Our Common Good
Worth reading!


An obscure paper called The Spokesman Review has an excellent article charting the role of psychologists in developing America’s ‘war on terror’ enhanced interrogation programme – widely condemned as torture.

The piece is fascinating because it outlines the competing tensions between those who championed the controversial physical interrogation techniques – created by reverse engineering the SERE resistance training – and those who preferred the rapport building methods.

It turns out that the division fell along inter-agency lines. The CIA used the harsh approach, the FBI relationship-based interrogation.

As is now well-known, the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were developed by two formed Air Force psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

The article finishes with a curious snippet of information “Jessen remains [in Spokane] and was recently made the bishop of his ward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.

That, my friend, is a novel in the making.

The road to ‘war on terror’ torture

In the summer of 2000, soldiers detained him while he was visiting a refugee camp. They shot him “in three places on his leg,” then “tortured him for several hours.” The soldiers “broke his kneecap, smashed his skull, and burned him with cigarettes.” After he was taken to a hospital to treat his wounds, he was returned to this captors, who held him for roughly a month and “tortured him regularly.”

This was the Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, at the height of a bloody civil war. Such accounts were commonplace. But in this case, according to the complaint, the man’s captors were not just any soldiers. They were “ExxonMobil security personnel.” And now, more than a decade later, ExxonMobil has been ordered to stand trial in a human rights lawsuit.

In June 2001, John Doe III and 10 other civilian neighbors of ExxonMobil’s Arun natural gas facility filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil in federal district court in Washington, DC. In John Doe v. ExxonMobil, (PDF) the villagers charge the company with complicity in torture, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by Indonesian soldiers it hired to provide security.


The fate of the ExxonMobil case now rests in the hands of the US Supreme Court. On October 1, the court heard arguments in a similar, better-known case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell)—and it’s that case that may determine whether the Acehnese villagers ever get their day in federal court.

Like John Doe v. ExxonMobil, the Kiobel case relies on an 18th-century statute called the Alien Tort Claims Act. The Nigerian plaintiffs say it gives citizens outside the United States the right to sue any corporation with a US presence for aiding and abetting human rights abuses—such as the Nigerian government’s alleged extrajudicial killings of Ogoni protester Ken Saro-Wiwa and Barinem Kiobel.


MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night explained a legal memo that advised the Bush Administration that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were torture and therefore illegal.

Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman obtained the memo, written by State Department counselor Philip Zelikow,…


Iowa is the Most Backward Terrorist Criminally Run State in the Union: Torture OK’d by Iowa Governor.
Despite a fierce campaign to stop the measure, Iowa became the first  state Friday to officially make it a crime to enter a farming operation  with the intent to secretly videotape animal abuse.  Undercover footage filmed by animal rights groups during the past  several years have been instrumental in exposing cases of cruelty to  farm animals.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed the law in a private ceremony. Iowa is  the country’s leading producer of pork and eggs and the governor is  known to have “strong ties to the state’s agricultural industry.”
In other news - Terry Branstad, Iowa Governor, Slapped With $1 Million Sexual Discrimination Lawsuit By State Commissioner.

One more wretchedly rotten Republican Governor

Disgusting.  If we don’t show the torture then it isn’t happening?


Iowa is the Most Backward Terrorist Criminally Run State in the Union: Torture OK’d by Iowa Governor.

Despite a fierce campaign to stop the measure, Iowa became the first state Friday to officially make it a crime to enter a farming operation with the intent to secretly videotape animal abuse. Undercover footage filmed by animal rights groups during the past several years have been instrumental in exposing cases of cruelty to farm animals.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed the law in a private ceremony. Iowa is the country’s leading producer of pork and eggs and the governor is known to have “strong ties to the state’s agricultural industry.”
In other news - Terry Branstad, Iowa Governor, Slapped With $1 Million Sexual Discrimination Lawsuit By State Commissioner.
Disgusting.  If we don’t show the torture then it isn’t happening?

