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August 05, 2016


I was just wondering if anyone had seen anything jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, unbelievable, absolutely insane, or just crazy lately. There seems to be a lot of stuff fitting those descriptions these days.

Oh, and stunning. That, too.

The Big Book Of Science Fiction is good. starts in the early 1900s and slowly creeps up through the years (like a Jovian Feeding Blob devouring New York, one block at a time). the changes in styles and subject matter is fun to see. i'm still in the 1930s so all the spaceships are "sleek" rockets and the aliens are all one-eyed octopuses. not all the stories are awesome but that's the way of anthologies.

an accounting or law firm in the specific sub-discipline you worked in at the government

Or, more worryingly, lobbying.

(Or, if it's a sufficiently high-profile government position, public speaking. Which I find less worrying than those other possibilities, but seems to draw accusations of corruption anyways.)

James "ACORN" O'Keefe fail

There's corruption, and then there's corruption. Consider this, from Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated….

Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation. [emphasis added]

That's about as blistering as it gets from a career spook. Of course, since Trump's unwitting and unpaid, I suppose it isn't technically corruption....

The evil, divisive Obama and she-bitch Hillary had a chance to tie the anvil of Trump around Republican candidates' necks, but no, once again they opt for mildness and less confrontation:


A link lifted from Hullabaloo.

Wanted: Democrats who will pig-fuck the Republican Party, not save its remnants to fuck up my country.

Interesting what Ken Starr thinks these days.

Another pov on Morell--


I'm voting for Clinton more or less in spite of some of the people endorsing her. She's the anti- Trump.

I just read and greatly enjoyed Bernd Heinrich's One Wild Bird at a Time. Heinrich writes as a naturalist with empathy: he clearly believes that birds are people although not people like humans. There is a perfectly-toned mixture between distance and sympathy in each chapter.

It made me too want to go live in a cabin in the woods and spend my time paying attention to what's outside.

FWIW, a week after the new and improved Ken Starr made the comments in the article cited above by sapient, he resigned as President and Chancellor of Baylor University (though he remains as law professor), having presided and chancelled over an unholy mess there involving sexual scandals in the athletics program, among other things. How are the mighty fallen! (It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.)

"It made me too want to go live in a cabin in the woods and spend my time paying attention to what's outside."

This is Slartibartfastian in its wisdom.

I'm thinking I should do just that, give up my hectic competitive baseball schedule, stop with the empty internet political noise (it's like urban glare masking the Milky Way) and practice quietude in the deep woods and just get the reading done while there is still time.

Great link, Donald.

Donald, interesting article, but I think emptywheel is reaching a bit too much here. He leaves out the paragraph that wj quoted about Putin being able to identify vulnerabilities, which sets up Morell's quoted comments

I took the point that Trump has these vulnerabilities that were exploited by Putin, and those vulnerabilities are not applicable with HRC.

Folks have taken issue with Morell and there's a lot to take issue with

so I can understand not wanting to use his endorsement to support your vote, which I don't have any problem with (your choice, not his endorsement). But before accusing Morell of lying (therefore making his endorsement of no value), I think it is important to understand what Morell is saying, which is that Trump can get played

This puts something like this in perspective.

Strangely enough, when we have former directors of the CIA vouching for her, there may be a point where we don't want Hillary to win everyone over. A lot of articles are decrying the fact that the Dems are trying to separate trump supporters from Republicans because, if all the Republicans move to support Hillary, you haven't really ended the Republican party, you've just incorporated it. A similar thing obtains here. If everyone in the CIA supports Hillary, do we want to support her? Because if everyone supports Hillary, how exactly do we get her to move to the positions we want her to move to?

IMO of course with purely rhetorical questions, not addressed at anyone. Just what I find myself thinking lately.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Agreed. I posted the link to note the irony, especially of his attitude compared to some of our friends here.

The whole thing with Trump (which the Clinton campaign, unlike his opponenets in the primaries, seems to have picked up on) is just how easily he can be manipulated.

When everything is reaction, with no governor at all (at least, that I can see), all you have to do is punch the right button to get the response you want. Even if it is obvious to everybody (possibly even including Trump) what you are doing, it still works.

Not what you want in a position which requires consideration and judgement. We may not like the judgements that any particular President makes. But we sure as hell want a President who will make judgements rather than just knee-jerk react.

"...all you have to do is punch the right button to get the response you want. "

Could make debates extra fun. For example, Clinton leads with a 'complement', waits for reaction, then turns it into a criticism. Over simplified, but I'm sure there are some psych/rhetoric pros out there that could play Trump like a teeny-tiny violin.

And Trump has already implied that if the election doesn't go his way, we should expect violins.

LJ, I think one can criticize Trump without the help of people like Morell. Clinton is attracting support from hawks and I don't think this is an accident. I read a lot of NYT commenters praising Morell for his service. Would that include his defense of the CIA record on torture?

As for the political parties, I've been thinking on lines similar to yours. I have frankly enjoyed watching how Trump has been using the contradictions within the Republican Party to destroy it. But assuming a Clinton landslide does happen, the DNC shouldn't gloat too much. The Democrats might be next.


More on Morell.

