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June 10, 2013

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The contents of this article should not surprise anyone with a heart beat. The American empire will continue while the middle class is slowly eroded away. There will be no revolution as long as there are $10 per hour jobs.

The great liberties purportly enjoyed by Americans has historically been limited to those with means and white skin. Technology now allows the powerful to infringe upon the rights of all citizens.

So now it is a big deal?

A good movie by the way
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX8NxgAtHM8
(Latest comment on the top is instructive.)

Side-note: a new reply to Petro in the Goldwater thread:

http://www.roguecolumnist.com/rogue_columnist/2013/06/phoenix-101-barry-goldwater.html

And yet, I have heard people say variations of words spoken in 1930s Germany and the Soviet Union: "I don't mind this if it keeps us safer. I haven't done anything wrong, so I don't have anything to fear."
You do not exaggerate, sir.

The "whimsical" TBogg is busily engaged in his own variant of "move along, nothing to see here." You can find me in the threads of the latter (earlier) link, haplessly engaged in futile "conversation" with his minions. If you dare venture over (wear your wading boots,) you'll see why I rarely bother to engage with this hippie-puncher and his fanboys & girls, who grow more and more to resemble the brown-shirts of yore in these "daze" of Obama.

And this is a liberal Democrat blogger. This is what happens when you identify a little too closely with your party - all is forgiven.

Nothing to see here, indeed.

(That is great movie, BTW.)

The spin-control from the government, as well as the failure of much of the press to point out the obvious in reporting it, is disgusting as well as idiotic.

Today the Arizona Republic ran an AP story citing Ronald Marks, a former CIA officer who reassured us that "when information gets sent to the CIA that shouldn't, it gets destroyed and a note sent back to the NSA saying 'You shouldn't have sent that'", adding "Mistakes get made, but my own experience on the inside of it is, they tend to be really careful about it."

One glaringly obvious problem with this: Marks retired from the agency in 1999, so his "inside experience" (most of which involved administrative positions far removed from actual intelligence collection) predates these programs.

Sunday's Arizona Republic carried a similar article citing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper offering bromides and sedatives, but the same article contained refutations of everything he claimed (though the writers, also AP, failed to connect the dots for the benefit of the casual reader).

Clapper assures us that the government does not unilaterally obtain Internet and other information but requires the approval of a FISA court judge. Aside from the fact that FISA is a secret court and a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies, the article notes elsewhere that the NSA collected 3 billion pieces of intelligence from U.S. computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March. The idea that a FISA court judge individually considered applications for 3 billion searches in a month's time boggles the brain; obviously the approval is made well ahead of time and is carte blanche.

One also wonders just how many cute little notes the CIA could possibly send the NSA ("You shouldn't have sent it") and how many of these notes could possibly be read, much less what the response could be. Ten million mea culpas?

Clapper also assures us that the program (PRISM) cannot intentionally target any U.S. citizen or any person known to be in the U.S. Yet, elsewhere in the article an NSA spokesperson says that "current technology simply does not permit us to positively identify all of the persons or locations associated with a given communication", adding that while a particular communication may have "traversed a particular path within the Internet" it is nevertheless "harder to know the ultimate source or destination, or more particularly the identity of the person represented by the TO/FROM or CC field of an email address or the abstraction of an IP address".

In other words, the government can't "intentionally" target U.S. persons, but because it can't determine the ultimate source or destination or the identity of persons behind the addresses, it can do whatever it pleases without violating the "intention" clause.

The history of unending and regular abuses by American intelligence agencies ought, in itself, to be enough for any informed person to consider these reassurances worthless. Unfortunately, very few are informed, including members of the press whose job it is to inform readers in turn.

This says it all:

In a video accompanying the Guardian story, Snowden said the NSA "targets the communications of everyone" — including American citizens — and routinely gathers vast amounts of data on everyday communications.

"So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they're collecting your communications to do so," he said.

"Any analyst at any time can target anyone," he said. "I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal e-mail."

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/09/contractor-admits-to-leaking-to-guardian/2405723/

Is Snowden a valid source? Or is he a lower level dweeb who saw his chance for notoriety? Setting off his stink bomb and then running for the border does not impress me.

Yea, it's the messenger.

I've heard everything from "It's no big deal" to "How did the NSA let this loser get access to classified information?"

This must really be big, because the paroxysms of denial beggar belief.

Regardless of Snowdens motives. I applaud his efforts. And Manning on trial for aiding terrorist's is absurd. It's time to strongly support whistle blowers, (see following interviews from the Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/10/whistleblowers-snowden-truth-sets-free?guni=Network%20front:network-front%20full-width-1%20bento-box:Bento%20box:Position1:sublinks

http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?storyid=10023

Booz | Allen | Hamilton = The Carlyle Group. What could possibly be bad about that?

Anyone else unnerved by the disproportionate numbers of Mormons involved in national security?

Obama has been a prisoner of the CIA and NSA and others since he was first elected. He was within a few days briefed on what was untouchable. He has never been a first string player but a third string bench warmer. He still has a chance to be a Snowden, a Manning or an Assange. Obama is not a forward player going for the basket or a baseball player home run hitter. Obama will be famous as the first "black" president but Jackie Robinson he aint. I have little faith he will do much of anything like something as simple as greatly expanding wilderness or closing down the DEA.

http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?storyid=10023

Its been reported Snowden was making $200K a year. If he kept his mouth shut and his conscience idled, he would die fat, happy and old. I think he's a hero for doing what he has, but I think Hong Kong is a poor choice. Should we start a Rogue Columnist Pool on when he'll be extradited and/or captured/renditioned?

