Sunday, June 23, 2013

Obama's Enemies List

Richard Nixon was a paranoiac with a scowl and a stash of expletive-laden revenge porn audio tapes.

Barack Obama is a paranoiac with a charm-offensive grin and more whistleblower prosecutions under his belt than in all other previous administrations combined. Even a self-defensive meeting with civil libertarians on Friday afternoon about the recent uproar over the government spying upon its own citizens was held under an unnecessary veil of secrecy.

And, as McClatchy Newspapers reveals, there is now even an Obamian version of Nixon's Enemies List, called the Insider Threat Program:
Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.
This goes for all federal employees, not just those in the spy agencies. In the Social Security Administration. In the Department of Agriculture. In the Education Department. Each agency of the government is turning into its own little Stasi. I am trying to imagine what kind of spying might be going on in my local Social Security office, for example. Is one worker falling under suspicion for being too sympathetic to applicants, or maybe once forgot to demand that last unit of identification as proof of existence? Or, is Obama's Insider Threat manifesto just institutionalizing the usual petty backstabbing office politics?

Actually, it's a lot worse. Because if one of your co-workers with an ax to grind snitches on you, you can theoretically be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. It looks as though J. Edgar Obama wants to raise his record of whistleblowing prosecutions far, far above the current measly seven (counting Edward Snowden.):
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.   
“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.
And that's the gist of it, folks. Our government considers all of us enemies of the state for even daring to ask what they're doing in all our names.

I can only imagine what it must be like to work for the federal government in the Age of Obama. If you snitch on a friend, do you get a bounty in the way of a raise and promotion, or will the cheapskates just toss you some comp time off and an extra half hour for lunch? If you fail to snitch on a friend and the boss later finds you knew all about something without reporting it, is that grounds for your dismissal or even prosecution? 

Working under conditions like this not only adversely affects the workers, it affects the whole working of government. Who can possibly function under such a system? Somebody will always be looking over your shoulder. Clerical mistakes, lost paperwork,  nervous breakdowns will no doubt skyrocket. Morale will plummet to zero. But maybe that's the whole plan.

And it's not only blatant stuff like talking to the media that the employees are being asked to report. Workers must also alert their bosses to the personal problems -- such as marital woes -- of their colleagues -- because such issues might lead to a troubled person spilling secrets for foreign governments, or worse! They're even supposed to keep tabs on one another's reading material. One red flag, according to the government, is if someone reads the Onion and Salon. I think the latter entry in the List of Forbidden Websites must be outdated, though. It was on the Government List because Glenn Greenwald used to work there.

So  I imagine that sneaking a peek at The Guardian during lunch hour at the Patent Office might land you in the slammer before quitting time.

The Obama Administration must be having conniption fits now that Hong Kong failed to cave to threats from the World's Policeman and allowed Edward Snowden to leave the country. I wonder if White House hacks are reporting on each other's mental health as they all collapse to the floor and start chewing on the rugs.


The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves
 

38 comments:

annenigma said...

The Gov has also ordered federal employees not to read the Snowden secret documents.

I am eagerly awaiting proof that the Gov has developed behavior profiles on many of us. That's what they're doing when they require employees to report each other in terms of who is going through divorce, who is drinking more, etc.

I don't believe for a moment that all that metadata is stored simply for future reference. Not until it is sorted and sifted first to help them categorize 'potential enemies of the state' or 'potential terrorists' based on computer algorithms. They don't have a secret NSA Behavioral Analysis Unit? It just fits Obama's profile!

"The policy, which partly relies on behavior profiles, also could discourage creative thinking and fuel conformist “group think”" according to the McClatchy article.

James F Traynor said...

Things are really getting wild. Have you seen today's clash between David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald on Meet the Press? Wow! The MSM is showing its underside. First, the way Gregory phrased the question, and then his questioning of whether Greenwald was acting as a journalist.

spreadoption said...

Even the most powerful voices and actors among us are relatively powerless against the Money-Power. Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex has evolved into the financial-corporate-military-government-media complex. David versus Goliath is a fairy tale, perhaps written to keep the people ever hopeful. Perhaps the Goliath we have today cannot be defeated by our David. What it would take to overcome this Goliath is a truly massive, global movement, and even that might not be enough. Yes, we have defeated many tyrants in the past (with enormous effort) – consider Hitler and McCarthy – but this is the first time in history that the people’s enemy has been a global – not regional - force that is already in full control.

