Friday, June 7, 2013

The Middle Digit of Digital Dissent

Good morning, Sardonicky readers and all the fine folks at the NSA.... or should I say, the fine computers at the NSA. If the reports are true, the security state machinery is culling this blog-post as fast as I can write it, looking for suspicious words and their placement in cyberspace, the better to keep me safe, secure, and suppressed. Fat chance. I hereby give the middle-finger salute to the dweebs. 

I think I finally figured out the real reason that Congress is trying to destroy the Post Office. Even though George Bush issued that infamous signing statement back in 2007 giving himself the right open your mail, it's just way too time-consuming and messy. Actual people with hands and eyes and bodies and benefits and union cards would have to do the actual opening. Paper cuts are a real menace, along with that annoying coating of tongue glue from having to reseal so many envelopes. Cyberspying is cleaner.

 So make it difficult for them. If you have something important to say, write a letter, maintain a semblance of privacy, and support our beleaguered postal workers, paper companies and Bic at the same time.

If, however, you can't tear yourself away from the instant gratification of the instantaneousness to which you are now accustomed, there are allegedly some ways you can make it harder for James Clapper (and the corporations both serving and served by him) to glom onto your info. Roberto Baldwin of Wired gives you the low-down. In a nutshell: ditch your phones and switch to the same pay-as-you-go disposables that all self-respecting terrorists and criminals use. And don't pay with your credit card, of course. Make sure the person you're calling has a burner phone too. Use an encrypted email service, and don't click on any links while doing so. Meet people in person, the same way the various resistance movements have made contact throughout the long global history of repressive authoritarian regimes. 

And, if you do use snail mail, pay for the stamps with cash, so that the security state can't accuse you of obstructing their efforts to keep you safe. And don't forget to smile at the ubiquitous face recognition software. Or, just give the finger at random, knowing that the chances are pretty good that some security camera somewhere is picking it up for posterity, for perpetual enshrinement in the Utah storage facility.

Meanwhile, here are a few links that absolutely essential and safe for you to click on:

Glenn Greenwald on whistle-blowers, and why he does what he does. A must-read.

Marcy Wheeler calls bullshit on the White House's self-serving talking points.

Josh Gerstein eviscerates Obama's "Let's Have a Debate" drivel. (He's eager to have a national discussion on stuff only when the stuff is exposed against his will.)

Margaret Sullivan of the New York Times diagnoses her paper's schizophrenia . (Is Obama incredible, or what?)

That should also keep you low-level techies at NSA busy for all of a microsecond. Go ahead.... take an off-the-clock coffee break. I'll never tell. 

"Right now I think everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn't anything that's brand new -- it's been going on for 7 years." -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Whew.... what a relief. If it had been going on for seven days, it would have been a reprehensible outrage of epic proportions. What we didn't know could only have hurt us if we knew. I guess it's kind of like being drugged and raped.


James F Traynor said...

Love the illustration!

Anonymous said...

Anyone else getting Trojan Horse alerts from their anti-virus program when they try to get to Glenn Greenwald's blog? Also Drudge Report.

Will said...

Just prior to reading Karen's kickass post today, I heard Amy Goodman's interview with the intrepid Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now. All I gotta say is WOW. As we crazy kids on the interweb like to say, shit just got real. Interesting times, indeed.

(I have no specific link; just go to & find today's show. Have a nice weekend, everyone.)

annenigma said...

BOLO Alert

BOLO alert is now in effect for the sighting of sweat developing on Obama's upper lip, revealing that his inner Nixon is breaking out all over. Please share any sweat sightings.

Remember Obama's shady land deal with Tony Rezko? That 'boneheaded mistake' might have revealed the real Obama and we could be getting some more glimpses soon. Glenn Greenwald has even more whistleblower information to share with the public.

Glenn is the right person at the right time in the right place for the right cause. It gives me some comfort to know that since he is well known enough in the media with frequent appearances that he can't be disappeared without us knowing it.

Glenn's 'The One We've Been Waiting For'!!! (Shhh, it's a secret. Don't tell Obama).

I nominate Glenn Greenwald for Person of the Year, or better yet, to be our next President. What a great country we could be. (I'd nominate the whistleblower, but I hope they never discover who he/she is.)

"Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see things as they can be and ask, why not?"


spreadoption said...

Yes, annenigma, I believe I had a sweat-sighting (at last!) as he tried to explain away his extra-judicial killing of four Americans by drone:

About the only thing that gives me hope, suddenly, is that we have 3 1/2 years left to try to enlighten the Obamabots and to utterly destroy Obama's legacy.

And I'd second your nomination of Glenn Greenwald for president; there's a constitutional lawyer we CAN believe in. And how about Elizabeth Warren for VP?

Of course, then they'd both get "accidented."

Denis Neville said...

David Simon, “Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff…But this? Please. This is bullshit.”

“The scale” is the point.

“It’s very important to realize that when an entity collects information about you, that includes locations, transactions, credit card transactions, travel, plans, easy path, on and off toll ways all of that can be used to track you day to day to the point where people can get insight into your intentions and what you are going to do next.” - Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower

NSA’s need for the one million-square-foot data storehouse in Utah: to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude. A million exabytes equal a yottabyte. The total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 is an estimated total of five exabytes. NSA’s goal is to develop exascale computing capabilities - to reach exaflop speed, one quintillion operations a second, and eventually zettaflop and yottaflop. Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel,” imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge was stored but barely a single word was understood:

“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries…the Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible...For four centuries now men have exhausted the hexagons...there are official searchers, inquisitors...A blasphemous sect suggested that the searches should cease... authorities were obliged to issue severe orders. The sect disappeared...

