June 23, 2013

Sorry for the Annoyance

Unfortunately, I must again plead for some donations if I am to have sufficient funds to pay next month's rent, as well as to cover a few necessary expenditures (such as for my internet connection, a bill which I won't be able to pay as things stand now). I'm essentially in the exact position I was when I made a similar plea toward the end of last month.

I have to do this far more often than I would choose for the obvious reason that I have a very small readership and, of that readership, only a few people make donations. As a result, I almost never have a financial cushion of even the smallest size, and disaster can arrive with any unexpected development. I once again offer my profound thanks to those who donate regularly; without these personal angels, I would have vanished from this spot long ago.

I have only half of what I need for the rent, and no money for anything else at all. Donations in any amount will be received with immense gratitude and relief.

Because I feel generally lousy most of the time these days, I'm not able to write as much as I want to. Nonetheless, I am pleased with the work in the past month. "The Ruling Class as Full-Time Sadistic Torturers" was interesting and provocative, in my own strongly biased view, and I was gratified to see that "Trained for Totalitarianism" got some attention (although I very much doubt it will lead to any efforts at widespread resistance of the kind I described, or indeed of any kind at all -- but, hey, if Americans want to let people in other countries do all the heavy lifting of protest and disruption, who am I to disturb their infinite complacency?). And two of my pieces on the NSA/surveillance stories raised issues that received very little coverage elsewhere (see here and here), and this third article on the same general topic also offered an important and often neglected argument.

And I am working on several new articles, the first of which should be published in the next few days. Some of the essays in progress are ones I have long planned to write and sometimes had promised would soon be forthcoming, but "forthcoming" has always meant far longer than I intended in recent years, often for reasons that I truly cannot control, such as my health. My sense of having severely limited time is very strong now, and there are some subjects I want to explore in much more detail, in large part because I'm not aware of other writers who are interested in doing so (a fact which causes me immense sadness). I am more convinced than ever that certain of these widely neglected subjects are critical to understanding and altering the disastrous course to which we appear to be so foolishly, and tragically, committed.

Many, many thanks for your kindness and attention. And a special blessing for the personal angels out there. (The angels also get kisses from both cats, Cyrano and Sasha, who bring me such great joy every day.)

June 18, 2013

"Intelligence," Corporatism, and the Dance of Death

You may at first think the following is a bad joke, but I assure you it is not a joke at all. At the very end of this NYT story about Booz Allen and the complex interconnections between nominally "private" business and the national intelligence community, we read:
But the legal warnings at the end of its financial report offered a caution that the company could be hurt by “any issue that compromises our relationships with the U.S. government or damages our professional reputation."

By Friday, shares of Booz Allen had slid nearly 6 percent since the revelations. And a new job posting appeared on its Web site for a systems administrator in Hawaii, “secret clearance required.”
Yes, that appears to be Edward Snowden's old job.

Crappy spy fiction doesn't look quite so crappy now, does it? In many respects -- in fact, I would argue in every critical respect -- the spy business is actually that dumb.

In an earlier post about the NSA/surveillance stories, I discussed the profoundly offensive elitism involved in the argument that "special" people in both government and journalism, people endowed with understanding and judgment that is the envy of the gods and forever denied to all us ordinary schlubs, should decide what information will be provided to the motley mass of humans who merely pay for all of it, and for whose benefit all this godlike work is supposedly undertaken. Talk about idiocies: "We're doing all this for you! You're too stupid to be told most of what we're doing!" Put it on a bumper sticker, baby, so we can throw rotten eggs at it.

I also talked about how especially unconvincing the insistence on secrecy is, given the numbers of people who have access to Top Secret information. The NYT story helpfully offers some numbers. Booz Allen "boasts that half its 25,000 employees have Top Secret clearances..." Wait, that's nothing:
Of the 1.4 million people with Top Secret clearances, more than a third are private contractors. (The background checks for those clearances are usually done by other contractors.)
The biggest open secret all these creepy jerks are hiding is the secret of corporatism (or what Gabriel Kolko calls "political capitalism"):
There is nothing in the world that can't be turned into a huge moneymaker for the State and its favored friends in "private" business, at the same time it is used to amass still greater power. This is true in multiple forms for the fraud that is the "intelligence" industry.
The pattern is the same in every industry, from farming, to manufacturing, to every aspect of transportation, to the health insurance scam, to anything else you can name. In one common version, already vested interests go to the State demanding regulation and protection from "destabilizing" forces which, they claim, threaten the nation's well-being (by which, they mean competitors who threaten their profits). The State enthusiastically complies, the cooperative lawmakers enjoying rewards of many kinds and varieties. Then they'll have to enforce all those nifty regulations and controls. The State will do some of it but, heck, it's complicated and time-consuming, ya know? Besides, some of the State's good friends in "private" business can make a killing doing some of the enforcing. Give it to them! Etc. and so on.

It is for these reasons, among others, that I have stated:
[G]iven the nature of the State and its manner of operation, it simply isn't possible for any enterprise to become and remain notably successful ... without becoming enmeshed in the State apparatus. It's possible that a company may escape more complex involvement with the State in its early years, but if a company maintains its dominance over a significant period of time, it necessarily must be the recipient of State favoritism.
And so, as but one minor example, the Times tells us that "background checks for those clearances are usually done by other contractors."

But that's chump change. The real money is elsewhere -- in, for instance, foreign policy itself. You probably thought foreign policy was about dealing with threats to "national security," spreading democracy, ensuring peace, and whatever other lying slogans they throw around like a moldy, decaying, putrid corpse. The State's foreign policy efforts are unquestionably devoted to maintaining the U.S.'s advantages -- but the advantages they are most concerned about are access to markets and, that's right, making huge amounts of money. Despite the unending propaganda to the contrary, they aren't terribly concerned with dire threats to our national well-being, for the simple reason that there aren't any: "No nation would dare mount a serious attack on the U.S. precisely because they know how powerful the U.S. is -- because it is not secret."

How does the public-"private" intelligence industry make foreign policy? The NYT story offers an instructive example in its opening paragraphs:
When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world’s largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi.

It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen’s cyberstrategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the N.S.A. and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians.

“They are teaching everything,” one Arab official familiar with the effort said. “Data mining, Web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection."
See how perfect this is? All the special people are making tons of money -- and, when the day arrives that the U.S. wants to ramp up its confrontational stance with Iran, well, there's the UAE helping to "track the Iranians" with all the tools that the U.S. has given them and taught them to use. And how easy would it be to get the UAE to provide the U.S. with just the right kind of new and disturbing "intelligence" that would get lots of people screaming about the "grave Iranian threat"? You know the answer to that: easy peasy. A wink and a nod -- and off the U.S. goes, with bombing runs or whatever it decides to do. But whatever it does will be determined in greatest part not by a genuine threat to U.S. national security (there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Iran's leaders are all suicidal), but by what will make the most money for the State and its good friends.

I remind you once again of what I call The Higgs Principle. As I have emphasized, you can apply this principle to every significant policy in every area, including every aspect of foreign policy. Here is Robert Higgs explaining it:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.
How much is the intelligence-security industry worth? The NYT story offers this toward the end:
Only last month, the Navy awarded Booz Allen, among others, the first contracts in a billion-dollar project to help with “a new generation of intelligence, surveillance and combat operations."

The new push is to take those skills to American allies, especially at a time of reduced spending in Washington. So while the contract with the United Arab Emirates is small, it may be a model for other countries that see cyberdefense — and perhaps offense — as their future. The company reported net income of $219 million in the fiscal year that ended on March 31. That was up from net income of $25 million in 2010, shortly after Mr. McConnell returned to the company.
They're just getting started. Note that the $219 million is net income. Earlier, the Times told us that "more than half its $5.8 billion in annual revenue [is] coming from the military and the intelligence agencies." The story also informs us that: "Booz Allen is one of many companies that make up the digital spine of the intelligence world, designing the software and hardware systems on which the N.S.A. and other military and intelligence agencies depend."

It's all about wealth and power. Here and there, in episodes notable only for their rarity, "the intelligence world" might actually provide a small piece of information actually related to "national security." Again, I turn to Gabriel Kolko:
It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior--although sometimes that occurs--than to justify a nation's illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.
The incessant chatter about the indispensable, critical importance of "intelligence" to "national security" is marketing, the time-tested phrases that the ruling class knows are so popular with most Americans. And Americans dearly love the marketing:
So all of the feigned bafflement and incessant caterwauling about the supposedly indecipherable actions of the United States -- Why, oh why, did we invade Iraq?, and Why, dear God, are we in Afghanistan? -- represent only the capitulation of the purported critics to precisely those arguments U.S. leaders hope you will engage. They want you to spend all your time on those arguments, because they're only marketing ploys having nothing at all to do with their actual goals. As I said the other day, if you want to stop this murderous madness -- and I dearly hope you do -- forget about what they say their goals are (fostering "democratic" governments, “regional stability,” “security,” and all the associated claptrap), and focus on the real problem: the carefully chosen policy of U.S. geopolitical dominance over the entire globe.
In the midst of the rush of revelations concerning the NSA and surveillance, almost everyone forgets that the "intelligence" industry is founded on one of the most momentous lies in the history of statecraft. As I write this, I see the following:
National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander told a House committee Tuesday that 50 terror threats in 20 countries have been disrupted with the assistance of two secret surveillance programs that were recently disclosed by former defense contractor Edward Snowden.
Ooooohhhhh! 50 terror threats in 20 countries, and "At least 10 of the plots targeted the U.S. homeland." These guys suck stylistically, too. It's exactly 50! And exactly 20! But kinda around 10 that targeted the "homeland." C'mon, Keith. Precision is important in propaganda. Emulate a master: "I have here in my hand a list of 205 terror plots...!!"