Photo of a bench warmer.
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://thesundowner.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/879590binladenobamawarroom_1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://thesundowner.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/white-house-insider-obama-hesitated-%25E2%2580%2593-panetta-issued-order-to-kill-osama-bin-laden/&h=304&w=540&sz=42&tbnid=xetpUQCojvsj6M:&tbnh=68&tbnw=121&zoom=1&usg=__1JOtsx05f4HQ6dd_vz211VWDJH8=&docid=ZgAweB2RVJkecM&sa=X&ei=mVW3UdCvEu7miwL8uoH4Cg&ved=0CEUQ9QEwBg&dur=629">http://thesundowner.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/879590binladenobamawarroom_1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://thesundowner.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/white-house-insider-obama-hesitated-%25E2%2580%2593-panetta-issued-order-to-kill-osama-bin-laden/&h=304&w=540&sz=42&tbnid=xetpUQCojvsj6M:&tbnh=68&tbnw=121&zoom=1&usg=__1JOtsx05f4HQ6dd_vz211VWDJH8=&docid=ZgAweB2RVJkecM&sa=X&ei=mVW3UdCvEu7miwL8uoH4Cg&ved=0CEUQ9QEwBg&dur=629">http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://thesundowner.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/879590binladenobamawarroom_1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://thesundowner.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/white-house-insider-obama-hesitated-%25E2%2580%2593-panetta-issued-order-to-kill-osama-bin-laden/&h=304&w=540&sz=42&tbnid=xetpUQCojvsj6M:&tbnh=68&tbnw=121&zoom=1&usg=__1JOtsx05f4HQ6dd_vz211VWDJH8=&docid=ZgAweB2RVJkecM&sa=X&ei=mVW3UdCvEu7miwL8uoH4Cg&ved=0CEUQ9QEwBg&dur=629

I hate the smell of sheeple.

Kind of a cross between cow manure and chicken shit.

eclecticdog. U just notice the LDS thing.
It started with J Edgar and has never stopped.
Besides sitting at the consoles of intelligence panels they own all the
best ways to a find out about your ancestors

cal, you alerted me first and the data mining center being located smack dab in the middle of Deseret cannot be a good thing.

I've been doing the ancestory thing and I am not impressed. The millenium files they put together are more often than not contradictory (three different files will often get three different "facts" on the same thing!). Does not bode well for national security.

Barack Obama would not be president of this nation if he didn't genuflect before the national-security apparatus and military-industrial complex. It's been around since Harry Truman and comprises what's left of our bipartisan consensus - the bloated defense/intelligence establishment. It's one reason why Rand Paul will be laughed off the stage in 2016. Neither party will nominate someone who strays too far from America's core concept as the indispensable nation. Obama signaled that he would be a compliant servant when he voted for FISA compromise in 2008. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barack-obama/my-position-on-fisa_b_110789.html

We can in moments of emotional extravagance compare the NSA to Stasi agents in East Germany but it might help to dial down the hysteria to a less spittle-flecked level. We have a high degree of personal freedom in this nation today, much higher in fact than 60 years ago when we were supposedly much more mature and respectful of the Constitution. Think about what you can do today that was not only illegal back then but often fatal to the person attempting it. From civil rights to reproductive rights to gay rights to human rights, we are vastly more free than we used to be. Remember the free-fire zones in Vietnam where we could shoot peasants just for the hell of it? Remember when the beloved Ronald Reagan gave support to death squads in Nicaragua? Or supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons? Or sold arms to Iranian supporters of terror? Or the Bush/Cheney regime of torture? Abu Ghraib? Somehow, the wholesale aggregation of a zillion factoids doesn't quite descend to that moral cess pool.

Yes, I know. Barack Obama personally disappoints you because he was supposed to establish the Great Liberal Moment. But he didn't run for president of Berkeley. This is not a nation that is going to elect Jill Stein or Ralph Nader to any office, let alone president. We're a work in progress as a nation, but that doesn't mean we aren't tetchy and volatile. We are hairless apes and our tribal nature is not going to evolve away anytime soon. In this era of accelerating change, we will be sorely tested by a craving for nostalgia. If only we were as good as we used to be! If only people were better than they are! And into this anxious moment emerges a quixotic character, someone who is a projection screen for every good and vile impulse we embody. Barack Obama is a lightening rod for one reason. It's not his "liberalism", needless to say. It's certainly not his rather friendly relations with Wall Street. You know what it is.

I wish we could overcome our fealty to the merchants of fear. But some random loser will try to blow up an airplane with something in his shoe, which means we'll have to take our shoes off at TSA lines for the rest of our lives. You know how it works, and I've given up complaining how easily manipulated we are by the media and Beltway scaremongers like John McCain. We will eventually emerge from this nightmare where half this nation is drunk on the idea that everything is terrible because of some conspiracy involving gun control or that Muslims get to have religious freedom. We're going to win if only because young people are not as pessimistic as we old-timers. We owe them this: a calmer faith in our collective effort to midwife a sane and decent future.

We have a high degree of personal freedom in this nation today, much higher in fact than 60 years ago when we were supposedly much more mature and respectful of the Constitution.
I have no faux nostalgia for the good old days (especially since they weren't so good for marginalized demographics like women, people of color, gays & "commies,") but this is just nuts.