The glut of information left the inhabitants of the Library, the librarians, in a state of suicidal despair.

The main character reflectively writes:

“Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species - the unique species - is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.

"Let heaven exist, though my own place may be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification."

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my response to Gail Collins on the topic du jour:

When President Obama says he welcomes a debate, beware. It's code for "Talk all you want, and I'll adopt that sober professorial mien. Start a petition on my 'We the People' website -- I'll assign an intern to give it a glance when it garners a zillion signatures. And do drop by one of my cool Google hangouts, to maintain the illusion that you still live in a participatory democracy."

The Times editorial board had it right when they stated that the president has lost all credibility. They later felt it necessary to add "on this (spying) issue" because apparently he remains credible in other areas, like his hollow claim that there has been such a thing as Wall Street reform.

And the claim that they don't actually eavesdrop or read emails is a sham. Somebody obviously read David Petraeus's mash notes. And he was the chief spy!

We have two people to thank this week: Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, and the brave NSA whistleblower who provided the evidence on the massive domestic spying program that we had long known existed, but could never prove until now. The top secrecy is bottoming out, at long last.

We need more than a conversation or a debate. We need a massive political shake-up. We must repeal the USA Patriot Act and the clause in the NDAA allowing for indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Now that our dear leaders are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, let's make them squirm. Heckle, protest, boycott. It's healthy for our democracy.

James F Traynor said...

Just read article in the NYT about the death of Bob Fletcher, great guy. Helped out interned California Japanese farmers during WWII. He must have really pissed off a lot of good old, good old, real American 'entrepreneurs' .

Pearl said...

Thank you Karen for posting your response to Gail Collins' surprisingly honest column. Bravo! and it is obvious you did not frighten the readers away by speaking truth to power and remaining at the top for
Although some of the commentors tried to keep a fig leaf on President Obama, the concerns and doubts about what is going on ring out loud and clear. I
think doors are beginning to open on how this administration is operating.
I remember being at a meeting of the local Democrats in Florida when the Patriot Act had just been passed. The invited speaker was a member of the local ACLU and a registered Republican. He warned us strongly about the dangers ahead with the Patriot Act in place which have indeed come to pass.

I almost passed by Collins' column not expecting what it contained and if you had not posted your comment on your website may have missed all the fireworks.
Congratulations on a magnificent response which will push those doors open even further. I wonder if people will recognize the importance of Bradley Manning's
contribution which may cost him imprisonment for life.

There is an excellent article about his trial in Rolling Stone:

As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point via @rollingstonerticle

annenigma said...

I sure hope these leaked documents help citizens finally gain the legal standing to challenge these laws in court.

Obama has been effective in aborting all challenges by invoking States Secrets and suppressing all evidence, even of the very existence of these programs. Now, thanks to leaks, we have our first real evidence that we can go to court with as 4th Amendment violations. It's a start, although Big Brother will probably try to suppress it under the claim that it is 'fruit of the poisonous tree'.

Let's hope for more leaks in this pirate ship called The Homeland, and that it goes down, down, down. I want my Constitutional rights back as an American citizen. I didn't ask to become a Homelander, Homey, or Homegirl.

Will said...

Just happened upon a mind-blowing piece by David DeGraw perfect for the freethinking inhabitants of Sardonicky: "Transcend Conditioned Consciousness: None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds"

Karen Garcia said...

In keeping with Anne's point about suing over 4th Amendment violations, here is my response to Maureen Dowd's column:

The blatantly Orwellian NSA may still be flush with unlimited resources, but the secretive Kafkaesque nature of the beast seems poised for a well-deserved flush down the toilet. Unlike the hapless hero of "The Trial," we're finally learning the who, what, when, where, why and how of our government is abusing us.

Since the leaks have now forced the declassification of spy policies in order that their architects may lamely try to defend them, lawsuits challenging government violations of our privacy may now go forward in courts. No longer will the Justice Dept. be able to fall back on the national security excuse to avoid public accountability. The more lawsuits that the ACLU and other plaintiffs can bring, the faster the thawing of the Arctic glacier created by this administration’s record war on whistleblowers. New revelations are increasing exponentially, as more people are emboldened to take on Big Brother.

Witnessing the politicians and the bureaucrats in their mad scramble to spread the manure of blame around their disaster capitalist playing field is a sight to behold. Feigned ignorance isn't cutting it, nor is continued silence for having taken a misguided “loyalty oath.” There's no putting the rancid toothpaste back in the tube.

Obama says we need a balanced approach to privacy and security. But what we really need is a return to the healthy balance of power between people and their government.

Democracy…. What a concept. Maybe there’s life in the old girl yet.

Pearl said...

Article by the woman who "heckled" Michelle Obama

Why I confronted the first lady via @washingtonpost

Jay - Ottawa said...

@ Pearl

I read Ellen Sturtz's op-ed. She certainly makes the case for her cause. But she's oh-so unexpectedly, disappointingly polite when she writes. And guess what: Obama promises, Obama unpromises. He's all in, then he disappears. Welcome to the club of disappointed Americans, Ellen. And most sincerely, Tip o'the Hat for losing patience and shouting out.