Of course, they will never provide any evidence to prove the truth of these claims. You're too stupid to be trusted with such information. You just have to take their word for it. Right. I wonder how many of these frightening plots were ones dreamed up by government agents themselves. And I wonder how many of them were, in fact, discovered by mundane, old-fashioned "police work." Not incidentally, I wonder how many of these plots occurred at all.

I repeat again, for approximately the fiftieth time, that "intelligence" is almost always wrong. Don't take my word for it: read the excerpt from Chalmers Johnson here. Read this. And this. See all the articles linked at the conclusion of this article. I've been writing about this subject for almost a decade. With the exception of 14 or 15 people, no one listens to a goddamned word I say on this subject (or on any other; don't worry, I don't love you any less -- but I suggest you keep in mind that the least charitable interpretation of that last statement is the correct one). Many of you are now commencing to piss me off in a serious way.

The intelligence-security industry isn't about protecting the United States or you, except for extraordinarily rare, virtually accidental occurrences. It's about wealth and power. Yet every politician and every government functionary speaks reverently of the sacred mission and crucial importance of "intelligence" in the manner of a syphilitic preacher who clutches a tatty, moth-eaten doll of the Madonna, which he digitally manipulates by sticking his fingers in its orifices. Most people would find his behavior shockingly obscene, if they noticed it. But they don't notice it, so mesmerized are they by the preacher with his phonily awestruck words about the holy of holies and the ungraspably noble purpose of his mission. Even as the suppurating sores on the preacher's face ooze blood and pus, his audience can only gasp, "We must pay attention to what he says! He wants only the best for us! He's trying to save us!"

What the preacher says -- what every politician and national security official says on this subject -- is a goddamned lie. The ruling class has figured out yet another way to make a killing, both figuratively and literally. They want wealth and power, and always more wealth and power. That's what "intelligence" and "national security" is about, and nothing else at all. When you hear Keith Alexander, or James Clapper, or Barack Obama talk about "intelligence" and surveillance, how your lives depend on them, and why you must trust them to protect you if you wish to continue existing at all, think of the preacher. Think of his open sores, of the blood and pus slowly dribbling down his face.

All of them are murdering crooks running a racket. They are intent on amassing wealth and power, and they've stumbled on a sure-fire way to win the acquiescence, and often the approval, of most people. They are driven by the worst of motives, including their maddened knowledge that there will always remain a few people and events that they will be unable to control absolutely. For the rest of us, their noxious games are a sickening display of power at its worst. For us, on a faster or slower schedule, in ways that are more or less extreme, their lies and machinations are only a Dance of Death.

June 16, 2013

The Old, Familiar Song

In a new Guardian article, we learn that: "Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian."

The Guardian helpfully provides a link to the documents themselves. Take a look.

Nice redactions. Who did 'em? Why? Don't get me wrong. I like black, especially great big boxes of black. I just like to know why they're there. (Page 3 is my fave. Outstanding!)

By the way: what percentage of the total documents relevant to this new story (and perhaps "seen by the Guardian"?) do these redacted documents represent? We know there are more documents, including more documents "seen by the Guardian," because of the story's details, and because of this additional story.

And so on and so forth.

Well, there you go. Gatekeepers. Can't live with 'em, and can't live with 'em.

Betcha we could live without 'em. What say we give it a try someday?

See: Fed Up with All the Bullshit, and In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic

June 12, 2013

Fed Up with All the Bullshit

In the final section of the preceding post (the section subtitled "The Filtering of the NSA/Surveillance Stories"), I discussed the manner in which the journalists to whom Edward Snowden provided documents chose to continue to conceal much of the information he had given them. I emphasized that the explanations provided to the general public are notably threadbare, and filled with familiar, vacuous phrases. One of the links I included itself links to another article. It is worth noting the fuller version of some comments from Glenn Greenwald in the BuzzFeed piece:
“We’re not engaged in a mindless, indiscriminate document dump, and our source didn’t want us to be,” said Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian writer, in an email to BuzzFeed Saturday. “We’re engaged in the standard journalistic assessment of whether the public value to publication outweighs any harms."

“I’m sure the Guardian has consulted lawyers about all of this, but as far as I know, none of the decisions have been legal, only journal[istic],” Greenwald said. He tweeted earlier on Saturday that the Guardian would not be publishing one of the full unredacted PowerPoint slides related to the PRISM datamining program, because “it contains very specific technical NSA means for collection - we’d probably be prosecuted if we did."

“We’re applying the standard judgment test that journalists apply every day: first, is it newsworthy and relevant, ie, is there public interest in knowing this?” Greenwald told BuzzFeed. “If so: is there genuine harm that comes from publication? And if there is harm, does the public value outweigh/justify the harm?"
My earlier post discussed only a few of the many problems with these formulations, including: Who makes up "the public," and what specifically are the factors involved in determining what is in "the public interest"? Greenwald (and many others) appear to assume that everyone just sort of "knows" what these phrases mean. In fact, we don't know what they mean with any specificity. When critical terms are left undefined, alarms should always start clanging in your head. And as I pointed out, "the public interest" can mean anything at all. Something which can mean anything, means nothing. With regard to political matters, such phrases usually indicate that someone is trying to put something over on you.

I also pointed out that Greenwald (and Gellman, and Snowden himself, and many, many others) all talk about "harms," but we are never told what particular harms with any degree of specificity, just as we are not told who it is who is supposedly in danger of being harmed. As far as Greenwald's comment that "we're applying the standard judgment test that journalists apply every day" is concerned, I can only note that the irony is rather heavy when Greenwald, who writes endlessly about the numerous failures, limitless misrepresentations, hugely significant lapses, and so on, of mainstream journalism now appeals to some notion of journalistic "community standard." If journalism is, generally speaking, so rotten and filled with failure, who cares what the journalism community's standard is? Apparently Greenwald cares, at least now.

The preceding post also discussed what ought to be a disturbing similarity between the justifications for concealment employed by Snowden's chosen journalists and the State's justifications for keeping massive amounts of information from the public. In both cases, the "authorities" rely on factors and standards that are never specifically defined, on the basis of which they engage in some kind of unexplained "weighing" process, all to decide whether to reveal or conceal the information in question.

In summary: we are left with terms that are never defined and/or that are largely devoid of meaning, and a process of reaching judgments which remains a complete mystery to all the rest of us. That is to say: we have absolutely no way of evaluating what it is they are doing, for the simple reason that we don't know what they're doing with any specificity. And in terms of what has not been disclosed, and as I already pointed out, we are not given even the slightest indication of why particular information has been withheld. With regard to the 41 slides that make up the Prism "brief," for example, we might have been told: "Slides 9 through 16 concern X," where X is still generally described, if necessary, as for example: "disabling computer security systems in terms we view as potentially helpful to enemies of the U.S." That at least would make what they're doing minimally intelligible. But we're provided no details at all. We just have to "trust" them. Do you hear those alarms going off again? You should.

I will also state frankly, again with regard to the similar justifications offered by both these journalists and the government, that there is a very strong element of elitism involved that I find objectionable in the extreme. In the case of the Guardian, we know that Greenwald and at least two other reporters had access to Snowden's documents (or at least parts of them). We can safely assume that at least one editor was also involved, and probably more than one given the "sensitivity" of the material and the attention they knew the stories would receive. We can also safely assume, as Greenwald does, that "the Guardian has consulted lawyers about all of this." How many lawyers? We don't know. I have some familiarity with matters of this kind, and I think we can say it's at least two or three, and possibly five or six (given the importance of this material and the stories based on it). So how many people are we talking about? Eight, 10, 15, 20? Almost certainly between 10 and 20, at a minimum. That's just at the Guardian. The same would be true at the Washington Post. So we're talking about 40 or 50 individuals, possibly more, who reviewed Snowden's documents or at least some of them. I'm probably undercounting.

On top of this, we've all seen the stories about how the government hands out clearances to classified and "Top Secret" information like candy. But now we're told that all those very special workers for the State, plus the 40 or 50 people (and probably more) at the Guardian and the Washington Post, well, they're so responsible, and conscientious, and impossibly pure that they can be trusted with information that apparently will cause the simultaneous implosion of numerous galaxies if it were to fall into the hands of irresponsible, criminally careless, and stupid people -- like you. Like me.

It is at this point that you must forgive me for expressing my conclusion somewhat crudely: Peddle this bullshit somewhere else. I'm not buying it, not any of it.

