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Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:22 PM

Competitive Theories: "Deflation Warning" vs. "Inflation is Nearly Everywhere"

Theory #1: Break-Even Rates Provide "Deflation Warning"

Bloomberg is sounding a Deflation Warning as 2-Year Break-Even Rates Go Negative.

Break-even rates are the difference between treasuries and the same-duration Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). The break-even rate turned negative yesterday for the first time since 2009.

In theory, break-even rates reflect investors’ expectations for inflation over the life of the securities.

When break-even rates are negative, it's an indication investors expect price deflation for the duration, in this case for two years.

From Bloomberg ...

The drop in the break-even rate followed a Labor Department report yesterday that showed consumer prices dropped 0.3 percent in November, the most in almost six years, on tumbling energy prices. Principal and interest payments on Treasury Inflation Protected Securities are indexed to changes in the consumer price index, so a lower than forecast CPI diminishes the value of projected future payments from TIPS.

The break-even rate dropped to negative 0.035 percent yesterday. The difference was 0.024 percent today.

The negative break-even rate represents “an uncertainty premium that maybe oil could fall to $40 a barrel,” said Donald Ellenberger, who oversees about $10 billion as head of multi-sector strategies at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh. “The shortest-term TIPS are very influenced by the direction of the consumer price index. It’s telling you inflation on the short-end could turn negative.”

Fed Chair Janet Yellen downplayed the notion at the press conference after the conclusion of yesterday’s two-day policy meeting. Falling break-even rates may represent a decline in the inflation premium risk or the range of inflation outcomes investors are taking into consideration, she said. One of the justifications for the Fed to raise rates for the first time since 2006 is to keep consumer price increases from getting out of control.
Out of Control Consumer Prices?

Color me extremely skeptical regarding out of control consumer prices. In fact, I side with this headline: Krugman, Fighting Consensus, Says 2015 Fed Rate Increase Is Unlikely.
Paul Krugman, challenging the consensus of economists and the Federal Reserve’s forecasts, said policy makers are unlikely to raise interest rates in 2015 as they struggle to spur inflation amid sluggish global economic growth.

“When push comes to shove they’re going to look and say: ‘It’s a pretty weak world economy out there, we don’t see any inflation, and the risk if we raise rates and it turns out we were mistaken is just so huge’,” the 2008 Nobel laureate said in Dubai. “It’s certainly a real possibility that they’ll go ahead and do it, but probably not, and for what it’s worth I and others are trying to bully them into not doing it.”
Agreement With Krugman

Aside from that last sentence, I am in general agreement with Krugman.

Please read carefully. Although I endorse Krugman's belief about how the Fed will react, I do not endorse the policy itself.

Krugman precisely summed up how economic illiterates at the Fed think (and that is how Krugman, thinks as well).

No bullying by Krugman is needed. The Fed already thinks like he does.

Jean-Claude Yellen

Please consider Krugman's December 10th column Jean-Claude Yellen.

In his post, Krugman says Jean-Claude Trichet’s decision to raise rates in Europe in 2011 "a big mistake", just as the Swedish Riksbank’s early rate hike was a "mistake", just as Japan’s rate hike in 2000 was a "mistake".

The notion that a quarter-point hike caused Europe's problem is absurd. Yet Krugman continues his moaning.

"Suppose, on the other hand, that the Fed raises rates, and it turns out that it should have waited. This could all too easily prove disastrous. The economy could slide into a low-inflation trap in which zero interest rates aren’t low enough to achieve escape — which has happened in Japan and is pretty clearly happening in the euro area."

Yes Japan is in a trap, and the reason is Japan did precisely what Krugman wanted - wasted money on inane projects to "stimulate" the economy!

Reasonable people would intuitively understand that as soon as stimulus was removed, the recovery would end too (over and over and over again).

And any economist with an ounce of common sense would understand that the buildup of debt would require lower and lower interest rates to service! The alleged "trap" happens precisely because central bank fools fight short-term imbalances, creating long-term problems in the wake.

I don't think the Fed will hike, but they sure as hell should have long ago. Repetitive bubbles of increasing magnitude bring upon the very thing Krugman rails about!