That Irish MP, so courageous, so resolute, so overflowing with truth… but I do fear for her now. Will we ever know whether Michael Hastings was “accidented”? For that matter, will we ever know the truth about 9/11 or JFK or POWs abandoned in Vietnam (read about "hero" McCain and that hidden scandal)? Oh, I’m very much a conspiracy theorist! I crave the truth and we ain’t getting it from anyone in charge.

A while back, for a year, I worked in a major medical center with federal and state affiliations and it gave me the creeps, not only with all the clearances and pledges but also with how sullen and self-protective many of the workers seemed, especially the younger ones, as if they were constantly looking over their shoulders. I felt no camaraderie there, no common purpose on behalf of patients or science – only every man for himself. Strange in a place you would expect to be caring and supportive.

Depending on your point of view, Obama is either a puppet or the newest full-fledged member of the plutocracy, but I’ve wondered, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?” This article filled me in: http://www.alternet.org/occupy-wall-street/elite-business-and-think-tank-attempts-control-world?akid=10605.1082714.XYbwQ-&rd=1&src=newsletter858509&t=15

It's rough out there and getting far rougher. The US has become like a desperate, cornered animal. Be careful.

Anonymous said...

Spreadoption wrote:
"A while back, for a year, I worked in a major medical center with federal and state affiliations and it gave me the creeps, not only with all the clearances and pledges but also with how sullen and self-protective many of the workers seemed, especially the younger ones, as if they were constantly looking over their shoulders. I felt no camaraderie there, no common purpose on behalf of patients or science – only every man for himself. Strange in a place you would expect to be caring and supportive."

I know that EXACT institution. Really. I just ran into one of my former colleagues from there, who took a per diem job at a "lesser" hospital just to get out. Last winter, I ran into one of the former attending physicians, who'd also fled. They're happier now, but perhaps only with that institution in their rear-view mirror.

We found that camaraderie - but only after we'd left. As you said, terrible that such ill treatment pervades an institution devoted to "healing". Ironically, if we'd been at a lesser institution, we would have been better treated. How many were abused and intimidated to maintain the great institution's "standing"! Perhaps Ginsberg was right about "Moloch".

Not one for conspiracy theories myself - the normal, totally incompetent course of human institutions is, really, bad enough to begin with. I'm working in an entirely different industry now, doing truly "dumb" work. But my supervisor and coworkers are really decent people. The day goes by a lot more quickly and for the most part, happily.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Here we are, Comrades, once again at El Salon Sardonicky – and we do hope you’re listening, NSA – for our weekly session of ‘indicator spotting,’ ‘self-reporting,’ ‘anonymous co-worker accusation’ and ‘pre-approved whistle-blowing' up their channels. As the newest conformist of our once high-risk group of nonconformists, allow me to descend upon you with a few prefatory remarks for the record.

“The Party is the truth.
The Party is the hammer.
The Party is the refuge.
The Party is the Constitution.”

The above quote is by none other than the reformed … Me … ever since I got wind of Obama’s “Inside Threat Program.” (Oh, and would the secretary please backdate this comment to January 20, 2009.)

Next in the program, this:

“Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades' minds and our Party's work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. The proverb "Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten" means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as "Say all you know and say it without reserve", "Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words" and "Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not" - this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party.”

Mao Zedong, "On Coalition Government" (April 24, 1945), Selected Works, Vol. III, pp. 316-17.

In case you are not able to translate the above-quoted Chinese maxim “Say all you know and say it without reserve,” allow me to translate it for you into American, with the help of Homeland Security, which has been disseminating the maxim (so beloved by Chairman Mao) since 2006:

“IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!”

James F Traynor said...

Yes, spreadoption, everyone for him or herself - 1984 is not far away. Putin is the only national leader who saw the implications of global capitalism and the rise of not just national, but internatiional oligarchs. He warned the Russian bunch, but at least one of them, Khodorkovsky, was too greedy and Putin made an example of him. I carry no brief for Putin - in many ways he's a thug. But he saw and acted for his nation. We have none here of that stripe except for, possibly, people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Neil Gillespie said...

If anyone is interested, American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security is sponsoring NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Knight Studio, Washington, DC. If you cannot attend in person, you can also watch and participate in the discussion live via a webinar, see the link to Special Program: NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction

http://www.newseum.org/programs/2013/0625-special-program/nsa-surveillance-leaks.html

Yesterday I emailed the above message to a few people, and got this response from one person:

"Thanks, Neil. The American Bar Ass's presentation will probably be almost as comical as the ACLU's lawsuit which barely mentions the 4th Amendment and does not raise any claim which would support a demand for a jury trial!!! After all, as an opposition control group, you cannot do anything which makes those pesky peasants believe that they might possibly have a say in anything, can you? See the ACLU's friendly lawsuit at....."