I'm especially not buying it because the State's insistence on "secrecy" is a series of lies from beginning to end. And I implore you always to remember that we are speaking of a State which arrogates to itself the power to murder anyone it wishes, for any reason it chooses. This is a viciously authoritarian State running entirely out of control. Of course they would prefer to keep every single thing in the world "secret" and away from public view -- because they want and intend to do whatever the hell they wish, they don't want you to know about any of it (until they do want you to know, at least one or two things, when you'll be sorry you found out even that), and they don't intend to ever have to account to anyone for a single damned thing.

I therefore repeat: dump every single goddamned document you can get your hands on in toto, and make every last bit of it available to the public. It's the public that's paying for all of it, and not merely monetarily -- and it's the public for whose benefit everyone claims to be working (another similarity between the journalists and the State). If it's all for the public, doesn't the public have not only the right to know all about it, but the first right to know about it? But, no: you're too stupid to know what's best for you. Your betters will have to make these determinations. They'll decide what you can know, how much, and when.

Bullshit, all of it. These are the dishonest, insulting arguments of power used to justify itself. To hell with it.

Many of the same problems continue with regard to what these journalists have chosen to tell us about. Thanks to this tweet, I was directed to this article. Take a look:
Now that Snowden has revealed himself to the world as the NSA whistleblower, details about his interaction with the press are surfacing. And at the center of the drama is a still mostly unpublished 41-slide presentation, classified top secret, that Snowden gave to the Washington Post and the Guardian to expose the NSA’s internet spying operation “PRISM.”

Only five slides from the presentation have been published. The other 36 remain a mystery. Both the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and the Post’s Barton Gellman have made it clear that the rest of the PowerPoint is dynamite stuff … which we’re not going to be seeing any time soon. “If you saw all the slides you wouldn’t publish them,” wrote Gellman on Twitter, adding in a second tweet: “I know a few absolutists, but most people would want to defer judgment if they didn’t know the full contents.”

Even Greenwald, who urged me rather strongly in 2010 to publish Bradley Manning’s personal chats, is taking a more conservative view of the NSA’s PowerPoint. “I’m not going to discuss our legal advice with you,” Greenwald wrote on Twitter, “but we’re not publishing NSA tech methods.”
We are confronted with several problems here. First, we have only a small fraction of the total number of slides from the presentation. Second, we have the problem with PowerPoint presentations themselves. And third, related to the second point, we have a problem interpreting the minimal amount of text contained on the slides. The Wired article fleshes out the second and third points:
It’s strangely incongruent that a PowerPoint deck has taken on such importance. Indeed, the very properties of PowerPoint that make it one of the most hated conveyances of information in the world have contributed to the lingering uncertainty about PRISM and what it really does. Crude vector art and bullet points leave too much to the imagination, even when it’s the most highly classified crude vector art and bullet points the public has ever seen.

After company executives and administration officials disputed the key finding in the newspapers’ first reports — that the NSA has unilateral access to backend servers of Google, Facebook, and seven other technology companies — the Guardian released a new slide (slide number eight, we’re told) to support the paper’s claim. This one includes this PRISM point: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube [and] Apple.”

But in context, that additional line adds little. The slide is intended to distinguish PRISM collection from the NSA’s raw internet wiretapping. It doesn’t address whether the collection is broad and automatic, or narrow and mediated by lawyers at the target companies, as subsequent reporting by other news outlets has indicated.
We thus begin to see how difficult it is to evaluate even the information that has been provided to us. After we try to sift through the available details, we're left with the sense that the government is engaged in intensive, systematic intrusions into individual privacy, but many of the details -- exactly what is happening, how, and in what manner -- are still elusive in varying degrees. In a significant sense, this isn't different from what we already knew from numerous stories over the past several years (see here and here, as only two examples from my own archives).

The problem is exponentially worsened when we consider how little of the total presentation we've been given. We all know the great dangers of selective information. Let me provide a very different kind of example to make the issue clearer. A very familiar, indeed cliched, scene in a certain kind of lousy movie (or novel) involves a person who tries to start trouble between two friends. The troublemaker says to one of the friends, "Do you know what Tim said about you? He said you're a manipulative, backstabbing son of a bitch, and he'd like to punch your goddamned lights out." As it happens, Tim said exactly that. But, as a wise friend of mine once remarked, "Context is everything." And the context surrounding Tim's remark was his explaining how he would feel if he were to find out that a close friend had acted in a certain way. He then went on to say that the close friend in question -- the person to whom the troublemaker ran with this dynamite story -- had never acted that way, and Tim was certain he never would. But the troublemaker neglected to include that part of the story. The trouble will begin if the person who is told the selective version of the truth believes that he has all the relevant information. In fact, all he has is one small piece of a larger story. The small piece of the story by itself, if treated as the totality of the required information, is not only not the truth: it is the opposite of the truth.

The parallels between this little fictional example and the Prism story are obviously not exact. I'm not suggesting that what we do know is not true, or that the actual truth is the opposite of what the slides we've been provided convey. But as indicated above, there are huge difficulties in interpreting the slides we know about with precision. Moreover, as my friend noted, context is everything. The full truth might be far worse than what we now know, or it might be awful, but in a way that is significantly different from what we now think. The critical point is that, because we have been provided with only a very selective part of the truth, we have no way of answering these questions. The problem goes still deeper than that: because we have only a small fraction of the entire presentation, we don't even know what questions we should be asking. It may be that we should actually be worried about an aspect of all this that hasn't occurred to anyone -- at least, to anyone in the great unwashed public. Some of the select few who have reviewed all 41 slides may have performed a brilliant analysis, and they may know that there are additional issues out there that would make our heads explode (or explode even more) -- but if they have such knowledge, based not on what they've shared so far but on the totality of the presentation, they aren't going to tell us.

Note, too, that we don't know that what we've been told is the most important part of the Prism story. You might argue that the published stories imply that, but they don't explicitly make any such claim. The published stories represent the newspapers' judgment concerning what information they believe, via some mysterious alchemical process, it is "responsible" to share with us. So perhaps what we know isn't the most important part of the story.

This is an entirely unsatisfactory way of imparting information to the public. In fact, what we're left with ("we" huddled masses, that is) is not knowledge at all in certain critical respects. We have isolated bits of information (which are unquestionably very bad and deeply troubling), but we have no idea how those bits would look when placed in the full context of the entire presentation. I can't imagine anything that would make the isolated pieces we have look "good" or "satisfactory," but again, to know that much isn't to know much more than we did before these stories were published.

And now we have the prospect of many more stories from the Guardian. We have no reason to think the Guardian is going to alter its basic approach to divulging the information it possesses; to the contrary, indications are that the methodology will remain the same. Of course, I will read the stories, and it may be that even the isolated pieces of information we're given will be so explosive that a major debate will occur, and even some modifications to current policy. But I wouldn't count on it.

I'm enormously tired by all the filtering, all the selective sharing of information, the repeated insistence that the general public can't be trusted with the full truth and that a select elite will decide what's best for us to know. It's all bullshit, and it needs to stop. Even to attempt to reach the truth, or just one part of the truth, when confronted with such an unending series of obstacles is absolutely exhausting. In truth, I think those in the elite ranks count on that: the prospect of trying to make sense out of the little information we're given is so forbidding that most people give up. They finally accept the tiny morsels they're provided, because they're too goddamned tired to fight for more. And they probably have at least a dim suspicion that what they know isn't the truth, or perhaps even close to the truth, but they simply don't care any longer.

It's a fucking rotten way to run a newspaper. It's a fucking rotten way to run a country. It's a fucking rotten way to live.

June 11, 2013

In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic

An immense and unexpected sadness now suffuses the last part of my life. I did not anticipate, when we are ruled by a Death State which grows more brazenly callous in its murderous practices by the day, that those who challenge authority and seek to push back against the ascendance of brutality and oppression would willingly adopt critical aspects of the monsters' manner of destroying us. Whatever radicals and revolutionaries may be found among us, they are, with extraordinarily rare exceptions, always intent on minding their p's and q's, and never, ever soiling their cuffs with even a smidgen of dirt or dust. Even when we speak of peaceful revolution founded in civil disobedience, if you think that an unfailingly polite, neat, and manicured revolution is a contradiction in terms, you're correct. A well-mannered revolution is one doomed to fail. In the current circumstances, polite, rules-abiding challenges to authority have been rendered irrelevant and utterly without meaning.

If you wish to challenge authority in any serious manner, you must be prepared to provoke an unholy, chaotic, extremely messy scene, one punctuated with howls of outrage by those in power, where everyone is mortified, humiliated and riven with panic -- including you. Anything short of that is merely a very small speed bump on power's journey to ever-increasing destruction and death. (This point was the theme of an essay from 2007, "Break the Goddamned Rules": "Friends, if this country -- and if you individually -- are to have any kind of human future at all, and by 'human,' I mean a life with any genuine meaning and joy, a life not fatally compromised by ongoing murder, torture, and brutality -- you had better fucking disturb the peace every second of every day.")

