March 16, 2018

Crisis: Nazi Defense, Armageddon, Haspel´s Torturing, Billionaires, The Big Five


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 16, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 16, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from March 16, 2018
1. Washington Breaks Out the “Just Following Orders” Nazi Defense for
     CIA Director-Designate Gina Haspel 

2. No Cards Left to Play but the Threat of Armageddon
3. Gina Haspel's Disqualifying Record of CIA Torture
4. The Trump Administration Is a Government of Billionaires and Their

5. Beware the Big Five
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Washington Breaks Out the “Just Following Orders” Nazi Defense for CIA Director-Designate Gina Haspel

This article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

During the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, several Nazis, including top German generals Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, claimed they were not guilty of the tribunal’s charges because they had been acting at the directive of their superiors.

Ever since, this justification has been popularly known as the “Nuremberg defense,” in which the accused states they were “only following orders.”

Yes, quite so. And I have two points to make about this. The first is documentary, and the other logical.

The documentary point is that there is an enormous amount of documentation about the Nuremberg Trials, about which I probably know more than you, because my father and my grandfather were in the Dutch Resistance and were arrested by the Nazis in August 1941, but of which I also do not know more than a small part.

But there is a book about the Trials which was only published (originally) in 2004 and which I found quite good (and non-legal), namely Leo Goldensohn´s ¨The Nuremberg Interviews¨.

There is this about Goldensohn on Wikipedia (where there is - is this perhaps policy? - no review at all of ¨The Nuremberg Interviews¨):

Leon N. Goldensohn (October 19, 1911 – October 24, 1961) was an American psychiatrist who monitored the mental health of the twenty-one Nazi defendants awaiting trial at Nuremberg in 1946.

Born on October 19, 1911, in New York City, Goldensohn was the son of Jews who had emigrated from Lithuania. He joined the United States Army in 1943 and was posted to France and Germany, where he served as a psychiatrist for the 63rd Division. He replaced another psychiatrist, Douglas Kelley, in January 1946, about six weeks into the trials, and spent more than six months visiting the prisoners nearly every day. He interviewed most of the defendants, including Hermann Göring, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Rudolf Höss, the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, and Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945.
He had resolved to write a book about the experience but later contracted tuberculosis and died from a coronary heart attack in 1961.
And the last bit is part of the reason that this book was only published in 2004. You can find some reviews of the book on the internet, but in any case: I´ve read all of it and I can strongly recommend it, although you should be aware that the Nazis were arrested by the Allies, and were on trial, and lied a lot.

The logical point I want to make is this: If you say - whoever you are, in whatever trial - that you are ¨
not guilty of the tribunal’s charges because¨ you ¨had been acting at the directive of¨ your ¨superiors¨ what you are saying is that, in your opinion, you cannot and do not have any personal responsibility for anything you did - that may comprise mass murder, torture, sadism etc. - as long as you can blame it on ¨a superior¨.

If being a person comprises personal responsibility, this means that you in fact claim you are not a person, and it also means - and see e.g.
¨The Nuremberg Interviews¨ - that you claim no one is personally responsible for anything he or she did, except the supreme leader.

And I completely agree with the judges that this is in fact a ludicrous position.

Back to the article:

The Nuremberg judges rejected the Nuremberg defense, and both Jodl and Keitel were hanged. The United Nations International Law Commission later codified the underlying principle from Nuremberg as “the fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

This is likely the most famous declaration in the history of international law and is as settled as anything possibly can be.

However, many members of the Washington, D.C. elite are now stating that it, in fact, is a legitimate defense for American officials who violate international law to claim they were just following orders.

Well... if ¨many members of the Washington, D.C. elite are now stating that it, in fact, is a legitimate defense for American officials who violate international law to claim they were just following orders¨ then the real reason must be that ¨many members of the Washington, D.C. elite¨ are thinking like fascists (reread the beginning of this sentence or the beginnings of this article) while behaving like neofascists (who are only interested in profits and corporate powers, precisely as the neofascist Milton Friedman instructed them: See below.)

