New Poll Finds 59% Of Americans Support Post-9/11 Torture – Propaganda, Cultural Sickness, Or Both?

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

 

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

 

– From Glenn Greenwald’s latest piece: U.S. TV Provides Ample Platform for American Torturers, but None to Their Victims

After reading about a new poll that shows 59% of Americans support post 9/11 torture, I’ve spent the entire morning thinking about what it means. Does this confirm the total degeneration of American culture into a collective of chicken-hawk, unthinking, statist war-mongering automatons? Alternatively, does it merely reflect the effectiveness of corporate-government propaganda? Is it a combination of both? How does the poll spilt by age group?

These are all important questions to which I do not have definitive answers, but I have some thoughts I’d like to share. First, here are some of the observations from the Washington Post:

A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

 

By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.

 

In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

 

The new poll comes on the heels of a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which President Obama ended in 2009. The report concluded that controversial interrogation techniques — including waterboarding detainees, placing them in stress positions and keeping them inside confinement boxes — were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence.

This is important, because despite the Senate Report showing torture was not effective in acquiring intelligence (see: Revelations from the Torture Report – CIA Lies, Nazi Methods and the $81 Million No-Bid Torture Contract), the American public thinks it was. This is the power of mainstream media spin and propaganda.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the CIA’s harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists produced important information that could not have been obtained any other way, while 31 percent say it did not.

 

In a CBS poll released Monday, nearly seven in 10 considered waterboarding torture, but about half said the technique and others are, at times, justified. Fifty-seven percent said harsh interrogation techniques can provide information that can prevent terrorist attacks.

While the above is disturbing, if I felt that the culture is lost beyond hope and that my fellow American is akin to a zombified sociopath with no hope of awakening, I wouldn’t be writing on this website. I would have renounced my citizenship long ago and moved somewhere else. In contrast, I think there’s a lot to fight for in these United States and I think the war for freedom, civil rights and the rule of law can and will prevail. After all, I was admittedly more or less a zombie during the years immediately following 9/11 and for most of my time on Wall Street. If I was able to make such a profound transition (and countless of my friends have as well ), then there is always hope.

I continue to think that the vast majority of human beings are not particularly ethical or unethical. They are basically somewhere in the middle and thus very easily molded by propaganda. History pretty much proves this to be the case. My sentiments on the subject can be best summarized by something I wrote back in 2012 in the post: Humanity is Rising.

I have always felt that human disposition lies on a bell curve.  So let’s say for the sake of argument that 1% is just extraordinarily wicked, selfish, mentally deranged so along the lines of a Stalin like character.  Then let’s say the 1% on the other side is gentle, enlightened, and moral almost to a fault so a Gandhi like character.  Then the masses in the middle are not of any extreme disposition in either way, but are easily malleable and generally just “go along to get along.”  Well as far as recorded human history is concerned, the 1% of nasty, immoral parasites have dominated humanity through the various playbooks strategies that I and many others have outlined.  The 1% on the other side have generally been silenced or ostracized systematically by the control freak “leaders” and if that fails to work, they are simply murdered.  I mean even up until the 20th Century think about the kinds of guys that have been murdered.  Gandhi.  Martin Luther King Jr.  John Lennon.  Oh and if we want to go back a couple thousand years there was Jesus.  The list is endless.  Guys that talk about a higher level of consciousness and love and actually make inroads in society are murdered.  Yet no one ever seems to take a shot at the genocidal, sociopaths that run our lives through politics and banking (nor would I ever want that as I do not condone violence as a solution to a violent system).  Interesting isn’t it?  I think it is pretty obvious why this is the case.  The 1% on the decent side of the bell curve aren’t murderers.  The guys on the other side of it are.  

While certainly not giving the middle of the bell curve a pass for its unquestioned apathy and ignorance, I am convinced that the key variable here is information, which is why it is so imperative to conduct alternative narratives, and is why I spend most of my time working on this site. Glenn Greenwald’s recent piece in the Intercept helped to reinforce the impact of media propaganda in shaping public perceptions. Here are some excerpts:

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

 

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

 

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

 

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

 

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLUCenter for Constitutional RightsReprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

 

I’ve written previously about the transformative experience of meeting and hearing directly from the victims of the abuses by your own government. That human interaction converts an injustice from an abstraction into a deeply felt rage and disgust. That’s precisely why the U.S. media doesn’t air those stories directly from the victims themselves: because it would make it impossible to maintain the pleasing fairy tales about “who we really are.”

