Oct 4, 2016

Crisis: Obama, CIA Detainees, Donald Trump, Nuclear War, TTIP and Medicines
Sections                                                                                     crisis index

Obama Worries Future Presidents Will Wage
     Perpetual, Covert Drone War

2. Ex-CIA Detainees Describe 'Terrifying' Unreported
     Torture Techniques

3. Who’s to Blame for the Rise of Donald Trump?
4. Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?
5. In Boon for Big Pharma, TTIP Would Lock In High Drug
     Prices: Report


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 4, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Obama's saying one thing while doing the precise opposite (here: as regards to his and future presidents' private warring); item 2 is about some more horrible details about the torture techniques introduced by the two American psychologists  James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen (who got $80 million to do so); item 3 is about the rise of Donald Trump (I give a somewhat different story than is in the article); item 4 is about the increasing likelihood of a nuclear war with Russia; and item 5 is - again - about the TTIP, this time with special attention for increasing the anyway enormous profits of pharmaceutical multi-nationals.

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click/reload twice or more to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer.

In any 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 to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will. ("xs4all" did OK for one - 1 - day, and then reverted to showing very old openings, also at a wrong place, while I had to click several times to see any new file I had added.)

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.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.


1. Obama Worries Future Presidents Will Wage Perpetual, Covert
Drone War

The first item
today is by Ryan Deveraux and Alex Emmons on The Intercept:
  • Obama Worries Future Presidents Will Wage Perpetual, Covert Drone War

This starts as follows:

President Obama warns in a new interview of a future in which a U.S. president could engage in perpetual covert wars “all over the world.” But he claims that the accountability and transparency measures he is instituting will make that less likely.

In the interview, with New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, Obama expressed agreement with one of the most salient critiques of his drone war, that it risks creating “institutional comfort and inertia with what looks like a pretty antiseptic way of disposing of enemies.”

Obama explained that he had looked at “the way in which the number of drone strikes was going up and the routineness with which, early in my presidency, you were seeing both DOD and CIA and our intelligence teams think about this.”

He continued: “And it troubled me, because I think you could see, over the horizon, a situation in which, without Congress showing much interest in restraining actions with authorizations that were written really broadly, you end up with a president who can carry on perpetual wars all over the world, and a lot of them covert, without any accountability or democratic debate.”

I think that - as usual - Obama is lying. This can be illustrated by rewriting the beginning and the ending of the above quotation. The quotes are literal: only the bolded words make a difference:

President Obama warns in a new interview of a future in which a U.S. president could engage in perpetual covert wars “all over the world.” But he claims that the "accountability" and "transparency" measures he is instituting will make that more likely.
(..) [and therefore]
" (..)
you end up with a president who can carry on perpetual wars all over the world, and a lot of them covert, without any accountability or democratic debate."

For that is my explanation for the fact that both Bush Jr. and Obama have been organizing wars for 15 years now (and note the bold quote-marks).

Here is more of the same, with the original words struck out, and the real terms (in my view) in bold:

“By the time I leave here, the American people are going to have a better worse sense of what their president is doing,” Obama said. “Their president is going to have to be more less accountable than he or she otherwise would have been. The world, I think, will have a better worse sense of what we’re trying to do and what we stand for. And I think all of that will serve the American people well badly in the future.”

But the one existing transparency measure Obama touts as an example in the interview — the administration’s release of its tally on civilian casualties from drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia — was viewed by many in the human rights community as a farce, largely because it pointed to a death toll far lower than outside observer tallies.

The release, made public on the Friday afternoon of Fourth of July weekend, reported that between 64 and 116 civilians were killed during Obama’s two terms. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, by comparison, has estimated that between 492 and 1,077 civilians have been killed by drone strikes during the eight years of Obama’s presidency.

As I said, I made the changes in the text, indeed in part to account for the fact of 15 years of continued wars, and in part for the fact that the American warring government declares there is about 1 civilan killed for 8 times as many in reality.

And I am (by far) not the only one who thinks Obama is lying. Here is a director of Amnesty International:

What’s more, the alarming changes that Obama describes as over the horizon are already here.

“What’s so interesting is that President Obama acknowledges this problem — that future presidents will be empowered to kill globally, and in secret. What he doesn’t acknowledge is how much of a role his administration had in making that a bizarre normal,” Naureen Shah, director of national security and human rights at Amnesty International, told The Intercept.