I agree, and in case you disagree you should realize that (i) I am speaking of the ¨elite¨, which surely is aware of ¨the most famous declaration in the history of international law¨ and that (ii) you very probably did not read my definitions of fascism and neofascism.

Here is more about Gina Haspels:

Specifically, they say Gina Haspel, a top CIA officer whom President Donald Trump has designated to be the agency’s next director, bears no responsibility for the torture she supervised during George W. Bush’s administration.

Haspel oversaw a secret “black site” in Thailand, at which prisoners were waterboarded and subjected to other severe forms of abuse. Haspel later participated in the destruction of the CIA’s videotapes of some of its torture sessions. There is informed speculation that part of the CIA’s motivation for destroying these records may have been that they showed operatives employing torture to generate false “intelligence” used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative who helped capture many Al Qaeda prisoners, recently said that Haspel was known to some at the agency as “Bloody Gina” and that “Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.”
In short, she is a torturer the American elite is proud of. And she could (and can) do what she pleased to do, because she has no personal responsibility whatsoever. Or so many members of the American elite think.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
Samantha Winograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council and now is an analyst for CNN, likewise used Nuremberg defense language in an appearance on the network. Haspel, she said, “was implementing the lawful orders of the president. … You could argue she should have quit because the program was so abhorrent. But she was following orders.”
That is: Haspels may be an extremely cruel sadist, who just loved to apply her sadism at secret sites to torture information out of prisoners, but while what she did was ¨abhorrent¨ she has no personal responsibility whatsoever, because ¨she was following orders¨.

According to Winograd you may slowly cook someone in boiling oil, while pulling out their nails with electrodes on their genitals: As long as a higher up told you so, you have no personal responsibility whatsoever. O, and you are also free to destroy all the evidence against you, for which you are again totally irresponsible.

This is a recommended page.

2. No Cards Left to Play but the Threat of Armageddon

This article is by
Glen Ford on AlterNet and originally on Black Agenda Report. It starts as follows:
There is no mystery to the ideological collapse of U.S. ruling class politics under late stage capitalism and imperial decline. Simply put, the corporate duopoly parties have nothing to offer the masses of people except unrelenting austerity at home and endless wars abroad. A shrunken and privatized Detroit serves as the model for U.S. urban policy; Libya and Syria are the scorched-earth footprints of a demented and dying empire. The lengthening shadow of economic eclipse by the East leaves the U.S. Lords of Capital with no cards left to play but the threat of Armageddon.
Well... yes and no. In fact, I selected this article because I like Glen Ford more than not, but I think this opening, with ¨ruling class politics¨, ¨economic eclipse¨ and ¨the threat of Arma- geddon¨ sounds too Marxistic for me to fully accept.

Here is some more by Ford:
George Bush drawled the “last hurrah” of empire with his declaration of “Mission Accomplished,” 15 years ago—and was quickly contradicted. With the failure in Iraq, the pretense of “spreading democracy” came ingloriously undone. A refurbishing of the imperial brand was attempted, with a bright and shiny new face—a Black-ish one—plus a new logo to justify invasion and regime-change: “humanitarian” intervention. But Obama’s assault on Syria revealed that the U.S. and its junior partners could only project power in the region through an alliance with Islamic jihadist terror. The architects of the War on Terror were, in fact, the godfathers of al Qaida.
I quite agree that invading another country militarily and killing off its military and large groups of its civilians on the pretense of the words ¨humanitarian intervention¨ is sick, and I also agree that much of what the USA does do in the Middle East is quite sick, but do not know about the rest of the quoted paragraph.

Here is the ending of the article:

Do not expect the Republicans or the Democrats to make any sense of a world of diminishing empire. The duopolists are incapable of seeing any future beyond their rich patrons’ vision—and the rich have no vision beyond continued accumulation of wealth, which requires a harsher and harsher austerity.

Most dangerous, they cannot imagine a world in which they are not on top. We will have to fight to keep them from blowing us all up, in rich man’s despair.

Yes, that seems mostly correct, but I have read better articles by Glen Ford. 