 

When I was in Canada in October, I met Maher Arar (pictured above) for the second time, went to his home, had breakfast with his wife (also pictured above) and two children. In 2002, Maher, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, heldincommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. He was kept in a coffin-like cell for 10 months and savagely tortured until even his Syrian captors were convinced that he was completely innocent. He was then uncermoniously released back to his life in Canada as though nothing had happened.

 

When he sued the U.S. government, subservient U.S. courts refused even to hear his case, accepting the Obama DOJ’s claim that it was too secret to safely adjudicate.

 

There are hundreds if not thousands of Maher Arars the U.S. media could easily and powerfully interview. McClatchy this week detailed the story of Khalid al Masri, a German citizen whom the U.S. Government abducted in Macedonia, tortured, and then dumped on a road when they decided he wasn’t guilty of anything (US courts also refused to hear his case on secrecy grounds). The detainees held without charges, tortured, and then unceremoniously released from Guantanamo and Bagram are rarely if ever heard from on U.S. television, even when the U.S. Government is forced to admit that they were guilty of nothing.

 

This is not to say that merely putting these victims on television would fundamentally change how these issues are perceived. Many Americans would look at the largely non-white and foreign faces recounting their abuses, or take note of their demonized religion and ethnicity, and react for that reason with indifference or even support for what was done to them.

I’m not so sure this is the case, and in any event, we can’t know unless we try.

Keeping those victims silenced and invisible is the biggest favor the U.S. television media could do for the government over which they claim to act as watchdogs. So that’s what they do: dutifully, eagerly and with very rare exception.

Watching television is easy and addicting, particularly if you came of age before the internet. Television news is simply horrifying. On those rare instances when I catch a glimpse of it at the gym, I feel as if I have entered a bizarro world of idiocy and shamelessness.

Nevertheless, it remains true that a lot of the pre-internet generation still receives intellectual marching orders from the idiot-box. This is why I’m so curious to see how the Washington Post poll splits by age bracket. Either way, hope is never lost and the torch of liberty must remain lit and carried forward by those who care. That’s precisely what I try to do here at Liberty Blitzkrieg, and I ask you to do the same in whatever capacity you can.

Want to Know Who Really Runs the United States?

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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A Visit to Zombie Town

Dow down 99 points on Monday. Gold fell $28 an ounce – its fourth straight day of losses. Stock markets have been slipping all over the world, especially in Europe. But outside of Russia, and maybe Greece, so far there is no sign of real panic. That will come later.

We’re spending this week in Washington, zombie watching. Yesterday, we spent the evening in the lobby of The Willard hotel. A choir sang carols.

 

“Hark the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

In one corner a group of cronies sat negotiating a deal; whose ox they were goring we don’t know. Pairs of women sipped their champagne and nibbled their cookies. A few tourists gawked at the splendor of it: a Christmas tree worthy of Yosemite… ceilings rivaling those of the Louvre.

 

dre-blog2 Photo credit: Andrew Bossi

 

Your editor – his laptop in one hand and a glass of Cabernet in the other – sat in another corner, enjoying the singing and inconspicuously recording events.

 

As Timeless as Prostitution

Politics is the leading industry in this town. When JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was on line on Thursday, the other end of the line was here. Dimon was adding his backing to the so-called “cromnibus” bill – which, among other things, again allows Wall Street banks to take risky derivative bets with consumer deposits.

Here’s one of our dear readers with the story:

 

“The US House passed a bill repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, stepped into the ring.

Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks.”

 

Compared to New York, D.C. is remarkably quiet. Not too much traffic yesterday. Few people on the streets in the downtown area. It was quiet, calm, peaceful – like the beginning of a horror movie.