“There is something so strange about the person who many would say is very responsible for this situation actually acknowledging it and saying he tried to plan for it,” Shah added. “What we’ll be left with from the Obama administration is a far more dangerous precedent of secret, global killings than what we started with.”

Precisely - although the strangeness results from the radical difference between Obama's pretensions and promises, and Obama's real actions.

2. Ex-CIA Detainees Describe 'Terrifying' Unreported Torture Techniques

The second item is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
  • Ex-CIA Detainees Describe 'Terrifying' Unreported Torture Techniques

This starts as follows:

In a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday, two former CIA detainees described previously unreported torture techniques used in secret U.S. prisons overseas, shedding new light on the program the government fought for years to keep hidden.

Ridha al-Najjar, 51, and Lotfi al-Arabi El Gherissi, 52, both Tunisian men recently repatriated after being in CIA custody for 13 years without charge, independently described being threatened with a makeshift electric chair, deprived of sleep, subject to multiple forms of water torture, chained by their wrists to the ceilings of their cells for extended periods of time, and severely beaten.

I say. Here is some more (and I must add that I don't much like substituting abbreviations everywhere, though that is a side remark):

HRW writes of El Gherissi's experience:

He said the chair was made of metal, or perhaps iron. It had clips with wires attached to it intended to be fit on fingers, and a helmet with wires. His description suggested something makeshift, attached to a pipe that came out of a wall. His interrogators put him in the chair and threatened to use it on him unless he gave them more information, though they did not. He said this terrified him and he was trembling. The room also had a board that they threatened to put him on, but never did. He said he understood that water would be used on him while he was on the board.

Al-Najjar separately recounted similar treatment:

It was made out of metal or iron, had plugs attached to wires for fitting on fingers, and a headset with wires. The description suggested make-shift apparatus, attached to a wall pipe. His U.S. interrogators threatened during interrogations to use the chair on him, but never actually did. The room also contained other instruments used for torture, including a board that he believes his interrogators used on him on various occasions for different types of water torture, and a coffin in which they threatened to place him.

"These terrifying accounts of previously unreported CIA torture methods show how little the public still knows about the U.S. torture program," said HRW senior U.S. national security counsel Laura Pitter.

Yes indeed, for the torture program also was mostly kept secret by very active interference of the CIA. The two men who organized the torturing of American prisoners are the American psychologists (see here) James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who received together (it seems) a mere $80 million dollar for it (see here), who both therefore became multi-millionaires. [2]

Here is what they seemed to have arranged, among other things:

The most abuse took place at a facility known as Cobalt, a site in Afghanistan, which al-Najjar and El Gherissi called the "Dark Prison." Other detainees have referred to it alternately as the Dark Prison or the "Salt Pit" as well. Al-Najjar recounted his interrogators at Cobalt "threatening the 'well-being of his family,' using 'sound disorientation techniques,' denying him sleep using round-the-clock interrogations, depriving him of any 'sense of time,' keeping him in 'isolation in total darkness; lowering the quality of his food,' using cold temperatures, playing music '24 hours a day, and keeping him shackled and hooded.'"

A CIA cable issued September 21, 2002 described him as a "clearly broken man" who was "on the verge of a complete breakdown." He remained in CIA custody for another 13 years.

Again, those who took care that he was a "clearly broken man" are the American psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who got to be multi-millionaires for doing this and other things for the American military.

And this is what happened to El Gherissi and Al-Najjar (and again I note that "HRW" sounds rather different to me than "Human Rights Watch"):
Both men were set free in 2015 with no compensation or support from the U.S. or Tunisian governments, which violated international human rights law, HRW said—particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, both of which the U.S. has ratified. Under those laws, "governments have obligations to ensure the right to an effective remedy for victims of serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment," the human rights group wrote. "Although these violations did not take place in the United States, they occurred while the individuals were under the effective control of U.S. security forces."
So they were tortured, beaten and abused for 13 years without receiving any compensation, while the two psychologists who organized their tortures, beatings and abuses - who bear the names James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen - were rewarded with $80 million dollars for organizing the tortures. [2]

3. Who’s to Blame for the Rise of Donald Trump?

The third item is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment:
  • Who’s to Blame for the Rise of Donald Trump?
This starts as follows:

Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign platform has from the beginning been based on racism, religious bigotry, class warfare of the rich on workers, hatred of women, and a whole series of other unacceptable and disgusting planks.  Not since David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan ran for the senate in Louisiana in 1990 (and got 60% of the white vote) have we seen so extreme a candidate have such a good chance of winning national office.  Yet despite Trump’s black soul (in the phrase of Khizr Khan), the polls in September had showed him competitive.

