 2008. They will discover, too late, that “Vote For Hillary — It’s Her Turn!” is neither an appealing nor an effective campaign strategy. And once the Chris Matthews-Maureen Dowd set grab hold of this new bullshit narrative, Hillary will be in deep, deep trouble. That bullshit narrative might look something like this: Jeb Bush, A New Kind of Conservative, Nobly Fighting to Redeem His Family’s Name.…Read on
Remove the word “rail” and change “Westminster” to “Washington”, and Polly Toynbee is describing the US rather than the UK.
For those at the sharp end — the low-paid, the food bank users, bedroom tax debtors and all who struggle with rising rents and unpayable bills on fallen incomes — life will become more or less bearable according to the swing of the electoral pendulum. For middling earners fretting over inescapable commuter rail fare rises, outraged by the energy companies’ cartel, anxious over their children’s chance of finding a decent footing in work or housing, what happens at Westminster matters more than ever. Those feeling alienated need to know that not voting is no protest: it’s a vote gifted to those you most detest.
What we need here is our own Syriza or Podemos. But past empires have prevented such occurrences as long as they were strong enough to do so. Here again we have the chance to be different, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
Anton Chekhov died in 1904 from tuberculosis at the tender age of forty-four. One of my old Russian instructors, an Armenian linguist and grammarian from the Soviet Union, met Chekhov’s widow when she was at an advanced old age. He asked her if she might say a few words about the great writer.
“Ehh, ” she shrugged, airily waving her hand, “it was so long ago I can barely remember.”
Have you ever wondered what public toilets in Ancient Rome looked like? Of course you have. They looked like this:
It was a social occasion. You could take a shit and talk shit at the same time (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). (It just sort of dropped out.)
This is one Roman custom I could bypass, although they had many I admire. For example, I can think of some prominent CEOs, politicians, and “public servants” I wouldn’t mind seeing get tossed to the lions, provided it didn’t harm the animals in any way.
You’ve probably read about the Steve Scalise controversy. In brief, the third-ranking House Republican offical is from Louisiana, and he’s in trouble. It turns out that in 2002 he spoke to a rally organized by white supremacists including the infamous David Duke.
Scalise’s office is denying that he knew who Duke was twelve years ago, but that’s transparently silly. Duke had mounted a surprisingly strong run for governor in 1991. In 1999 Scalise was a state representative, in which context he was asked by Roll Call how he could compete with Duke in an election for Congress. He replied, “The novelty of David Duke has worn off… The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.” In 2004 Scalise voted against making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. Ninety legislators voted in favor, while Scalise took his stand with the six who voted against. These are not the actions of a Louisiana politician who’s unaware of David Duke.
Clearly Boehner will have to dump him. Given the GOP’s PR-only efforts to reduce the toxicity of the brand among anyone other than older rural whites, having an(other) open racist on the top leadership team is not in the cards, whatever views the other leaders and their supporters might hold privately. But I was struck by one thing Scalise said in his own defense:
I don’t support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout South Louisiana… I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group … I still went and spoke to them. I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.
The League of Women Voters, in Scalise’s mind, is as radical a group as David Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization. And when making such a ridiculous statement he is not laughed out of the room, but instead can expect a number of heads nodding in agreement at every Republican gathering.
Chomsky has long said that the goal of those we now call the one percenters is to roll back the twentieth century, a period during which an increasing portion of the population gained some basic rights, de jure if not always de facto. In some areas (e.g., the federal safety net) they have managed to impede or block progress; in others (e.g., financial regulation, federal secrecy) they have turned back the clock to the Depression era.
Most regrettably of all, they have cheapened public discourse to the point that non-partisan organizations advocating participation in voting can be compared to racist hate groups and no one bats an eye. Just par for the course in covering today’s Republican party.
So how much mileage can the US get out of North Korean hackers? I’m no expert — I only play one on a blog, ha ha — but on the villain scale, I place them higher than Somali pirates but lower than hooded ISIS maniacs waving severed heads around.