Now then, I find the comments that follow Ellen's essay much more interesting than the essay itself (3,700 comments and still counting). Only read a couple of pages of those comments, but it appears proper Washingtonians are, for the most part, falling all over themselves to give Ellen the Heckler a politeness citation. Still others advise her to picket the White House or write a "strongly worded letter" to Obama, reminding him he keeps forgetting to do what he promised to do. LOL

The spate of heckling of late has certainly hit a tender nerve. Heckling rattles the right cages. Heckling gets reported in big media. Heckling just might prompt more average citizens to pay attention. Heckling breaks the spell.

Until OWS or something better gets its act together, I say let's keep going with the heckle thing. Can't wait till heckling reaches the point where every elected official who betrays his/her oath, every functionary who betrays his/her trust is sure to get heckled every time he/she steps up to a mike.

We don't need a revolution. We just need more hecklers.

Anonymous said...

"Until OWS or something better gets its act together, I say let's keep going with the heckle thing."

I wonder if it's realistic to expect Occupy "to get its act together" given what we now know about the fbi crackdown of it. Are we to assume that the reason the group wasn't more focused (as Eliot Spitzer had urged them to be) was NOT linked to likely gov't infiltration?

I admire Ellen for choosing a very focused goal, one which is worthy. But I suspect that much of the beatdown she is receiving is linked to the way the "bread and butter" aspect of her demand.

Ellen was asking for job security, not marriage. She went off-topic from the conservative talking points of today's LGBT movement. Worse is that her demand would protect a vulnerable individual's right to a paycheck.

Unfortunately, the timing of her interruption, just as FLOTUS was getting going on "OMG-protect-our-children" schtick also explains some of the beatdown. And however reactionary it may be, there are a lot of black folk (apologies to W.E.B. Dubois) out there who are quite "over" what they perceive as ill treatment of the first black FLOTUS. I can't stand Obama, but a hands-off approach to Michelle would have been both more strategic and more sensitive.

Pearl said...


"there are a lot of black folk (apologies to W.E.B. Dubois) out there who are quite "over" what they perceive as ill treatment of the first black FLOTUS. I can't stand Obama, but a hands-off approach to Michelle would have
been both more strategic and more sensitive." ???????

It is not clear what you mean by being "over" what they perceive as ill treatment............
as I have never read anything about such a perception pro or con., and as advice as to a more strategic and sensitive approach to Michelle also makes no sense. Our first lady is a travesty. Her support of the military via the
families to the exclusion of other needy families is one indication. Her fight to have children eat better food ignores all the children who live in poverty and cannot afford to eat well if at all. Her many expensive vacations abroad as well as fancy White House dinners during a lean time for so many is insensitivity which does not invite the same toward her. The special schooling and special trips for her daughters do not teach them how others live. I do not see her visiting the way other people in 3rd world
countries live or the impoverished in ours survive, with or without her daughters.

In Ms. Sturtz's article, she explained why she unexpectedly exploded during her visit, and as Zee said, we need more such explosions all over the place to call attention to the degree of frustration out there. It is coming.

Anonymous said...

"It is not clear what you mean by being "over" what they perceive as ill treatment............
as I have never read anything about such a perception pro or con., and as advice as to a more strategic and sensitive approach to Michelle also makes no sense."


Is it possible, Pearl, that simply because you're not aware of a phenomenon, doesn't mean it doesn't exist?

I wrote that based on discussions with my black women friends and acquaintances who, unlike yourself, do not perceive MO to be any different than any other previous first ladies save for the fact that she and her husband are black.

Almost every complaint you enumerated about MO could have been made about Laura, Hillary, "Babs", and Nancy. You'd have to go back to Roslyn Carter to have a "purer" first lady, but most of my friends either weren't of voting age in 1976, or they weren't yet born.

Aside from my own anecdotal evidence, the reaction from the black community was covered by NPR - and since you appear to be unaware of the phenom, I recommend listening to the entire segment.

There is a reason, Pearl, that black men and especially black women are protective of Michelle. Who has been more abused by this country's elites - LGBT activists, or black people?

It is not in the least irrational to suggest that Ms. Sturtz, whose goal (I iterate) is worthy, might have chosen a better time, place, and person to heckle. My writing that does not mean she is not a worthy activist, merely that heckling in tge particular manner she chose possibly set back her goal.

Medea Benjamin, a much more experienced activist, chose to heckle an actual elected official over a life-and-death situation, and she nailed it as best as could be done "sans mic". The two women are both heroic for speaking up for what's right. I happen to believe Benjamin set a better precedent, and was more effective.

Having organized protests and sit-ins, I happen to believe that discussing which tactics are most effective is important. For all my criticism of the President, I have just enough racial sensitivity to understand why heckling the first lady is not the most strategic decision a protester could make.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for not addressing your specific points about FLOTUS MO, let me try:

"Our first lady is a travesty."
On any objective, historical basis, I don't think that supported by the facts.

"Her support of the military via the
families to the exclusion of other needy families is one indication."
You may disagree with her support of military families, but in reality, due to the long deployments under Bush-bama admins, they are a community at a crisis point, and do warrant support. Do I agree with the wars? No, and that is why I protest the CoC/Prexy, not the FLOTUS who is not an elected official, and does not make these decisions.