I refer to the United States government and the machinery of terror it has erected as a Death State. I chose that phrase because of what the United States is and what it does:
For more than a hundred years, the foreign policy of the United States government has been directed to the establishment and maintenance of global dominance. To this end, violence, overthrow, conquest and murder have been utilized as required. (See "Dominion Over the World" for the sources and development of this policy [the earlier essays in that series are listed at the conclusion of that article].) More and more, oppression and brutalization have become the bywords of domestic policy as well. Today, the United States as a political entity is a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist monstrosity: its major products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a huge scale.
I wrote that over four years ago; it was true then, and it is more true today. A nation whose primary products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a wide scale is a Death State. For those of us who desperately wish for a world where life and happiness have a significantly better chance of realization -- and in many cases, any chance of realization at all -- the Death State is the enemy with which we must contend. To use an expression which is trivially inapposite but which nonetheless captures an aspect of what I want to convey: This ain't beanbag. If your manicure is that important to you, you may want to sit out this battle.

In what follows, I will discuss only a single aspect of the continuing NSA/Prism leak stories. It is an aspect that is unforgivingly revealing with respect to methodology. More particularly, it demonstrates the extent to which almost everyone has internalized the primary importance of obedience to authority, and how this remains true even when individuals believe they seek to challenge authority.

The Profound Threat that WikiLeaks Represented

I wrote extensively about WikiLeaks three years ago. I spent a great deal of time on one particular issue, for I regarded it as of singular and unique importance. It was also an issue that, in my view, was widely misunderstood -- and, of even more importance, it was an aspect of WikiLeaks' approach that was widely disapproved of and even intensely disliked. I should note here that I speak of WikiLeaks in terms of the promise it offered, and the radically different approach it utilized in the dissemination of information. While that promise was briefly realized, the ruling class quickly understood the threat WikiLeaks represented -- and they therefore set about destroying it as completely as they could. As a prefatory matter, I also state that I will not be distracted by questions about Julian Assange and his personal behavior. In my articles about WikiLeaks, although I offered praise when I thought it was deserved (and Assange unquestionably deserved high praise in critical respects), I always made a distinction between the phenomenon of WikiLeaks itself, and those individuals associated with it. In fact, that distinction is not a difficult one to make. When people refuse to understand the difference between the nature of an action itself and the judgment we might pass on the person who undertakes the action, it is usually because they are trying to get away with something.

In the case of WikiLeaks, before the rape allegations against Assange surfaced, it was very clear that many people were deeply uncomfortable with one aspect of WikiLeaks' operations above all. Although I acknowledge that some people sincerely condemned Assange's personal behavior (or what that behavior appeared to be, based on those reports that surfaced), it was also entirely obvious that many people used the personal allegations to condemn someone -- and something -- that they very much wanted to condemn anyway, and for entirely different reasons. I have my own views of what has been suggested about Assange's personal life, but I will not discuss them because I consider them entirely irrelevant to an analysis of WikiLeaks and the system with which it was contending.

What was it that WikiLeaks did that aroused so much consternation and condemnation? It wasn't simply that WikiLeaks provided "secret" information that the State was determined to keep from public view. It wasn't even that WikiLeaks provided a huge amount of such information. It was that WikiLeaks provided masses of "raw data": the original documents themselves, whether they be battle reports, inter- or intra-agency communications, or documents of many other kinds, sometimes with redactions, often complete. And WikiLeaks offered them with no filters whatsoever: no one was going to hold our hand as we read the documents, telling us what was "important" and what wasn't, and what its significance was, or whether it was significant at all. If we wished to understand the documents and what they revealed, all of us had to do the work ourselves.

What we discovered was that many people didn't want to do the work. More than that, they resented the fact that such responsibility was demanded of them. They wanted some "authority" figure to explain it all to them, they wanted "experts" to tell them what it meant. In one of my later WikiLeaks articles, I discussed the gross misunderstandings and mythologizing attendant upon the Pentagon Papers. I excerpted a Frank Rich column, noting that it was surprising that Rich got so much of this right, when he can be depended upon to get so much wrong. I wrote:
Rich also identifies one of the reasons for the reaction of indifference by so many to the Wikileaks release:
The [war] logs also suffer stylistically: they’re often impenetrable dispatches from the ground, in contrast to the Pentagon Papers’ anonymously and lucidly team-written epic of policy-making on high.
In part, many members of the mainstream media as well as many bloggers reacted with indifference because of intellectual and class snobbery and elitism. These critics unabashedly adore the "lucidly team-written epic of policy-making on high," for this approach is self-evidently "important" and "significant." Such critics don't have to slog through the innumerable, often dizzyingly unclear details: the "important" issues are handed to them on a platter. They can eat the meal at their leisure, gently masticating their own added morsels of wisdom.

They can't do this with the Wikileaks material, as I discussed in detail in the preceding installment. If we want to make sense of the Afghanistan documents, we have to do the work; in part, as I said, we have to be "intelligence analysts" ourselves. This is what I've identified as a crucial part of Wikileaks' genuinely revolutionary approach: it transfers the demanding work -- understanding the material in the first instance, and then making those judgments we think justified -- to each and every one of us. Many people don't want the responsibility. Their greatest preference is to defer to authority, to obey. Wikileaks deprives them of that opportunity. One of the results is that many people profoundly resent Wikileaks and wish only that it would instantly dissolve into nothingness.

This particular resentment stands largely separate and apart from a writer's political beliefs, and you find it on both right and left. It is more deeply personal than political convictions alone. Wikileaks allows people no excuse merely to obey, and they no longer have justification for being intellectually lazy. Wikileaks' critics often decry the manner in which government systematically and increasingly disregards citizens' voices and concerns -- but present them with the means to take back their own power in a meaningful way, and they recoil in horror. In addition to being invaluable in itself, Wikileaks' work provides this additional benefit: it reveals many people's actual motivations and concerns. And one great truth that has been revealed (again) by this latest episode is that the majority of people want to be guided by authority, by "experts," by those with "secret information." Give them that "secret information" so they can judge it for themselves and they immediately cry: "Oh, we can't possibly understand that! Only the State, or 'experts,' can be trusted with that information and explain it to us!" Most people want to obey. They've been taught obedience as the primary virtue, and they now believe the lesson and have fully internalized it.
As I discussed in the WikiLeaks series, it was only to be expected that such resentment would be found on the right. What I found more intriguing, and particularly revealing, was that the same resentment found expression on the left. I spent considerable time analyzing such complaints from the left, emphasizing how the complaints proceeded from the same preferred deference to authority (see here and here).

On this same point: at the outset of my WikiLeaks series, I excerpted some very perceptive remarks from Jay Rosen concerning WikiLeaks' methodology. Here is part of what Rosen said:
And just as government doesn’t know what to make of Wikileaks (“we’re gonna hunt you down/hey, you didn’t contact us!”) the traditional press isn’t used to this, either. As Glenn Thrush noted on Politico.com:
The WikiLeaks report presented a unique dilemma to the three papers given advance copies of the 92,000 reports included in the Afghan war logs — the New York Times, Germany’s Der Speigel and the UK’s Guardian.

The editors couldn’t verify the source of the reports — as they would have done if their own staffers had obtained them — and they couldn’t stop WikiLeaks from posting it, whether they wrote about it or not.

So they were basically left with proving veracity through official sources and picking through the pile for the bits that seemed to be the most truthful.
Notice how effective this combination is. The information is released in two forms: vetted and narrated to gain old media cred, and released online in full text, Internet-style, which corrects for any timidity or blind spot the editors at Der Spiegel, The Times or the Guardian may show.
Before I address one particular aspect of the current NSA/surveillance stories, there is a further passage concerning WikiLeaks and "raw data" that I need to provide. This will also indicate a radical proposal I have in mind, which I will get to shortly. Almost three years ago, I wrote:
Given the unrelieved fraud that is "intelligence," and in light of the conclusively and repeatedly proven inability to trust any part of the Establishment to "filter" any of this or any other material whatsoever, including "raw data," I view it as a complete and shining triumph for Wikileaks and other organizations to release as much information, and as much "raw data," as they can get their hands on. Wikileaks thus increases what is in the public record, and thereby provides more information on the basis of which you can make your own judgment. We -- by which I mean you, me and everyone else -- certainly can't do any worse than the politicians and "experts" in trying to make sense of it. Moreover, I consider it much more likely that we will do a significantly better job. And even if we don't, we aren't the ones who will be ordering bombing runs, assassinations, or invasions.

The broader point remains the most critical one. By acting as it does, Wikileaks entirely bypasses the structures of authority, "order" and obedience. By stepping outside them altogether, Wikileaks diminishes their power -- and transfers that power to all of us. Just think about what would happen if ten or twenty organizations did this many times a week, releasing "secret" and "confidential" information closely guarded by governments, multinational corporations, and others who exploit, brutalize and act in innumerable destructive and cruel ways. The world as it exists today would be severely threatened as people began to see the details of what is actually transpiring.