What in the world so degraded our politics such that a candidate as bad as Duke in most respects was not disavowed (as Duke was) by the Republican National Committee?  That he was given thousands of hours of free airtime by cable news networks like CNN and MSNBC, who simply switched to his daily rallies as “breaking news,” in prime time!  I can’t remember seeing them do that for a Hillary Clinton speech even once in prime time; maybe on a Saturday afternoon when no one is watching.

Yes, indeed. And the question "What in the world so degraded our politics such that a candidate as bad as Duke in most respects" - that is to say: Donald Trump - "was not disavowed (as Duke was) by the Republican National Committee?" is a good one.

Here is Juan Cole's list of reasons, but I should say immediately that the list of seven points Cole gives is copied from the article, but their accompanying texts have been deleted in this review:

Obviously, the national kid gloves with which Trump has been treated didn’t come out of nowhere.  The US political and information system was softened up for him over the past decade and a half.  So here are some turning points that led us down this primrose path to the new American fascism.

1. The use of media by politicians to create an alternative
2. Elevating terrorism above other crimes, to the status
     of existential threat.
3. Islamophobia.
4. Misogyny.
5. The replacement of television journalism with
6. Climate Change Denial.
7. Racism.

As I said, each of the above seven points has texts explaining them in the article. I will say something about the points, but first quote the end of the article:

There are lots of other culprits.  You can make your own lists.

But basically what I am saying is, a lot of powerful Americans have a lot to be ashamed about.

That is not a strong ending. But I agree there are quite a few alternative possible lists of points that explain "this primrose path to the new American fascism" and I want to add one that definitely should have been on any such list, and I also want to consider three of the points on the list in a little detail.

First, the point that should have been on the list in any case:
  • The enormous gains in power the rich attained through 35 years of systematic deregulations of all laws that protected the non-rich against the depradations of the rich.
And next, there are three changes that are quite different from the other four changes:
  • Making terrorism a crime above all other crimes.
  • Making an alternative reality in the media.
  • Replacing television journalism by infotainment.
The first point, about "terrorism", started nearly immediately in 2002, and was in fact, in my opinion, a careful plan that aimed at giving the secret services of the West the full powers to collect any information they could get from the internet about everyone who has internet.

This made the Western secret services into institutions which know hundreds, thousands or tenthousands time more about everyone with internet connection than even the KGB and the Stasi could collect under Soviet "socialism" about anyone.

I think it is extremely dangerous, for it gives the very few that govern all the powers to grow very quickly into the most awful tyrants.

The second point, about the very radical changes in the media, seems to date back to the nineties, and imply that none of the viewers of TV, whether Fox or MSNBC, are offered a view of reality that is remotely correct: All views presented by "TV News" are very strongly doctored alternative reality shows, where most of the news that would help viewers to make ip their minds has been deleted and replaced by infotainments.

And that also is the third point: Neither the TV nor the main media that still print "the news" (on paper) give all or most of the news: What they give is
mostly either propaganda or amusement, although the propaganda is never identified as propaganda, while the amusements tends to be presented as "the Real News".

I think myself these four points are the most important. They all imply that real journalism has been killed everywhere in the mainstream media, and I think that is correct or mostly correct. [3]

Also, I do not know what one can do about this, other than trying to keep up with the few sources of real news and real journalism there still are: The Real News Network, Truthdig, Common Dreams and AlterNet, to name the main ones.

And all of these seem to be threatened, to depend on a few persons, and to have very little money...

4. Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?

The fourth item today is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:
  • Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?
This starts as follows:

Through an endless barrage of ugly propaganda, the U.S. government and the mainstream American press have put the world on course for a potential nuclear showdown with Russia, an existential risk that has been undertaken cavalierly amid bizarre expressions of self-righteousness from Western institutions.