I, for one, look forward to more people standing up at Trump rallies, holding aloft a copy of the US Constitutions, chanting in unison "I SWEAR TO PROTECT THE US CONSTITUTION FROM ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC" before they are mobbed and thrown out by the Trumpers.

It will sharpen the distinction between Trumpers and everyone else, I think.


holding alove a copy of the US Constitutions, chanting in unsion “I do solemnly swear that I will, to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC

While giving Trump the stink-eye, of course.

double sheesh. Not even going to try to fix it now.
I blame Obama for the lack of an 'edit' button.

I have a question, specifically regarding Morell but actually on a somewhat broader point.

Say someone has a dubious, or even frankly bad, record on some issue, e.g. torture of prisoners by the CIA. Does that, or maybe to what extent does that, invalidate their expertise in other areas of their profession?

Specific to Morell, does that mean that his expert opinion on how a spy turns someone into an asset is wrong? Does that mean that his evaluation that someone is behaving as an (unwitting) asset of a particular nation is invalid?

I suppose this is the flip side of the question: Does accomplishment in one field of endeavour make one's judgement in totally unrelated areas better? Does the fact that you are a great actor, in itself, mean your opinions on politics (or physics, or real estate) constitute a recommendation which should be attended to?

Note that this isn't intended particularly to be a defense of Morell. It's a general philosophical question related to endorsements, both in this particular election year and in any other.


Fixed now.

"The difficult, we do at once. The trivial (well, trivial if you have access) takes a little longer."

There is this interesting dynamic about endorsements. In a normal election, it would be like a game of chess, i.e. each side would have roughly the same level and you'd match them off against each other. In this election, we are getting to the point where it's Trump against the world, such that there is a backlash. That the left is more conscious of this is why the left always has serious problems with being organized (IMVHO)

However, when you are someone like us (just commenting on a blog), the debate often ends up looking at who we choose to cite and then fighting by proxy. Which then can lead to the fight moving to a really different place. This is one reason why I don't really like debate by quick google search, cause it tends to bring that up a lot.

This doesn't really answer wj's question, and my main point was that in the piece, I thought Morell made an astute observation about Trump's personality, which is what I would take away from it, and the fact that Trump could be played so easily is a disqualifying factor. So I took it as not 'wow, former CIA director is auditioning for job and sucking up to Hillary' or 'wow, if a former CIA director says that, you ought to be convinced!' but 'gee, this is something I think about Trump as well and this guy sees it too.'

I tend to think you can trust opinions if they are opining on something they have experienced, however, I think that one has draw a pretty broad circle around that. It's not simply that Morell has the experience in espionage, he has experience in bureaucratic infighting and the intelligence apparatus from the inside, and thinks that Hillary is the right person. Emptywheel probably see that experience in bureaucratic infighting as part of the problem and all the compromises as well as the role that money has in the bureaucracy makes that a dubious recommendation. Not to mention the knowledge of the intelligence services, which is a fair criticism, but it's important to state that as a criticism of Morell and not a criticism of the person putting the link up, though it is really difficult to explain that without asking probing questions about why someone thinks that Morell should be someone to be listened to.

wj: belated thanks for removing the CORRUPTION from my comments.

Re: how much weight to give Morell's comments.

IMO, it really depends on whether he has an ax to grind, or a butt to cover.

Morell worked for the CIA for 33 years. He probably knows how that agency works.

He defended his agency because the people there were told that what they were doing was not "torture". I wish Donald Johnson would have been in his position at the time, because for sure torture would never have happened, or at least DJ would have gone to the press and said "Stop! I resign!" I wish some of the people who are most moral in our society had actually joined the CIA. Or maybe they did, and maybe something happened to them. Or maybe they did, and they didn't know what to do. Or maybe they did, and they're now doing this. Who knows.

As to his endorsement of Hillary, I applaud it.

And when it comes to something like "auditions for a job in the next administration," it's not obvious how anyone outside the candidate's staff (and the author/speaker, of course) can know if the guy is even under consideration.

You can assume that anyone who comes out against the candidate you prefer must be doing so solely from self interest. But you can also assume that, if your guy loses, it proves voter fraud -- it just means you can't wrap your head around the idea that lots of people disagree with you about where the country should be going.

Not to say that everybody is necessarily acting out of pure motives. Just that, in most cases, what you are actually doing is assuming your conclusion.

Funny, I never even considered that Morell's public statements were motivated by "job auditions", but figured that it was more about internal bureaucratic infighting.

For example, if you asked Morell "which should be given more weight, SIGINT or HUMINT?" I'm sure he's an expert, but could have a huge bias.

"He defended his agency because the people there were told that what they were doing was not "torture"."

I appreciate the point you're msking, and I really don't want to send this thread down the torture rathole.

but ultimately, the person who is responsible for what you do, is you.

even if the lawyers and the suits say it's ok.

"but ultimately, the person who is responsible for what you do, is you.

even if the lawyers and the suits say it's ok.

I could not agree more.

Yes sapient, if only someone with my vast and nearly unparalleled insight, able to sense that torture was wrong, could have been in some position of power so it could have been stopped.