And many people -- many of those "ordinary" human beings across the world who today are entirely disregarded and only brutalized, and who "merely" provide the labor and often the blood that sustains the power structure that rules us -- would make sense of it. At a minimum, they would make sense of it in ways that the prevailing powers ceaselessly try to obfuscate and cover up. A lot of "ordinary" people would begin to see a fuller version of the truth.

That's exactly what States and those who rule and enable them are afraid of. That's why they condemn Wikileaks with such vehemence, in a manner that frequently verges on hysteria. The ruling class understands very well indeed the threat that Wikileaks represents, and what would happen if additional organizations utilized the same strategy. If you want to understand the threat embodied by Wikileaks, do what I suggest: multiply Wikileaks by ten, or a hundred. The ruling class sees that possibility with startling and unnerving clarity. Why do you think they're scared shitless?

And they are.
The Filtering of the NSA/Surveillance Stories

As I said, my focus at the moment, with regard to both WikiLeaks and to the NSA/surveillance stories, is primarily on methodology, as opposed to the specific content of the stories. I have a lot to say about the content of the NSA stories itself, and I will get to it in time. I'm concerned with methodology specifically as it discards, or embraces, obedience to authority. I regard this as a foundational issue of extraordinary importance, as I recently discussed yet again.

In connection with the NSA/surveillance stories, we should begin with the remarks of the leaker, Edward Snowden. I state at the outset, with immense gratitude, that I am filled with admiration for Snowden. He is very young and, because of what he viewed as a transcendently important matter of principle, he chose a course of action which may well affect the rest of his life -- and even tragically end it an unforgivably premature fashion. These are actions of great bravery and courage.

What follows is not intended as a qualification or diminishment of my admiration for Snowden personally. I am concerned with a question of method and approach, because I view it as of special importance. Some of the reasons for the importance I attach to these matters are set forth above, and this further discussion will hopefully amplify those reasons. Snowden offered several statements concerning how he selected those documents he would provide to journalists. Snowden said:
"Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn't feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone".
Which people in particular is Snowden concerned about? We aren't told. It's possible that ordinary civilians are included in his statement, although that seems unlikely. It's more probable that he means those who are connected in some way with the U.S. government. Perhaps "assets" -- that is, spies -- are among those he doesn't want to "endanger." It matters which particular individuals he means, but we have no means of evaluating his statement. I'll come back to this.

Snowden also said this:
Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden's leaks began to make news.

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.
Snowden's comments about Bradley Manning imply a recklessness and lack of deliberation to Manning -- which is directly contradicted by the record and by Manning's own statements. I need not spend time on this aspect of Snowden's remarks, except to note that I consider them deeply regrettable, for this thoroughly excellent post addresses these questions in exemplary fashion.

Obviously, in both the Manning and Snowden cases, the first level of filtering that occurred resulted from the choices and standards employed by those individuals themselves. They chose the documents they would provide -- because they believed them to be "in the public interest" (a phrase so vague that it can mean almost anything), and/or because they would not endanger or "harm" people (although which people is something we still don't know).

As I say, that much is obvious, and everyone is aware of that kind of filtering. But I have yet to see anyone comment on the final paragraph from the excerpt above:
He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.
And so we have a second level of filtering, exercised by the journalists to whom Snowden provided the documents. The journalists will decide "what should be public and what should remain concealed."

And did those journalists choose to keep certain documents "concealed"? Yes. Yes, they did:
The Guardian and The Washington Post, who both revealed the existence of the PRISM program Thursday, declined to release all 41 slides of the top-secret PowerPoint presentation they had obtained.

Barton Gellman, co-author of the Washington Post story, told The Internet Chronicle Friday, “We put up the [slides] we thought we should. Much of the document seemed to us to be classified for good reason.”

“We’re not engaged in a mindless, indiscriminate document dump, and our source didn’t want us to be,” Greenwald told Buzzfeed Saturday. “We’re engaged in the standard journalistic assessment of whether the public value to publication outweighs any harms.”
These additional comments are to the same effect:
On the issue of conditions for publishing the information from Snowden, Greenwald tweeted, “I have no idea whether he had any conditions for WP, but he had none for us: we didn’t post all the slides.” ...

Gellman, meanwhile, noted on Twitter, “BTW the Guardian didn’t publish whole PRISM brief either; chose ~same slides the WP did. There are things in there that should stay secret.”
Thank God we have the press to protect us. Who knows what might happen if we had the full truth, or at least a fuller version of the truth?

We're again told of the unassailable importance of "the public value." Who is "the public"? Are you "the public"? Am I? Do you want to see the whole goddamned thing? I sure as hell do.

And what "harms" specifically? And to whom -- specifically? Harm to those who work for the Death State, perhaps in the intelligence and national security community? Are we concerned about harming them? I surely hope not. Since the Death State claims the right to murder any one of us it chooses, whenever it wants, for any reason it invents, it seems to me that "the public" are the ones who ought to be concerned about being "harmed." Is it the great unwashed public that these journalists are worried about? Then let them say so. But how would that work? We might be endangered because some of the U.S.'s national security "secrets" might be exposed? The United States is the most powerful nation that has ever existed in the entire history of the human race, with a military capability that could obliterate all of life on the planet many times over. No nation would dream of mounting a serious attack on the U.S. for precisely that reason (and when I say "no nation," I absolutely include Iran, for all the hysterics who might see this). Moreover, isolated terrorist attacks, no matter how horrifying they may be in themselves, fall far short of an "existential threat" to the U.S., no matter the vast amount of propaganda designed to convince us otherwise. No nation would dare mount a serious attack on the U.S. precisely because they know how powerful the U.S. is -- because it is not secret.

The entire edifice of "secrecy," especially with regard to national security, is a vicious lie from start to finish. Put it all out there. If full disclosure endangers those who work for the Death State, the problem -- and the responsibility -- is with those who choose to directly advance the Death State's goals. It is decidedly not with the leaker, or with the journalists.

But all right. I recognize that, in this instance at least, no one is going to listen to the rantings of someone who is obviously an "irresponsible" madman who screams at shadows and eats live babies for breakfast. But at a minimum, I would expect to see as detailed an explanation as these journalists believe is "responsible" for what they have chosen to keep concealed and why. If "harm" is involved, I want to see at least a general indication of the harm involved and those individuals who might suffer it. And I will repeat that, as far as I'm concerned, when you do battle with a brutal, endlessly murderous Death State, "a mindless, indiscriminate document dump" is a superlative weapon. Yes, it would certainly cause chaos and hysteria -- but primarily among the ruling class, that is, among those who choose the Death State's goals and direct its actions. I will add that many of the members of the ruling class are professional killers, in that they direct the murders, including the murders of innocent human beings, that occur every single goddamned day because of the actions of the United States.

This second level of journalist filtering comes up again in connection with a Greenwald tweet that I find startling and bizarre:
Clapper: leaks "literally gut-wrenching" - "huge, grave damage" - save some melodrama and rhetoric for coming stories. You'll need it.
The style and tone of this formulation is disturbingly reminiscent of a schoolyard taunt. "You're upset now, big boy? Just wait. You ain't seen nothin' yet!" In one sense, I understand the temptation to address pompous, lying bastards in this manner. In light of the stakes involved, I also think it is a temptation that must be resisted. If Greenwald has no measurable concern for his own well-being, what about that of Snowden, his source? It almost certainly does not overstate the case to say that Snowden is running for his life at this point. Greenwald knows that far better, and undoubtedly in much more detail, than I do. Is it wise to deliberately provoke the Director of National Intelligence in this way? This administration murders innocent people with a regularity that suggests they do it simply as a way to pass the time. We know -- and Greenwald certainly knows, as his writing attests -- what this government is capable of. Clearly, the Obama administration is parsing every word that Greenwald utters. Is poking the administration in the eye the "responsible" thing to do? I think not, for Edward Snowden's sake, if for no one else's.

Another Greenwald tweet in that same series deserves mention:
I honestly don't think these programs are "sensitive". & I think claim that our stories cause "huge, grave damage" deserves scorn
That would seem to argue for full disclosure, and fairly strongly, not for helping to "conceal" aspects of this story. Again, since we haven't been provided an explanation as to what has been kept secret and why, we have no way of evaluating these questions. In the end, we are left with the notion that there are things "we're better off not knowing," and that some information is being withheld, even by the journalists, "for our own good." But this is exactly what the government tells us.

Greenwald's reference to "coming stories" indicates another kind of filtering: the order and timing of the stories. Greenwald has stated: "There are dozens of stories generated by the documents he provided, and we intend to pursue every last one of them." Recall Jay Rosen's comments about WikiLeaks' approach:
Notice how effective this combination is. The information is released in two forms: vetted and narrated to gain old media cred, and released online in full text, Internet-style, which corrects for any timidity or blind spot the editors at Der Spiegel, The Times or the Guardian may show.
With regard to the Prism story, and it appears in connection with the upcoming stories the Guardian may offer, we are being provided the first element -- "vetted and narrated to gain old media cred" -- but not the second -- "released online in full text, Internet-stye, which corrects for any timidity or blind spot the editors .. may show." Given their approach to date, we will have no way of knowing what the Guardian decides should be kept "secret" or why.