"Her fight to have children eat better food ignores all the children who live in poverty and cannot afford to eat well if at all."
As a former health care worker, I applaud her attempts, however clumsy, to bring some awareness and likeability to actual nutrition. Condemning children to T2 Diabetes and related fatal disease is cruel. And T2 is a huge public health problem in this country. That's reality.

"Her many expensive vacations abroad as well as fancy White House dinners during a lean time for so many is insensitivity which does not invite the same toward her."

FLOTUS MO's trips and dinners are hardly unusual for a first lady, and like the spectacular first inaugural, I think there's an argument to be made for pulling out all the stops - msny of the foreign dignitaries entertained at the WH are not without their own racial bias, and an extra $100,000 a year on dinners is not unreasonable to make a good impression. It's a pittance compared to everything else..

"The special schooling and special trips for her daughters do not teach them how others live."
The girls need to be schooled WHERE THEY ARE SAFE. Where Secret Service can best protect them. That is MO's true priority and no one should begrudge her that amid all the crazy threats aimed at the family.

"I do not see her visiting the way other people in 3rd world countries live or the impoverished in ours survive, with or without her daughters."
Apparently, there are a lot of things you don't see, Pearl. That doesn't mean they don't exist. Like all other FLOTI, MO does the requisite photo ops with the needy.

But bottom line is that MO is neither the travesty you describe her as, nor is she an elected official. And as first black FLOTUS she is a figure of special importance to a lot of Americans, esp. black Americans. As such, she is probably not the best target for heckling.

Neil Gillespie said...

Great post Karen

As Marge Simpson said, "You know, the courts may not be working any more, but as long as everyone is videotaping everyone else, justice will be done."

"ditch your phones and switch to the same pay-as-you-go disposables that all self-respecting terrorists and criminals use."

Yes, did this long ago, but for a different reason, I can’t hear on the darn thing, and carry one for emergencies only. My last cell phone call was about six months ago.

"And don't pay with your credit card, of course."

Yes, did this long ago too, and dumped my checking account also. I use pre-paid debt cards. My old brain just can’t match wits with the banks and credit card companies anymore. Those accounts turned into fee traps that did not serve my fiduciary interest.

The private sector is watching us too, see NPR’s piece "Is Big Data Turning Government Into 'Big Brother'?"

"With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials."

NPR: "Data-Mining App Tracks People And Predicts Their Locations"

and NPR’s piece "Data Mining: Does Online Privacy Matter?"

Farsighted said...


I see it your way too. Age often brings great wisdom.

annenigma said...

The Whistleblower is out. Name is Edward Snowden. Go to Guardian for details.

I think he did the right thing to go public. If he stayed in hiding the Gov't would have found him and killed him and we'd never know.

Anonymous said...


"I'm cold," Snowden said. "I'm cold."
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Good article on Snowden in Guardian, phenomenal strike against authoritarianism. Can't imagine how much harder they'll come down on him than Manning, whose release to wiki was less discriminate, but not as damning.

Anonymous said...

"Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?"
-Captain Yossarian

Pearl said...


You have a right to your very well articulated opinions but this is a deeper situation to think about. No one supported the aims of Martin Luther King more than I did and to vote for a President who should have learned something from this leader has been a disappointing shock for me and many others. Misrepresenting the needs and aims of black people is the thing I most cannot forgive about Obama, to say nothing of the sell out to the rest
of us.
Michelle and Obama do NOT represent the voters who originally put him in
office and the second time around the lesser of two evils called the shots. I agree that very few first ladies ever represented what the majority of citizens needed and wanted and with the unusual exception of having a black
President and first lady in charge who followed the shallowness of their predecessors was a bitter disappointment. They are elitists who in no way represent the kind of black citizens who hopefully voted for them and still
hold on to a dream that has become a nightmare. That said, I feel they have taken advantage of their unusual status and Michelle who could have really dug her teeth into the real needs of our
country has followed the path of photo op opportunities.
You are excusing her behavior by 'explaining' her record which I follow as closely as you. There is no point in discussing all your points or mine but to look at the larger picture of a unique opportunity for an unusual couple
who have ignored the problems in our country as is obvious by all the chaos erupting around us. And no, it is not all the Republicans' fault.
Yes, they walked into a real mess, but simply continued the same trajectory as their predecessors.

My ideal was Eleanor Roosevelt, who really cared about the people of her country and they knew it. She was not afraid to speak the truth and respond, no matter how painful. She stands alone in my estimation of what a first
lady was really about to say nothing of her husband's presidency.

The right wing, already making rumbles during the FDR years, began making inroads after his death and have never stopped their destructive march. The Obamas are shallow people, ignorant of the real people's history of our
country and have lost the opportunity to make real strides in the right directions. If it isn't heckling taking over, the frustrations and anger of
more Americans will be seen and heard more and more loudly. Whether this will be translated into putting people of vision into office remains to be

I am disappointed that you are not a better fighter with your knowledge of the status quo which is sinking lower and lower. We don't have the luxury of
carrying on the 'niceties' of behavior toward the White House anymore. I rest my case.

Zee said...


Even though I am often on the opposite end of the political spectrum from you and the faux Obama, I sympathize with your disappointment in the man. But disappointment is the order of the day for all of us for the foreseeable future, no matter whom we elect to our various political offices.