This extraordinarily dangerous moment reflects the insistence of the Establishment in Washington that it should continue to rule the world and that it will not broach the possibility of other nations asserting their own national interests even in their own neighborhoods.

I think this is correct, and in fact it goes back to 1990/1991 when the Soviet Union and its attendant "socialist" countries collapsed which, from that time on, made the USA the one and only most powerful nation on earth.

And the USA chose to extend its powers as much as it could, and absolutely everywhere, and did so with military violence, first against Iraq in the beginning of the 1990ies, and then again against Iraq in the early 2000s, and then rapidly against more Islamic states in the Middle East in the next 15 years.

Next, there is this:

Rather than adjust to a new multi-polar world, the powers-that-be in Washington have deployed a vast array of propaganda assets that are financed or otherwise encouraged to escalate an information war so aggressively that Russia is reading this onslaught of insults as the conditioning of the Western populations for a world war.

While that may not be the intention of President Obama, who in his recent United Nations address acknowledged the risks from imposing uni-polar order on the world, a powerful bureaucratic machinery is in place to advance U.S. propaganda goals. It is operating on a crazed auto-pilot hurtling toward destruction but beyond anyone’s ability to turn it off.

I believe this also is correct, but I am a bit less certain.

What is true - at least, in my opinion - is that (i) the Americans interpreted the changes of 1990/1991 as showing that they, and they alone, where to be the rulers of the world from the 1990ies onwards, and (ii) this viewpoint was expressed militarily in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and was accompanied with a very "powerful bureaucratic machinery" "to advance U.S. propaganda" that in fact was briefly described in the previous item, and that seems to be located mostly in the Pentagon (that these days swallows up most of the taxes Americans pay).

Here is more:

This machinery consists not just of outlets and activists funded by U.S. tax dollars via the National Endowment for Democracy or the U.S. Agency for International Development or NATO’s Strategic Communications Command, but like-minded “human rights” entities paid for by billionaire currency speculator George Soros or controlled by neoconservative ideologues who now run major U.S. newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.

This propaganda apparatus now has so many specialized features that you get supposedly “progressive” and “anti-war” organizations promoting a major U.S. invasion of Syria under the guise of sweet-sounding policies like “no-fly zones” and “safe zones,” the same euphemisms that were used as the gateway to bloody “regime change” wars in Iraq and Libya.

This also seems correct to me. There is a whole lot more in the article, that is recommended.

O, and as to a nuclear war (which seems closer with the changes that came since the 1990ies): Reagan - quoted yesterday - was quite right that "
a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought".

But I do not know (at all) what percentage of  the presently ruling American governors and military see it in similar terms.

5. In Boon for Big Pharma, TTIP Would Lock In High Drug Prices: Report

The fifth and last item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

  • In Boon for Big Pharma, TTIP Would Lock In High Drug Prices: Report
This starts as follows:

As E.U. and U.S. officials meet in New York this week for the 15th round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, a new report warns of how the corporate-friendly, increasingly unpopular deal could "lock in" high drug prices and "help entrench a broken medical innovation system."

Specifically, the analysis explains how expanding intellectual property rules and monopoly protections for medicines, which the TTIP seeks to do, is counterproductive at a time when E.U. member states and the U.S. "are facing a looming access to medicines crisis."

According to the report:

TTIP could impede change towards affordability, needs-driven innovation and alternative incentive structures. TTIP may add to existing monopoly protections for medicines; reinforce the current trend of industry claiming trade secret protection to limit access to crucial information on medicines' safety, efficacy and development; rein in the freedom of national governments to make decisions on pricing and reimbursement to ensure affordability; and establish global standards that are harmful for developing countries.
Yes, indeed. And the TTIP will not only give the - anyway extremely greedy - American pharmaceuticals the powers and the riches to earn even more by even more expensive drugs, but it will also destroy all European governments that care more for their inhabitants than Texas, to be brought down to the level of Texas, and indeed to destroy everything that remains of Europe's states, Europe's national governments, Europe's natioal parliaments, and Europe's national laws and judiciaries: These must all go and be replaced by a Texan sort of "civilization", in which the few rich rule, and the many poor have absolutely nothing to say.