Our hotel has a completely different clientele and atmosphere than the boutique New York hotel we stayed in last week. In Lower Manhattan we saw “hipsters” and artists… publishers and filmmakers. Everyone seemed young and fashionable. The shops were busy. The old buildings – with their industrial windows and loading docks – recalled yesterday’s.

Washington, on the other hand, is as timeless as prostitution. Here, men still wear business suits and ties. Women are not quite as chic as New Yorkers. All look as though they take themselves too seriously… as though the future of the planet depends on what they did today. They must be trying to compensate for the fact that their work – and their lives – are parasitic and pointless.

They come and go in the hotel lobby. One is off to try to pull a little pork out of a Nebraska senator. Another is looking for help with a Pentagon contract. They are all zombies, we reckon, all getting without giving anything of any real value.

 

Zombie InvasionDon’t believe that Washington is zombie infested? Think again.

Photo via gothic.net

 

Jamie Dimon – Hero

Dimon must be a hero to this crowd…

He is not in politics … and not even a full-fledged master of zombie arts. After all, he must spend some of his time at JPMorgan Chase offering real services – or at least the appearance of them – to get clients to part with their money.

On Thursday, he did the rest of the nation a grave disservice. But in helping to push Republicans and Democrats to the scammy bipartisan “cromnibus” bill, he helped keep the lights on in Washington.

The federal government was getting ready to shut down. Then Dimon got on the phone. It was probably a tit-for-tat payback. The feds helped keep his lights on in 2008. Now, he has repaid the favor.

Colleague Dan Denning, newly returned from 10 years in Australia, is appalled. He was a congressional page 25 years ago. All of the twisted roots he saw sink into the D.C. earth in the 1980s have now grown into full-sized trash trees. They now cast their long shadows over Washington… and the nation.

It was in the beginning of the 1980s that President Reagan’s budget director David Stockman lost his famous battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

Stockman believed the GOP should remain true to its best traditions and should demand balanced federal budgets. But the progressive wing of the party was more interested in winning elections and distributing pork than in fiscal rectitude.

The Reagan administration went on to run some of the biggest deficits in history. And that was just the beginning. Among the bits of grease in the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed Saturday night was a provision allowing Dimon’s Wall Street cronies to “donate” up to $230,000 each to the Republicans and Democrats. This will help cement their control of the political process.

It was a win-win deal: Dimon got something. And the feds got something. That must be why the Wall Street Journal labeled it a “rare bipartisan success.” We understand the bipartisan success part: Both Washington and Wall Street benefited.

It’s the “rare” part we don’t understand.

 

dimonbillfoldBehold this here billfold, which shall henceforth be wide open to zombies on both sides of the aisle, so that they may continue to preserve our hard-won privileges in bi-partisan unity, amen.

Photo credit: AFP

 

The above article is taken from the Diary of a Rogue Economist originally written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

SHITIBANK

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

THE CROMNIBUS OF LIBERTY

“Citigroup is a very large bank that has amassed a huge amount of political power. Its current and former executives consistently push laws and regulations in the direction of allowing Citi and other megabanks to take on more risk, particularly in the form of complex highly leveraged bets. Taking these risks allows the executives and traders to get a lot of upside compensation in the form of bonuses when things go well – while the downside losses, when they materialize, become the taxpayer’s problem.

Citigroup is also, collectively, stupid on a grand scale. The supposedly smart people at the helm of Citi in the mid-2000s ran them hard around – and to the edge of bankruptcy. A series of unprecedented massive government bailouts was required in 2000-09 – and still the collateral damage to the economy has proved enormous. Give enough clever people the wrong incentives and they will destroy anything.

Now the supposedly brilliant people who run Citigroup have, in the space of a single working week, made a series of serious political blunders with long-lasting implications.

Their greed has manifestly proved Elizabeth Warren exactly right about the excessive clout of Wall Street, their arrogance has greatly strengthened a growing left-center-right coalition concerned about the power of the megabanks, and their public exercise of raw power has helped this coalition understand what it needs focus on doing – break up Citigroup.”