Alas, people of my moral stature come along once or twice in a lifetime.

On endorsements, I see no reason why Dubya's couldn't be next. Then Cheney.

The other point in emptywheel's post was about the double standard. If Trump is an agent of Putin, can we also refer to politicians as agents of he Saudis or other countries?

I think the problem lies in the term 'agent' here, which tends to be understood not as the neutral 'person by/through which* something happens' but as 'person belonging to an agency'.
Imo Trump fits into a subcategory of 'useful idiot', the one selling the rope to his own hangman, not the one blinded by the propganada into acting on the behalf of the propagandist.
As for Hillary and the Saudis (or the Israeli Right for that matter), it would be difficult to find many leading US politicians that are not at least to a certain degree their agents and fully willing ones to be sure (and open about it).

*or would that be 'who(m)'? My grammar is slipping?

Clinton is attracting support from hawks and I don't think this is an accident.

there are only two choices available.

it's probably safe to say that even hawks recognize Trump's total unsuitability.

or would that be 'who(m)'? My grammar is slipping?

I think it would be "who" . . . except if you intend to imply, by using "that", that politicians are not human beings. ;-)

Hart it, I agree it'd be difficult to find American politicians who aren't agents in a loose sense of the Saudis or the Israelis. But then maybe people should talk about that more than they do, rather than waiting for a buffoon who comes along and starts pandering to some thug who isn't in fashion.

Clinton's attraction to the hawks is probably heartfelt, given her record


I wonder, when seeing something like this saying that an administration has embraced the policies that they decried from the previous adminsitration.

Is it that the new administration has been bought off / corrupted / whatever? In short, have they sold out their ideals?

Or is it that, when made aware of facts not previously available, the new administration has understood why the previous one made the decisions that it did? That is, has reality and the necessity of dealing with the world as it actually is overcome ideas about how the ideal world would work?

In any given administration, I suspect that both things come into play. But how to tell which one is which? Especially when, as with foreign and military decisions, the information that is publicly is necessarily less than what the administration has available.

there's also: talk is cheap, and back-seat driving is easy.

it's easy for people who aren't in control to criticize those who are. and being responsible is much harder than complaining.

Wow. Somewhat offthread (but maybe not) what do you all think of this?

Kasich told CNN's Jake Tapper that he didn't receive a call himself. But he said one of his aides confirmed to him a New York Times report last month saying Donald Trump Jr. tried to entice Kasich with a position as the most powerful vice president in history -- putting him in charge of all domestic and foreign policy -- was accurate.

Of course it's been impossible to envisage Donald Trump actually doing the job, but surely this will do him a huge amount of harm (that's if his supporters ever hear about it, apparently lots of them are unaware of his fight with the Khans)? Of course, the question then is, if he wouldn't be doing the job, what is he thinking he would be doing? Apart from swanning around being important? Do you think there's a possibility he thinks he would still be able to be in charge of his company (thus not completely offthread)?

My sense is that, should he win, Trump would like to focus on doing public events in front of his adoring fans. And maybe schmoozing with world leaders -- at least the ones who would cater to his ego. But leaving the actual work involved to others.

I don't know whether the offer to Kasich (indirectly or otherwise) happened. No whether Pence got a similar offer. But it wouldn't amaze me if it did.

It would certainly explain Chris Christie's, Newt's, etc desperation for the job, which would be de facto President and thus a perfect launchpad for next time. As for Trump, all you say wj, but also, and maybe most of all, he would finally get the last say at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

sounds perfectly in-line with everything else we know about Trump: he's primarily interested in putting his name on things that other people manage and claiming the glory for himself.

An analogy occurs to me.

Lots of teenagers will say (often loudly) that they want to be treated like adults. By which they typically mean that they want the freedoms, priviledges, respectful treatment, etc. that come with being an adult.

However, almost never do they demand the responsibilities that come with being an adult. (Of course, if they want to accept responsibility, there probably wouldn't be much resistance. No need to make demands, actually.) When one does, they can get a startle reaction from adults, just because it is so unusual.

What does it say about someone that he apparently looks at the Presidency the way teenagers look at adulthood?

but ultimately, the person who is responsible for what you do, is you.

even if the lawyers and the suits say it's ok.

Of course. When St. Peter and I have our little chat, we'll discuss the accuracy of my moral compass. Honestly, I'll have to cop to have been confused occasionally about "right" and "wrong", although I was never called upon to torture people. It seems to me that I couldn't have done it, and I hope that my belief about myself is true.

I don't eat red meat because it's pretty obvious to me that mammals feel pain and have a great intelligence that we can, in part, understand. (Birds and fish too, but I'm not moral enough to sacrifice eating them, and dairy products - I like those too.) Anyone who has a bond with a companion animal knows that animals have emotional intelligence. But our society tortures animals all the time - people are perfectly happy do so in the name of "if it tastes good, do it." Soon animals will be bred to carry our transplant organs. Their suffering is an afterthought, if a thought at all.

I'm glad that Obama restored the notion that, as a matter of our commitment to basic human rights, the United States doesn't torture people. If "ultimately, the person who is responsible for what you do, is you" we can quit pointing fingers at people like Morell (who, as far as I know, didn't torture anyone).