Here is some more:

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières has similarly warned that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—also stalled largely due to public opposition—contains "aggressive intellectual property (IP) rules that would restrict access to affordable, lifesaving medicines for millions of people."

What's more, the groups express concern that the TTIP would create more opportunities "for industry to influence national pharmaceutical policies." As the report reads:

The recently leaked text has confirmed widely held concerns that the Regulatory Cooperation chapter poses a major threat to health, safety, environmental, labor, consumer, civil and political rights, and other regulatory protections. The U.S. proposals in the Regulatory Cooperation chapter seek to export many of the worst features of U.S. rulemaking. If the United States succeeds in its project, large corporations, including pharmaceutical companies, would gain enormous power to block, slow, undermine, and repeal European regulations.

"Big Pharma expects negotiators to serve its corporate profit interests in these talks," said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program. "Unfortunately, trade agreements have become one more mechanism for drug corporations to expand their monopoly power."

As I said: The American plan seems to amount to: Make Europe like Texas. (And be assured that the European rich, including the frauds who lead the European Union, are as much for these changes as the American rich are, simply because they know the changes will make them much richer and much more powerful.)

But I have said many times, meanwhile, why I think the TTP, the TTIP, the TISA and the CETA are all plans that aim at one thing only:

To make the very few rich much richer and much more powerful, by stealing more riches and what remains of the power from the many poor (who have been systematically exploited already since 1980, and who did not get any richer all these 36 years, while the few very rich got enormously much richer).

So here is one last remark on the "
medicines crisis":

It is not merely that - for example - myself has now to pay, in Holland, about 7 times as much as I had to pay in the late 1980ies for a "health insurance" that I am now legally forced to take, while it is at most half as much worth as the previous health insurance was. [4]

For there now is the quite serious threat that many of the medicines that have been relied upon for decades will soon be quite worthless because the organisms they killed have meanwhile become resistant against drugs.

Then again, this last part of the current
"medicines crisis" seems - at the moment - mainly to worry medical doctors, and not the pharmaceutical corporations (that only care for maximal profits for themselves).

[1]  Alas, 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 "xs4all"destroy (really: the 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 whatsoever for anyone).

[2] This is here mostly not to forget the names of the two American psychologists who organized the torture; got paid $80 million dollars for it;
and were not punished at all (except by some small sanctions of the APA):
James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

[3] Here are two further remarks, both brief (here and now):

First, the killing of real journalism started in the late 1980ies and early 1990ies (when there was almost no real news whatsoever from the first Iraq War), and got very much more serious with the collapse of many papers due to a radical lack of advertisements, and their being bought up by the few very rich.

Second, I am not saying all the news that all the mainstream media give is all of the same very low quality: There still is considerable variance between Fox News and the others, while on the others there still are a few programs that can bear watching (such as Rachel Maddows and Bill Maher).

But by and large, real journalism on American TV these days is rare, whereas it was mostly normal (though far from excellent) from 1960 till 1990 (which are years I can all recall very well).

[4] I do want to insist here that many of the things I've heard on American TV about the blessings of the Europeans are quite false. Here are just three of the quite false things:

(1) it is not true - in Holland, at least - that the Europeans have "free healthcare" "paid from their taxes": In Holland health care was good, and was paid for by private citizens; it now is still paid for by private citizens, who have to pay 7 times as much for a "health service" that is twice (or more) as bad as it was till 1995, and are now legally obliged to take this
"health service".

(2) It is not true - in Holland, at least - that the Europeans have "free access to studies" because
these are "paid from their taxes": They are not, and at present it is some 15 to 25 times as expensive to study for 4 years in which one can get a B.A. that is at most half  the worth of the B.A.s I got (in the early 1980ies). Everyone now has to pay thousands or more than tenthousand euros a year for the right to hear lectures, that cost between 100 euros and 500 euros in the 1970ies and 1980ies.

(3) It is not true - in Holland, at least, and everywhere in Europe apart from Portugal - that drugs like marijuana and hashish are legal: They are not, and they have been illegal since 1965 (in Holland). What is true is that the Dutch pretended drugs can be freely bought, in considerable part because such pretensions made it possible to turn over each year, in Holland alone, and since 1986 or so, 50 billion euros in various illegal drugs each year (which I think went in part to the mayors and their lawyers, who took care that marijuana and hashish were freely available while quite illegal).

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