5. Santorum: “I’m for income inequality.” College could have taught him that too much income inequality has negative effects on a country, as is held by Fed chief Ben Bernanke, who has a college degree in … economics. In nations with high levels of inequality, periods of economic expansion are shortened to a third as long. And, persistent inequality that is felt to be unfair contributes to high degrees of social conflict.

4. Evolution isn’t “just a theory,” as Santorum has put it in his quest to have the pseudo-science of Creationism taught in biology classes. In science, a “theory” is a robust explanation for observed phenomena that accounts for all the known facts about them. So, physicists speak of the theory of gravity. It isn’t that they think gravity isn’t a fact, or that they entertain other explanations of why books always fall if you let them go in mid-air (for instance, that each book has an invisible elf on it who likes a giddy ride down to the floor and guides it that way). Likewise, biological evolution is one of the more solidly proved things in science, and has been repeatedly observed in nature. Whether a divine power has set the universe up in this way, so that evolution occurs, is a theological question for seminaries, not a question for high school biology classes. Only someone insecure in their faith would need to bolster it by attempting to insert it into non-theological realms like science.

3. Santorum, when asked about welfare in Iowa, said that he doesn’t want to make the lives of blacks better by giving them other people’s money. Some 84% of food stamp recipients in Iowa are white. A social historian of the United States with a college degree in history could have told him that welfare programs were created for whites and for a long time African Americans were not even eligible for them. They aren’t about race, but about providing a social safety net so that the needy don’t starve to death on our doorsteps. Moreover, most of the “needy” are only temporarily so, with people falling into the category (especially when they are young) and climbing back out.

2. Santorum maintains that Usamah Ben Laden was tracked because the US tortured al-Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Actually, Usamah was found by tracking his courier. But torture or “enhanced interrogation” is notoriously unreliable. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi under torture told the US government that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had trained al-Qaeda agents in chemical weaponry– a complete falsehood, which Dick Cheney and Condi Rice quoted in support of going to war with Iraq. Someone educated in a Security Studies Program could have given Santorum better information than his own little brain has been able to come up with. Santorum, notoriously, tried to instruct Senator John McCain in how torture works; McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese while in custody there.

1. Santorum maintains that there is no such thing as a genuine liberal Christian because, he says, the plain text of the Bible is contrary to the principles of liberalism. He goes on to conflate liberalism with “liberation theology” (they are not the same thing). But the American Roman Catholic bishops of Santorum’s own church often take social positions that are recognizably liberal, basing them in scripture and in papal encyclicals. When it comes to feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, visiting prisoners, and doing to others as you would have them do to you, it is actually Ayn Rand style conservatism that is incompatible with Christianity. Santorum’s Bible appears to be missing the Beatitudes, and his Catholic education seems so defective that he is unaware of “Evangelium Vitae” (1995), which forbids the capital punishment that Santorum favors, or “Laborum exercens” (1981), which recognizes the right of workers to unionize, or “Caritas in Veritatae” (2009), in which Pope Benedict says, “Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.” Sounds like welfare to me. Someone who studied religion in college might have been able to help Santorum avoid all these errors.

John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, has slammed contenders for next year’s election for pledging to reinstate waterboarding of terrorism suspects if they reach the White House.

McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, has consistently described waterboarding as torture. He said in a tweet on Monday that he was “very disappointed” by support for the technique by Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann at Saturday’s Republican foreign policy debate in South Carolina.

The candidates criticised President Obama for banning the use of waterboarding, and said they would reinstate its use if elected.

McCain tweeted: “Very disappointed by statements at SC GOP debate supporting waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture.”


vruz: unless you’re dick cheney. the whole business paid off handsomely for him.

Unable to free the cub from its restraints, the mother hugged the cub and eventually strangled it.

It then dropped the cub and ran head-first into a wall, killing itself.

Not sure how anyone could expect that taking any remedy dependent upon such torture and bad kharma would insure their own health.  Sickening.