The examples you gave, soleri, were mostly the fates of foreigners at the hands of America - and that hasn't gotten any better over the years, arguably worse. "Free-fire zones?" I'll raise you free-fire drones.

Domestically, though - an adolescent today, acting with the same frisson of delinquency I enjoyed in my day, is quickly introduced to the prison-industrial fast track. Except for the ever-present harassment of protest/dissident behavior that's been with us ever since the anti-war protests of the '60's, a little drinking, drugging, graffiti, and general prankish behavior was treated as, well, prankish. You were more likely to be delivered to your parents for a good smack than to be fingerprinted and processed downtown for your inaugural life-record.

They get your number fast these days.

And let's not get started with that introductory mortgage of student debt that these kids have clamped on their ankles before they even have a chance to breathe in their options out there.

I apologize for the stridency of my retort, but I am indeed exercised to "spittle-flecked" intensity over this. Not because it's "news" to me, but because it's finally out in the open enough for me to talk about without sounding like I'm channeling that nutter Alex Jones.

The circular argument that we should be sanguine about these revelations because we deserve it because we've been sanguine about it really gets under my skin.

What Soleri and Petro have introduced here is great stuff for further comment, lets hear it!

There is nothing acceptable about the Patriot Act. Never was. Never will be.

Great comments Petro. Give em hell.

What delusional folks named it the "Patriot Act"

My freedom has seemed threatened since (1958) I became aware of the ever increasing human population density.

There are few places on the planet where U can hear the silence roar.

Petro, I am not a fan of the national-security state. I detest with every fiber of my being the hysteria peddled to our nation by the merchandizers of weaponry and existential anxiety. That said, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the perfect moment when the planets and stars finally align and produce a left-wing majority in America. This is not our happy fate, at least right now. We may be beautiful losers but it doesn't absolve us from the responsibility to live as if the lives of others are as important as our own. For every left-wing purist ready to wipe his hands of this grubby frustration called America I say enough. Enough of your vanity. Enough of your delectably self-evident goodness. Enough of your cleverness and sophistication. If you are so hypnotized by yourself that you can't see how millions more need you to stay sane, then go navel gaze in some commune and just abandon this project to those who are willing to settle for something good enough. I want America to be better than it is but I'm not going to help Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Koch brothers, and the NRA in their ongoing efforts to divide and conquer what passes for America's liberal conscience.

I don't give a fuck about "principles". I know who the killers are. I know who's willing to let thousands of inner-city youth die in random gunfire. I know who's willing to let thousands more die from lack of health insurance. I know who's willing to invade nations and kill hundreds of thousands in the name of "freedom". And all you can say is "drones" and expect me to honor that false equivalence only because lefties are never supposed to get their hands dirty.

We're born in sin, we live in sin we die in sin. We do our best despite that and our occasional despair. There is no heaven apart from the willingness to work this world, fallen and imperfect, in such a way that we can say we loved it anyway.

And now even the chicken shit "liberals" and supposed objective journalists are going after Snowden as a bad guy.
I believe many of our early founders would be appalled at the lack of courage displayed today. We have become a nation of I-pod lemmings.

I would hope nobody reads this column as helping "Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Koch brothers, and the NRA in their ongoing efforts to divide and conquer..." My hate mail certainly doesn't agree with that (and, yes, I wish they had the guts to post).

Is it too farfetched to think the security state allowed Obama to be elected so the American public would be distracted while they installed Prism?

"On May 10, 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA has had a separate, previously undisclosed program in place since 9/11 to build a database of information about calls placed within the United States, including phone numbers, and the date and duration of the calls.[9] According to the article, phone companies AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South disclosed the records to the NSA, while Qwest did not. The article quotes an unnamed source that "it's the largest database ever assembled in the world." Most reports indicate that this program is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The administration has not confirmed the existence of this aspect of the program.[14]

This was 7 years ago and did we think they were just going to play nice and not take advantage of their new capabilities.My guess is that the spooks were like kids in a candy store-unlimited funds to distribute to their future employers.Snowden just reminded us about what we didn't want to think about.

Has Obama become the darling of Congress military Hawks?

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/06/was-cheney-right-about-obama.html

Great observations by Ai Wei Wei (thanks for the link cal). I wonder what stories his guards told him. His detention experiences also sounded to me similar to Mannings' detention. Governments are pretty much the same no matter what idealogy they profess.

I'll disagree about being born in sin soleri. Murder is a sin. Stealing is a sin. The hypocricies of our daily lives can be sins. But sex and birth -- no sin in that!

Jerry, I'm not religious. What I mean by "sin" is the simple fact of our physical nature and how it manifests in our self-seeking, greed, fear, and blindness. I don't judge it - how can I? - but if you think we're really angels have an earthly experience, chances are you're not really in touch with yourself.

The trouble with puritanism, be it left or right-wing, is this evasion of reality. I talk to lefties all the time who are too good for this world. Usually, they're New Age or some kind of religious liberal that theological schools used to churn out. What I notice first and foremost is their naiveté, their belief that lions would in fact lie down with lambs if we taught them to play nice. This can be sweet and usually harmless but its political vectors are troubling.

Politics is war. It replicates essential facts of nature, primarily the observation that all life exists at the expense of other life. Civilization is the tenuous respite from this Hobbseian nightmare, and its rules chafe at our animal spirits as much as it protects us from the villainies of the strong and powerful.