"It seems to me that I couldn't have done it, and I hope that my belief about myself is true."

that's pretty much where I land as well, although I am, perhaps, less clear that I couldn't have done it. but I hope I wouldn't have.

"we can quit pointing fingers at people like Morell (who, as far as I know, didn't torture anyone)."

I can, and do, and will continue to, hold people like Morell accountable for what they have actually done, which is refuse to acknowledge that what was done is torture, and therefore wrong.

it is, imo, cowardice for guys like Morell to hide behind what the "lawyers said".

among other things, we tried, convicted, and hung people for the practice of water boarding after WWII. there is no f'ing way the people involved didn't know what they were getting themselves into.

it's wrong, it needs to be named for what it is, and we've had enough of people hiding behind John yoo's skirts.

it's wrong, it needs to be named for what it is

I agree with this. But I think that it's more important to make sure it's never again government policy to allow it than to hold people at the CIA as our moral scapegoats, when they were carrying out the orders of an Executive branch that was widely enough supported that they were elected again. I didn't vote for them, but loads of people did - with full knowledge.

I would like for everyone to acknowledge that what we did was torture. I'm ready to accept that there were people who believed that they were doing it in order to save lives. Torture cannot be one of the tools they ever use again to do that, and it's up to the "lawyers and the suits" to make that absolutely clear.

"I think that it's more important to make sure it's never again government policy to allow it than to hold people at the CIA as our moral scapegoats, when they were carrying out the orders of an Executive branch ..."

The 'I was just following ORDERS' defense didn't work at Nuremberg, why is it okay now?

"...that was widely enough supported that they were elected again. I didn't vote for them, but loads of people did - with full knowledge."

Okay, I completely agree that torture should go back in the box of "things NEVER to be contemplated", but the question is HOW? Gentle persuasion, logical argument, pointing to signed, ratified bipartisan international agreements? Not when "I didn't vote for them, but loads of people did - with full knowledge."

I see two possibilities: extensive prosecutions, harsh punishments; Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld get the 'short drop, long dangle' treatment. Perhaps that will 'clarify' the thinking of future leaders.

Alternately, use torture to extract co-conspirator names from Terry Nichols, convicted OKC bombing terrorist, follow those leads, torture to roll up the entire network. When our RWNJ fellow citizens find themselves potentially "on the hook" for torture, based on 'evidence' obtained by torture, they will re-evaluate their support for it.

Yes, the two alternatives are horrible/distasteful/unlikely, but questions one has to ask are "would they work?", "are there better options that would ACTUALLY work?", and "how much do you want this problem solved?". Because when "I didn't vote for them, but loads of people did - with full knowledge.", getting that demon back in the box is going to be difficult. And painful.

I, for one, look forward to the day when all the way up and down the chain of command, the order to torture is met with immediate fragging.

John Le Carre, in his introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold", after noting that his fictional Control was comfortable in how far we can go in the rightful of our Western values without abandoning them along the way -- "I mean, you can't be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government's policy is benevolent, can you now?":

"Today, the same man, with better teeth and hair,
and a much smarter suit, can be heard explaining away the catastrophic illegal war in Iraq, or justifying medieval torture techniques as the preferred means of interrogation in the twenty-first century, or defending the inalienable right of closet psychopaths to bear semiautomatic weapons and the use of unmanned drones as a risk-free method of assassinating one's perceived enemies and anybody who has the bad luck to be standing near them. Or, as a loyal servant of his corporation, assuring us that smoking is harmless to the health of the Third World and great banks are there to serve the public.

What have I learned over the last fifty years? Come to think of of it, not much. Just that the morals of the secret world (espionage) are very like our own."

We skate on thin, opaque ice, all of us, morally, over a vast sea muck of human blood and gore, the bones sunk to the bottom along with those of the fellow beasts we feast on.

Joseph Campbell wrote (I can't find the quote) something along the lines of "life is eating and being eaten and we sublimate that horror via myth and religion (my add: Conrad's Colonel Kurtz merely dispensed with the poetry and gazed directly upon the bloody fact).

I mean I eat chicken and like it, but just because I might enjoy it nicely sauced after removing it from underneath its cellophane doesn't mean I don't think about the fact that I'm any different than the fox crossing the road with a dead chicken in its mouth heading back to the den.

And attending communion and ceremonially eating of the body and the blood is really no different than the American plains tribes consecrating the burning flesh of the buffalo they have just consumed.

The fox doesn't do that, does he. But neither does he gather together in mobs of foxes, light torches, and revel in the slaughter of the chicken, who after all, are decent people like anyone else.

It's the consecrating poetry that is human. But John Yoo's dry legalese is no less a quintessentially human and horrifying consecration.