The person who sent me the email is an attorney (and MBA) who was disbarred for speaking truth to power and exposing corruption in the legal system. He is a long-time Democrat who has seen the light. Here is a better link to the lawsuit, on the ACLU’s web page.

http://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-files-lawsuit-challenging-constitutionality-nsa-phone-spying-program

Anonymous said...

Traynor: "I carry no brief for Putin - in many ways he's a thug."

In many ways? Let's not delude ourselves. Putin's thuggishness long ago reached its full 360-degrees of development. As such, he's kind of comically wicked. He's a walking overstatement of an exaggeration of a burlesque of a 3-D cartoon of macho, murderous bad-ness. And I don't think he "saved" Russia in any sense of the word.

That said, it's nice that he's been so good to Russia's true patrimony - the Orthodox priesthood in cahoots with the rume of one man. Just like feudal times.

James F Traynor said...

Anonymous:

A little hysterical today are we?

annenigma said...

Has anyone else noticed that some recent comments to NYT articles seem suspiciously popular...

There was a comment this past week to an article about Snowden. I first viewed 'All' the comments since there weren't too many yet. Then I went back to see how they were voted on in the 'Reader Picks' listing.

I was quite surprised to discover that the #1 Reader Pick had not even appeared in the All list. It wasn't one that was typical of the usual response either, yet magically it received enough recommends to be right up there in the list, far above the others.

Could someone be trying to sway public opinion? How did they manage to circumvent the usual way to get to the #1 spot which is by vying for recommends with everyone else?

Anyway, no one in particular comes to mind - there are so many possibilities. Big Sister could be lending a helping hand to Big Brother. Or the Old Gray Lady is.

spreadoption said...

annenigma wonders about the inner workings of the Comment Review Department at the NYT. Me, too.

I hate to sound terribly naive here, but I wonder whether one or several of the regulars are paid flacks for Obama and the Democrats? (Our Karen, of course, is another matter. Let the NYT give her a whole damn column to herself! And pay her a lot for it! America needs her.)

On occasion over the past few years I’ve written a comment to Paul Krugman's blog. Typically this occurs following the sudden onset of acute brain inflammation, secondary to massive cognitive dissonance, secondary to PK himself or his commenters giving yet another free pass to Obama. After I recover a bit I carefully craft a response, as tactfully as I can in my state of simmering outrage, that I hope will make my point without infuriating the Obamabots in the crowd (including PK himself, though I doubt he ever reads my stuff or anyone else's).

Yesterday I wrote again that if you're gonna blame Boehner you also need to blame Obama for the terrible state of our economy. If, as Krugman advocates, our first need is aggregate demand, what about our jobs, Mr. Obama? My comment didn't get posted until 9:36, dumped on with a bunch of others, well after the readership has either gone to bed or is out at the theater, I suppose. There could be legitimate reasons for this, but it's happened almost every time I've commented over the years, and so I suspect subversion.

On the other hand, in recent weeks I've noticed that once in a while there will be a brief flurry of contrarian comments, and once or twice, very recently, I've even caught their chief-Obamabot and popular regular (initials CJ) with a negative word for Obama, though he won't refer to the President by name, only as "the administration”.

And on those rare occasions I feel a little encouraged, always happy to learn that another American is waking up at last.

Zee said...

@annenigma--

I don't follow the New York Times unless I'm referred there by RealClearPolitics, RealityChex, or participants here, and I certainly don't follow the thousands of comments, so I can't remark on any “patterns.”

I'll defer to the expertise and observations of those of you who regularly follow NYT's—and other—comments regarding establishment of trends.

But given that we've already established here—a thread or three ago—that “private security firms” have undertaken to surreptitiously and falsely discredit both individuals and organizations for political purposes by spreading bogus information out on the Internet, why would it surprise anybody that a similar effort—sponsored by the government or some other entity—might be afoot to influence public opinion? After all, the Obama administration needs all the help that it can get right now to re-burnish its pathetic image.

I have never been a fan of “conspiracy theories,” but recent turns of events are starting to make me have second thoughts, along the same lines as you, annenigma. While I have never fully trusted our government, I have generally been inclined in the past to give it the benefit of the doubt where the data/evidence were not clear.