We will never solve the central paradox of life in which the profusion of life overwhelms our instinct for compassion and love. We can, however, do our best. We cannot save every abandoned dog or beached whale. We can, on the other hand, understand ourselves well enough that we don't create unnecessary dramas in which we pretend to be better than we are.

I tend to distrust puritans not because they're different from me but because they believe they're somehow different than other people (usually for reasons of skin color, religion, ethnicity, etc). What I want for them is to know themselves well enough that they're not creating stupid dramas about themselves in order to avoid the pain we all share. This pain is deep, it's irremediable, and it's our lot as physical creatures to endure. When you know yourself this way, you want to cut to the chase, to distill the essence of "sin" so we can minimize as much as humanly possible, the suffering that we inevitably create. We need to participate in life not because life needs us but because our deepest humanity is constantly at stake. Opting out is not a solution.

You distrust purity and "puritans," I distrust - no, "distrust" isn't the right word - I discount those who make the accusation of "purity." It's a cheap way to wave off criticism, and a straw-man to boot, because I in no way hold myself to be purist, I am quite "in the world," and I am not holding forth from some ivory tower of superiority, "opting out" of engagement with the brutish world-at-large.

It is quite the opposite - I'm aware of the daily imperatives that keep us from behaving in those ideal ways towards which my compass urges me, nonetheless. That's all I've ever heard from people my entire life, from the legions of "practical" men who ridicule all who pretend to the moral life. And yet I persist in engaging. Why? Because I'm human, you're human, and the proverbial mountaintop is not meant for lone ascent.

I will point out that the arguments of realpolitik, practicality, what-must-be-done, what is reasonable, are put forth with the same air of smug wisdom whether from the most sophisticated statesman or the most vulgar of thieves. "It is simply what is done," they all bark.

Such wisdom.

And the fact is - I speak from the discipline that holds that one must repair (hence criticize) oneself before judging another, and so it is I who is judged before thou, my family that gets skewered before my neighbor, my neighbor before the stranger, my compatriots in politics before the "other side," my country before another.

In other words, you won't find me wasting time with too much outrage over the sins of the conservatives until I have first exhausted my discontent with the mistakes of the left. They wish I would "opt out."

This is not purity. It's conscience.

So, Snowden is a high school dropout/social misfit whose former girlfriend is a pole dancer. Will his celebrity status elevate him to a life of notoriety? He must be having quite a laugh at the shit-storm he's created!

Soleri said, "We need to participate in life not because life needs us but because our deepest humanity is constantly at stake. Opting out is not a solution."
It's great to have U back in the blog providing excellent comment.

Here's a bit from the above link should U chose not to read the entire article.

Even at its worst, the FBI was far less draconian than dozens of secret police forces active around the world then and today. Poison-pen letters are one thing; disappearances, torture, and murder another. But changes in technology have vastly increased the ease of surveillance. In the 1950s, Rosenfeld reports, in order to eavesdrop on a meeting in Jessica Mitford’s house, two bumbling FBI agents hid in a crawl space beneath it; the mission almost came to grief when one fell asleep and started snoring. But today those agents would have access to vastly more: not just Mitford’s phone calls—which they were already tapping—but her credit card statements, her Google searches, her air travel itineraries, her bookstore purchases, her e-mails, her text messages, her minute-by-minute locations as signaled by the GPS in her mobile phone. To hold longtime records of this sort on whomever it chooses to monitor, the National Security Agency is building in Bluffdale, Utah, for $2 billion, the largest intelligence data storage facility on earth—five times the size of the Capitol building in Washington. It is scheduled to open later this year.4

Naturally, it’s all in the name of stopping terrorism, but the misuse of intelligence-gathering for political purposes, from Ralph Van Deman and the Palmer Raids to J. Edgar Hoover and his meddling with a university board of regents, should make us aware that such things can happen again. The combination of electronic data collection, a vague and nebulous foreign threat, and tens of billions of dollars pouring into “homeland security” each year is a toxic mix, ripe for new demagogues. Subversives is a timely warning. That essay question on the 1959 University of California entrance exam is one we must never stop asking.

Petro, I'm not sure how much time I want to spend giving examples how real-world liberalism is probably a bit more effective than hanging out with Druids. There's nothing wrong per se with being a self-castrating lefty. The world encompasses all sorts of people and it probably won't miss either of us at the end of the day. But if you're at all interested in advancing the cause of a more humane, just and sane world, you probably don't want to sabotage your efforts with impossible preconditions. I'm reminded here of The Life of Brian where absurd factionalism made for some anachronistic satire of modern liberalism's constant siren song. There's another movie, Lincoln where Honest Abe is shown lying and cheating in order to get the 13th Amendment passed. Not to worry! You actually like him more at the end of the movie for being human rather than a cardboard angel like Ronaldus Magnus. The entire political career of FDR is an example how real-world liberalism accomplished great ends even if the means were tainted and tawdry. The New Deal hinged on getting the cooperation of Southern committee chairs, and FDR gladly shoved civil rights under the bus in order to do that. FDR is considered by most historians the greatest modern American president, and next to Lincoln, the greatest overall.