I have come to the conclusion that—with rare exceptions—there are two types of politicians: rich crooks, and those who want to be rich crooks. In either case, they want to become members of the Permanent Political Class with all the perks that brings, which ultimately means that no matter their initial intentions, their souls eventually will be for sale.

They are all deceivers in their quest for office. In the primaries, they play to their respective bases, and, come actual election-time, they tippy-toe just as close to what they perceive to be the “center” as they think the polls will allow. The mainstream media treat this as if it's the way things should be, instead of the sham that it is. In the end, the winning candidate will act according to his/her own best interests regardless of campaign promises.

You were disappointed by Obama, yet, as Denis once apprised me, there was ample evidence long before his presidential run that he was just another elitist, Chicago pol for hire, for those who chose to look:

The title of the Harper's article was Barack Obama, Inc: The Birth of a Washington Machine, by Ken Silverstein. The link that Denis provided requires a subscription to read, but I was able to find a readable version at the above link.

And if anybody had bothered to look—as I did—the so-called “constitutional law professor” had never published a single scholarly article on the topic of constitutional law.

I was roundly disappointed by Dubya, who spoke of “compassionate conservatism,” yet who led us into two endless wars merely as a matter of foolish pride, not to mention all the signs he ignored leading up to the financial collapse of 2008.

Silly me. No, stupid, blind me.

There were plenty of signs that he was just another corrupt, corporatist pol, but I chose not to look because of certain parochial interests on my own part.

Still, despite all the evidence to the contrary, it does not surprise me that true believers on either side of the great political divide are devoted to either Obama or Bush.

First, no one likes to admit that they have been played for a sucker, so they double down like the customers for the play in Huckleberry Finn, “The Royal Nonesuch,” praising the play or their winning candidate for his/her glorious performance.

Second, it does not surprise—or annoy—me that Black Americans defend Barack and Michelle Obama to the hilt despite the obvious failure of the two to live up to the expectations of Progressives of any color, let alone thinking conservatives. I cannot begin to imagine the immense pride that people of color must feel at the election of our first Black president, and I won't belittle that under any circumstances. I consider it a groundbreaking accomplishment, no matter the subsequent disappointment of some.

So, as @Anonymous pointed out, I can understand the reaction of Black America to Michelle Obama's heckling: “Here is a strong Black woman standing up for herself in a public forum. You go, girl!” I especially liked the NPR commentator's remark that the audience was—possibly for the first time—confronted by “black woman certitude [which] was probably a culture shock.”

M.O. was present to speak on a particular topic, and she was heckled on a topic totally unrelated to her talk. M.O. tried to point out to the audience that public speaking was not her strong point, and that dealing with heckling was particularly disconcerting to her.

I thought M.O. dealt with the issue with considerable grace. I probably would have slugged the heckler.

Denis Neville said...

“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” - John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

Edward Snowden is a profile in courage.

We Americans can ill afford to remain complacent about the encroachment of surveillance into every nook and cranny of our daily existence.

Trust them?

Recall past repressive periods in American history: the Palmer Raids following World War I; the McCarthy witch hunts against alleged Communist sympathizers in the 1950s; and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI targeting of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in the 1960s - to name but a few.

Government and corporate access to our personal data has become a default condition.

Thank goodness for Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who challenge such premises.

I do fear for them. A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves.

“The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated all over again…This drama that I have played out with you during seven years will be played out over and over again, generation after generation…Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy…Goldstein and his heresies will live forever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon – and yet they will always survive.” - O’Brien to Winston Smith, 1984, George Orwell

Ours is an inverted totalitarian society, naively taking pride in how free we are.

“Alas," said the mouse, "the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into."

"You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.” - Franz Kafka

Pearl said...

Thank you Zee and Denis for your responses. Although I don't entirely agree with some of your comments Zee, I know your heart is in the right place. We just have different ways of viewing and
trying to change things if possible. One thing is for sure, Capitalism, especially unregulated capitalism brings out the worst in human beings. The Nordic countries, although much smaller, have their problems but the level of corruption is kept in check and the average citizen lives a decent life. Nothing but a welfare kind of state-nation will be able to succeed anymore, even in the U.S.

One of the things that troubles me that Anonymous mentioned is the attempt by Michelle to bring education and support for healthy nutrition among schoolchildren with obesity rates so high. However, the guidelines she offers can only be implemented by families earning enough money to feed their children properly. The cost of fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, whole grain breads, etc. are too high for families on restricted budgets. I wonder how many children are obese as a result of eating a diet high in low cost carbohydrates, with cheap white bread, processed or cheap fatty meats used for school sandwiches as a result of family budgets and wonder how such families feel about being lectured when they have no recourse?
How many schools are available to provide healthy and acceptable lunches and can waive payment by children who cannot afford them?
In order for all children to eat nutritionally sound meals, their parents or providers have to have jobs paying decent wages if they have a job, and I fail to see our President doing much about that important issue. If any of our gang have some statistics or input on this issue, I would appreciate hearing from you.
I think if I was attending a speech by Mrs. Obama about her work on obesity, I would be forced to stand up and ask a few questions - not heckling mind you - just curious?!

Denis: My youngest granddaughter is starting her university career at the U.of Toronto next fall and she is majoring in linguistics as a result of being fascinated by Orwell's writings about the use of language. I wonder if she is aware of his political comments and will send her some that you have listed. She is a very smart cookie and I think would agree with his views which I hope we can discuss as they are the ones I hold. Some of her excellent essays have mentioned the use and/or misuse of political language.