UPDATE:  After posting, I was sent this: Evolution of selfless behaviour; Many animals help other members of their group, often to their own cost.

There is a broad consensus in Congress regarding the preference for “private sector” (as opposed to publically funded) solutions to pressing social problems. As we saw in the health care “debate”, this a priori assumption effectively foreclosed serious consideration of the single payer method, the only approach that could reasonably have been expected defuse the health care cost bomb.

There is a broad consensus in Congress regarding the fact that our relationship with Israel is beneficial to the US. This despite the fact that our blank-check support for Israel’s six-decade campaign of expropriation and abuse of the Palestinians is a major cause (the only people that question this are Israel’s many apologists in the US media) of Arab distrust and hostility toward the US. As long as this consensus,—which slavishly embraces Israel’s bully first, talk later approach on its relations with its neighbors and its own second-class Arab citizens—has the unconditional backing of Congress, we will be totally “gridlocked” on the matter of seeking, never mind finding, creative and peaceful solutions to foreign policy issues in the Middle East.

There is a broad consensus in Congress regarding the essential validity of the “War on Terror”, a concept that holds that, “whether we like it or not”, the US is obliged to view most of the world (outside of Great Britain and Israel) as potential adversaries. Implied is the belief we must never, ever “let our guard down” (aka “stop spending obscene quantities of money on armaments) vis-à-vis all those people “intent on doing us harm”. Needless to say, repeatedly telling the many nations of the world, people that might actually like you if you were to modify your behavior toward them, that we (the US and they) of us are condemned to live in a state of distrust, if not open conflict, tends to foreclose many fruitful possibilities. And needless to say, funding this paranoia with heaping expenditures cancels out the possibility that we might actually begin taking care of all the desperate and needy people here at home.

There is a broad consensus in Congress about people in the Executive Branch of government not being subject to the laws of the land. People who broke laws regarding torture, surveillance on American citizens and the need to have congressional approval of military action (to name just a few of the many examples I could adduce), not only walk around free, but openly crow on talk shows and in interviews about how they’d “do it again” if presented with the same set of conditions. This consensually-embraced disdain for the very laws our congressional representatives are elected to uphold and enforce breeds deep cynicism and anger among the general population, and especially among those millions of Americans who, as Barbara Erenreich points out, are increasingly being prosecuted for the “crime” of being poor.

There is a broad consensus in Congress that the rich need not contribute in any inordinate way to solving the problems they had an inordinate role in fomenting. Rather, it is generally agreed in the House and the Senate that they should be able keep almost all of the inordinate wealth they obtained in the last three decades, even if this means letting the millions of less fortunate among us sink into inordinate levels of misery.

And finally, there is a broad consensus in Congress (despite the crocodile tears that some Dems are now sporting before the cameras) regarding to the need to give priority to deficit reduction (favored by the banks and big industry) over a robust stimulus policy designed to give hope and jobs to ordinary Americans.

A federal judge has ruled that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld can be sued personally for damages by a former U.S. military contractor who says he was tortured during a nine-month imprisonment in Iraq.

The lawsuit lays out a dramatic tale of the disappearance of the then-civilian contractor, an Army veteran in his 50s whose identity is being withheld from court filings for fear of retaliation. Attorneys for the man, who speaks five languages and worked as a translator for Marines collecting intelligence in Iraq, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.

The government says he was suspected of helping pass classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces get into Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime, and he says he never broke the law and was risking his life to help his country.


J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels and the movies based on them have been the most important ongoing pop culture event in the world for the last decade and a half. As I wrote in the Atlantic, I think the reason they’re a permanent part of the canon is that Rowling achieved something really unusual in writing a moral novel that feels particularly applicable to contemporary politics, but that is timeless not just by dint of quality but by design.

