Quote of the day

John Kerry, a crude opportunist by trade and need, recently dismissed Edward Snowden’s manhood — his virtù, to use the sense of the word given to it by Niccolò Machiavelli. David Lindorff rightly took issue with Kerry’s denunciation of Snowden. He concluded thusly:

Kerry has no right to question anyone’s “manhood.”

Having John Kerry tell someone like Snowden to “man up” is the moral equivalent of Richard Nixon telling someone to follow his conscience or Bernie Madoff telling a homeless beggar to get an honest job.

Snowden would have to be crazy or a masochist to come back to the US and submit his fate to the “American justice system” touted by Secretary Kerry.

Without a doubt, Edward Snowden in his person and actions more concisely expresses the sense Machiavelli gave to this term than Kerry ever had, even if we include the Kerry who opposed the Vietnam War. Machiavelli would have praised Snowden’s ferocity and bravery, his tactical and strategic senses and even his patriotism. He would have appreciated Snowden’s audacious project, one which originated in his stated hope to help put an end to America’s emerging tyranny. He would have considered Snowden a fellow republican. On the other hand, Machiavelli would have judged Kerry to be a faithless mercenary, and a source of corruption.

Glenn Greenwald and Peter King respond to Obama’s NSA ‘Reforms’

Quote of the day

Norman Pollack accurately characterizes Barack Obama and the liberals who have lost their way while standing in his shadow:

Obama’s “Hidden Hand” political strategy in his second term (Peter Baker, in NYT, July 16) merits notice for its utter phoniness (and NYT/Baker gullibility), as though a low profile, designed to convey the velvet glove of measured yet steady reform, has changed anything in his presidency, which from the start has raised sophisticated corporatism, with its full antiradical implications, policies, consequences, to a high art. Obama’s legacy — it’s too late for him to worry about this now — will be defined by his treachery as a leader and putative tribune of the people. In retrospect, Nixon and Bush 2 appear as mere choirboys in comparison, not because of Obama’s “smarts” (he has the brashness of a hustler, which passes in our day for intelligence), but because he can use liberalism as a backdrop for the pursuit of consistently reactionary policies, domestic as well as foreign. Liberals and progressives, especially, have been taken in, the latest enormous crime being massive surveillance which, once revealed, is allowed to become yesterday’s news, attention shifting instead to Snowden’s apprehension — an example where the real criminal seeks to pin the label of “criminal” on the one who exposes the crime. Liberals/ progressives sit on their hands (perhaps that’s where Obama’s team got the idea of the “hidden hand” as the latest selling point to cover up a record which hardly needs covering up, so far has radicals’ rigor mortis set in) while data mining, Espionage Act prosecutions, the whole range of civil liberties made mincemeat of, all constitute only one area of manifold and fundamental abuses: the liberalization of cynicism, to render it palatable to the groupies, while the haute crowd of bankers, militarists, defense contractors, national-security advisors, DOJ apologists for international war crimes, and, as they say in the Shakespeare plays, diverse and assorted other characters, laugh in their teeth.

Warnings circulated during the 2007-8 election season. But they were unheeded by the ‘realistic left’ who was largely untroubled by the condition of the country he would co-govern. I suppose we can believe in the changes Obama has made or affirmed. These largely were changes which have already or will eventually make life worse for the 99%. We can believe in them because they are facts on the ground and not because they expressed the hopes many invested in the Nobel Laureate.

Quote of the day

This is just a part of Norman Pollack’s apt assessment of Edward Snowden‘s impact on American politics:

One person can make a difference in the affairs of state. 21st century political civilization has become habituated to international relations as the province of mega-units in something akin to an uneasy, disturbed condition of equipoise, in which underlying structural-economic-ideological forces, prone to confrontation, have become artificially muted: a surface of politesse, seething beneath, intended to disguise national strivings for power….In this setting, individuals, until very recently, did not appear to matter, at least those excluded from positions of power—the vast majority of humankind, for whom the role of passivity coincided with the rise of mass, centrally directed technologies and organization, foreordained in practice to dwarf individual identity and sense of actuation in shaping their lives.