We might summarize the problem this way: once the filtering begins, it's gatekeepers all the way down.

And in connection with the promised upcoming stories from the Guardian, I have a number of similar questions. How are they deciding which stories to publish and when? Is "newsworthiness" the sole consideration? What constitutes "newsworthiness"? Certainly, they also need time to ask for comments from interested parties and the like, that is, to perform all the "vetting and narrating" to which Rosen refers. Are there other, more mundane but all too human considerations -- for instance, marketing factors? I do not suggest that Greenwald himself has such concerns; I am almost certain he does not. But let's be adults about this: you can be certain that someone at the Guardian is figuring out how to maximize this treasure trove of documents, with an eye fixed firmly on the bottom line. But in the absence of a fuller explanation of how they're going about this, we can only make educated guesses.

I have gone through this exercise to explain the differences in methodology and why they matter. What I find extraordinary is the fact that, to my knowledge, no one has commented on these particular aspects of the Prism story and the stories yet to come. I would like to think that at least a few people are aware of these issues, but I have yet to come across any commentary that addresses these concerns. This confirms, still another time, how comfortable most people are in obeying authority, especially when it is an authority they view favorably. I've read many comments from Greenwald admirers in recent days. I am inescapably led to the conclusion that, because they view Greenwald as being on "their side," the kinds of questions and concerns I've raised here simply never occur to them.

There are many aspects of Greenwald's work that deserve admiration and gratitude, not least these latest stories. (And I repeat that I have not even begun to consider the content of the stories. I view these questions of method as properly preceding that discussion.) But relying on anyone to vet and filter stories and news for you is asking for trouble. At some point, you're very likely to get it. And again, keep in mind that the adversary here is the Death State: not a figurative or metaphorical Death State, but an actual Death State.

I want mess. I want chaos. I want to see the ruling class in unrelenting, hysterical panic. My fantasy is that a dozen, or a hundred, Edward Snowdens appear, each laden with huge piles of documents. And all those documents are dumped on the internet -- but in a fully mindful and discriminating manner, and with a specific purpose in mind. The Death State's ruling class is intent on destruction, brutality, oppression and murder and, as they tell us repeatedly, their work is far from done. The purpose of unmasking all the secrets that the ruling class is so desperate to keep, of shoveling all of it directly into the blazing, unforgiving sunlight in a fully unfiltered way, is to stop them.

At this moment in history, I submit there is no more important purpose in the world. Some might even describe it as a noble purpose.

Stop them. Your life -- and the lives of many others -- depend on it.

June 09, 2013

Just a Marker for All the 60-Second Arendts

As regular readers probably suspect, I am following developments in the NSA/Prism story with great interest. I have many thoughts about it, and I'll probably start actually publishing some of them in the latter part of the coming week.

And even though I fully understand this will have precisely no effect whatsoever, I offer one general caution. It is the same caution I discussed in some detail with regard to the WikiLeaks story from almost three years ago. In the seventh part (!) of my WikiLeaks series, I spoke about the enormous perils "of our culture's insistence on speed as a primary virtue." With the growing popularity and influence of Twitter in the intervening three years, this problem has been significantly exacerbated. In that same article, I wrote: "[E]verything is 'news,' and it is here today (or even only for a few hours), and gone tomorrow. Everything passes, and nothing is remembered; usually, nothing is understood."

I also said this:
Nonetheless, it appears to be the commonly accepted view that the almost instant analysis offered by blogs has serious merit and represents a valid, considered perspective. I am filled with admiration, mixed with indescribable astonishment, that we have evolved so far that the world is filled with 60-second Arendts. It is truly a wonder for the ages.
The reference to "60-second Arendts" was chosen because of one of the most ill-considered criticisms offered about WikiLeaks. As I paraphrased that criticism: "While the materials may contain points of interest, they certainly aren't the Pentagon Papers!" The people who offered this view thus established that they understood close to nothing about what the Pentagon Papers revealed -- and, of equal significance, what they did not reveal. In explaining that issue, I relied on Arendt's justly praised article on the Pentagon Papers, which was published five months after the story first broke. By today's standards, as I noted, Arendt was a remarkable "dawdler." While I obviously would not be so stupid as to claim any comparison between my work and Arendt's, I noted that I myself am also a plodder, certainly by the lightning-like standards of analysis that most writers subscribe to at present.

With regard to almost all of the analysis of the NSA/Prism/surveillance story that I have read thus far, and especially in connection with what the significance and effect of these disclosures are likely to be, I will be blunt: speaking generally, I consider it garbage. While there are valuable isolated points offered here and there, I have yet to come across a consideration of this story which addresses what I consider the most crucial issues involved.

In addition -- and here, I must ask you to indulge me, for I am not ready to go into specifics yet -- there are certain aspects of this story and how it is developing that cause me tremendous unease. I can't shake the sense that there is something "off" somewhere. I can point to some specific statements and reactions related to my response, but I still am unable to offer what I consider a convincing explanation of precisely what it is that troubles me. But it troubles me a great deal. I can express part of my feeling by saying that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop -- and it's a shoe that no one has even thought of yet. (I will note that my instincts about matters of this kind are usually right, as the past decade's record contained in this blog will show.)

I'll continue to keep a very close eye on these developments in the coming days. It certainly seems to be a monumental story -- but I'm not at all convinced it's monumental for the reasons currently on offer, or at least not primarily for the reasons so eagerly and unreflectively set out before us.

And with regard to genuinely monumental stories: in retrospect, it is beyond dispute that World War I was the seminal event of the 20th century. Almost one hundred years later, scholars and writers still argue about exactly what happened in the critical months leading up to the outbreak of that conflict, and what forces led to war and in precisely what fashion. (This post from 2006 describes some fascinating observations from David Fromkin based on documents that became available only comparatively recently.)

As for the still-breaking story about the U.S. as the surveillance State of our nightmares, I only wish that a few more people considered a bit of humility -- and that they took just a week or two (I'm not asking them to wait five months, as that doltish Arendt felt was required) before portentously telling us WHAT IT ALL MEANS.

Well. That's all for the moment.

June 08, 2013

Changing the World, One Farm at a Time

The New York Times, June 6, 2013:
Bob Fletcher, a former California agriculture inspector who, ignoring the resentment of neighbors, quit his job in the middle of World War II to manage the fruit farms of Japanese families forced to live in internment camps, died on May 23 in Sacramento. He was 101. ...

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States government forced 120,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast out of their homes and into internment camps for the duration of the war.

Near Sacramento, many of the Japanese who were relocated were farmers who had worked land around the town of Florin since at least the 1890s. Mr. Fletcher, who was single and in his early 30s at the time, knew many of them through his work inspecting fruit for the government. The farmers regarded him as honest, and he respected their operations.

After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 that made the relocation possible by declaring certain parts of the West to be military zones, Al Tsukamoto, whose parents arrived in the United States in 1905, approached Mr. Fletcher with a business proposal: would he be willing to manage the farms of two family friends of Mr. Tsukamoto’s, one of whom was elderly, and to pay the taxes and mortgages while they were away? In return, he could keep all the profits.

Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Tsukamoto had not been close, and Mr. Fletcher had no experience growing the farmers’ specialty, flame tokay grapes, but he accepted the offer and soon quit his job.

For the next three years he worked a total of 90 acres on three farms — he had also decided to run Mr. Tsukamoto’s farm. He worked 18-hour days and lived in the bunkhouse Mr. Tsukamoto had reserved for migrant workers. He paid the bills of all three families — the Tsukamotos, the Okamotos and the Nittas. He kept only half of the profits.

Many Japanese-American families lost property while they were in the camps because they could not pay their bills. Most in the Florin area moved elsewhere after the war. When the Tsukamotos returned in 1945, they found that Mr. Fletcher had left them money in the bank and that his new wife, Teresa, had cleaned the Tsukamotos’ house in preparation for their return. ...

He was never much for celebrating his role in the war, and he noted that other Florin residents had helped their Japanese neighbors.

“I don’t know about courage,” he said in 2010 as Florin was preparing to honor him in a ceremony. “It took a devil of a lot of work.”
The Sacramento Bee, May 31, 2013:
In the face of deep anti-Japanese sentiment - including a bullet fired into the Tsukamoto barn - Fletcher worked 90 acres of flame Tokay grapes. He paid the mortgages and taxes and took half the profits. He turned over the rest - along with the farms - to the three families when they returned to Sacramento in 1945.

"I did know a few of them pretty well and never agreed with the evacuation," he told The Sacramento Bee in 2010. "They were the same as anybody else. It was obvious they had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor." ...

"Few people in history exemplify the best ideals the way that Bob did," said Tsukamoto's daughter, Marielle, who was 5 when her family was interned. "He was honest and hardworking and had integrity. Whenever you asked him about it, he just said, 'It was the right thing to do.'"
The Sacramento Bee, July 25, 2011:
Fletcher was called a "Jap lover" and dodged a bullet fired into the Tsukamotos' barn. A local business posted a sign reading, "We don't want Japs back here – EVER."