The temptation in blogs like this one - and certainly in our culture - is to reject historical complexity and political realism for feeling good about oneself. Politics is a drug because it offers something very potent and addicting: righteousness. The Tea Party phenomenon is based on this. Millions of Americans whose lives have been made much better by liberalism wax wroth over the liberalism that might help black people. When I talk to these people and gently prod the conversation toward the various bennies and emoluments they enjoy, their eyes glaze over since I'm obviously trying to bum them out. Their drug of choice requires ever-greater doses in order to remain effective.

I'm a Talton fan because of his years of serving the cause of realism as business columnist for the Republic. I want to see this realism honored not because it makes us feel good but because it's a necessary counterweight to feeling deluded by self-righteousness. Here's this morning's NYT column by the brilliant Gail Collins. I hope some of it registers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/13/opinion/collins-the-revenge-of-magic-mike.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

Whoa! Sum good writin' there soleri and Petro.

That one question from cal's link:

University of California applicants had to take an English aptitude test, which included a choice of one of twelve topics for a five-hundred-word essay. In 1959, one topic was: “What are the dangers to a democracy of a national police organization, like the FBI, which operates secretly and is unresponsive to criticism?”

I hope you won't mind if I weigh in on this excellent discussion.

Let me return to the crux of my argument, however badly I made it:

1. The extent of domestic spying, combined with other extra-judicial power grabs since 9/11, is both unprecedented and dangerous. We should be concerned. We should at the least be aware.

2. It's dangerous, too, because of the sometimes savage nature of the American through history, not to mention how our society has changed. In the wrong hands, these highly centralized powers could indeed lead to totalitarianism. They have already led to innocents being renditioned to other countries where they were tortured. We have enshrined torture ourselves. It is not being hysteric to note this.

3. From the weakening of constitutional protections, loss of checks and balances and takeover of the courts by right-wing ideologues to highly consolidated industries, the collapse of unions and big corporate money in politics -- these institutional changes are also unprecedented. And dangerous. They work hand-in-hand with the growing national security state and militarized law enforcement. Yes, most have a good deal of personal freedom now. That doesn't mean we can take it for granted, especially when so many essential frameworks in the rule of law have been weakened.

4. American history has been characterized by swings. Woodrow Wilson's overreaching against civil liberties was repudiated by the electorate in 1920. Whatever else Warren Harding did, his "normalcy" meant a reduction of the war state (and pardoning of Eugene Debs, thrown in federal prison by Wilson). Truman defunded the military after World War II and was concerned about spending even during the Korean War. Ike was similarly parsimonious against the military industrial complex. Similarly, there was a swing against McCarthyism, against racism with the Voting Rights Act etc., against federal overreach under Nixon with such reforms as those from the Church Committee. That's not happening now, and it should be worrying. It's not good enough to shrug and assume the nation has always worked this way.

5. I do not want to over-simplify Soleri's nuanced and always beautifully stated argument. But attempting to place a reality based lens on Mr. Obama, or even engage in spirited debate over his policies, is not giving aid and comfort to his enemies. It is not being a wooly headed idealistic liberal unaware of how the world works. This column is non-partisan and non-ideological. So it holds those in power to account, whomever is in power.

I appreciate all the great comments.

The "freedom" Soleri refers to in the U.S. today relative to the past is merely an illusion. Economic opportunity ultimately gives evidence to our true freedom, whereas forced poverty stunts our growth and demeans us. There can be no doubt the current regime's systematic impoverishment of the middle class by an elite criminal class is aided by the security state and its mechanisms of surveillance and control. This is nothing short of Fascism, which is the menace we face.

One of the most powerful antidotes to hysteria is to ask someone whether they'd rather live in the America of today or from some other era. Nostalgia is a very powerful lure but in my lifetime, I've seen black people escape from enforced segregation. I've seen Hispanics own their heritage and assert their political rights. I've seen gays come out of the closet and now make widely-accepted claims to full citizenship. I've seen a backlash against coercive patriotism of so-called Americanism. And I've seen globalization smudge the boundaries of nationalism to the point that human rights is the first global political issue. This is unprecedented. The national-security state cannot force us back into dark cellars of fear. That's over.

The technological capability to aggregate and sift through mountains of data is a fact of life. Corporations were doing this before government jointed the game. It's alarming not because it's chilling our freedoms but because we can see in real time what a repressive regime like China does with this information. Still, it's too late to decide that we shouldn't do this - power doesn't work that way. So far, at least, the capability is restricted to checking those whose fundamental animus is to modernity itself.

It's not an accident that the American right is competing with civil libertarians to make the most over-the-top allegations of sinister intentions here. The idea is that the foremost symbol of cosmopolitan America, Barack Obama, is our nation's primary enemy. They're doing this because their power is vested at the confluence of race and privilege. They see their power being sucked away in a demographic revolution, so they're fighting like cornered rats. The civil libertarians, on the other hand, make a more honest critique, but fail to show where the harm to civil society exists other than slippery-slope arguments.

The genie of complete privacy cannot be put back in the bottle. From security cameras, to credit-card data, to TSA lines and no-fly lists, to Facebook and internet comment sections, our lives are widely read and scrutinized. And paradoxically, this transparency has become our freedom. I ponder this in my own life where I have few secrets because I don't need them. 30 years ago, I definitely needed them.

Modern society breeds its discontents, whether it's in the medieval Middle East, or the broad swaths of the American Bible Belt. The fire ants of reaction are vicious, needless to say. We fight them with excessive force partly because they themselves demand it. The post-9/11 hysteria came entirely from the right. Now, they've inverted the arguments to make themselves the victims of America. Whatever works...