Simon Johnson: Here

Via William Banzai

SOLUTION TO POLICE BRUTALITY – ARREST ANYONE FILMING IT

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Connecting the Dots: Dumb & Dumber: Relax Mortgage Rules, Financial Crisis 2.0

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Connecting the Dots: Dumb & Dumber: Relax Mortgage Rules, Financial Crisis 2.0

By Tony Sagami

 

Mortgage credit is too tight. They should have changed that a long time ago. —Jamie Dimon, CEO JPMorgan

Today’s rule is an important step forward in creating an environment where good lenders and good borrowers can work together without reservation. —Julian Castro, HUD Secretary

Geez, I can’t decide who is dumber when it comes to repeating the same mistakes: the profits-at-any-cost crowd on Wall Street or the do-anything-for-votes politicians in Washington, DC.

I can’t decide; they’re both dumber than dirt and often in bed when it comes to lining each other’s pockets.

What I’m talking about today is the new regulations for mortgage qualification a.k.a. “qualified residential mortgage” (QRM) rules.

Some background first.

After the 2008 financial crisis and subprime mortgage implosion, governmental agencies led by the Federal Housing Finance Agency enacted a series of tougher rules to clean up the overly easy mortgage qualification process.

Of course, tighter lending standards and higher down payments squeezed a lot of marginal buyers out of the real estate market, and that meant fewer dollars for big banks that package the loans and members of the National Association of Realtors that sell the homes.

The drop in income bothered them so much that they formed a big organization called the Coalition for Sensible Housing Policy to push the noble goal of helping first-time homebuyers with a return to the good old days of easy credit.

Big surprise. The lobbying efforts (and no doubt large political contributions) paid off. The 20% down payment requirement has disappeared and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will now guarantee some loans with down payments of as little as 3%.

Bye-bye credit standards.

These new QRM rules make it possible for mortgage applicants to do away with pesky things like good credit and a down payment.

“The QRM rule is a win-win for consumers, Realtors and the housing finance industry,” said Steve Brown, the president of the National Association of Realtors.

I don’t know about the consumers, but  Brown is absolutely right about the new QRM rules being a win for Realtors and mortgage lenders. But heck, two out of three ain’t bad… right?

By the way, the three politicians most responsible for the new QRM rules are Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Senator Isakson of Georgia, by the way, was president of Northside Realty for 22 years before going into politics. Yup, enough to make you puke, but that’s standard operating procedure for Washington, DC.

Will these relaxed lending rules light a fire underneath the real estate market? So far… no!

The last new MBA mortgage application survey for the week ending November 28 showed the New Application Index stuck at 168, roughly the same level as shown in the mid-1990s.

Of course, mortgage rates are a lot lower today than they were in the 1990s.

What’s the problem then?

Not only are wages stagnant in nominal terms, wages are actually lower—a lot lower—in real, purchasing-power terms.

Just in October, the median household income in the US dropped by -0.6%, or $318.

And Americans seem to be less inclined to abuse credit as they have in the past. The total amount of revolving credit (credit cards) has plunged.

You see, people make borrowing decisions based on their confidence in future earnings and perceived strength of the economy, and Americans are clearly not confident about their economic future.

The new QRM rules aren’t going to give the big banks and Realtors the jump in income they’re hoping for.

So what does this mean for investors? The real estate food chain is so deep that there’s no shortage of potential trouble spots, but I’d be particularly leery of the giant bond guarantors, like MBIA and Assured Guaranty, as well as big mortgage lenders.

Who are the biggest mortgage lenders? Wells Fargo, US Bancorp, JPMorgan, Bank of America, and Quicken.

If you’re more of an ETF investor and want to play the “short” side, take a look at ProShares Short Real Estate (REK), an ETF that is designed to profit from falling stock prices of publicly traded companies involved in the real estate industry.

30-year market expert Tony Sagami leads the Yield Shark and Rational Bear advisories at Mauldin Economics. To learn more about Yield Shark and how it helps you maximize dividend income, click here. To learn more about Rational Bear and how you can use it to benefit from falling stocks and sectors, click here.

WHO DOES IT BETTER?

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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QUOTES OF THE DAY

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

“This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

“Let’s face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

“Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than just ribbons?”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

 

 

REDNECK GINGERBREAD HOUSE

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Posted on 17th December 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Via Lonely Libertarian