Massive and socially complex institutions dwarf the persons subject to them. They make real the boast, “There is no alternative.” Yet,

[a]n individual, alone, powerless at the outset, has spoken out, and doing so, has shaken the foundations of power. This, more than a high point in the record of whistle-blowers, though intimately related to it, marks an epochal moment in the history of American freedom — or the search for it! It mustn’t be allowed to slip by as a result of the chorus of denunciation, from POTUS on down through all the usual suspects, Democrats and Republicans alike. Snowden has raised privacy into the pantheon of constitutional rights it deserves to be, as the index of societal health and individual personhood — something all the nefarious interventions, drone strikes, CIA-JSOC missions of subversion, indefinite detentions, have sought to obliterate from the popular consciousness, and until now, partially succeeded in doing.

SURVEILLANCE is not accidental strategy, but rather the cutting edge of individuals’ self-pacification, a well-tested mechanism of social control. One hesitates to speak, then even to think; one chooses one’s associates warily, lest found on someone’s list, the all-pervasive fear of being watched, dissected, analyzed by the prying eyes of the State, now a government-empowered and -legitimated National Security Agency (and multiple other intelligence agencies, along with such legislative onslaughts as TALON, CIFA, TIAP, and don’t forget MATRIX, Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, some of which going even too far for Congress’s reactionary taste), fully capable of spying on and retrieving the most intimate conversations between people hitherto unsuspecting of eavesdropping.

Political rot pervades the land. Our leaders are vicious. They care not one bit for justice or the good. What we need is fresh air”

Snowden blows to smithereens the pious claims of American Exceptionalism, a city on the hill made up of political demagogues, snoopers, voyeurs, mercenaries, and the scavengers in our midst, supercomputers to the ready, armed with preconceived notions of enemies lurking in the dark, a wholesale assemblage of vile operatives who are cloaked in the Flag, seemingly unassailable — until one person came along to reveal the public garbage masking itself as national security….The nation, whether it knows it or not, is indebted to Snowden’s bravery and moral conscience.

George W. Bush inconvenienced

Dubya in jail

The problem for the ex-Decider, current fine arts painter is legal in nature:

Will George W. Bush set foot in Europe again in his lifetime?

A planned trip by Bush to speak at the Switzerland-based United Israel Appeal later this week has been canceled after several human rights groups called for Swiss authorities to arrest Bush and investigate him for authorizing torture. Bush has traveled widely since leaving office, but not to Europe, where there is a strong tradition of international prosecutions.

The Swiss group and Bush’s spokesman claim that it was threats of protest, not of legal action, that prompted the cancellation. But facing protests is nothing new for Bush. What was different about this trip was that groups including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights argued that Switzerland, as a party to the UN Convention against Torture, is obligated to investigate Bush for potential prosecution.

Is it unsurprising that a Bush spokesman has a truth-telling problem? No, of course not. The word “Bush” could become a synonym for “liar.” Nor is it surprising that George W. Bush wants to avoid the legal problems generated by his criminal actions. There is nothing here which is at all surprising because he has evaded responsibility for his worst acts his whole life.

It just pleases me greatly that The Decider must avoid traveling to and around Europe lest he risk finding himself in prison for the rest of his life for the decisions he made while president! It would please me even more if he were to spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes.

Quote of the day

As a response to the post-Boston Lockdown euphoria, Andrew Levine writes:

For anyone who watched the World Trade Center collapse on television in the days after September 11, 2001, the repetitive display of pictures of the terror attack on the Boston Marathon was déja vu all over again.

Not having been there, I can’t judge the mood, but reports of the demonstrations after the capture of nineteen year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were disturbingly familiar too. The chant — “USA, USA” — recalled the reaction to the news that Barack Obama’s assassins had finally gotten to Osama Bin Laden and dumped his body into the sea — in time for the upcoming elections.