I know this will not persuade most of you. Barack Obama, the mild centrist, must serve as the devil we demand. But maybe his modesty as a human being is actually a positive. If he's not going to make an impossible political task of restricting the national security state, he can, at least, exemplify ordinary decency. He's not Nixon. He's not LBJ. He's not J Edgar Hoover. He's definitely not the war-crazy John McCain or the corporate hack Mitt Romney. There's the possibility there of getting from A to B without burning down the entire alphabet. This nation is a work in progress where freedom exists in an ongoing tension with authoritarianism. Most of us, right and left, are now on the same side here. We may be anti-authoritarian for different reasons but nobody is in jail for speaking their mind. This is not Bush/Cheney II. It's America, part 2013.

Americans should be very concerned about building up any mechanism of the national security state whose authority comes from the Executive, which takes its agenda from secret orders, and whose comparative self-control depends on who happens to be President of the United States at any particular time.

These issues are not new. I was reading James Bamford's "Body of Secrets" today (his 2001 sequel to The Puzzle Palace, which combined are probably the most authoritative sources of information on the NSA). Bamford gets his information straight from the horse's mouth and Body of Secrets contains several coups of investigative journalism. No doubt the technical details are now outdated, but there is much to be learned.

One program described was the NSA's domestic watch list, code-named MINARET, which began in the late 1960s and which spied on anti-war protesters among others. The list included folksinger Joan Baez, celebrity pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. Martin Luther King, and others:

"Frank Raven, in charge of (the NSA's) G Group which focused on the non-Communist world, was upset about the sudden switch to domestic eavesdropping, but he could do little about it... 'I was told that you couldn't argue with it -- it came from the highest level'. Some of the targets were downright 'asinine': 'When J. Edgar Hoover gives you a requirement for complete surveillance of all Quakers in the United States,' recalled Raven, 'when Richard M. Nixon is a Quaker and he's the president of the United States, it gets pretty funny.' Hoover apparently believed that the religious group was shipping food and supplies to Southeast Asia."

One thing I've learned by a study of the history of American (and other) governments since WW II -- whether the Oval Office, the military, the intelligence services, etc., is that there is nearly always something going on which is quite seriously illegal and dangerously unconstitutional.

There is a pattern that repeats over and over again through the decades:

These things are done in secret precisely because they are illegal. They are done by the Executive because Congress must pass laws in the public eye whereas a classifide Executive Order can be issued by one man in secret.

If any whiff of these things reaches the public, damage control involves, where possible, complete denial; where this isn't possible, it limits disclosures to those aspects which have become public knowledge; simultaneously it attempts to downplay the type and degree of violations and to cloak them in legal fig leaves.

If Congress is hostile the Executive offers token contrition and promises to cease and desist. The latter frequently involves, in practice, changing the names of programs and/or shifting them into other organizational structures so as to disguise them. Even when discontinued, it is only for a time, and meanwhile, all of the other non-disclosed illegalities continue.

There is a perpetual, institutional blindness among the media to this pattern. Instead of expecting it, they regard each such instance as an aberration. Instead of expecting partial disclosure and the downplaying of the nature and extent of violations as part of a campaign of spin control, they take the government at its word. No matter how many times Lucy pulls the football out from under Charlie Brown, he always believes her the next time.

"...our unquestioning backing of Israel no matter its human-rights record..."

Sometimes this reaches astonishingly shocking proportions. (And I'm not easily shocked.) Bamford (in Body of Secrets) details the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, which was secretly recorded by an NSA observation platform. Bamford also publishes for the first time information on this from the personal records of high officials in the NSA and elsewhere.

The Israelis were busy committing massacres of captured Egyptian prisoners as well as civilians, and the Liberty was an intelligence ship; the Israelis planned an attack using unmarked fighter planes, first to knock out communications on the ship so that it could not call for help, then used torpedo boats and machine guns to attack lifeboats in an attempt to kill all survivors.

The most shocking thing about the attack was not that it occurred, but that the U.S. Government at very high levels immediately instituted a cover-up. Even survivors were threatened and told to keep quiet.

This is not some anti-semitic or anti-Israel propaganda. This is all well documented. Read Bamford's book. It can probably be found at city libraries.

You can also see criticism of Bamford's narrative as well as Bamford's detailed reply to critics here:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/bamford.html


"...our unquestioning backing of Israel no matter its human-rights record..."

Sometimes this reaches astonishingly shocking proportions. (And I'm not easily shocked.) Bamford (in Body of Secrets) details the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, which was secretly recorded by an NSA observation platform. Bamford also publishes for the first time information on this from the personal records of high officials in the NSA and elsewhere.

The Israelis were busy committing massacres of captured Egyptian prisoners as well as civilians, and the Liberty was an intelligence ship; the Israelis planned an attack using unmarked fighter planes, first to knock out communications on the ship so that it could not call for help, then used torpedo boats and machine guns to attack lifeboats in an attempt to kill all survivors.

The most shocking thing about the attack was not that it occurred, but that the U.S. Government at very high levels immediately instituted a cover-up. Even survivors were threatened and told to keep quiet.

This is not some anti-semitic or anti-Israel propaganda. This is all well documented. Read Bamford's book. It can probably be found at city libraries.

You can also see criticism of Bamford's narrative as well as Bamford's detailed reply to critics here:

(I'll have to post the link separately -- the spam trap keeps eating it.)