The turning point for me was the Wen Ho Lee debacle, wherein the U.S. Government embarrassed itself beyond all redemption. You may recall that Lee, supposed spy extraordinaire, was held in solitary confinement for—what was it, a year or so?—and then released for time served (for mere mishandling of classified materials), accompanied by an apology from a respected Federal judge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wen_Ho_Lee

And, oh, yes...he also collected some $1.6M in damages from the Feds and several media outlets because they leaked his name to the public before any formal charges were filed. (Funny how that leak just “happened” to occur when only the feds knew who their suspect was.)

The DOE and the FBI then went on a year's road-trip to the National Laboratories and other defense contractors, giving “seminars” in order to try to prove to all and sundry that if we only knew what they knew, we'd know that Lee was really guilty, they just couldn't prove it without revealing the inevitable “sources and methods” that must always be protected at all costs.

In the end, I don't think the DOE or FBI persuaded anyone that they knew their ass from a hole in the ground regarding Lee's guilt or innocence.

Now, the government is usually guilty until proven innocent, in my conservative eyes.

Did you get all that down, NSA?

Denis Neville said...

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” - George Orwell

Pearl said...

Zee: Great thoughtful comment from you. And as the Wen Ho Lee debacle
educated you, so has the Snowden affair woken many people up who might not otherwise recognize what is happening in the United States and which has been going on for quite a long while. I have felt during these unhappy years with Obama in charge that something was going to happen to challenge this administration. He was tap dancing too fast and finally has lost his footing and it is as if his teleprompter has disappeared.
He will not look good for the rest of his term in office no matter what his
attempts at rhetoric and will be remembered more and more for his hypocrisy and lack of statesmanship. It has become obvious lately that the rest of the world is not in love with the United States. Now is the time for people to be encouraged to speak up loud and clear -- I think we have something to look forward to.

Jay - Ottawa said...

The comments today following the Times' story on Snowden are predictable but worthwhile.

Still leading the pack by about 100 votes is a comment critical of Snowden. Not too far down the line the self-deprecating "Village Idiot" provides a metaphor very helpful in clarifying our situation.

"It is analogous to hiring a security firm to protect the house and family only to discover that the help has been looking through the family's papers, the drawers, the safe, the closets, listen to voicemail and the answering machine, accessing the family computer, thumbing through the checkbook and rummage through emails and the jewelry box.

"When found out and confronted and asked to explain, they say they aren't allowed to tell you and if you insist on making a fuss they threaten to call the police, sue you for slander, have you jailed or beaten by thuggish friends and all your belongings confiscated.

"And to think Brazilians, Turks, Russians, Chinese & Afghans think THEIR governments are corrupt dictatorships. They differ from ours only in level of sophistication. As Snowden knows, ours is equally good if not better at making people disappear."

Anonymous said...

Traynor:
no hysteria, just a sarcastic riff on Allen's "travesty of a mockery of a sham" to make the point that you lose legitimacy in downplaying Putin's goss human rights violations. And for you to claim that he in any way saved Russia from rapacious capitalism is to miss the brutal reality of what he has wrought.

Anonymous said...

Ann, SpreadOp:

The Times comments have been weighted for years. Every once in a while there's a "burp" in the comments when, say, Obama doesn't permit the Bush tax cuts to expire as even Bush had planned, or a Snowden emerges. But those hiccups are quickly buried.

Don't forget what an amazing organizational/managerial feat OFA was, and continues to be. More recently, Jim Rutenberg at the Times and Jon Alter in "The Center Holds" make clear just how efficient and well-oiled the Obama machine is.

Yes, it would be naive of us to think that the comments aren't stacked. But the larger reality is that there are plenty of useful idiots like (Regas, Rhett, Gemli) who will shill for the administration on an entirely unpaid basis.

Anonymous said...

NYT's Rutenberg on 2012's "special sauce":

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/the-obama-campaigns-digital-masterminds-cash-in.html?pagewanted=all#commentsContainer

Jay - Ottawa said...

On that Rutenberg article. Is computer analysis displacing the law? Will computer analysts soon be elbowing aside lawyers as one of the elite professions? The nerds know better than anyone else how to get into just about everybody’s head and “persuade” them without the reasoned or moral arguments of the past that had traditionally been put before juries and judges and voters? The nerds with their data reach and fancy algorithms know how to get things done far more efficiently than lawyers who soak up time and money with their legal longueurs.

A few posts back some of us were bashing lawyers – so yesterday. Rutenberg paints a picture that prompts us to consider bashing instead that army of bright computer analysts coming over the horizon and swarming into every last corner of our private lives.