I will expound more on rate hikes and inflation in a bit, but for now let's continue with more of Krugman's rant this time in block quotes because of the length
My guess — and it’s only that — is that they [the Fed] have, maybe without knowing it, been bludgeoned into submission by the constant attacks on easy money. Every day the financial press, many of the blogs, cable financial news, etc., are full of people warning that the Fed’s low-rate policy is distorting markets, building up inflationary pressure, endangering financials stability. Hard-money arguments, no matter how ludicrous, get respectful attention; condemnations of the Fed are constant. If I were a Fed official, I suspect that I would often find myself wishing that the bludgeoning would just stop, at least for a while — and perhaps begin looking for an opportunity to prove that I’m not an inflationary money-printer, that I can take away punchbowls too.

But the objective case for a rate hike just isn’t there. The risks of premature tightening are huge, and should not be taken until we have a truly solid recovery that includes strong wage gains and inflation clearly on track to rise above target. We don’t have any of that, and if the Fed acts nonetheless, it has the makings of tragedy.
Objective Case

Krugman does not see the "objective case" for rate hikes for the simple reason he is totally clueless about what constitutes inflation!

That assertion brings up my point of view ...

Inflation is Nearly Everywhere You Look

Inflation is not quite everywhere, just nearly everywhere. Looking for price deflation? Yes, you can find it in the price of gasoline.

And across the board there is little CPI inflation, nor will there be any time soon. And on those scores I am in complete agreement with Krugman!

But that's not what inflation is really about. Inflation is really about the expansion of money supply and credit. When those soar, so does "real" inflation.

Any realistic look shows there is inflation in home prices (not in the CPI), sovereign bond prices (not in the CPI), equity prices (not in the CPI), student loans (not in the CPI), junk bond prices at amazingly low yields (not in the CPI), tuition (underrepresented in the CPI for many), and healthcare costs (underrepresented in the CPI in general).

Break-Even Theory Irrelevant

The break-even rate theory warns about consumer prices. That theory may or may not be correct. I think the theory is accurate, but it matters not given all the things it totally or partially ignores. Break-even theory is totally irrelevant "at best", but more likely counterproductive.

In contrast, asset bubble breakages are relevant. And the Fed just blew the second or third biggest asset bubble in history following the advice of Krugman.

Now Krugman wants to bully the Fed into halting the hikes. The irony is that it's already far too late to hike. The bubbles have been blown. By definition they will pop. And when they pop economic illiterates like Krugman will say "I told you so" while blaming the Fed for irrelevant actions like rates hikes of 0.25%.

Economic Illiterates Caused the Problems

Economic illiterates at central banks following horrible advice from fellow economic illiterates like Krugman are the ones who caused the problem in Europe, in Japan, and in the US.

Opposite Extreme Illiterates Make Krugman Look Good

Unfortunately, economic illiterates of the opposite extreme, people like Peter Schiff, John Williams, etc., have been screaming about the blow-up of the US dollar and/or hyperinflation for so long they actually make Krugman's theories look reasonable by comparison (at least for now).

Deflation Will Return

Credit deflation (and that's what's important) will return (fueled by a decline in asset prices). Policies espoused by Krugman and enacted by central banks will be the cause.

Asset Deflation vs. Consumer Price Deflation

For more on asset deflation (the real concern) vs. consumer price deflation (a welcome event), please see ...

I particularly would like to see Paul Krugman answer my Challenge to Keynesians "Prove Rising Prices Provide an Overall Economic Benefit".

I even challenge Krugman to a debate, with proceeds going to charity. I doubt Krugman will respond for the simple reason I will be a far more formidable challenge than the hyperinflationists who have been as wrong as he is.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

1:23 PM

Students Support Deporting US Citizens to Allow Illegal Immigrants to Stay

Here's an amusing but totally unscientific informal poll on how to tackle the illegal immigrant problem.

Students were asked if they would sign a petition to deport US citizens on a one-for-one basis in exchange for allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the US.

Link if video does not play: Deport US Citizens to Keep Illegal Immigrants?

The people who conducted this experiment said about 2/3 of the college students signed the petition.

What does this suggest, if anything, about the quality of our education system? Or is it simply proof that people in general do not listen?