Let’s face it, the whole war on terror thing is getting old. It just doesn’t rally the people like it used to. Americans crave newness and novelty. If you give them the same old enemies over and over again they will get bored, and if they get bored they might start seriously complaining about jobs and the economy and stuff, which mustn’t be allowed to happen.
So what’s an incompetent and increasingly unpopular national security state to do? They can’t wait around for Putin to become a Hitler forever, and their attempt to turn him into one was a big fat dud. So until something bigger and badder comes along, scary North Koreans doing scary things on computers will have to do. The fact that they might not have been responsible for that dastardly plot to prevent Americans from seeing a crappy movie is irrelevant. It has truthiness, and truthiness is all our national security institutions need in order to stir up hysteria, start shit with someone, and demand more funding (and power).
This holiday season, Americans showed their patriotism and bravery by … going to a movie.
My heart swells with pride. Are we a bold and hearty people or what?
I could write a book about teaching, but it would only consist of two sentences:
1. Give a shit about the students.
2. Give a shit about the students some more, and don’t ever lie to them.
There they are, O’Hollern’s principles of pedagogy.
This from Richard Hofstadter’s 1965 book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics:
Goldwater’s departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, though hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the North — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help him in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican party. By adopting “the Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselves not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the North which required the search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile delinquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.I had forgotten that it was Goldwater in 1964 and not Nixon in 1968 who first embraced and named the racist strategy that ever since has been at the heart of Republican electoral strategy.
Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station. Go here to appreciate fully the double bind he applies to the torture lovers of the GOP.
You know, it’s goddamned appalling that you actually have to torture a Republican to get them to act like a decent moral human being, to live up the morals and the ideals and the exceptionalism that we, the United States of America, that shining city on the hill, are supposed to represent.
John McCain the POW gets no credit from me for coming out against torture.
A reality check from Nafeez Ahmed on our national hand-wringing over government torture. Like the poor, official torture is always with us. Read it all and weep, if you have tears left.
Media coverage of the Senate report has largely whitewashed the extent to which torture has always been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since the second World War, continuing even today under the careful recalibration of Obama and his senior military intelligence officials. The key function of torture, largely overlooked by the pundits, is its role in manufacturing nebulous threats that legitimize the existence and expansion of the national security apparatus…
Yet Obama did not ban torture in 2009, and has not rescinded it now. He instead rehabilitated torture with a carefully crafted Executive Order that has received little scrutiny. He demanded, for instance, that interrogation techniques be made to fit the US Army Field Manual, which complies with the Geneva Convention and has prohibited torture since 1956.
But in 2006, revisions were made to the Army Field Manual, in particular through ‘Appendix M’, which contained interrogation techniques that went far beyond the original Geneva-inspired restrictions of the original version of the manual. This includes 19 methods of interrogation and the practice of extraordinary rendition. As pointed out by US psychologist Jeff Kaye who has worked extensively with torture victims, a new UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) review of the manual shows that a wide-range of torture techniques continue to be deployed by the US government, including isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, chemically-induced psychosis, adjustments of environmental and dietary rules, among others.
Here is a commenter on The Dish, defending waterboarding:
Hot irons are not the same as slapping someone or verbal threats of physical punishment. Plain and simple. Loud music and cold-water immersion are not the same as wrenching off toe nails. We aren’t talking nuance; we are talking intellectual honesty and reasoned examination. It may be ugly, and it make be torture, but there are levels, degrees, etc., of abuse and pretending otherwise is effective only when preaching to the choir.