Reading Rutenberg about new developments in marketing (and recalling those nerds who labor for Microsoft, Apple, Goldman Sachs and the NSA) one might wonder whether the energetic analysts have lifted themselves into a new and commanding cast that lacks a soul and is ready to pimp itself to any cause. Their only restraint seems to be the technological limits of their expertise.

The majority of them, if Rutenberg is reporting on a representative sample, are very much unlike their exceptional brother, Edward Snowden, who is being bashed for other reasons, like respecting traditional democratic ideals hard to condense into computer code.

As far as we know, Snowden is the only analyst who has left Booz Allen Hamilton for reasons of conscience. Hundreds – or is it thousands? – of analysts remain at their keyboards chiseling away at the Fourth Amendment. They make lawyers look good.

Denis Neville said...

@ Neil – interesting email response from that attorney; what he said is sadly true.

We have entered Senator Frank Church’s abyss: “I know the capacity that there is to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [NSA] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

The NSA beat will go on. The Justice Department will continue to throw the book at ordinary peons, while high-ranking criminals of the kleptocracy (our invisible government) will continue go about their business. They have the license to lie simply because there is no lie when there is no admission of the truth. And lies told often enough become the truth.

Edward Bernays invented the term “public relations” as a euphemism for state propaganda. “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” Bernays warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” - George Orwell

It reminds me of Russian author Eugene Zamiatin’s We, the novel that inspired Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World:

“Those two in paradise stood before a choice: happiness without freedom or freedom without happiness; a third choice wasn't given. They, the blockheads, they chose freedom—and then what? Understandably, for centuries, they longed for fetters. For fetters—you understand?”

“But our boot: on his head—crunch! And there: paradise is restored. Again we are simple-hearted innocents, like Adam and Eve. No more confusion about good and evil: everything is very simple, heavenly, childishly simple. The Benefactor, the Machine, the Cube, the Gas Bell Jar, the Guardians—all these are good, all these are majestic, wonderful, noble sublime, crystal-clean. Because they guard our non-freedom—that is, our happiness.” - Eugene Zamiatin, We

Citizens of Zamiatin’s United State are not individuals, they are only he-Numbers and she-Numbers living in identical glass apartments that allow the political police, the “Guardians”, to observe them more easily. Without individuality, privacy ceases to be an issue. The city of the One State is surrounded by a Green Wall, made of glass, and within the wall, everything too is made of transparent glass — buildings, sidewalks, beds and chairs. Life is governed by clocks, tables, and efficient bureaucracy. Their every action is regulated by the “Table of Hours.” Everything is ordered right down to the number of chews a “Number” must take per bite.

The guiding principle of the State is that freedom and happiness are incompatible. “Numbers” believe their freedom is more than a fair exchange for a high level of materialistic happiness. The State restored happiness by eliminating freedom.

Some “Numbers” suffer from a disease called imagination. This disease is cured by X-ray treatment, after which it is easy for them to betray their fellow “Numbers” to the “Guardians.”

James F Traynor said...

Everyone, or almost everyone, goes along to get along at some time or another: lawyers, doctors, journalists, name it. You have to if you want to survive or else be a saint or martyr. Saints and martyrs are difficult to work with. Most of us draw the line somewhere, or think we do, until those famous chips are down. Computer analysts are no exception.

Snowden drew the line, for whatever reason. Maybe he had a bad day and just said fuck'em, Ive had it. The same for Manning and the others and those we'll never hear about. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things for some damn reason or another. That's how I think about those Greeks and Turks and OWS. But almost all of them have crossed lines they thought they wouldn't, they just came to a line too far.

Anonymous said...

Jay,

That's interesting how the Rutenberg article prompted you to consider the power of these tech-marketers. I think Rutenberg was aiming for that, and I think we should think of that.

The reader comments on that Rutenberg piece were also pretty interesting.

The thing that stuck in my craw, so to speak, after reading that was: can they really do what they're telling us they can do, or is it just snake oil as a deliberate distraction?

I mean, when I worked in banking, we took it on faith that Goldman was really smart, and THAT's how they were on top. We found out otherwise.

In health care, we took it on faith that doctors were healers and nurses were saints. It was all, looking back on it, a bit too religious to be credible. Finally, many of us, both workers and patients, found out otherwise.

Then back to corporate, where we helped the Harvard MBA management consultants sell their management skills to Google and Facebook. but really, they turned out to be only corporate spies. Seriously.

So... I wonder what this new "expertise" is masking? Maybe we're being sold the tech-marketing geeks' "masterful expertise" as a smokescreen for the fact that voters just don't matter anymore.