Support for the Plan

Such questions aside, I actually think this is a brilliant plan, with just one minor modification: We have to have sufficient grounds for deporting.

I suggest war crimes are sufficient grounds. More specifically, I propose we deport to an international war crimes tribunal a select group of the worst war crimes offenders.

Top Five War Crimes Candidates

  1. Former Vice President Dick Cheney
  2. Former President George Bush 
  3. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 
  4. Former CIA director George Tenet
  5. President Barack Obama - for drone policy

Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld would be on charges of various war crimes, bombings, and torture. Tenet would be for torture. Obama would be for indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women, and children via his drone policy.

Doesn't that look like a good start?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 8:11 PM

Napoleon vs. Cheney: "Interrogation That Actually Works"; Icing on the "Hate-Cake"

Not only is torture against international law, it also produces no useful intelligence. Common sense is enough to prove that statement.

If someone threatened to rape your sister, kill your mom,  or shackled you until you were half-dead while feeding you up your anus, you would say nearly anything to ease the pain. So would I, and so would everyone else. Anyone who disagrees is either a liar or a fool.

Even Napoleon recognized that fact.

Warning: This is a very long post. Please allow adequate time to read and digest what follows. I sincerely appreciate your effort to reading this post in entirety. Thanks.

From a Napoleon Letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier in November 1798: "The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."


"I'd Do It Again in a Minute"

Regardless of the complete futility and illegality of torture, former vice president Dick Cheney Pushes Back on Torture Report: 'I'd Do It Again in a Minute'.

"I'd do it again in a minute," Cheney told Meet the Press's Chuck Todd, offering an unqualified condemnation of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the Bush administration's post-9/11 interrogation methods used at foreign "black sites," which many regard as torture.

When asked about rectal feeding, which the Senate torture report said at least five detainees were subjected to, Cheney acknowledged that it was not approved as part of the program and said he believed it was done for "medical reasons." The Senate report said there is no evidence medical need was a factor for rectal hydration.

Cheney also didn't blink when asked about the report's findings that at least 26 of 119 detainees were wrongfully held, including two former CIA operatives and a mentally challenged man.

"I'm more concerned with the bad guys that were released than the few that were, in fact, innocent," said Cheney, adding that the man who became ISIS's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was held in custody by the U.S. military in Iraq before being released in 2004.
No Concern for Innocents

There you have it. Dick Cheney does not give a rat's ass about innocent people swept up in the process, about people tortured to death, or for that matter about anything else.

Our CIA kidnapped people on German soil and elsewhere, took them off to torture camps, only to find they got the wrong guys.

Wrong People Kidnapped, then Tortured

A search for Wrong German Citizen Kidnapped Tortured turns up many links.

And let's not forget that one of Cheney's reasons for invading Iraq was "Hussein tortured people".

Dick Cheney is the epitome of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy aside, Dick Cheney is also a war criminal under international law and any reasonable moral standard.

If anyone in this world deserved to be kidnapped then tortured, Dick Cheney is right at the top of the list. Yet, as I have commented before, two wrongs don't make a right, so that is not action I advocate.

"Interrogation That Actually Works"

Instead of torture, let's consider "The Humane Interrogation Technique That Actually Works".
The Senate Intelligence Committee report released this week found that the CIA tortured terror suspects by, among other things, putting hummus in a man's anus, forcing suspects to stand on broken feet, and blasting detainees with songs such as "Rawhide" at loud volumes on repeat.

Many of the interrogators' actions were shocking and cruel, but some might argue (and some have argued) that torture is a necessary tool for extracting information. This, too, is dubious. The Senate investigation revealed that the CIA learned most of the valuable intelligence it gathered during this period through other means.

Military leaders have known about the pointlessness of torture for centuries. A quote by Napoleon, which was widely shared after the report's release, reads, "It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."

A study published this year by Jane Goodman-Delahunty, of Australia's Charles Sturt University, interviewed 34 interrogators from Australia, Indonesia, and Norway who had handled 30 international terrorism suspects, including potential members of the Sri Lankan extremist group Tamil Tigers and the Norwegian-based Islamist group Ansar al Ismal. Delahunty asked the interrogators what strategies they used to gain information and what the outcomes of each interrogation session were.