But something else is going on in America, and I'm not claiming its new, of course not, the human Beast raises its ugly head from time to time in human history (Walker Percy, I expect mistakenly, thought the trenches of World War I were a cataclysmic turning point in the human experience) but I am putting forth the notion that it is a momentous event in American history that so much of our public -- the so called voters on one particular political party -- now gather together (they are not foxes; they are much worse) in bloody-minded unity to howl in delight over the possibility of using nuclear weapons on the Other and administering torture ("Torture works, don't tell me it doesn't, and I will do that and worse, let me tell you"), or savagely celebrate and cheer the notion that their fellow Americans who lose their healthcare insurance will suffer and die, or howl for the murder of the opposing political candidate with very little or no push back from their religious, political, and media mentors who in the past might have sublimated their bloody-minded hate via other channels.

It's not beyond my fecund imagination that these mobs could be soon bayoneting black, Muslim, Mexican, and liberal babies and children (not fetuses of course, but the post-born variety of human being) over vast pits filled with adult corpses.

They are dangerous and their political movement is a deadly and dangerous threat.

They are haters of the first water. They are going to kill unless they are killed first.

So, regarding blow jobs, what is worse?

That Bill Clinton did not demand a quid pro quo from Monica Lewinsky that she go out and destroy the opposition political party if he let her blow him, which was bad enough (but not nearly as bad as Clinton's treatment of her afterwards) though remember, as a free human being and naive woman, Ms Lewinsky got exactly what she thought she wanted in the initial act ...

. ... or, that Sean Hannity repeatedly sucked Roger Ailes dick to get his job at FOX, probably swatting away Bill O'Reilly who was wearing career-cushioning knees pads in the waiting room, in order to fulfill the quid pro quo promise he made to Ailes that he would devote his entire career to destroying the polity of the United States of America, which he continues to this day, with or without administering booster blowjobs.

... and more:


Now that the rest of you conservatives have learned that your go-to alternative conservative media put in place to counter the absolute Evil of Walter Cronkite and the New York Times was conceived of and led by a psychopathic fraud, how are you to make it up to America for all of the Democratic and liberal officeholders who have lost elections over the last 25 to 30 years because of the lies and misinformation spewed out of the FOX news anchors' Ailes-abused mouths?

For example, I want Max Cleland re-installed in his Georgia Senate seat, as one on mere example.

No, I mean, I want it, or else I'll burn the bridge down that conservatives are going to tell me that the water has already flowed under and then I'm heading into town and blow that up too.

Also, does Sarah Death Palin spit or swallow?

That's some deep sh*t in the middle of that comment, Count. I think it might explain why I binge-watched 6 seasons of Game of Thrones in the last month and why I've been watching The Walking Dead since day one, if one can attempt to reckon through choices of popular culture (TV even!) what we humans really are.

A curious, ambiguous fact about both Campbell and Percy is that in their early days in the early 1930's both visited Germany to get a gander at what this fascinating individual Hitler was up to.

I expect both had misread Nietzsche, not uncommon among American intellectuals of the time.

Le Carre makes the point too in his introduction I quoted from that America and England were all over post-war Germany hiring savage Nazi murderers, with our tax dollars, to turn on the Soviets. Those in the intelligence community looked upon World War II as a mere interruption of the Real War in the 20th Century.

Yes, yes, burning Jews and murdering millions more in Eastern Europe is one thing, but the Soviets want to come and take our stuff.

I kid, but it is interesting the degree of savagery we align ourselves with to comfort us that we are fighting savagery.

First of all, this Democratic Governor needs to join the Republican Party immediately:


And second of all, the poor and undefended foxes in Missouri need to band into a mob and chase the Governor and his family down for dinner.

Of course, no strangers have actually blown him as far as anyone knows so I imagine Republicans in the State find him acceptable.

I link to cleek:


A fascinating theory that a Trump election could finally destroy the Republican Party completely, a very worthy goal, but a Clinton victory will re-unite that monstrosity in its habitual, congenital hatred all things not IT once again.

It's like we need to live through something really awful to scrub the system of the truly AWFUL to get to less awful eventually.

cleek provides a link to an example wherein the conservative Trump-hating writer writes that, barring a bear attack on Clinton, she is going to be elected, to which I say, he knows nothing of bear attacks if he believes he will survive his ilk regaining the upper hand in his murderous, but highly religious, Party.

We should also not forget that Hitler, while he despised US democracy, admired all the bad stuff the US got away with and took inspiration from it: slavery, genocide, institutionalized racism, forced sterilisation. It caused quite a headache in Nuremberg when Nazi criminals (and their lawyers of course) quoted chapter and verse from US laws and asked what was the difference between that and what they had codified and executed.
A slightly funny anecdote about that came from one of the translators who did not know what 'tu quoque' meant and suddenly found the term occurring used by both sides extensively without her having a chance to ask anyone about the meaning until the end of her shift.

an accounting or law firm in the specific sub-discipline you worked in at the government

Or, more worryingly, lobbying.

(Or, if it's a sufficiently high-profile government position, public speaking. Which I find less worrying than those other possibilities, but seems to draw accusations of corruption anyways.)

There is a weird mental loop about job worth in this kind of analysis. I tend to think that these jobs aren't really 'worth' anything like what they are getting if you don't factor in the potential corruption side, so the jobs are a pay off. So from that perspective the public speaking is the nth degree of that. If the cushy accounting job isn't worth $500,000 a year without the corruption, the public speaking definitely isn't worth $200,000 an hour.