When do we find out these "whiz kids" have feet of clay?

Anonymous said...

Jay,

Steve Lohr of the NYT put it more succinctly than I did:

"I don't worry that the algorithms are too good. I worry that they're bad."

A writer for The Economist put the same thought forward as:

" It's not Orwell, it's Kafka."

Zee said...

A couple of brief thoughts while hiding out in the mountains of Colorado, on escape from the scorching desert:

First, @Anonymous, the article by Rutenberg is both terrifying and unsurprising to me at the same time. Our lives and values are increasingly an open book to the computer analysts, social psychologists and data miners among us, and they are increasingly amoral in the plying of their trade(s) in the quest for profit. “We all have to make a living, after all, don't we?”

WE OTHERS, of course, are just multitudinous bacteria in a Petri dish, to be observed and analyzed for our responses to various nutrients and other stimuli, the better that our behavior may be predicted and utilized for the multifarious purposes of the observers and their employers, e.g.,
Obama & Company or any number of Wall Street companies.

Unless we all go completely “off-grid,”—and I, for one, just can't do that at this instant in time—we are always under the computational/analytical microscope, subject to statistical prediction as to our respective behaviors.

Big Brother/Sister is here, and there's simply no putting that toothpaste back into the tube, short of something drastic happening. We used to burn “witches” in the not-too-distant past, and with far less persuasive evidence. Maybe we will be burning “data miners” in the near future? (I speak metaphorically, of course. But when push comes to shove, we can certainly take away their laptops and send them off to “New Gitmo” sans Internet access, don't'cha think? But not, of course, without “due process.”)

@Denis--

Is there, anywhere, that I can find an electronic copy (in English, of course) of “We,” by Eugene Zamiatin? While I have, of course, read “Brave New World” and “1984,” I have not been exposed to earlier dystopian novels such as “We” and “The Iron Heel.”

Rather, my college reading curriculum referred me to utopian novels such as “Looking Backward,” by Ralph Bellamy which is hopelessly optimistic about our future. And which is not exactly the way things are turning out just at the moment.

Thanks for any help that you can offer.

Neil Gillespie said...

Thanks Dennis. His name is Mark Adams, here is a link to his website.

http://www.markadamsjdmba.com/

and Scribd page

http://www.scribd.com/markadamsjdmba

Mark is a reform activist. Most people have no idea how bad things are in the legal system.

In response to Jay - Ottawa, a computer is as good as the programming. Garbage in, garbage out. But a well written program would often be better than what passes for justice these days. It is not "lawyer bashing" - it is "bearing witness".

Listen to Amy Bach, attorney and author of "Ordinary Injustice, How America Holds Court"

http://www.ordinaryinjustice.com/

The video and transcript are posted on my site here, with links to Amy Bach on the NYT

http://nosueorg.blogspot.com/2013/06/amy-bach-ordinary-injustice-how-america.html

Amy Bach is a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, and won the 2010 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for "Ordinary Injustice"

http://youtu.be/4ug8lXPExeo

AMY BACH: I wrote this book and it's about places in America where there has been a collapse of the adversarial system. And what I mean by that is that the lawyers stopped checking each other in the ways that they're supposed to. And the result is, is that ordinary people are hurt on a daily basis.

There is this adversarial system in America and it's the prosecutor and defense attorney and neutral judge up above, but when it doesn't work they're not checking each other and they all line up together. They're all like an arrow. They're all moving towards something, but it's not justice. They're not doing the adversarial protections that they're -- they're not protecting the people that they're supposed to be protecting.

Anonymous said...

For all those tracking NYT comments, however loosely:
First ten comments on Roger Cohen's piece in the NYT today are quite telling - everyone extrapolating Cohen's analysis of protests in Brazil, Turkey, Egypt to potential for unrest here and Occupy.

Cohen's piece on those protests has obvious parallels to Neil's legit concerns about a legal system that is not responsive to the needs of citizens. (To paraphrase Heller, "What system is?)

There was a lot of crit of Occupy not making it to the next step, as Spitzer had wanted them to. Many had chalked that failure up to presumed incompetence of dreamy hippies. And yet now that we better understand FBI infiltration of Occupy, maybe they WERE about to graduate to the next step of setting concrete goals, but were derailed by (presumably patchouli-scented) infiltrators.

Back to Neil's point (which I largely agree with): separate from interviewing the public defender here, I had also attempted to conduct a quantitative analysis of the types of prosecutions the DA's office in another California city, beginning in 1970. I was curious to learn how the advent of the drug war had manifested itself through the DA's office.