Perhaps the comparison is unfair. As in New York and Washington after 9/11, the crowd was surely expressing solidarity with the victims and also relief that the ordeal was finally over. Civic pride, an estimable virtue, was on display too.

And even if the demonstrations had a jingoistic tinge, people cooped up inside all day watching Wolff Blitzer can justifiably plead mitigating circumstances. It requires fortitude to endure mindless commentary masquerading as journalism — cable news, in other words — and not run amok.

Greek tragedies, those of Aeschylus especially, recount the (fragile) triumph of civilization over primitive longings for revenge. This is the basis for the rule of law and the monumental advances that follow from it.

Too bad for us, and for the world, that, under the leadership of our two twenty-first century Presidents, the Lesser Evil one especially, we Americans seem to be abandoning lessons learned nearly two and a half millennia ago.

It isn’t just the rule of law that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have put in jeopardy. Under their leadership, ours is becoming a “civilization” that, without shame, uses revenge as a pretext for war.

It would be wrong to claim that war-making is the only project at which the United States excels. The United States mostly loses the wars it fights. To be sure, the Pentagon can destroy states and societies. But it leaves wastelands ruled by militaristic kleptocracies in its wake.

And what of Boston today? Levine continues:

An entire metropolis in lockdown? Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of militarized police arrayed against a lone wounded kid who, it turns out, was bleeding almost to death under a tarp covering a boat in someone’s driveway?

Austerity got left behind. Millions for the illusion of “homeland security,” not one penny for anything that actually makes people better off!

Events like the Boston Marathon Bombing and its aftermath are as significant as they are bizarre. They point to a future wherein the security-surveillance apparatus often and openly impinges on America’s somewhat civil everyday life, that is, to a future moment when our inverted totalitarian system becomes an obvious dictatorship. This is one implication that can be identified in the massive official response to the wounded fugitive, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Tsarnaev brothers were considered members of Boogey Man’s legion. Uncle Sam — Superpower! — had to take the revenge in order to cleanse himself of the stain generated by the bombing. The prodigious waste of money involved was as necessary as the initial dénouement, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture. There is always money ready at hand for such projects, even in an age of planned deprivation.

Quote of the day

Glenn Greenwald discussed the automatic other-blaming, other-bashing found in the American media after every ‘terrorist’ attack:

The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence. The New York Post quickly claimed that the prime suspect was a Saudi national (while also inaccurately reporting that 12 people had been confirmed dead). The Post’s insinuation of responsibility was also suggested on CNN by Former Bush Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend (“We know that there is one Saudi national who was wounded in the leg who is being spoken to”). Former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman went on CNN to grossly speculate that Muslim groups were behind the attack. Anti-Muslim bigots like Pam Geller predictably announced that this was “Jihad in America”. Expressions of hatred for Muslims, and a desire to do violence, were then spewing forth all over Twitter (some particularly unscrupulous partisan Democrat types were identically suggesting with zero evidence that the attackers were right-wing extremists).

Obviously, it’s possible that the perpetrator(s) will turn out to be Muslim, just like it’s possible they will turn out to be extremist right-wing activists, or left-wing agitators, or Muslim-fearing Anders-Breivik types, or lone individuals driven by apolitical mental illness. But the rush to proclaim the guilty party to be Muslim is seen in particular over and over with such events.

Indeed. It is as though some — many! — Americans find solace in their belief that Muslims commit these atrocities. The belief, even when it produces false claims attributing blame to Muslims, orders the world, providing the believer with succinct categories which can be used to cleanse the world of ambiguity and doubt. It is the other who commits these crimes. ‘We’ do not. ‘We’ are innocent. ‘We’ are pure, good and suffer needlessly. Those others are pure, bad and cause us grief.

This ‘thinking’ reflects a Platonic ontology formed in Hell.