Tim Kaine pushes back against Obama/Clinton"

"Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine said he didn’t believe the U.S. had legal authority to carry out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya this week, underscoring differences over the issue with his running mate, Hillary Clinton."

via Larison.

What's the Republican Prty have in the way of Vice Presidential material: Cheney? Pence?

I think that it's more important to make sure it's never again government policy to allow it than to hold people at the CIA as our moral scapegoats, when they were carrying out the orders of an Executive branch that was widely enough supported that they were elected again.

IMO your point about looking for "moral scapegoats" is apt.

I agree, the people of the US own responsibility for the general FUBAR train wreck that was our response to 9/11, most definitely including the use of torture. As you note, Bush was re-elected.

I don't excuse the folks doing the hands-on torturing, because I find the claim that they didn't understand what they were doing to be several orders of magnitude beyond the benefit of the doubt.

But I also recognize that the use of torture had, and still has, remarkably wide support in the general population, and in the ranks of people holding office at all levels.

It's one of the most disturbing things about post 9/11 America, to me.

Basically, it makes me wonder what we're made of as a people. The attacks on 9/11 were dramatic, shocking, and sensationally horrific, but I was and remain disturbed and shocked at the speed and ease with which we found ourselves able to compromise, if not simply abandon, the things that we claim are our distinctive legacy as a nation.

I don't think it speaks well of us, or bodes well for us. We're lucky we're as wealthy and safe as we are, because I think actual hardship might break us as a nation at this point.

In any case, what I ask from people like Morell is simply to own their own actions. Or, at least, acknowledge the plain reality of the facts.

We tortured people, not as one-off events in the heat of extreme circumstances, but as a deliberate, carefully planned and executed program, scientifically designed, monitored, and documented.

That is what happened. I cannot believe the people involved didn't know what they were doing, and I cannot believe they did not understand that it was outside any traditional understanding of what was permitted.

If all these guys have to offer is CYA bullshit, I'll thank them to just be quiet and go away.

In any case, what I ask from people like Morell is simply to own their own actions. Or, at least, acknowledge the plain reality of the facts.

As far as I can tell from what he's said (and I haven't read much but a brief transcript), he thought waterboarding was outside the pale, but thought that the other "enhanced interrogation techniques" (known to us as "torture") provided information that saved lives. I guess what I would say is "Even if it saved lives it shouldn't be government policy." Which leaves some room for some very zealous CIA person to use unauthorized methods to elicit lifesaving info, then defend his actions in court when he's prosecuted. That's my preferred scenario for "the ticking timebomb" or whatever.

We tortured people, not as one-off events in the heat of extreme circumstances, but as a deliberate, carefully planned and executed program, scientifically designed, monitored, and documented.

Yes, and that required the lawyers and the suits.

In any case, what I ask from people like Morell is simply to own their own actions.

Morell was an [East] Asia guy. On the one hand, he could appear before the pubic with "clean hands" and point his fingers at colleagues and say "Shame on them!" Why not? He didn't do it, and wasn't responsible for it. Instead, he stood up for people who were under the gun and defended them for "trying to save lives. He's perfectly human, and was being a good colleague - I'm not interested in proving anything else at his expense.

Basically, it makes me wonder what we're made of as a people.

I agree. This is on the American people. We can do better, and we will.

Instead, he stood up for people who were under the gun and defended them

It's commendable for him to want to defend his colleagues.

If his defense is that "the attorneys said it was OK", IMO his defense is cowardly.

If his defense was that it was justified because it wasn't actually torture, then I find his defense worse than cowardly, I find it harmful, because it fails to acknowledge the reality of what was done. If you cannot call things what they are, your remaining option is denial. Denial prevents change.

If his defense is that they found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and felt they had no other option, I wouldn't really have that much to say, to be honest.

But I find that argument hard to reconcile with what actually happened.

"In extremis" seems, to me, kind of inconsistent with "we hired some consultants to show us how to do it".

Richard Dreyfus tells the story of his father, who spent part of his time during WWII interrogating Nazi prisoners. Sometimes, with a knife.

On the battlefield, under battlefield conditions, lives at stake. Not theoretically, but tangibly, demonstrably.

Understandable, and, illegal.

Dreyfus pere, when discussing it, would apparently say "Yes, I tortured them, and this is why it was necessary, and I am willing to accept whatever punishment that deserves".

I find that to be a credible position, FWIW. Credible in the sense of acknowledging the facts of what happened, acknowledging the circumstances in which they happened, and accepting whatever consequences might flow from the decisions made.

Ownership. A refusal to deflect responsibility. I find those things worthy of respect. Other things, less so.

And I guess I extend all of that to the American people as well, not just the Morells of the world.

I'm sure I have some other opinions to offer about the program and the principals who made it happen, but I'm not sure there's much value in going back over it all yet again.

It happened, and we can't make it unhappen.

In any case, probably not something where we are going to achieve a meeting of minds.

Peace out.

Peace out.

We're nowhere apart on what kind of people we should be, or what we should do. So, to the extent we disagree about fallible people who were in the weeds? Yeah, peace out.

We're nowhere apart on what kind of people we should be, or what we should do.