And here is Long Island Republican Congressman Peter T. King, a piece of rough trade if ever there was one:
“I don’t believe these are torture at all. For instance, waterboarding, there were medical personnel present during the whole time. It creates tremendous discomfort – there’s no doubt about it. It creates tremendous fear, but the fact is there was no lasting damage to these people and we got information from them, which is very helpful. … We’re not talking about anyone being burned or stabbed or cut or anything like that. We’re talking about people being made to stand in awkward positions, have water put into their nose and into their mouth. Nobody suffered any lasting injuries from this.”And here is me, on September 14, 2006. I repost it now to remind us of the exact nature of the crimes committed by Bush, Cheney, Addington, Libby, Tenet, Bybee, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Yoo and the many others in a chain of command that stretched directly from the Oval Office to the secret overseas torture chambers of the CIA. None of these criminals will ever be brought to trial, the way they do it in Chile or Argentina or Germany or Cambodia. We’re the world’s greatest democracy, and we’re below that kind of thing.
Since the torturer Bush won’t tell us specifically what he has done, let’s turn to somebody to whom it was done half a century ago. This is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including electric shock and having his testicles burned. The worst, inflicted only when all else had failed, was yet to come:
A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me…”
L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”
I lay down on the plank. L— , with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood…
Together they picked up he plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”
With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”
And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.
But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,
“That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.
The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.
“Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”
This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.
I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.
The last time, I lost consciousness.
M. Alleg, shown below in a 2004 photo, never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.
Anyone who reads the papers and cares about these things was already familiar, in general terms, with most of the horrors contained in the redacted summary of the Senate’s torture report.
But the details count, and are sufficiently gruesome to insure that we will never do such things again. Anymore than no trigger-happy cop will ever again murder an unarmed civilian.
One detail that struck me was how easy it is to con many, many, many millions of dollars out of the CIA in return for a steaming pile of horse shit. Just ask a couple of quack psychologists named James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They walked away with 81 million bucks, not bad for a couple of sociopathic clowns.
Their function was to provide advice on inflicting the maximum amount of pain without leaving marks on prisoners held by George Tenet, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Actually a good deal of work had already been done in this field by various Popes and Puritan divines, Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, and on and on. More humbly, plenty of American prison guards and police detectives have more hands-on experience than Mitchell and Jessen, and work cheap. Scholarly studies in the field include The Story of O and the Marquis de Sade’s seminal work, Justine. Both are available as eBooks, at no charge.
…it’s worse. Read the whole Reuters investigation from which this comes:
A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period.
The lawyers are the most influential members of one of the most powerful specialties in America: the business of practicing before the Supreme Court. None of these lawyers is a household name. But many are familiar to the nine justices. That’s because about half worked for justices past or present, and some socialize with them.
They are the elite of the elite: Although they account for far less than 1 percent of lawyers who filed appeals to the Supreme Court, these attorneys were involved in 43 percent of the cases the high court chose to decide from 2004 through 2012.
The Reuters examination of the Supreme Court’s docket, the most comprehensive ever, suggests that the justices essentially have added a new criterion to whether the court takes an appeal — one that goes beyond the merits of a case and extends to the merits of the lawyer who is bringing it.
The results: a decided advantage for corporate America, and a growing insularity at the court. Some legal experts contend that the reliance on a small cluster of specialists, most working on behalf of businesses, has turned the Supreme Court into an echo chamber — a place where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed…
From The Guardian:
In November 2002, a suspected Afghan militant, Gul Rahman, died of hypothermia inside a CIA black site north of Kabul known as the Salt Pit. Rahman had been left in a cold cell, stripped from the waist down and had been doused in water, according to reports from the Associated Press.
The torture report contains more details on Rahman’s death, including details of the CIA’s interrogation methodology used. This included “48 hours of sleep deprivation, auditory overload, total darkness, isolation a cold shower and rough treatment”. The CIA Headquarters did not approve these methods in advance, the report says. But the day before Rahman’s death, one CIA officer ordered that Rahman be shackled to the wall of his cell and sat on the cold floor whilst naked from the waist down. CIA headquarters had approved the use of “enhanced measures” at this point.
The CIA officer who sent these instructions received no reprimand. Instead, four months later, he was given a $2,500 cash reward for his “consistently superior work”.
Granddaughter Bethany on her way to a double-double as Iowa beat Colorado yesterday, bringing the Hawkeyes to 8 and 2 for the season. The losses were the result of biased referees and dirty play.