Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Checks & Balances

Back in the primordial era, American schools used to teach that our three branches of government provide a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one entity can ever ride roughshod over the system. The courts can strike down unconstitutional laws, the legislature makes sure that the president doesn't glom onto too much power, and the president has the power of the veto pen. Round and round Democracy goes, like a happy little amusement park ride.

That was then. Today we have a unified Triad of Terror operating in a funhouse of smoke and mirrors, grotesque simulacra of what the beloved founders ever could have envisioned in their wildest plutocratic dreams.

The current carnival barker in our neo-fascist theme park is President Obama. I finally watched the clip of his pre-G8 interview with Checkpoint Charlie Rose, portions of which I posted in my previous entry. Flying in the face of all fact, he pretended that checks and balances still exist within the soft totalitarian state known as USA. In true Orwellian fashion, he insisted that the secret rubber-stamp Fisa court is transparent, that Congress has been fully briefed and is therefore compliantly looking after the interests of the people, and that he himself is just a trustworthy caring fellow, so just trust him. Because, Charlie, if you could be in the Situation Room and see what I see, you would understand. Now shut up. Or, as he dismissively said when confronted over his own hypocrisy at a Berlin press conference today, "People (me) don't also don't always do what you want. It's shocking."

Checks and balances actually are very much alive. The checks comprise billions of dollars flowing in a torrent from the national treasury straight into the coffers of Booz Allen Hamilton and the rest of what columnist David Rohde is calling the Secrecy-Industrial complex. The balances are the precarious high wire stunts of  the rising stars of Security Circus (Feinstein, Clapper, Alexander) sending propagandistic chills and thrills into America's living rooms. Can they keep us safe from terror and still protect our basic freedoms? It's a nail-biter.

Can they continue to juggle their own self-contradicting claims, saying that the outing of state secrets is both an egregious, egregious assault on national security and an opportunity to have a feel-good National Conversation on Civil Liberties? 'Tis an earthquake of cognitive dissonance.

Will they ever explain why they now assert that massive surveillance sweeps of billions of phone records helped avert a terror attack on the New York Stock Exchange, but somehow forgot to hold one of their self-serving press conferences where they brag about arrests which later are proved to be FBI agent provocateur plots? The Magic 8 Ball says: Don't Count on It. (This article in Wired tells you why: the alleged plotters themselves called it off.)

Meanwhile, I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't point to a controversial new theory being proffered by columnist Naomi Wolf.  According to her, the very effortless articulate ease (so admired by me) with which Edward Snowden has explained NSA spying may indicate he is not who he says he is -- that he may, in fact, still be working for an intelligence agency which is using him to instill some cowed obedience into the populace. He could, paradoxically, be a manufactured distraction.

“But do consider that in Eastern Germany, for instance," writes Wolf, "it was the fear of a machine of surveillance that people believed watched them at all times—rather than the machine itself—that drove compliance and passivity. From the standpoint of the police state and its interests—why have a giant Big Brother apparatus spying on us at all times—unless we know about it?”

While my first impulse is to scoff at Wolf, as does Dave Lindorff, there is a tiny part of me that can't totally discount her theory out of hand. (Blame it on devouring John Le Carre's plot-twisting novels since adolescence). Wolf is in a whole different league from the growing new coalition of Obamabots and Right Wingers, with all their silly shoot-the-messenger treachery and narcissistic personality disorder hysterics. But even if she's right, and Edward Snowden is a government plant being used to distract us and cow us, it's a stupid gambit. It will probably boomerang right back on them anyway. (It already is -- a local criminal court is now demanding NSA records as evidence in an armed robbery case. Yay!) Also, I think Glenn Greenwald is way too savvy to be taken in by a double agent.

And the Germans, meanwhile, are not naïve enough to be taken in by the charmingly offensive Barack Obama as he visits Berlin and speechifies to an invitation-only crowd of thousands at the Brandenburg Gate. According to Der Spiegel, ticket-holders were bailing out (officially because of an 85-degree "heat wave") and officials were scrambling at the last minute to fill all the empty seats. Protesters, kept far away from the latest circus stunt, were massed at the Berlin Wall, bearing signs containing the motto now going viral in Deutschland:

Stasi.2.... All Your Data Is Belong to Us


Zee said...

The German government apparently doesn't mind us snooping on them, but the German people DO seem to mind.

Here's some commentary from Der Spiegel:

"On Tuesday, Barack Obama is coming to Germany. But who, really, will be visiting? He is the 44th president of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. He is an intelligent lawyer. And he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

But is he a friend? The revelations brought to us by IT expert Edward Snowden have made certain what paranoid computer geeks and left-wing conspiracy theorists have long claimed: that we are being watched. All the time and everywhere. And it is the Americans who are doing the watching.

On Tuesday, the head of the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented is coming for a visit. If Barack Obama is our friend, then we really don't need to be terribly worried about our enemies."

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, le Carre will do that to you. He is another of my favorite authors. I was almost sad to see the end of the cold war.

annenigma said...

Naomi Wolf has a screw loose.

Does she also think that Snowden was ordered by the NSA to spill the beans to conveniently give the ACLU legal standing to sue and take the case to the Supreme Court because Obama secretly actually wants to rein in the surveillance state?

And Snowden was ordered by the NSA to leak those programs so as to reveal to the country that that Clapper was a baldfaced liar because ... hmmm... they wanted to publicly embarass him and have an excuse to get rid of him?

Snowden was ordered to leak so that Rand Paul's popularity would be enhanced and he would get a chance to initiate a class action lawsuit because .... he's the best candidate to run against Hillary in 2016 because they have dirt on him?

There are so many aspects of her stupid conjecture that is isn't worth any more time and energy to debunk. Ed Snowden did us all a huge favor. Naomi Wolf is just trying to shoot the messenger so her boss doesn't have to - literally.

Vernell said...

This is cool!