Probably best, and most constructive at this point, to focus on that.

The Trump campaign this morning called for an immediate nuclear strike on Tehran and then promised to ban all Nintendo imports to the United States as retaliation against Japan for provoking the mullahs to glow in the dark:


Hillary Clinton said Trump's call was a gross foreign policy over-reaction which could lead to global nuclear terror and Clinton haters everywhere pounced on the word "gross" and yeah-butted her reluctance to use that word regarding her husband's actions with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office bathroom 20 years ago

The mullahs in Iran agreed with the mullahs here and together blew up the White House to prove that lying about the small things leads to assholes dropping the big one on the human race.

See what you made us do?


"If she gets to pick her judges," Trump said, "nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is."

arrest this clown.

The CIA director who defended torture and endorsed Clinton wants us to kill Russians in Syria.


Someone should ask her about whether she accepts his endorsement. Dennis Ross, who has worked for both Clinton 1 and Obama, wants to bomb Syria. I think they represent a tendency in the responsible establishment types frustrated by the relative dovishness of Obama, who supports the Saudis as they bomb civilians in Yemen and is now bombing ISIS in Libya following our successful bombing of Libya a few years back. This clearly isn't enough bombing.

i like Trump's idea of changing biz pass-through income to a 15% tax rate.


in Trump's America, every household will be an S-corp.

Someone should ask her about whether she accepts his endorsement.

that Trump is too much for even some morally-questionable people to support shouldn't be a knock against Clinton.

I agree Trump is the worst Presidential candidate in my lifetime. Maybe. Definitely not someone who should be anywhere near the Oval Office.

But we have a former CIA chief as a supposedly wise foreign policy expert saying on the air, right after endorsing Clinton, that we should be assassinating Russians in Syria to send them a message. Forget the morality. This is the quality of thinking I would expect from Trump and it would be nice to hear Clinton backing away fast from this idiot, if the MSM deigns to cover it. Which they should, unless they are biased in some fashion.

I agree Trump is the worst Presidential candidate in my lifetime. Maybe.

I don't know how old you are, but he has to be the worst among major-party nominees, at least, if you're... well, I guess it doesn't matter how old you are. If we throw in remotely viable 3rd-party general-election candidates, I guess he would be competing with George Wallace if you're at least as old as I am. (I was an infant in November of '68.)

I guess he would be competing with George Wallace if you're at least as old as I am.

Are you really old enough to remember Wallace? Wallace was advocating for some reprehensible things.** But he actually knew something about how to run a government, and what it could and could not do. Whereas Trump pretty clearly has no clue. In short, you are being unfair to Wallace.

** Whether Wallace actually believed in all the things he advocated for is uncertain. It is known that, in his first campaign for public office, he ran as a moderate on racial issues (moderate for Alabama anyway). After he lost, he vowed never again to be beaten from the fight on that issue -- and stuck to it for the rest of his career. But was it belief, or what he saw a politicial necessity?

No, I was an infant. But Wallace was the only remotely viable candidate in my lifetime who anyone could even argue has come close to being as bad as Trump, I would think, even if he knew how to govern. Whether he was a segregationist at heart or out of political expediency isn't so important to me, or a lot of other people I would guess.

Has anyone else seen this (speaking of corruption - or alleged corruption)? I'm sure it will speak volumes to some people, but what the hell am I supposed to be seeing here?

What you should be seeing is that rather than Hillary Clinton shooting the DNC staffer in the back, as Assange now vomits, and Trump will ... right .... now .... she, or someone should have shot Larry Klayman in the head for insurrection a long time ago.

Another lesson in America's habit of killing all of the wrong people, as right-wing vermin proliferate.

One of Klayman's more recent outrages was suing Barack Obama for deliberately bringing the Ebola virus to America.

Unfortunately, it didn't infect Klayman's mother and children.

Maybe Zika will so the job.

At least Wallace repented, in word and in deed (appointed a record number of blacks to state positions during his last term as governor), declared he had been wrong and asked for forgiveness. I can't see Trump finding his way to the road to Damascus, but one can cast a forlorn hope that he does.

Not sure why I've gotten so many vox articles, though I think that clicking on Justice League articles to get to the trailers has Google thinking vox is just up my alley. Oh well...

I remember in the 2008 election, I hesitated about HRC because of Brad deLong's discussion of his experience with her in the attempt to deal with health care.

However, I find that deLong has changed his mind

This article says that he also retracted (changed might be a better word) that view on his blog in 2008, but I didn't really look for that.

I say this to bring up this article

As I said before, I'm sympathetic to the case that Donald often makes, though I never quite end up where he is, so I toss this out to try and have a little discussion. I suspect the point where we differ is in the part in the last paragraph that I've bolded

But like her predecessor, she will not risk her political standing unless she is convinced that there is a strong case for how such an intervention will both improve the situation on the ground and meet with the approval of the American public. In the next four years, such cases will be few and far between.

It's pretty clear from the convention that Clinton is looking to isolate Trump rather than tie him around the necks of the Republicans. While one can be upset with that strategy, looking at the way that people constantly try to change the focus to HRC, always prefaced by 'well, I'm not a Trump supporter, but...' I gotta say that she is being realistic. I've got this recurring nightmare that the Bradley effect is going to kick in. I wish someone would convince me it won't...