Denis Neville said...

@ Pearl

Eleanor Roosevelt was my mother’s hero also. Mine too.

Beth from Fredericksburg wrote the following about her hero, Eleanor Roosevelt:

“How difficult it is, out of all the people in the world, for someone to lay a finger on a single soul and be able to say, "This person is my hero." It is a true search of one's self to find a person who is totally and completely admirable. Even if someone loves seemingly everything about a person, a small personality trait can change one's whole opinion.

“I have decided that my hero must be a person able to overcome obstacles, to pass life's tests with flying colors. My hero must be someone who worked hard for what was right, not what was popular or easy. A hero to me must have enough confidence in herself to believe that she could make a difference, and enough strength and willpower to change the world. Most importantly, my hero must have loved all people, regardless of race, gender, social status or age, and must have tried her hardest to serve those less fortunate than herself…

“The former Democratic presidential candidate named Adlai Stevenson once said that Eleanor Roosevelt would "rather light a candle than curse the darkness." This is exactly why she is my hero. Not only did Eleanor devote her life to gaining rights for others, she did so when it was a very unpopular thing to do. She was often criticized for the active role she played in her world, but she never faltered. Eleanor endured a poor childhood during which she received very little love or attention, and went on to love and fight for people less fortunate than herself. These qualities not only earned her the nickname "The First Lady of the World," but also make her a true hero in my eyes.”

Michelle Obama is no Eleanor Roosevelt.

Michelle Obama is a political actor (presenting at the Oscars for Christ’s sake!!!), the other half of the elite power-player Obamas. She legitimizes the Obama imperial regime.

It took a hell of a lot of guts for that lady to stand up to such powerful person and speak her mind, knowing she would incur the wrath of the sycophants and imperial worshipers.

We need more of this, not less. Lots more.

For Zee, you may not share our deep admiration of Mrs. Roosevelt, but she did pack a pistol:

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my response to Paul Krugman advising that the Good Guys (Dems) Do Their Jobs Pretty Pleez:

It's time we stopped calling them "good guys" and started calling them craven cowards who play with dirty rotten scoundrels. It's all political theater anyway.

We reached a tipping point once, when the Occupy movement spontaneously erupted. We demanded justice for the victims of financial predators, universal health care, civil rights, and jobs, jobs, jobs. That burgeoning movement was squashed by a concerted crackdown in multiple cities during one week-long period in late fall, 2011.

The Center for Media and Democracy, the same public interest group that exposed ALEC, just came out with a new report proving that the government had been acting against Occupy from the very beginning, via Homeland Security "Fusion Centers."

The unemployed have always had a voice. But it's been silenced by the intimidation of the police state, and ignored by disinterested politicians.

When Sen. Amy Klobuchar held a hearing on long-term unemployment in April, only three other lawmakers showed up. Not only does Congress ignore jobless people -- they slap them right in the face. And then they cut off their food stamps. And then they cut off their unemployment benefits. And then they double student loan interest rates. And then they don't tax the rich.

Let's practice some No More Mr. Nice Guy against these not-so-good guys. Primaries, protests, strikes, Occupy reunions, a third party. Whatever it takes. They may not be hearing us, but they're definitely watching us.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think we see eye-to-eye on the Obamas. Like the Clintons: WHAT A WASTED OPPORTUNITY.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a hallowed name in our house, her image having long since eclipsed images of saints on the walls of our aunties' houses by the time I came along. MO had been a corporate lawyer; I had no expectations.

We are out here without a net, but my generation is particularly vulnerable, a reality covered on Sunday's All Things Considered. For me it's not the weapons used against protestors that are the most terrifying. It's that my organizing might have put me on some kind of list that potential employers see. That's what's scary. I don't walk into job interviews with the same confidence I had before I became politically active, but to be fair, there are a ton of other external factors, too. For all of us, the situation is tighter.

About nutrition: Anywhere people aren't eating right or don't have access to veggies, trust me, it would be cheaper to bring them roasted vegetables in food trucks than to treat T2 diabetes. No exaggeration. But I also believe fuel subsidies should be cut and funneled into expanded food stamp programs to discourage driving and encourage cycling and walking. As my ex-Marine friend put it, "soon, people are going to have to decide whether they want to drive or... eat." And you know that won't happen until the 19th Hurricane Sandy, if then.

My biggest beef with the food stamp program is that it presumes people have the requisite tools and kitchen to make it work. I can make and cook a whole variety of legume and rice dishes that cost well under $1 a day, but 1) I have tools and a kind-of kitchen and 2) I was taught how to cook on a budget, so I don't lack for variety.

My cooking space is one step above 1912 NY tenement style, but it's more than many families have.
But imagine a poor family with young children trying to pull this off without a kitchen! I have cared for so many people who didn't have those tools. Food stamps need to come with kitchen equipment and lessons at least.

We need a food revolution. Cooking and sharing real food is such a big part of any culture. The Cambodian new immigrant family that has no table but sits at dinner in a circle on the floor, holding their bowls of vegetables and rice - great veggies still cheap in the city's many new Chinatowns. You see the Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants make very healthy traditional meals (beans and rice, bueno!) and just like other groups, within a generation, all this American fat and US-subsidized meat (I myself enjoyed $1.86 of beef tonight, which, given beef subsidies, was actually a lot of beef) enters the recipes. And who isn't tempted by American sweets? Then: boom, T2 Diabetes, and, soon enough, heart disease. There are multiple studies demonstrating this.