The winning technique, as BPS Research Digest notes, was immediately clear: Rapport-building interrogation is more effective than torture.

This isn't just theoretical, either. One former U.S. Army interrogator told PRI this week that he was able to break through to an Iraqi insurgent over a shared love of watching the TV show 24 on bootleg DVDs.

"He acknowledged that he was a big fan of Jack Bauer," he told PRI. "We made a connection there that ultimately resulted in him recanting a bunch of information that he had said in the past and actually giving us the accurate information because we had made that connection."

Torture can either be viewed as a punishment or as a way to gain life-saving intelligence. International conventions prohibit the former. Psychology studies suggest it's ineffective at the latter. Which brings us, once again, back to the question: Why do it?
Torture Doesn't Work — So Here's What Does

Please consider Torture Doesn't Work — So Here's What Does.

A former US Army interrogator says it's possible to "bond" with an insurgent during questioning, and building the relationship starts the moment the detainee arrives at the military facility.

Iraqi militant groups, he says, prepared their members to expect torture by the US military — and it wasn't just propaganda: The torture and abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, exposed at the start of the war, were well-known. This was also several years after the CIA's far more extensive torture program, detailed in a gruesome report released on Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But Andrew says he saw none of that with his unit, and, in fact, when detainees weren't dealt with harshly, they got confused. "We use techniques that manipulate people, but we don't physically or psychologically harm them," he says. Instead the interrogator might talk about the detainee's family and offer tea.

"They see that this isn't the big, bad American facade that they were led to believe," he says. "It changes their perspective, and almost turns their mindset against their organization, and they're thinking, 'Why would they lie to me?' And then they're more willing to actually share secrets with us."

Andrew says the Iraqi detainees he questioned knew their rights under international law. Copies of the Geneva Conventions, he says, were posted in their cells.

"I was working within the guidelines, and within my conscience," he notes. "I never harmed anybody, I never threatened anybody, and I think at the end of the day, if anything, I provided them with that ounce of hope, at least, that things would get better as long as they told the truth."
Ticking Time Bomb Fallacy

Research Digest says People's support for torture in "ticking time bomb scenarios" is influenced by their desire for retribution.
In the wake of a report published yesterday into the CIA's use of torture, many people are shocked and appalled. Yet one defense of the practice remains popular - "the ticking time bomb scenario".

This is the idea that torture is justified if a suspect knows the location of bomb in a public place, and many lives would be saved if he or she were coerced into telling authorities the location in time for it to be deactivated. The new Senate Intelligence Committee report describes how the ticking time bomb scenario was in fact used by the CIA to defend its use of torture or "enhanced interrogation".

The ticking time bomb scenario is usually presented as a "utilitarian" argument for the moral good of torture in certain circumstances, when one person's suffering is preferable to the deaths of many. Some commenters have gone as far as claiming that most people endorse torture in the ticking bomb situation.

A new study puts this to the test. Joseph Spino and Denise Cummins surveyed hundreds of people online asking them for their views about the acceptability and appropriateness of torturing a suspect in variations of the classic ticking bomb scenario. In particular the researchers were interested in whether people's views vary according to changes in the "hidden assumptions" with which the scenario is loaded.

The researchers found that people's endorsement of torturing a suspect is reduced when they are told that torture is likely to be ineffective (which, by the way, is true), and when they are told other interrogative methods are available. The researchers also found that people's support for torture increased when they were told the suspect was a terrorist, or that the suspect was guilty of actually planting the bomb. People's increased support in this context was not because they thought the suspect was more likely to hold information about the bomb. This suggests that the participants' endorsement of torture was based on retribution, rather than being a cool utilitarian judgment.

Spino and Cummins said their results show that people's support for torture in the ticking time bomb situation depends on a "highly idealised" and "highly unrealistic" set of assumptions being met.
Tick, Tick, Bull, Shit

In Tick, Tick, Bull, Shit, Foreign Policy magazine says "Don’t believe the CIA’s ticking time bomb excuse when it says it had to torture."
The ticking bomb scenario is a powerful hypothetical, and it’s one that several former CIA directors really, really hope you’ll keep in mind this week to counterbalance all those not-so-nice revelations contained in the just-released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on CIA interrogations.