3. Gina Haspel's Disqualifying Record of CIA Torture

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
On Monday, President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. Despite the scores of administration officials who have been ousted, escorted out or simply left, Trump is still managing to make an indelible mark on the federal government, installing scores of conservative judges to lifetime appointments, gutting hard-won regulations and slashing vital social safety net programs. In the same tweet in which he fired Tillerson, he announced two promotions: CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be his new secretary of state, and Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel would replace Pompeo to head the spy agency. Haspel’s career at the CIA spans more than three decades. Her work is shrouded in secrecy, but two things are well-known: She ran a CIA “black site” where people were brutally tortured, then she helped cover up the torture through the destruction of videotapes, against presidential orders.
Yes indeed - I fully agree. And incidentally: While I do review quite a bit of the articles on Democracy Now! simply because they are good and clear, most of these articles consist of interviews. This is not an interview.

Here is more:
These alone should immediately disqualify her for confirmation by the U.S. Senate. “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would, in a heartbeat,” Trump boasted from the podium at an Ohio campaign stop in November 2015. He repeated the pledge throughout his campaign, and while president. He suggested a slew of other techniques, including the execution of family members in front of interrogation suspects as an inducement to talk. If Trump gets his way and installs Gina Haspel as CIA director, he will have someone with direct, hands-on experience with torture, a leader in the George W. Bush administration’s notorious torture program.
Yes indeed. And for more on Haspels, see above. Here is more:
John Kiriakou, a 14-year veteran of the CIA, blew the whistle on the Bush-era torture program and, for speaking out, was imprisoned for two years. He is, to date, the only U.S. official jailed in relation to Bush’s torture program. “We did call her Bloody Gina,” Kiriakou said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “Gina was always very quick and very willing to use force … there was a group of officers in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, when I was serving there, who enjoyed using force. Everybody knew that torture didn’t work.” Kiriakou asked, “Was it moral, and was it ethical, and was it legal? Very clearly no. But Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.”
And while I do not know that Kiriakou is correct about Haspels, I guess he is - and incidentally, there probably are more sadists than you and many people think there are, and especially in high positions, and in positions that are beyond effective control by independent others.

And I totally agree wit the ending:
All senators should close the book on torture now and vote to oppose Gina Haspel’s confirmation.
But I have to add that I also think that - very unfortunately - this is quite improbable. And this is a recommended article.

4. The Trump Administration Is a Government of Billionaires and Their Sycophants

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. It has a subtitle, which I quote because I agree with it (for the most part):
The GOP lackeys are eager to do the bidding of whichever oligarch will give them the most money.
In fact, it seems the whole GOP is dominated by profits and seem to share the late neofascist Milton Friedman´s sick and degenerate saying from 1962:
"Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine. If businessmen do have a social responsibility other than making maximum profits for stockholders, how are they to know what it is? Can self-selected private individuals decide what the social interest is?"
This is utter bullshit for three reasons:

First, how do ¨
corporate officials¨ decide that making ¨as much money for their stockholders as possible¨ (e,g. like Shrkeli) is ¨socially responsible¨?

It is not, and certainly not if the profits are made by pushing poisons onto people (as the pharmaceutical corporations have been doing the last 20+ years: thence the opioid epidemic and billions of profits for the pharmaceutical corporations) or if the means by which they produce their profits are poisonous or dangerous (as will be more and more likely the fewer legal rules there are, and the more profitable the dangerous means are).

Second, if ¨
businessmen¨ cannot or do not know how they can have any ¨social responsibility¨ except by making as large profits as they can, then they are complete and total moral degenerates: Everybody has learned many social responsibilities as a child (such as honesty, fairness, personal responsibility, decency, politeness etc. etc.)

And third, if ¨self-selected private individuals¨ cannot ¨
decide what the social interest is¨ - which is what Friedman is both saying and suggesting - then absolutely no ¨private individual¨ can ever decide anything: It are always the ¨private individuals¨ who have to decide very many things for their own reasons (which indeed may not be good at all, but then that fact is an insurmountable fact - and there also may be some whose reasons are good).

The article starts as follows:

A few years back, former President Jimmy Carter told me that, because of Citizens United and its predecessors (like the Buckley decision in 1976), we’re no longer a democracy, but instead, “an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery.”