One of the many celebrants who gave Fletcher a big birthday hug was Doris Taketa, who was 12 when she was sent to Jerome, Ark., with her father and mother, Joichi and Shizuko Nitta, and two sisters.

"We owe you everything," she said, bringing a smile to Fletcher's face as he finished off a slice of coconut cake, his favorite.

"We had 40 acres of flame Tokay grapes and we would have lost it if Bob didn't take care of it," recalled Taketa, 81. ...

Ask Bob Fletcher the secret of his longevity and he'll tell you: "Hard work."

Teresa Fletcher, 87, said that along with hard work, "no drugs, no smoking and he's in love with me!" The couple have been married 66 years.

June 06, 2013

Trained for Totalitarianism

The major topic of the day is the Obama administration's massive domestic surveillance program. The administration quickly trotted out the usual justifications, stressing that this surveillance is entirely "legal":
A senior Obama administration official said on Thursday morning that a court order seeking the business records of Verizon customers, disclosed by the newspaper The Guardian, “does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls” and “does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber,” but rather “relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of the call."

The official emphasized that “all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing” any domestic intelligence collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and that any surveillance activities under it are overseen by the Justice Department, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FISA Court “to ensure that they comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties."

“Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States,” the official said, “as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”

The order, signed in April by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls."
I initially note that the outrage that has greeted this story once again encompasses the entirety of the political spectrum: many people on both the right and left are infuriated by this sustained assault on individual privacy.

The fact that the outrage is so widespread provides another opportunity for me to encourage anyone who might see this post to consider what I wrote only a few weeks ago: "You Say You Want a Peaceful Revolution." In that article, I described a nationwide movement of civil disobedience; the purpose would be nothing less than shutting down Washington, D.C. (and a number of other major cities, as well). And the purpose of that would be to get the bastards' attention, and to say: STOP IT. If sufficient numbers of protesters descended on Washington and other cities, they would make the bastards stop it, at least temporarily. As I explained, even the real prospect of such protests actually materializing could lead to many possibilities that are now all but inconceivable. In the earlier essay, I focused on the IRS abuses; the past few weeks have already begun to flesh out the scope and systematic nature of the IRS targeting. The surveillance story could certainly grow in importance; add it to the fuel for creating civil disobedience on the required scale. Massive abuses by the State certainly justify massive reaction.

The "Peaceful Revolution" article describes what I imagine happening; I emphasize again that I view the scenarios I offer as entirely possible and realistic. But that article, along with everything I write these days, disappeared mere moments after it appeared. I make that observation not as a pointless exercise in self-pity, but as a simple statement of fact. In fact, I don't feel sorry for myself in the least. My reaction to the passivity and somnolence that seem to have embraced almost everyone in this benighted country is more on the order of towering fury and rage.

For the simple fact is that the reaction to the surveillance story is most likely to follow the pattern I described last November:
So whatcha gonna do? Write outraged blog posts and newspaper columns? Demand congressional hearings? Please. The whole point of hearings is to soothe the disgruntled and the people who are yelling about how terrible it all is, while changing absolutely nothing of consequence -- of consequence, that is, to the ruling class, which will engineer any and all hearings to make certain that their power and prerogatives are not altered to any degree whatsoever. The only way their power and prerogatives change is to be increased. They'll be happy to have hearings for you. It's entertainment, baby! And then everyone will shut up for another five years, until the next big "new" scandal erupts. And then the whole routine will be repeated again.

But be sure to vote in 2014, and in every election! This is a democracy, after all! It's your country! Love it or leave it!

I should mention one other point. It's just a minor little thing, no biggie. Don't you assume that every email of yours, every blog post and comment, every telephone call, anything you write or say using media of any kind is monitored by some government agency or other, if only they decide to check up on you, for any reason they dream up or for no reason at all, just because they're bored and, hell, you look like you might be fun to investigate for a while? I have assumed exactly that for years. I find it hard to believe that everyone doesn't make the same assumption.

But "privacy"? You don't have any. You haven't had any for a long, long time. And this latest story? Fodder for conversation, and outraged posts and articles of course, for a week or two, perhaps three. Then everybody will forget about it. There will be another BIG STORY to talk about, another BIG CONTROVERSY. It's a circus, with flashing lights and lots of colors. Oh, the beautiful colors!
History in general, as well as our particular history in the U.S. over the last ten years, leads to the conclusion that this latest story will be no different in ultimate effect. Nonetheless, I will continue to say that my hope for massive civil disobedience is equally realistic: it all depends on the choices made by millions of individual Americans. In the "Peaceful Revolution" article, I referred to my earlier idea for an ad designed to educate the public about the U.S.'s ghastly policy toward Iran -- a policy which is deliberately designed to lead to military confrontation, whenever the ruling class finally decides to exercise that option -- and to motivate the public to protest against it. And my God, imagine what a powerful ad could be written about the surveillance story. Maybe the tag line this time is: "So ... who's the Soviet Union now?" The answer would be inescapable: We are, baby. And you could do it in 60 seconds. I'd be thrilled to help write it, if anyone is interested in pursuing it.

But I've been down this road repeatedly. Many people have forgotten, but there was a time during the Bush administration when almost everyone who carefully followed developments with Iran thought the U.S. would certainly attack that nation. I offered a detailed, step-by-step proposal to attempt to derail such plans: "Building an Effective Resistance." Very few people noticed or linked that post. But I tried again: "Still Another Call for Activism: Prove Me Wrong, I Beg You." No one cared about that post, either. Finally, I became profoundly disgusted and, yes, furious and enraged: "Thus You Lose the World: What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?" And there was almost no reaction at all to that post.

Still, I went on to write about Iran again, and about my idea for an ad that might help lay the foundation for civil disobedience on a wide scale. That post was almost universally ignored.

So I know what to expect, and what I expect is nothing. Still, there is always the possibility for making a different choice...

I will briefly discuss two issues that make me less than hopeful at this point. First, keep in mind one critical tactic that the ruling class has been pursuing with murderous dedication over the last few years. The tactic is perhaps best described this way: numbing people to the coming horrors. The primary example remains the State's carefully calibrated PR campaign for its Murder Program. In describing what happened in the months leading up to the last election, I wrote the following:
Two of the nation's most prominent newspapers -- the New York Times and the Washington Post -- offered detailed stories about the State's Murder Program. The Program targets innocent human beings anywhere and everywhere in the world. The State claims that it can murder anyone it chooses, for any reason it wishes. The State also claims that it need not ever disclose the identities of those it chooses to kill, just as it need not reveal the reasons (if any) for issuance of a death sentence. In short: the State can do whatever it wants, and there isn't a damned thing anyone can do to stop it. The State took great care to make certain that the newspaper stories of which it was the primary author included the fact that the persons to be murdered can be American citizens, in addition to the now-familiar cast of dreaded, strange "others."

Except for a small number of commentators who objected to or questioned the legitimacy of the Murder Program, these stories -- prominently displayed in the most well-known of newspapers -- caused almost no reaction at all on the part of Americans. It was as if nothing of any significance had been said. Even those commentators who condemned the State's explicitly announced program of unrestricted, unbounded murder of anyone, anywhere, anytime, regarded the Murder Program as no reason at all to refuse to vote for Obama. The stories had repeatedly made clear, doubtless at the urgent prompting of the government officials who provided most of the information to the newspapers, that Obama was and is a key figure directing the Murder Program. But almost everyone who spoke of the Program, even those who condemned it, insisted that it was still entirely "legitimate" and "reasonable" to vote for him. (See the discussion in Part II of "Accomplices to Murder" for several examples.) Not to be outdone in supporting the American nightmare of death, Romney stated his full and enthusiastic support for the Murder Program.

And yesterday, approximately 120 million Americans voted for Obama and Romney -- and for the Murder Program. ...

And thus we arrive here: the State and the ruling class have told all Americans, repeatedly and with great care, that they systematically, regularly and routinely murder innocent human beings, including American citizens. Except for a vanishingly small number of people, no one cares. No one cares about the unimaginable suffering, about the bodies torn apart, about the growing number of lives to be endured in unbearable pain. No one cares about the horror, the blood, and the agony.

The State and the ruling class were interested to know if anyone cared about these matters. They now have their answer: No. Almost no one cares. The full truth is still worse. To the extent they are aware of these horrors -- or easily could be aware of them, if only they chose to be -- most Americans support them.

It was important to the State and the ruling class to have this information -- because of what's coming.
See the full essay for details about what's coming.

This numbing technique can be observed with every major news story since 9/11: enactment of the Patriot Act, which elicited almost no outrage at all given the national hysteria that engulfed us; the reauthorizations of the Patriot Act, which were greeted with somewhat increased outrage each time, although it was quickly absorbed into our national forgetfulness; the Military Commissions Act, which occasioned much outrage (most of it at the very last minute, and all of it ineffectual), which similarly faded into our collective amnesia (does anyone even mention the MCA now?); every story concerning revelations about the State's surveillance programs (there have been a lot of them, in case you've forgotten -- here's one brief example, offered with a bitter comedic twist); and on and on and on.