We also need a revolution in physical education - not just getting kids moving, but getting them into the great outdoors. Your generation got that in spades. This generation doesn't get even basic educational funding, so good luck with phys ed. But no kid required to run (or try to run) a 7-minute mile is going to have an appetite for too much junk food.

Drive or eat. Drive or eat. It's a decision you may not ever have to make, but I fear the water and warming issues will make that decision imperative for my generation.

Denis Neville said...

“No," said the priest, "you don't need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary." "Depressing view," said K. "The lie made into the rule of the world.” - Franz Kafka, The Trial

Lots of bleating from the sheep, cheerleaders for Napoleon, “If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear."

“It's only because of their stupidity that they're able to be so sure of themselves.” - Franz Kafka, The Trial

Even if they have nothing to hide, the government can still cause them a lot of harm.

Daniel Solov, The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Why you should care about privacy even if you have ‘nothing to hide’"

“The problems are not just Orwellian but Kafkaesque…

“Franz Kafka's The Trial centers around a man who is arrested but not informed why. He desperately tries to find out what triggered his arrest and what's in store for him. He finds out that a mysterious court system has a dossier on him and is investigating him, but he's unable to learn much more. The Trial depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people's information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used.

“The problems portrayed by the Kafkaesque metaphor…are problems of information processing — the storage, use, or analysis of data — rather than of information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.

“Government information-gathering programs are problematic even if no information that people want to hide is uncovered. In The Trial, the problem is not inhibited behavior but rather a suffocating powerlessness and vulnerability created by the court system's use of personal data and its denial to the protagonist of any knowledge of or participation in the process. The harms are bureaucratic ones—indifference, error, abuse, frustration, and lack of transparency and accountability.”

Zee said...


Actually, I hold Eleanor Roosevelt in quite high esteem as a compassionate and courageous human being, though neither she nor Franklin Roosevelt were exactly household words when I was growing up. I suspect, but will never be able to prove, that my mining engineer father modeled himself more along the lines of Herbert Hoover—himself a mining engineer—than FDR.

The Slate article quotes friends in 1972 who said that Eleanor “carried the permit but not the pistol,” but there's earlier evidence that suggests that she at least carried the pistol in the glove compartment of her car “[a]t the suggestion of the Secret Service.”,2326704

(The NRO article and its author have a clear agenda so might be considered suspect, but the much earlier article from the Virgin Islands Daily News does not seem to have a political objective.)

It's pure speculation on my part, of course, but I can't help but wonder if it would have been “politically incorrect” for Eleanor's friends to admit—in the wake of the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968—that a pillar of the Democratic party actually had toted a gun herself. But Eleanor subjected herself to considerable danger in her defense of civil rights for Black Americans, so why would it be so difficult to believe that she actually carried a gun on her person at those particular times?

This would hardly be surprising, as Eleanor doubtless shared some genes with her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt:

“The President's [Theodore Roosevelt's] behavior after receiving his honorary LL.D. [from Harvard University] was so archetypal as to imprint itself on the eyes and ears of many observers. Dr. Eliot escorted him to a guest suite to change, and watched with fascination as he tore off his coat and vest and slammed a large pistol on the dresser. Eliot asked if it was his habit to carry firearms. 'Yes, [Roosevelt replied] when I am going into public places.'” --Theodore Rex, by Edmund Morris

Jay - Ottawa said...

"A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves."

Great line, Denis. The causation is right and the outcome clear.

How I wish I could start a school with every commentator on this blog a teacher, each in his or her own classroom.

I would, of course, be the harumphing high-paid administrator with the pince nez; but Karen would be your dean, the real controller, earning but a dollar less than I (for the sake of sound hierarchical order).

As for MO, she would not be invited as a guest lecturer. She is no hostage to some imagined role. She is not the kind of mafia wife who hangs back in the shadows. She's a proud defender of all he does. She wishes children well but continues to welcome and feed the rich at her table, the same rich who make the poor and then starve the poor. She is very active in supporting the spell that paralyzes justice. She does not deserve the nice protections of a neutral party.

I'm impressed by Snowden. He is well aware that the courts and his own people, the people he is trying to save, would not protect him. He may be another Daniel Ellsberg, but he won't be treated the same by the Obama crowd. People who challenge entrenched, amoral power as he does usually end up assassinated, disappeared or crucified. So the very bright and articulate Snowden seeks asylum in a place that Obama would not dare to drone. Best of luck.

Manning, Assange, Greenwald, the hecklers, and now Snowden. At last, the drumbeat is getting louder.

Sorry for the interruption. Back to your classes.

Zee said...

I will be spending some of my time this week e-mailing and calling my Federal legislators--for whatever good it will do--to express my outrage at the sheer scope of the NSA's domestic, electronic surveillance program, and the p-ernicious uses to which such a monstrosity can be turned by the stroke of a pen.

@Anonymous expresses her/his concern that she/he is now on some list or other owing to her organizing activities. @Anonymous is well-justified in those fears, as WE ALL should be.