For proof that Carter was right, one need look no further than Mike Pompeo taking Rex Tillerson’s job, stepping into Thomas Jefferson’s shoes as Secretary of State.

I do not think the above ¨proof¨ is a proof (and I know a whole lot of logic), although I agree with Jimmy Carter.

Here is more:

Billionaire Trump, like so many others of America’s billionaire oligarchs, doesn’t take kindly to people who have their own minds. He wants fealty and sycophancy, not brilliance or competence.

For example, Rex Tillerson, actually looking at facts and political realities, made the mistake of pointing out to Trump that tearing up the Iran no-nukes deal at the same time you’re trying to negotiate a brand-new no-nukes deal with North Korea was contradictory messaging. What country, after all, would want to cut a deal with a partner who kills agreements unilaterally without contractual justification?

Tillerson, of course, was right. But he wasn’t sucking up to Trump in the way the oligarch wanted (and apparently, needed). Tillerson even occasionally put our nation’s security ahead of his subservience to Trump. Big mistake.

The first paragraph seems quite correct to me, and the other two paragraphs may be. And here is more:

Many members of today’s billionaire class think of themselves as “self-made,” and so have a sneering disregard for the working people of America who “merely” aspire to the American Dream of being in the middle class with a safe job, good benefits, and a secure retirement. These oligarchs are more concerned with their profits than with the impact of their products or services on our country.

And they only want people around them who share their vision of their own greatness; who, in other words, are pathetic suck-ups.
Yes, I think that is mostly correct and indeed may be strengthened by the observation that quite a few of the richest individuals there are seem to have the idea that they are quite superior to people who do not make many millions a year. (And I think that observation is correct.)

Then there is this on the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court:

[This is] an indictment of the entire political system in the United States, as it has been re-invented by a “conservative” Supreme Court that created a brand-new legal structure around the notion that “corporations are persons” and using money to buy politicians is First Amendment-protected “free speech.”

No legislature or president had ever advocated those radical, anti-democratic positions, and neither had any American political party other than the Libertarians.
This seems to be quite correct to me, and indeed one of my own inferences is that the Supreme Court must be changed because they can make these utterly insane decisions. I do not know enough of American law to say what has to be changed, except that I am definitely against any powerful nomination for life.

Then there is this on Lewis Powell Jr. (and if you do not know who he was, you should read the last link):

But Lewis Powell reached out to the oligarchs who often hired his legal services, and in 1971 his infamous “Powell Memo” charted how corporations and billionaires should take over virtually all the institutions of America, from Congress and the courts to our schools and local governments.

Later that year, Richard Nixon put Powell on the Supreme Court, where he dutifully made the Buckley case happen in 1976, throwing open the door to corruption of our political system by American oligarchs. Citizens United, in 2010, took it even further (...)
Quite so. And here is what the Supreme Court did do:

In a breathtaking power seizure not authorized by the Constitution, the Supreme Court singlehandedly created an entire new body of law, and thus began the process of turning America from a representative democracy into an oligarchy.

And now, predictably, we have a billionaire oligarch as president, multiple billionaire oligarchs in his Cabinet, and the billionaire oligarch Kochs committing hundreds of millions of dollars to oligarch-friendly Republicans in every election cycle.

In an oligarchic nation, there is one singular skill for political success: one must willingly, ably, and enthusiastically suck up to the rich and powerful, subordinating one’s ethics, reason, and even humanity.

Yes indeed, although I like to add that sucking ¨up to the rich and the powerful, subordinating one’s ethics, reason, and even humanity¨ also is remarkably effective in non-oligarchic nations.

And this is from the ending:

We must reverse these disastrous Supreme Court decisions with a Constitutional Amendment, explicitly stating that corporations are not people and that money is not speech; otherwise, our rapid march to total oligarchy will continue to gather speed and power.

I agree that Supreme Court´s decisions were disastrous, but I do not know whether a constitutional amendment is wise at this time (and do not know enough of American law to decide otherwise).

