Monday, June 17, 2013

The Professor and the Mad Man

Edward Snowden is now more popular than Barack Obama. Young people, especially, are abandoning the president in droves. What was once considered hot shit has collapsed into a puddle of cold diarrhea in the wake of massive unemployment and recent revelations of abusive domestic surveillance. And as much as it pains me to say this, the high school refugee that the pundits love to hate actually sounds more intelligent than the Harvard Law grad Prez. Compare and contrast what they said during their two interviews today. First, here's a snippet from Snowden's spirited online press conference:
US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it's important to understand that policy protection is no protection - policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection - a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the "widest allowable aperture," and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn't stop being protected communications just because of the IP they're tagged with.
More fundamentally, the "US Persons" protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal."

And now, here's Obama stammering out a defense of his spying apparatus to his own personal human pillow: (to be aired on PBS and CBS)
Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court…. The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee — but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.
And then there was this weird comparison between drunk driving checkpoints and going through TSA airport security:
Barack Obama: Well, in the end, and what I’ve said, and I continue to believe, is that we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn’t the case…. And so that’s a tradeoff we make, the same way we make a tradeoff about drunk driving. We say, “Occasionally there are going to be checkpoints. They may be intrusive.” To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom. I don’t think anybody says we’re no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports.
(Motor vehicle operation is to drunk checkpoints as passive airplane travel is to total body gropes and rapi-scans? I am not even going to try wrapping my head around that twisted logic. For one thing, police highway checkpoints actually do save us from the thousands of impaired drivers menacing our lives every single day. I'll have more to say about this in a later post. The TSA, on the other hand, is pure security theater, designed for intimidation of the populace.)

I also won't bother repeating all the hackneyed anti-Snowden talking points currently making the rounds in Pundit Land. But, as I wrote in response to one typical example in the New York Times,
I haven't seen this much vitriol leveled against defiant youth since the Vietnam War era, when denigrating anti-war demonstrators and draft dodgers became de rigueur for every self-respecting conservative, authoritarian and old fogey. And of course, for young Mitt Romney in his white shirt and tie, pranking the Stanford hippies for not mindlessly kowtowing to Old Glory.

Snowden correctly points out that the USA is spying on civilians everywhere -- who through no fault of their own, exist in the World is a Battlefield as declared by our creepy American exceptionalists. In the minds of the spymasters, we're all potential terrorists. We are all enemies of the state until proven otherwise -- not that they're bothering with such niceties as actual evidence. Just Google "Disposition Matrix" and "signature strikes".
Who cares about the inner workings of Snowden's psyche besides those who tremble at the upsetting of the status quo? What should be getting people upset is President Obama going on TV and oxymoronically telling Charlie Rose, that spying is ok as long as it's transparent.
Mendacity is fine as long as it's honest. Secrecy is great as long as we're open about it. Whistleblowing is noble as long as we don't embarrass the ruling elites in the process.
Incidentally -- did you know you can now stream the movie versions of 1984 from such government-friendly sites as Amazon? Just think. Big Brother will be watching you as you watch Big Brother watching you.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Listen to Obama as he bobs and weaves with the doubletalk. Then recall how difficult it is for him to make a decision, as when it was reported recently that Bill Clinton and the generals supposedly had to drag Obama into more involvement in the Syrian fracas, to which he acquiesced reluctantly.

Then recall how he's always asking for one more study, one more white paper, one more special committee -- on matters he should already have made up his mind.

On the stimulus back in 2009, what did Obama do? Krugman reminded us again and again. Obama cut the baby in half and gave us half a stimulus.

How about his drone kill committee every Tuesday? Many inputs spreads the blame around.

On the spying, he points to the Congress in the know about and going along with this spying on Americans. And others around the world. Likewise, the judges in his FISA Star Chamber: they approved of everything beforehand. So he's off the hook again.

Obama didn't take the lead on the healthcare overhaul. He handed it off to a Senator who took lots of money from big insurance. So now we're supposed to shout, "It was you, Baucus!" The Repubs, not to be fooled, label the ACA Obamacare.

He involves great numbers in decisions and kicks cans down the road endlessly. Lincoln said General McClellan had the slows. So is Obama afflicted with the slows. He draws "red lines" then does nothing when they're crossed. He's all talk – less and less coherent – and compromise and mincing action.

Am I wrong in thinking he missed his calling? A bright yet hollow and directionless character like him is not fit for a top executive position.

On the other hand, he evidences the cagey qualities of a high-up bureaucrat who wants to keep from choosing sides and committing to one view or another until some really big dog still higher up makes up its mind and takes all the responsibility off his (Obama's) shoulders. Once upon a time, the buck stopped in the president's office.

Now I get it. What is Obama? Nothing other than The Compleat Bureaucrat.

James F Traynor said...

I think that, before the summer ends, we may well be up to our ass in 'gators. I just got finished reading an article in Counterpunch by Franklin Lamb. He thinks, according to his Pentagon and Congressional sources, that Obama is going for a no fly zone in Syria. The Pentagon wants Syria over by the end of summer. I checked Lamb out and he does seem to have the experience and credentials.

Denis Neville said...

I remember the scorn and denigration of those who dared to speak out against the Vietnam War.

Today’s vitriol is reminiscent of that era.

It’s a seemingly bottomless political barrel.

“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

When they tell big enough lies and tell them often enough, they will be believed.

“An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling falsehood.” - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

What we have in place is the foundation of a very oppressive state. The tools are in place. A lie is the handle which fits them all. This powerful surveillance network could easily enable a system of controls that East Germany’s Stasi bureaucrats or Stalin’s commissars for state control would have envied.

“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” - George Orwell, 1984

Outsida said...

If anyone cares to participate in a poll at the Guardian, go to the website noted below. Poll closes in two days. The question is:

'NSA surveillance: has your opinion of Obama changed for the worse?'

So far the results are 85% Yes and 15% No. There's also entertaining comments.