But there’s one major problem with the ticking bomb scenario: It’s entirely irrelevant — morally and legally.

First, in real life you don’t get actual ticking bomb scenarios, with their certainty, simplicity, and urgency. In real life, you get ambiguity and uncertainty. You get conflicting information about the nature, magnitude, and timing of threats, and conflicting information about the identity of planners and perpetrators. Sometimes, you get information that’s just plain wrong: As the SSCI report notes, more than two dozen people tortured by the CIA were detained in error. In some cases, they were victims of simple cases of mistaken identity. ...

If waterboarding a suspected terrorist might produce valuable information and save lives, why draw the line at waterboarding? Why not pull out a suspect’s fingernails with a pair of pliers? Why not sexually assault the suspect, or start chopping off limbs?

For that matter, if efficacy is all that matters, why draw the line at suspected terrorists? Why not torture, rape, or kill the suspect’s wife, mother, and children in front of him? That might be effective, too.

Why stop there? Why not take a leaf out of the Old Testament, and slaughter the first-born sons of every extremist we can find? Or just commit genocide to eliminate the populations that seem to produce the most terrorists?

Once we start justifying immoral actions based on their utilitarian outcomes, there’s no principled place to stop.

That ticking sound? It’s a false alarm, intended to induce panic and overwhelm logic.

Ignore it.
Not only is it morally wrong and intended to produce panic, it doesn't even work. But whether it works or not, torture can never be morally justified.

Emails From Both Sides

For my coverage of the torture issue, I have received many emails on both sides of the camp. Some have been appreciative, others not.

In response C.I.A. Director Brennan, a Proven Liar, Defends Torture; Brennan Should be Fired Immediately, then Prosecuted along with Other CIA Directors and Cheney, reader Randy replied "I agree with every word that Mish has written here! It should be raining pitchforks right now in D.C.!"

A US Army Major Responded "I'm sad and horrified to read the details of the CIA's torture program. To me, it represents the sickest form of consequentialism, one that has run roughshod over any type of moral authority the U.S. can claim in offering its leadership to the world. I'm further upset that my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform will most likely underwrite this disastrous program, as the enemy will now be all too eager to respond in kind to any American serviceman or woman unlucky enough to endure capture. I only wish we had the moral courage to make those responsible accountable for these unmistakable atrocities."

Not to me personally, but FTM Daily notes Evangelical Christian Leaders Rush to Defend CIA Torture. Writing for FTM Daily, Jerry Robinson says "Real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it’s wrong, even when that wrong is committed by people on your own side of the political aisle. That our leaders in Washington would be playing politics with clear claims of U.S. war crimes simply reveals the absolute depths that some people will go to win an argument".

Reader Allen writes ...
Hi Mish,

I have subscribed to your blog for several years despite the fact that I am what you would call a Liberal. I seldom agree with you but I want to keep an open mind and realize I do not own the truth — although sometime I wish you were across the breakfast table from me so that I could scream at you after I read what you write.

But I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate your condemnation of the CIA’s secret detention and torture program. It is a betrayal of all our values, whether we are on the right or the left, and it is especially scary because of the precedents it set.

On a more practical level, it completely destroys our moral authority to challenge similar behavior anywhere else in the world and may, in the long run, prove to be a strategic blunder.

You are a powerful and important voice challenging the coordinated campaign to discredit the Senate majority’s report. I hope you continue to write about this. In the long run, this may be the most important subject you write about.

Best regards,
Allen Katzoff
Thanks Allen. Powerful I am not, but I do agree this is an extremely important topic.

Reader Rich hits the nail on the head with the fewest words: "No justification - No benefit - No excuse"

Not everyone see it that way. For example reader Lon McCarley called my torture posts a "losers' chicken sh*t solution".

Hypocrites Need to Look in Mirror

In a followup email Lon called me a hypocrite. So did reader Joe who also accused me of backing Obama.

Joe writes "I had many friends and family members die on 9-11 so my perspective is clearly different from yours. Perhaps if you saw your three nieces lose their father your perspective might be different."

In an email conversation, Joe called my link about kidnapping and torturing of the wrong German citizen "unfortunate".

No Joe, it's not "unfortunate"; it's illegal. Imagine Germany kidnapping US citizens on US soil, then torturing them, then admitting it was "unfortunate".