5. Beware the Big Five

This article is by Tamsin Shaw on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

The big Silicon Valley technology companies have long been viewed by much of the American public as astonishingly successful capitalist enterprises operated by maverick geniuses. The largest among them—Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google (the so-called Big Five)—were founded by youthful and charismatic male visionaries with signature casual wardrobes: the open-necked blue shirt, the black polo-neck, the marled gray T-shirt and hoodie. These founders have won immense public trust in their emergent technologies, from home computing to social media to the new frontier, artificial intelligence. Their companies have seemed to grow organically within the flourishing ecology of the open Internet.

Within the US government, the same Silicon Valley companies have been considered an essential national security asset. Government investment and policy over the last few decades have reflected an unequivocal confidence in them. In return, they have at times cooperated with intelligence agencies and the military. During these years there has been a constant, quiet hum of public debate about the need to maintain a balance between security and privacy in this alliance, but even after the Snowden leaks it didn’t become a great commotion.

Yes indeed, all of this seems quite correct to me, although I also like ¨to translate¨ part of the first paragraph in terms of the knowledge I acquired in the last 22 years of internetting:

¨The largest among them—Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google (the so-called Big Five)—were founded by youthful frauds, liars and deceivers who pretended to be quite different from their power-hungry and money-hungry real selves. Indeed, by lying, deceiving and pretending they managed to get the trust and the support of the majority of the stupid and the ignorant, while earning billions for themselves with programs that steal all private information from virtually any user connected to the internet.¨

This indeed is my ¨translation¨, but I think it is factually quite correct. (For more, see Edward Snowden.) And in fact I do not use Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Amazon at all, while I only use Youtube from Google.

Also, from my point of view, these five companies are five of the strongest forces for neofascism, which will, when it is fully instituted, control absolutely everyone in virtually everything, precisely as foreseen and planned by Znigniew Brzezinski in 1967 and 1970 (and for more see here - and these are Brzezinski´s texts):

For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to- date, complete files, containing even personal information  about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future. The police will even be able to 
forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them. [In 1967]
"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities." – Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970

As I said: The present internet and its extremely many abuses of the mostly extremely naive people who are using it was planned since the late 1960ies, and was planned by national security supremo Brzezinski and the DARPA from the Sixties onwards.

And they wanted to spy on everyone, and - so far - fully succeeded in doing so.

Back to the text:

The Big Five have at their disposal immense troves of personal data on their users, the most sophisticated tools of persuasion humans have ever devised, and few mechanisms for establishing the credibility of the information they distribute. The domestic use of their resources for political influence has received much attention from journalists but raised few concerns among policymakers and campaign officials. Both the Republicans and the Democrats have, in the last few election cycles, employed increasingly intricate data analytics to target voters.

Private organizations, too, have exploited these online resources to influence campaigns: the Koch brothers’ data firm, i360, whose funding rivals that of both parties, has spent years developing detailed portraits of 250 million Americans and refining its capacities for influence operations through “message testing” to determine what kinds of advertisements will have traction with a given audience. It employs “mobile ID matching,” which can link users to all of their devices—unlike cookies, which are restricted to one device—and it has conducted extensive demographic research over social media. Google’s DoubleClick and Facebook are listed as i360’s featured partners for digital marketing. The firm aims to have developed a comprehensive strategy for influencing voters by the time of the 2018 elections.

Again quite so. And in fact I have now copied the first four paragraphs of a much longer article with a lot of information that I will leave to your interests, except for the ending that I really have to reproduce because it records the only honest statement that Zuckerberg made in public in the last 15 years, to the best of my knowledge:

Zuckerberg, in a well-known incident he now surely regrets, was asked in the early days of Facebook why people would hand over their personal information to him. He responded, “They trust me—dumb fucks.” We’re finally starting to appreciate the depth of the insult to us all. Now we need to figure out how to keep the corporations we have supported with our taxes, data, and undivided attention from treating us like dumb fucks in the future.

Precisely: 95% - at least - of the users of internet do not know much about computing; few can program somewhat well; most have little knowledge of politics, propaganda, law, philosophy, or  of most or all sciences; and therefore a bright Superman like FuckYouBook´s Suckerbug will treat everyone as ¨dumb fucks¨ to make billions for themselves.

And this is a strongly recommended article which contains much more than I quoted.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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