"It's pretty clear from the convention that Clinton is looking to isolate Trump rather than tie him around the necks of the Republicans."

Any acknowledgement from our right of center friends that this is pretty fair play compared to the Republican Party tying Ebola, all terrorism, all out of wedlock pregnancies, all economic under-performance, all crime, even as crime rates plunge, all cop killings, all unintended consequences, all sun spots, AIDS, the alleged breakdown of the family, crabgrass, the scandal of 20 million Americans receiving health insurance, all forest fires, everything except ice cream sundaes with sprinkles would be appreciated.

It wouldn't be my strategy, but she is obviously planning to govern and realizes that reaching across the aisle will be a pragmatic necessity to get anything done, regardless of how partisans feel about compromise.

She's going to receive nothing but a kick in the teeth from Republicans, and repeated impeachments, and I expect many assassination attempts by rank and file Republican vermin, but the broad must have something of the Pollyanna in her.

Meanwhile I fear the Bradley Effect as well because Americans, as a class of racist, anti-feminazis like to keep their pinkies in the air when asked about their prejudices, the cowardly f*cks.

I'm sure it will speak volumes to some people, but what the hell am I supposed to be seeing here?

Yeah, I don't see it either.

this was fun:


don't know if it's been worse, but it's been pretty freaking bad.

"Has anyone else seen this"

somebody from the Clinton foundation suggested somebody for a job in the state dept?

that's the scandal?

She runs the Clinton foundation and the State Dept like a private company, you scratch my back, I kiss your ass.

They network. What can YOU do for ME? Hanh?

Isn't that what corrupt Republicans and their ideological brothers-in-law have been preaching to us for 40 years, the greasy f*cks?

The government should be run like the family around the kitchen table, firing the slow sister and then yelling at her from the car window to get a f*cking job once she's fired and hiring the nifty cousin who might have a connection to boost profit, and maybe nuking the neighbors for over watering the property line.

F&ck off!

it's been pretty freaking bad

That was fun, russell, thanks. I do have to take issue with Michael Dukakis. He was a good guy, and would have been much better than Bush I (even though, of course, Bush I was better than Bush II). I need to read me some history about a couple of those guys though.

By the way, kind of off-topic, but there is some good news with regard to our foreign wars.

I realize that Libya wasn't an immediate "win" with our having supplied some of the fighting force to deter Qaddafi from annihilating his opposition (and civilians), resulting in his death at the hands of rebel forces, and then a lot of continued civil war with ISIS having taken hold.

But now, perhaps, we've gotten rid of ISIS? And maybe Libya, without ISIS or Qaddafi, can gradually figure out what the country is about? Hope so. And, yes, our foreign policy probably helped this hopeful situation happen.

I agree, Dukakis doesn't belong on that list.

the very worst thing you can say about him is that he's a wonk. a policy nerd.

which is to say, he valued good information and competence.

unfortunately for him, he was running against Lee atwaters boss.

Trump's Republican nominee to head up the FDA chimes in.




Kill em all.

... with love.

Also, to the sections of the NSA and FBI (we know you're there) who are looking forward to reporting to a Trump Administration:

F8ck off. Come and get it.

.. with love.

To the Republican fascist f*cks in the NSA and the FBI and the CIA who are looking forward to reporting to a Trump Administration, go f*ck yourselves.

Come and get it.

Knock twice.

He didn't think the first Civil War was necessary. Wait until the second one crawls up his vermin confederate ass with tactical nukes.


Ayn Rand: check

Slavery not an issue: Check

Women should be obscene and not heard: Check

States seceding from the Union: He can't wait.

He beat one of those, you know, reasonable right wing Republican assholes in the primary, one of those girl guy business people who made an insufficient fetish out of hating government and who seemed so far right just a few months ago.

But the Party mutates quickly, like Alien.

Count, by not linking to the original article
you missed out on all the great comments from the new nominee on women and other topics.

If the Republicans nominated enough nut jobs like this, the Democrats just might manage to take the House. And I was thinking that was pure fantasy. Guess I should have realized long since that nothing is so fantastical that it can be ruled out this year.

who tweets when "Trump" tweets:

I found this article fascinating. The concept that the vast majority of the world is less at war than anytime since the Roman Empire.


Clearly this is the result of US hegemony and the interventions to force democratic structures across the globe. Or not.

who tweets when "Trump" tweets:

Very interesting analysis! I wonder if the frequency of typos could indicate the size of fingers?

Marty, that article is fantastic.

Yet, I worry that so many are nostalgic for the meat grinders of history past.

Great to see Martin Amis chiming in:


Marty, that article is fantastic.

Yeah, I'm going to be spreading that one around, even if only to cause short headaches for the people who will ultimately dismiss it.

Marty, that's really good. I'd seen it before, but it is one of those messages that bears repeating over and over until it gets thru. (Not unlike the fact that crime rates in the US have been falling for almost 3 decades now.)

And it especially needs repeating in the midst of a political campaign like the current one, which is based relentlessly around fear.

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