In all these instances, there is outrage from the usual quarters for a few weeks, and then the story is submerged in the ongoing rush of events. The revelations -- about surveillance, about torture, about the State's Murder Program -- become part of the New Normal. Why, there's nothing especially noteworthy here. This is just the way things are. And, after all, the State has its reasons. Many Americans agree with those reasons. The State is always very helpful in teaching us these lessons: the experiment in Boston showed us just how obedient we are prepared to be -- totally obedient.

Yet none of this should be in the least surprising. All of us are taught, from the time we are infants and very young children, that the principal virtue is obedience. That is what I was taught, and I am certain you were, too. (The exceptions are so rare that they do not merit mention.) I have written about this in great detail, basing my analysis on the invaluable work of Alice Miller. For an introduction to the subject, you can consult "Letting Evil Set the Terms," especially the second half of that article.

Many parents use physical violence to compel obedience (and such violence is unforgivable, even if used only on "rare" occasions of alleged intransigence on the part of the child -- and in every case I know of, the child's "intransigence" is in direct reaction to the parent's unreasonable, often senseless demands), and virtually every parent regularly employs emotional and psychological manipulation to make the child obey. For example:
[M]ost parents believe that physical violence is sometimes morally "required" if their children are to be taught to be "civilized."

Let us try to be as brave as Alice Miller: what we mean by "civilized" when we speak in this way, is that children must be taught to obey. If the principle of obedience is instilled in children from earliest infancy, and if parents further teach their children that physical violence is the means of commanding obedience, why do we wonder that some adults will torture those who have been rendered helpless and delivered into their control? They are merely reenacting what their parents taught them.

But we refuse to see this. We will not acknowledge what has been done to us. ...

This is because there is a necessary corollary to the obedience we are taught: the idealization of the authority figures in our lives. As children, we dare not question what our parents do: we depend on them for life itself. To comprehend fully what is being done to us would be unbearable, and it might literally kill us. So we must believe that, whatever our parents do, they do it "for our own good." To believe otherwise is the forbidden thought. So we must deny our own pain when we are young; such denial is necessary if we are to survive at that stage in our lives.

But if we maintain the denial when we become adults, it spreads throughout our lives. When such modes of thought are established in our psychologies, they cannot be isolated or contained. We deny our own pain -- so we must deny the pain of others. ...

I said I was not referring only to the obvious cruelties inflicted on children by physical violence. Just as important, and often of much greater significance, are the psychological agonies to which parents subject their children. How often do we hear parents say to a child who will not follow an order: "Why are you making me so unhappy? You don't want to make your mother unhappy and sad, do you, darling? Now just do what I say." We should recognize this for what it is: emotional blackmail. The unstated threat -- but the threat that is deeply felt by the child, even if he is not able to understand it -- is that the parent's love will be withdrawn unless the child obeys. Since the child knows that his life depends on that love, the threat is a terrifying one. Such blows are delivered countless times every day, by millions of parents around the world.

This knowledge is inaccessible to the majority of adults. We are taught to obey, and we learn to idealize our parents. ...

When the idealization of the authority figure spreads once we become adults, it can encompass additional authority figures. There are two primary such figures: God -- who may have been there from the beginning, if the child is raised in a very religious household where God is the ultimate authority, and the parents only speak on His behalf; and country. When one's nation becomes such an authority figure, there are subsidiary ones as well: the nation's leaders, and the nation's military.
On the same theme, I want to offer a passage from Alice Miller's work. This comes from Breaking Down the Wall of Silence. When I first read this passage many years ago, I gasped out loud as I began to understand the connection Miller was making. These mechanisms are implanted deep within our psychologies at a very young age, when we are incapable of understanding what is happening to us, let alone resisting it. And this pattern helps to explain much that otherwise remains mystifying:
I FIRST RAN UP AGAINST the wall of silence as a child. For days my mother would ignore me in order to demonstrate her total power over me and reduce me to subservience. She needed this power to disguise her own insecurities to others and to herself. She also wished to deny her responsibility toward the child that she had not wanted in the first place. The needs and questions of this little girl simply ricocheted off this wall. For her part, my mother felt no need to feel responsible for her sadism. As far as she was concerned, her behavior was justifiable punishment for my wrongdoing. She was, as they say, “teaching me a lesson.”

For a child who for many years had no brothers or sisters and whose father, on the rare occasions that he was at home, never offered his protection, this long, unremitting silence was an agony. Even worse than the silence itself was the child’s doomed but persistent attempt to discover its cause. As in Kafka’s Penal Colony, the accused was in this case denied any clarification as to the nature of her offenses. This omission, however, contained a message: “If you don’t even know why you have earned this punishment, then it is clear that you are quite without conscience. Look within. Search. Try. Then your conscience will tell you what guilt you have brought upon yourself. Only then can you try to excuse yourself. Then, if you are lucky, you may be forgiven. But that depends on the mood of the powers-that-be.”

Did I know that I had begun my life in a totalitarian state? How could I have? I didn’t even realize that I was being treated in a cruel and confusing way, something I would never have dreamed of suggesting. So rather than question my mother’s behavior, I cast doubt on the rightness of my own feeling that I was being unjustly treated. As I had no point of comparison of her behavior with that of other mothers, and as she constantly portrayed herself as the embodiment of duty and self-sacrifice, I had no choice but to believe her. And, anyway, I had to believe her. To have realized the truth would have killed me. Therefore, it had to be my wickedness that was to blame when Mother didn’t speak to me, when she refused to answer my questions and ignored my pleas for clarification, when she avoided the slightest eye contact with me and returned my love with coldness. If Mother hates me, reasoned the child, then I must be hateful.
If you doubt that this pattern is a tragically common one, I urge you to read my analysis of an anecdote offered by a mother with pride. The mother similarly believes she is "teaching" her young child an important "lesson"; she is incapable of seeing how cruel and manipulative her behavior is -- and that, in fact, her behavior has nothing at all to do with the child and what he has done. I chose that story because it is an utterly ordinary one. It's not an example of unusual horror and torture, of a kind that would cause most people to recoil. (And, as I discuss in a related essay, all of the commenters applauded the story and thought it charming and wonderful.) It is the kind of thing that happens every day in millions of homes. And it is one of the grisliest horror stories you will ever read, precisely because of the modes of feeling, thought and behavior that the mother is instilling. You might also want to read this description of a profoundly different approach to child rearing (that essay also contains a brief description of some of the horrors to which I was subjected as a child).

With tragically rare exceptions, all children are taught obedience as the primary, foundational virtue and, as a necessary corollary, they are taught to idealize the authority figures in their lives. In this way, they are, as Miller suggests, trained for totalitarianism. (I suppose we could somewhat "soften" the argument, and merely say that we are trained for authoritarianism; the point remains the same.) Miller was trained in this way; so was I; and so were you. (You may be the blessed exception in five or ten thousand, but I seriously doubt it.) It has taken me decades to undo the lessons I was forced to learn. The same was true in Miller's case: she notes that she was close to 60 before she grasped these mechanisms -- and around 60 seems to be the age when such realizations occur, based on extensive reading and on the numerous people with whom I've discussed this subject.

I don't think it is possible to overstate the significance of this early childhood training. Of equal significance is the fact that these issues are almost never discussed in the course of political analysis. Yet there is a profound sense in which authoritarianism (and even totalitarianism) feel right to many people -- "right" in the sense that it is very familiar, that it is the environment in which they were first made to function. So when the State expands its control over us, when the State spies on us, when the State lists more and more activities which are forbidden or for which we must seek "permission" before we act, and even when the State announces that it has a Murder Program, many people, most people, think: "The State knows best. The State has much more information than I do, and our leaders must have reasons for their actions. And certainly, the State only acts to protect us. The State acts for our own good." This is what we had to believe about our parents, regardless of the cruelties to which they subjected us -- and this is what most adults now believe about their political leaders.

So in one sense, I can only repeat what I wrote several years ago about these matters:
This is one of the great problems with political commentary: politics is only a symptom of a more fundamental condition. Unless we address these more fundamental concerns, the symptom will never be altered in a lasting way. Yet we (and I) spend so much time on political matters because politics affects our lives so dramatically and with such immediacy. Because politics has the power to alter our lives so profoundly and, far too frequently, even to end them, some of us fiercely resist the especially destructive aspects of its operations. Yet this will never be enough by itself, as history, including our recent history and ongoing events, prove repeatedly.
Even though I am convinced that "these more fundamental concerns" must be addressed for the long-lasting resolution of these terrible afflictions, we need not wait for that blessed day once the State's violations pass beyond a certain point. We passed that point some time ago. Moreover, it hardly needs to be said that waiting only multiplies the dangers, and makes the success of any resistance movement that much more unlikely.

I therefore repeat my call for widespread resistance. And if anyone wants to build on my suggestions or come up with better ones (I'm certain you can, once you put your minds to it), and as I've said on many occasions, I'm more than willing to help. I have lots more ideas for some hard-hitting ads, as well as about additional tactics ...