No matter what controls and checks-and-balances we are told are currently in place, as the ACLU has said about such databases in a different context, "If you build it, they will come."

"They" being other government agencies who will find uses for the NSA's cosmos-sized database for which it was (perhaps) never intended.

I can foresee a day when every applicant for a government job, government-contractor job, or a federal security clearance will be routinely given the "once-over" in NSA's database.

Some of those tens of thousands of people may lose an entire career or reputation because some gnome deep in the bowels of NSA's Utah facility made some strange connections amongst the various tidbits of electronic information that the applicant cannot fully explain to the satisfaction of some investigator or another.

After that, who knows where this could go?

Will "selected" private companies and organizations be allowed to use the database because it has worked "so well" for the Feds?

The depths of the applications for such a database are limitless, and the slide down the slippery slope into the abyss has only just begun.

We are in big trouble.

Anonymous said...

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat, but after thel abuse of power that I saw while working for the Feds, I am reluctant to support gun control. I see it as fear-mongering a la 9/11. I have a "better" chance of being struck dead by an SUV than killed a shooter. And though I wouldn't know a toy gun from the real thing, let alone be able to shoot one, I'm uneasy about the notion that ordinary people should cede even more power to an abusive gov't.

I think Snowden has made clear that the gov't sees even ordinary, small people like myself as "enemies" just for speaking up. I can't be a libertarian, but how can I advocate for such a corrupt system? I see government, these days, doing more harm than good. Maybe this is just "the new normal" - a terrifying thought.

BTW, Senator Feinstein's voice sounded weirdly Nurse Ratched-like in Friday's audio. I think we need to ask why the Senator who supports the NSA so loyally also wants to take guns out of the hands of citizens. I was a kid when Dan White shot Moscone and Milk, and tge city rallied round DiFi. But it's amazing to me how she's abused that founding mythos of her career.

Who is DiFi's husband, and who benefits from her war-mongering?

Zee said...


I very much appreciate and respect your position on gun ownership. I would never encourage anyone who has no interest in firearms to own one, or even to learn how to use one. (Though I think that there can be benefits even for non-gun owners in understanding how they work, what their limitations are, and what to do if one is encountered under unexpected circumstances such as finding Grandad's old Smith & Wesson—loaded—in a trunk in the attic while cleaning things out.)

You ask who Dianne Feinstein's current husband is, and I can hardly wait to tell you that he is—surprise, surprise— an investment banker!

“In 1980, Feinstein married Richard C. Blum, an investment banker. In 2003, Feinstein was ranked the fifth-wealthiest senator, with an estimated net worth of $26 million... By 2005 her net worth had increased to between $43 million and $99 million... Her 347-page financial-disclosure statement... – characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as 'nearly the size of a phone book' – draws clear lines between her assets and those of her husband, with many of her assets in blind trusts...[but perhaps not Blum's assets?]”

So just between the years 2003 and 2005, Feinstein's wealth had—and here it has to be “guesstimated” because of the loose reporting requirements— increased somewhere between a factor of 1.7 and 3.8. Great, 2-year investment results if you can get 'em. Wish I had her financial advisor.

And surely, there are about a gizillion ways that an investment banker can make money from endless war.

Seriously, though, why would someone who whole-heartedly endorses putting an end to the Fourth Amendment also want to eliminate the Second? Well, probably just because she can.

As I have tried to explain in this forum before, power over others is an end in and of itself, and its own, narcotic-like reward, for many people. And therein lies the danger of any form of government, if enough power-seekers populate its ranks.

At 79 years old, DiFi is the oldest currently-serving member of the Senate. She is wealthy beyond imagination. She has to be tired. But still she continues to “serve?”

She represents a solidly Democratic state, so there is no real danger that if she were to retire this instant that she would be replaced by a Republican, so why hang on when, as you say, she is starting to sound like Nurse Ratched?

Because she can continue to exert power over others. That's the goal, IMHO.

I no longer believe that an armed American citizenry can resist a coup d'├ętat (if backed by a large portion of the American military) when and if push really comes to shove. But if DiFi can disarm the American public in one more show of power, well, why the hell not?

“Feinstein said on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes, February 5, 1995, 'If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it.'”

Now, I MHO, that's a real expression of a lust for power.

Zee said...


I know that I really, REALLY, shouldn't ask this question, but like a moth drawn toward the fatal flame of your sense of irony, I just can't help myself:

For which portion of the curriculum would I be responsible?

Sock it to me! I can take it!

Jay - Ottawa said...


I thought of blurting out "Mythology" but restrained myself. Seriously, don't you have a background in one of the hard sciences? I never have enough science teachers. Submit a course proposal. Of course, you'll have to get the Dean's approval.

Anonymous said...

Dean Vernon Wormer:
"Cut the horseshit, son. I've got their disciplinary files right here. Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode."

Zee said...


I think "Mythology" is a hysterical suggestion! LOL!

Still, I probably WOULD do better with science or math.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for the remarks about the post office (no, I do not now, nor have I ever worked for the post office -- nor has any family member or intimate friend).

Of course we need to quit being lazy, show some discipline, and used the mails or our landline telephone.

I have a friend who works for a major IT company, and the response they gave me to my concerns about government spying was so absurd that I had to conclude they were signaling to me that their email address was not private.

Your NYT response to Brooks' ridiculous column was excellent -- I used that link to come here.

Tremendous blog! Thanks!

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