This separate inquiry was about two months ago. I was, not very politely, told that the DA's office didn't keep those records. They were very much put upon that I would even ask. They sent me to the City's Records Dep't. No one picked up. No one returned my calls. So I called the Public Defender's office. Boom, right away (two hours) I get a call back from THE Public Defender, who tells me Records won't have the records. Because of cutbacks. Seriously.

It's really quite extraordinary to consider that someone in the great state of California could have been sentenced in the mid-70's, and we have no record of their prosecution or defense. BUT we have phone records for Zee and Neil and me and Jay (and Tom, Dick and Harry; not to mention Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.


Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Zee (& all):

Online books site that primarily focuses on religions, but also includes Greek classics, Shakespeare, Thomas Paine, Darwin, Mark Twain, and utopias (and dystopias). Worth checking out, even if you download from Gutenberg or elsewhere for reasons of format. (Note topic index on their left side):

http://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm


Of course, project Gutenberg:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/


Specifically:


"We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin --- pdf, in English:

http://mises.org/books/we_zamiatin.pdf


The Iron Heel, by Jack London --- various formats available:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1164

http://www.sacred-texts.com/utopia/ih/index.htm


Caesar's Column, by Ignatius Donnelly --- various formats available:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5155

http://www.sacred-texts.com/utopia/cc/index.htm



I think that James F. Traynor's comment ("Everyone, or almost everyone, goes along to get along at some time or another: lawyers, doctors, journalists, name it. ... Most of us draw the line somewhere, or think we do, until those famous chips are down. Computer analysts are no exception. ... But almost all of them have crossed lines they thought they wouldn't, they just came to a line too far.") has some really important implications worth exploring, but I haven't fully thought them through, and it's late right now. A couple of quick points that come to mind, though. It may well be that the resentments internalized from past "moral-choice" situations that they have been placed in --- yet failed to challenge --- are essential developmental components for that small segment of workers who have suddenly and transformationally upset the "apple carts", as did Manning and Snowden. And furthermore, it may well be that the technocrats are particularly susceptible to that, precisely because of the supposed non-morality of their tasks, which some eventually come to realize is a characterization that is patently false.

That Ruthenberg article also deserves response. That pidgeon-holing of the populace into demographics wasn't just about discovering how to buy more voter eyeballs at a lower cost than Romney could. Though I don't recall it being mentioned in the Ruthenberg article, you can damn well bet that the "targeting" (actually, manipulation) was done with different advertisements precisely emphasizing different things to each demographic --- which, added to the frequent generality-speak of politicians, helps explain how so many different groups betrayed during his first term could wishfully think that Obama would do something substantial for them during his second term. Furthermore, there is nothing surprising about his "quant" team moving into the commercial sphere post-election when their political work was done. Countless politicians, including many Democratic ones, have become business shills/lobbyists upon retirement/defeat.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add on Rutenberg article, since we've been on "Great Books" recently, and to Traynor's most recent point about going along to get along: the quant "kids" in the "cave" bring us to Plato's allegory of the cave.

Manning and Snowden recognized, (or allowed themselves to recognize) that the shadows on the wall of the cave were only that, shadows.

Such a price to be paid for their pointing that out. It's pouring here tonight, and as much as I'm reminded by the downpour of why one goes along to get along (those former colleagues and I paid a hard price for speaking up) I'm also reminded of the far greater price Manning has paid, and Snowden is expected to pay, for confronting an infinitely more powerful, and of necessity unforgiving, bully.

I'm also reminded of the photo of the PEN America Center team that gathered in support of Rushdie when he was forced into hiding by the fatwa. A stirring pic, a kind of wish fulfillment of the great patriarchy of American writers - Mailer and Doctorow and Talese in somber suits gathered to support Rushdie. And led by Susan Sontag! Team America! Where are they now, those noisy, righteous old men and their fearless Sontag? Mailer and Sontag are ashes, Talese might as well be, and Doctorow barely standing last I saw. At least Rushdie himself has made some subtle feints in support of Manning.

Outsida said...

I expect there will be a lot more bipartisan support for building a border fence now - to keep us in.

Zee said...

@Fred--

Thanks for reminding me about the various on-line book sites. Don't know why I didn't think of them myself!

James F Traynor said...

Yes, Fred D., I forgot to add "...or one crossed to often." to " ... a line too far. Probably the primary reason in most cases. At least that has been my experience.

spreadoption said...