1. Torture is wrong. J.K. Rowling’s adamant that torture and indefinite detention are morally wrong and counterproductive. Barty Crouch, Jr. is a nut, but he’s clearly radicalized and made even crazier by his experience undergoing psychological torture at Azkaban. Sirius Black is imprisoned there without a trial — can you imagine what the punitive damages would be in a wrongful imprisonment case if there were dementors involved? Bellatrix Lestrange’s addiction to torture warps her morally — and she doesn’t get any useful information out of Hermione when she tortures the younger woman at Malfoy Manor. Harry tries torturing people several times, but can’t do it, and in the end, his preference for less coercive tactics helps him beat Voldemort.
2. Universal health care is pretty much a necessity. Can you imagine what Neville Longbottom’s financial future would be like if he had to pay for his parents’ long-term care at St. Mungo’s? Magic’s an incredibly dangerous business, and whether you’re getting all the bones accidentally removed from your arm or getting bitten by a giant snake, it’s lucky that St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries appears to operate along the same lines as the National Health Service.
3. Bureaucrats are heroes. Whether it’s Mr. Wealsey’s unheralded service in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, or the lessons of Kingsley Shacklebolt’s time as an auror that made him a strong leader of the Order of the Phoenix, and later, Minister of Magic, bureaucrats are often heroes in Rowling’s universe. When the bureaucracy’s corrupted by people like Dolores Umbridge under Voldemort’s rule, it’s a genuine tragedy.
4. Rita Skeeter is Rebekah Brooks. How much easier would it have been for News of the World to carry out its phone hacking scheme on a grand scale if it had just employed a bunch of Anamagi with low morals. In between the Quibbler, which doesn’t have enough credibility to carry the day when it’s right, and the Daily Prophet, which is badly in need of a public editor, the Harry Potter universe needs a magical equivalent of the New York Times.
5. Good intelligence makes good policy. Cornelius Fudge’s dithering as Voldemort rose is one of the most profound political failures of the novels. His distrust of good intelligence, suspicion of people who operate in good faith, and failure to act once he’s convinced of the truth directly enable Voldemort’s rise. If Fudge had been willing to act, he might have had to do ugly things to forestall Voldemort’s rise, like arresting Death Eaters on flimsy charges (and even then, Azkaban might not have held) until he could have built more substantive cases against them, denying Voldemort key allies. But at minimum, Fudge could have gotten the wizarding world ready to defend themselves.
6. Inherited wealth can be corrupting. Clearly, the obnoxiousness of the Malfoys is crying out for a good, hard progressive taxing. On the other hand, can you imagine Voldemort at a Tea Party?
7. Good domestic policy can be protection against and invasion. Hermione’s lonely quest to get people to treat house elves like the sentient beings that they are turns out to be mighty handy when Hogwarts comes under attack. Who know that treating tremendously powerful magical beings like something other than bony little punching bags might win their loyalty so they’ll fight on your side when their former masters show up, determined to destroy you.
8. Albus Dumbledore is a wizarding George Washington. Okay, so he never took the Minister of Magic post in the first place. But knowing when to walk away from power when you could hold on to it is one of the only things that preserve democratic governments. Dumbledore’s self-knowledge and self-control turns out to be one of the more admirable things in the novels.
Ron Paul may be the wackiest candidate in the GOP field. But for pure, blind stupidity nobody beats Santorum. In my 20 years in the Senate, I never met a dumber member, which he reminded me of today.
McCain aid Mark Salter, slapping-down Rick “McCain is misguided about torture” Santorum. (via ryking)

Now the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, has added her voice to those saying the Bush administration’s use of torture in black sites operated by the CIA did not contribute to finding bin Laden. In response to a reporter’s questions, she said:

Absolutely not, I do not. I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used. …

We are in the process of a big study on the detention and interrogation of the detainees on the Intelligence Committee. The Republicans have pulled out of the study. So this has been carried out by the Democratic staff essentially. They have gone through more than 3 million emails, cables, pieces of paper looking for this.

To date, the answer to your question is no. Nothing has been found to indicate this came out of Guantanamo. And people were questioned, but there were no positive answers as to the identity of this number one courier.