If it's OK for the US to kidnap German citizens, send them off to Afghanistan or wherever and torture them .... then logically it is OK for every other country on the planet to have the exact same rights.

My position is clear and consistent.

I do not condone torture and I do not condone Obama's drone policy. I have written about the counterproductive policies of Obama's drone policy on many occasions.

US Drone Policy

November 25, 2014: War on Terror: Drones Target 41 but Kill 1,147 Mostly Innocent men, Women, and Children

March 19, 2014: Negative Sum Game.

September 01, 2013: Terrorists Won the War on Terror; 74% of Pakistanis View US as Enemy, 60% Have No Confidence in Obama.

The hypocrites in this world (many republicans, many democrats, and many of the evangelical right) support torture. They sound like Nixon "when the president does it, it's not illegal).

I do not care whether someone is a liberal, conservative, or a hypocrite. I know five things about torture.

  1. Torture does not pay. It's actually counterproductive.
  2. The US has lost its moral authority (assuming it ever had one in the first place)
  3. Dick Cheney is a liar and a hypocrite.
  4. Dick Cheney is a chickenhawk who quipped "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service". He managed to get 5 deferments.
  5. Dick Cheney is a war criminal who deserves to be in prison along with several CIA directors and those carrying out torture orders.

Dick Cheney War Criminal

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has the same opinion (see Jesse Ventura on Dick Cheney: A 'chickenhawk' war criminal who should be in jail).

We don't need Jesse Ventura to tell us what's right or wrong about Dick Cheney. It's obvious. Cheney has wrapped himself in the US flag as if that makes him above the law.

I stand by what I have said.

The above articles on the total uselessness of torture speak volumes. The attacks on moral grounds are even more important.

Many readers sent various reports from CIA officials and others in support of torture, citing its effectiveness. Not a damn one of those reports is believable.

What would you expect the top CIA officials to say: We got nothing out of it? Torture doesn't work and we proved it?

Of course these liars are going to deny the truth. Their ass is on the line!

Even if the CIA can cite examples of gaining "intelligence", serious questions remain: Could the CIA have gotten the same information sooner, without torture? Studies suggest "Yes".

Chickenhawk Counterattack

We invaded Iraq for purpose of revenge and to carry out chickenhawk wishes. Now that we have made a total mess of things, the people who f*d it up the most blame Obama.

Of course, Obama is also at fault. And it's infuriating. US drone policy makes more enemies than it does anything else.

No Joe, my position would not be any different if I lost loved ones in 911. The 911 attack does not give the US the right or the "moral authority" to stoop to the level of terrorists.

Majority Say Torture is Acceptable

Yesterday, I reported New Poll Shows US Citizens in Every Demographic Support Torture (Republicans, Democrats, White, Black, Young, Old).

I have never been so disgusted in all my writing career, than after reading that poll.

Atheists have better moral standards on torture than Christians.

Christian advocates claim abortion is wrong because it kills innocent human lives, a very questionable thesis that depends entirely on when life begins.

Whatever your view, unless you have been religiously brainwashed, there is room for debate.

On the other hand, torture that has ended in death, and US drone policy that has done the same to an even greater extent, are supported overwhelmingly by the "religious wrong".

To these hypocrites, the unborn are far more important than the born, including innocent women and children.

Questions on Poll Bias 

A close friend of mine questioned the poll. So did reader Richard who made comment, then asked a question.

Comment: "I couldn't agree more with your stance on torture. Thank you for putting your opinion out for all to see."

Question: "Is there any hope that these polls are tainted?"

Reader Larry also picked up on the question bias thesis and proposed five new poll questions:

  1. Is it OK for the US to torture suspects to get information? 
  2. Is it OK for foreign governments to torture US suspects to get information? 
  3. Is torture OK even if the persons tortured have not been proven guilty? 
  4. Is suspicion alone sufficient grounds for torture? 
  5. If your son or daughter were in the military and captured, would you expect them to be held indefinitely and tortured because that is the American way?

I suspect the poll results would be different with those questions, but how much different?

Why Torture?

If Torture does not work, and it doesn't, why do it?