Via Paul Craig Roberts' blog, I just got this update regarding Snowden:

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino responded to Washington's threats with a statement that the Ecuadorian government puts human rights above Washington's interests. Foreign Minister Patino said that Snowden served humanity by revealing that the Washington Stasi was violating the rights of "every citizen in the world." Snowden merely betrayed "some elites that are in power in a certain country," whereas Washington betrayed the entire world.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2013/06/25/a-new-beginning-without-washingtons-sanctimonious-mask-paul-craig-roberts/

Wow! Bravo, Ecuador! May the world wake up and stand up!

Denis Neville said...

Arizona’s Great Loyalty Oath Crusade (a la Joseph Heller’s Catch-22)

Arizona legislators want to require high school seniors to swear loyalty oath in order to graduate:

“Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

Section 1. Title 15, chapter 7, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 15-701.03, to read:

15-701.03. Graduation requirement; constitutional oath

Beginning in the 2013‑2014 school year, In addition to fulfilling the course of study and assessment requirements prescribed in this chapter, before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:

I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.”

http://legiscan.com/AZ/text/HB2467

“When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Jay - Ottawa said...

Paul Craig Roberts pulls out all the stops in telling us how the world's cup of revulsion floweth over.

Be careful what you wish for, they say. But one hardly knows what to wish for. Should we hail Snowden endlessly in gratitude, send him around making speeches, or wish him absolute anonymity to keep him safe? How long will Obama's fatwa last?

If Snowden ever makes it to Ecuador, will Obama send a drone or a pod of SEALS to settle him in? Will the Situation Room (or whatever it's called) once again be packed with White House and Pentagon staffers glued to a mammoth screen, ready to jump with high-fives for another bin Laden moment?

Could one of these newfangled world-wide cyber wars turn into an old-fashioned kind of war? Keeps me up nights.

Zee said...

Jaysus, Denis!

Is that Arizona loyalty oath bill for high school graduates for real?

It's not that I doubt your veracity, it's just that I have been taken in by realistic-looking websites before.

Still, I regret to say that, not too deep down in my bones, I believe that those Neanderthal Arizona legislators could actually DO such a thing.

(And that's really an insult to Neanderthals, who, I am sure were much more likeable than Arizona Republicans.)

God help us!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful "coulda-woulda-shoulda" piece about admin's treatment of Snowden by Berenson in NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/opinion/snowden-through-the-eyes-of-a-spy-novelist.html?hp

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Zee, @Denis, and all:

That loyalty oath bill for Arizona high school graduation certainly is both absurd and outrageous, but, as far as I can tell, never made it out of committee. (After going to the link provided by Denis, click on the "Summary" button to see what action occurred when).

Perhaps more objectionable to most at Salon Sardonicky --- because it was actually approved by the Arizona legislature and signed into law by the governor --- is a recent bill that, among other things, now makes it significantly more difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballot.

It does that by now making the number of signatures required to get on the ballot a function of the total number of voters in the district (or entire State, for those elected by the entire state). Previously the formula was based on the number of people registered for that party. The result is that in many and perhaps most districts, the number of signatures required for Greens and Libertarians to get on the ballot now exceeds the number of people registered in those parties! Apparently that requires them to collect signatures from independents.

Note that this applies even for their primaries!,

This is a blatant attempt to prevent competition from third-party candidates. And at least some Republicans have admitted as much. (See the first Arizona Daily Star article).


Furthermore, the bill also makes the public initiative process more difficult, because it requires petitions to be thrown out for even the slightest technical mistake.

from the Arizona Daily Star:

"Under current law, initiative petitions need be only in 'substantial compliance' with the law. That means innocent mistakes that do not materially affect an initiative can be overlooked.

This law says there must be 'strict compliance,' allowing those who do not want what initiative organizers have proposed to knock the measures off the ballot even before voters get a chance to weigh in."


http://legiscan.com/AZ/bill/HB2305

http://www.azleg.gov//FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/51leg/1r/laws/0209.htm&Session_ID=110

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/election-law-change-aims-to-block-libertarian-green-party-candidates/article_6956444c-3b8c-59a9-8ded-121daa2d47a2.html

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/brewer-signs-measure-changing-voting-laws/article_ec043b7d-f94b-561a-87fe-969caedb9f17.html

Rs To Gold said...

Things are really getting wild. Have you seen today's clash between David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald on Meet the Press? Wow! The MSM is showing its underside. First, the way Gregory phrased the question, and then his questioning of whether Greenwald was acting as a journalist.
WOW Gold
Rs To Gold