P.S. When the comment with the Bamford link gets pulled out of the spam trap, scroll down to the end and have a look at the dozen or so quotes from high U.S. military, State Department, and intelligence officials supporting Bamford's conclusions on the U.S.S. Liberty incident.

Just thought I'd step back for a moment to observe that, while I've been on the defensive regarding one aspect of your argument, soleri, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate many of your points. Any cohort would certainly disintegrate if it were only composed with the likes of me. Of course the glue is necessary, I only say that there is some room for the sobering influence of a "solvent" like myself.

Cohesion is in peril of becoming calcification without the exhortations of conscience.

Diversity of tactics and all that.

Also, here's an extract from Bamford's chapter on the U.S.S. Liberty sinking from Body of Secrets, as published by The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/aug/08/israel

"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
-- Sen. Frank Church

The quote comes from this BradBlog item:

http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10067

Daniel Ellsberg says, "What [Snowden] has revealed, of course, is documentary evidence of a broadly, blatantly unconstitutional program here which negates the Fourth Amendment. And if it continues in this way, I think it makes democracy essentially impossible or meaningless."

Meaningless is a key word. So, yes, many of the vile de jure prejudices have been overturned and de facto ones less prevelant among young people, at least outside what Talton calls the New Confederacy. But do we have real democracy if we can only elect someone who protects the status quo, which doles out a liberating symbol here and there, but the evil of the system stays or gets worse? It's sure worse for the middle class, as Gaylord said.

Free to be consumers. Don't dare ask for more.

A ling to Amy Zalman of the National War college on data mining.

http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?storyid=10027

Clapper, was on the board of Booz | Allen | Hamilton? Shocking!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/edward-snowden-investigate-booz-allen

Another of our revolving doors in and out of the military-intelligence-industrial complex.

The mind-boggling information in this article would have surely paralyzed me with fear and loathing had I known it contemporaneously, and I am not all assured that it is "old history."

The Nazi Connection to the John F. Kennedy Assassination

And this is not off-topic.

What has been gained, really, from all this? Not much, credibly.

Stay off social media, use cash. 'Nuff said.

Not that we need any more reasons for alarm:

Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

"Love" this quote:

"An increased focus on domestic activities might be a way of justifying whatever Army force structure the country can still afford."

And yes, I was already aware of this development - yet another thing that is only now ripening for polite conversation.

Finally, I'd like to note that while there are going to be many good reasons for anger & dissent, the public (especially the American public) should instead feel shame. The rocks they may throw would be more appropriately aimed at their own consumer selves.

P.S. Bamford's book contains a lot of telling details which don't appear in the extract I linked to. For example, after the U.S.S. Liberty had been pounded by warplanes and attacked by PT boats, the latter ceased fire long enough to signal, via lights, a message in ENGLISH to the Liberty which asked "Do you require assistance?" When the Liberty replied using flags indicating the ship was maneuvering with difficulty and that the surrounding boats should stay clear, the PT boats opened fire again, shooting at the ship, at firefighters, at rescue personnel, and at the life rafts on their racks. (They also fired at and sank life rafts that had been lowered into the water for sailors abandoning ship.)

Two things should be noted here. First, if the Israelis really thought the Liberty was an Egyptian ship as they subsequently claimed, they would have signaled in Arabic not in English. Second, the targeting of life rafts, etc., is clearly a war crime regardless of who owned the ship.

The American public has little idea of the depths to which the American government has sometimes sunk in the name of "national security". From Body of Secrets:

"According to secret and long-hidden documents obtained for Body of Secrets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever initiated by the U.S. government. In the name of anticommunism, they proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba.

"Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plan, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; and for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be highjacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving (Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman L.) Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, needed to launch the war."

(Kennedy nixed it.)

One plan involved astronaut John Glenn's historic spaceflight of February 20, 1962 (Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth). Lemnitzer and his Chiefs proposed that, should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, the Cubans should be blamed: "The object is to provide unequivocal proof that the fault lies with the Communists et al Cuba (sic)." This would be accomplished, Lemnitzer continued, "by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans".

It's important to note that the JCS were not proposing sabotage of Glenn's rocket (and his flight launched without incident); merely to take advantage of any fortuitous accident to frame Cuba for it as the pretext for a U.S. military invasion (which again, Kennedy nixed, earning him the label "soft on Communism" by the military cabal).

Lots more details in the book. At one point Lemnitzer notes with approval how the "casualty lists" (whether real or manufactured) would outrage the American public and mobilize broad popular support for the invasion.

I don't know why I thought the lurking AzRebel might appreciate this song:

http://vimeo.com/33297811

(A music video.)

Naomi Wolf's piece was thought provoking but not very convincing. Snowden has apparently been thinking about and planning this for many years (he has said he previously had planned to come forth, but then decided to wait when Obama was elected). Also, he has a background in intelligence/security. So, naturally he knows what he wants to say and is well organized.

As for this:

"f) Snowden is in Hong Kong, which has close ties to the UK, which has done the US’s bidding with other famous leakers such as Assange. So really there are MANY other countries that he would be less likely to be handed over from..."

Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S. but two key aspects give Snowden an advantage. First, the treaty explicitly prohibits extradition for political offenses. Principled whistleblowing clearly falls into that category. Second, the treaty requires that the reason for extradition be a crime under the laws of both countries. It isn't at all clear that anything Snowden has done would be illegal under Hong Kong law. There are no doubt other reasons why he chose this country (which, despite its close ties to the UK, is actually now part of China).