Explaining Torture

  1. Torture is condoned and defended at the highest levels.
  2. People want to believe our leaders, even when it's proven they are liars.
  3. Torture and the desire for revenge go hand in hand.
  4. Bad things stir up hate.
  5. Extreme emotions and logical thinking seldom, if ever, go hand in hand.

Of those reasons, numbers one and two are key.

Head of the Luftwaffe, and Nazi Gestapo founder, Hermann Wilhelm Göring explained in prison following the Nuremberg Trials.

Goering at the Nuremberg Trials
Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
Icing on the "Hate-Cake"

Polls aside, torturing never does any good, ever. Reputable studies, as cited above prove it!

And when innocent people are killed, we make more enemies than we had before. But as Nazi Gestapo founder, Hermann Wilhelm Göring states "people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders."

And so they have.

Thoroughly Disgusted

Reader Ben writes ...
Hello Mish

Thanks for your blog, I'm a daily reader. I am equally flabbergasted at how many torture apologists there are in the U. S.

Even in the comments section of your blog there is an abundance of folks defending torture. The assumptions folks are making include that the tortured folks are guilty without any kind of due process or review of any evidence against the suspects. As others have noted, many folks who ended up in Guantanamo were likely innocent. At least one in 5 according to the CIA’S own stats did not meet the criteria for detention. This is a likely the result of the high rewards offered for "terrorists". KIDS were detained as well as random farmers, etc. We tortured innocent people. Anyone defending this should better explain this to me.

When we went into Iraq the battle cry was "Remember 9/11", totally unrelated to the event. Now, folks are citing ISIS beheadings as justification for torture. These bogus justifications are spoken by the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for our torture program to redirect the debate and, frankly, keep themselves from being prosecuted for their immoral, illegal acts.

I am completely disgusted with the actions of my government and the response of a large percentage of our citizens.

Thanks for sharing your opinions on the topic. It's good to see some of our moral compasses still know true North.

Regards, Ben Kirchmeyer
US Government Interrogator Chimes In

Reader Peter, a US government interrogator chimes in ...
Hey Mish,

Having conducted over 2000 interrogations of my own in support of a variety of different government operations, I can say that you are 100% correct. Torture doesn't work. Not when you want the truth, and not when you want to retain your humanity. Thanks for keeping a spotlight on this. It's a blight on our nation and is quite indicative of a government run amok and too separated from its original mission.

Hate Us for Our Freedoms?

No one "hates us for our freedoms" as the claim goes. They hate us for our blatant hypocrisy, for our might-makes-right attitude, and for our constant meddling where we have no business at all.

Torture and defense of it by Dick Cheney, by flag-waving hypocrites, and by brainwashed fools who believe everything the CIA and torture advocates claim, is icing on the extremely counterproductive hate-cake, sure to cause more global misery.

Perpetual War

Those looking for a reason the "Battle for Perpetual War is Won" need look no further than torture-supporting hypocrites, wrapped in a US flag, and singing a "holier-than-thou" tune.


In spite of the above logic, twisted minds persist with "Tick, Tick, Bull, Shit". For example: In a comment to this post, reader Jay K asks ...
Assume you are the President, and the country has just been attacked on the country's soil in which thousands of citizens where killed. You are concerned that other attacks, in a manner which are of course unknown, are imminent. The military (or intelligence agency) has captured a person who is believed (say with 50% probability) to have information regarding possible future attacks. Your CIA director tells you that interrogation has failed, and recommends torture methods. Suppose there is only a 1% probability of gaining novel and useful information from such torture methods to head off a 2nd attack (of which, say, for argument's sake there is a 25% chance of occurring).

Yes or no?

And, my understanding is that you are arguing that there is an absolute ZERO probability of EVER gaining any useful information via torture.
Jay's comment and question was pure "Tick, Tick, Hypothetical, BullShit" at it's finest.

OK Jay K, suppose the authorities are 50% sure your son or daughter is involved with a group that may be planning to bomb a school. Is it OK for the authorities to pull out your kid's fingernails? Cut off limbs? Threaten to torture your kids friends? Where does your support for tick, tick, hypothetical bullshit stop?

The answer of course is "torture is always morally wrong". But hypocrites only see it that way when it affects them adversely.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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