Other arguments are weak or erroneous. As one of the commenters points out, Snowden did not bring a film crew to the Greenwald interview: Greenwald did.

Here's a much more insightful piece about why Snowden is in Hong Kong:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/12/why-is-edward-snowden-in-hong-kong/

just so u know how we will get to the planet becoming the American Union. Try the Secret Founding of America by Nicholas Hagger. the neo-cons have been around for centuries.

What do George Washington and Obama have in common.

"Free Masonry has an agenda for a new world order, a federal -continental United States of the World."

Wolf's take was interesting, skepticism's a healthy thing and I wouldn't put it past the "Mad Men" of NSA's (or CIA's) psyops corp to have engineered this, but I tend to agree with Emil on this one.

Though one would think that China would love to have a token like this for future spy/prisoner trading, but Snowden undoubtedly knows more about these things than I do.

I'm drinking this story neat for the time being, but my tinfoil-hat is always close at hand... :)

This is what I wonder:

When we were in the middle of punishing war criminals in Nazi Germany, we paused to give passage to those we felt could help us. Who were the people, specifically, in our government, who decided, "Let's make a deal with the devil and take these monsters in for our benefit." Who were these "deciders"???

When we were in the middle of punishing the terrible Japanese war criminals, who were the persons, specifically, who decided, "Let's make a deal with the devil and let the rest of these monsters go free because we're going to need them against Russia and China" Who were these deciders??

Gulf of Tonkin. Let's fake it.

Weapons of mass destruction. Let's make it up.

Who are the people who play us like puppets? It's not our elected officials. They're just buffoons being used in the process.

I've heard all the conspiracy theories. That's fine.

Just who the hell are they???

I know they're just laughing at us because we're so easy to play.

to:
AZ rebel, if U had go the 3rd degree U would know the answer to your questions.
From:
Raised in the east

Reb, it is my estimation that the so-called "shadow government" is all too real, a cancerous growth out of Truman's post WWII security apparatus. JFK became rather impatient with these freebooters, especially after the Bay of Pigs, and threatened to break them up.

That didn't work out so well for him, and they've been emboldened ever since.

The intelligence community really believe that they are the truest, bluest, cutting edgiest and necessary-est Patriots, and that justifies "all that they do." That's what makes them so frigging dangerous.

BTW - giving away free signed books at my place (the one that I wrote the Foreward to).

JFK Assassination 50th Anniversary / Signed Book Giveaway / Author's Recommendations

(cal, your copy is already being sent out next week - to me.)

Pardon the digression, but here's a good example of what strong government investment in public works can do for an economy. The opposite of "austerity":

"Panama's economy started booming around the time that authorities began the Panama Canal expansion in 2007. By 2010, the annual growth rate rose to around 10 percent, where it's stayed.

"The canal expansion generated 30,000 direct jobs and the administration of populist right-leaning President Ricardo Martinelli estimates that the government will have put $16 billion into public works between 2009 and 2014. That amount was $4.4 billion between 2000 and 2004. A 13.5 percent unemployment rate in 2004 dropped to 4.6 percent in 2012, in a workforce of 1.6 million. The poverty rate dropped from 36 percent in 2002 to 26 percent today."

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/panamas-boom-helps-drive-nicaragua-canal-dreams-19410566

Note that this was done democratically, approved through referendum:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10627208/

That last link (from 2006) also notes how it "will" be paid for:

"The Panama Canal Authority, the autonomous government agency that runs the canal, says the project will double capacity of a waterway already on pace to generate about $1.4 billion this year. Expansion will be paid for by increasing tolls and take in more than $6 billion annually in revenue by 2025."

But this is really how it will be paid BACK, not how it is being paid for. At least $2.3 billion of the cost is paid for by international loans (20 year loans with a 10 year grace period):

http://www.ordons.com/americas/central-america-and-caribbean/162-financing-deal-for-panama-canal-expansion-signed.html

It's hard to get English-language specifics of the Panamanian government's own financing of the other half of the project's costs, and I'm running out of online time today. I just wanted to make the point that public works infrastructure investment on a sufficient scale can radically improve a nation's economy.

Something on "the opposite of austerity" when Mr. Talton rescues it from the spam trap...

I forgot to mention the fact that Panama is also investing $1.5 billion to build Central America's first subway system. It's mentioned in one of the articles I linked to, but I knew that Mr. Talton would appreciate this investment in particular.

USA Today had a great piece today (the online version has even more details) interviewing three former NSA employees who had previously tried to work within the system to complain about the targeting of Americans and who got swatted down for their efforts:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-nsa-officials-roundtable/2428809/

Three NSA veterans speak out in interviews with USA Today. They say:

* Snowden is right

* The NSA's activities are illegal

* Congress (including the intelligence committees) isn't being told the truth by the NSA

* There are no real checks and balances, including the FISA court (which relies solely on broad, unsubstantiated assertions by the NSA and others and where the judge has no foundation to challenge what they present to him)

I'm having trouble posting the link so I'll try adding it in the following comment.

Incidentally, if you saw this in the print edition, be sure to read the whole of the online edition, which contains a lot of deleted material (in fact, the best stuff in the interviews appears only online).

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-nsa-officials-roundtable/2428809/

Incidentally, if you read the print edition of the USA Today interviews, don't miss the online version, which contains much deleted material and by far the most interesting parts of the interviews.

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