Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Big Money Cabal of Bench-Slappers

Vindication is sweet today for fans of the Fourth Amendment. But let's be realistic. With billions and billions, even trillions, of dollars at stake, the NSA and the private contractors enriched by the fascistic Deep State will not be going gently into that good night.

I imagine that the Obama administration is busily judge-shopping even as we speak, and will find some compliant fellow or lady to knock down the somewhat passive-aggressive (delayed, pending Obama judge-shopping)  ruling yesterday against the mass collection of phone records of United States persons.

Because, let's  remember what happened when another federal judge issued her own preliminary injunction last year which knocked down the supreme right of Temp Emp Obama to detain anyone, anywhere without benefit of charge or trial.

He went judge-shopping. And so, the National Defense Authorization Act still stands as a monument to totalitarianism. Both right wings of the Money Party are ready and willing to renew it once again during this joyous holiday season when nobody is paying much attention. Obama will again robo-sign it into law from the safe distance of his Hawaii vacation abode.

Let's remember when still another judge ruled against the illegal stop and frisk campaign of departing NYC billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He went judge-shopping. Not only was her ruling overturned, but Judge Shira Sheindlin was kicked off the whole case by a three-judge state appellate panel.

And then there was the case of Judge Jed Rakoff, who threw out a cozy mortgage fraud settlement between Citigroup and the SEC, and demanded that banksters be held criminally accountable. And predictably, Rakoff soon joined the ranks of the bench-slapped. But sweet vindication does abide, because he just penned a scathing indictment of the Obama administration's coziness with the malefactors of great wealth.  

We still have the First Amendment. So far.

I'm sure there are plenty of other similar cases out there in the great marketplace known as the American Judicial System. A long time ago, I got a parking ticket and decided to fight it in court because the return envelope requesting my ten bucks (I told you it was a long time ago!) gave no instructions about how to fight it in court. Not only did the late great Newburgh City Judge Albert S. MacDowell throw out my ticket, he declared the whole municipal parking ticket system unconstitutional because it denied due process. And guess what? A couple of years later, he was removed from the bench on grounds of mental instability and insulting lawyers.

So the handwriting is probably on the wall for Richard J. Leon, the judge who slapped down the NSA and the president in public yesterday. The whisper campaign is already beginning. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote a fun personality profile, characterizing him as a feisty old coot representing a "thorn in the side" of the government:
With his use of exclamation points (“How utterly disappointing!” he once wrote, excoriating the Food and Drug Administration) and cultural references (he mentioned the Beatles and Ringo Starr in a footnote in Monday’s ruling), Judge Leon does not seem bound by judicial sobriety.
And how about his metaphors, "so devastating to the government?" Uh-oh. The handwriting's not only on the wall, it's permanently engraved. The inevitable bench-slap is coming. If not from the Supreme Court, then from some Supremely Secret Court which has probably already declared the Fourth Amendment itself unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Temp Emp Obama is meeting with telecom and Internet CEOs today. Marcy Wheeler thinks The One will try mightily to divide, conquer, and co-opt them into compliance for the Greater Good of the Big Money Deep State. Sounds about right to me.

David Brooks looked in the mirror and actually wrote a pretty amusing takedown of that sleazy group of marketing pros calling themselves "Thought Leaders." My comment:
I have to admit that this column about thought leaders initially gave me brain freeze. Then I realized my mind had gone blank because the first time I'd heard this Orwellian term, it was in reference to Lloyd Blankfein.
This past fall, there was a slight uproar when NBC dubbed Blankfein a Thought Leader for its Education Nation forum. Actual educators were incensed that the CEO of a too big to fail or jail bank would have anything constructive at all to say about educating kids.
Because, besides being coated with Teflon, Blankfein's other claim to fame had been acting as a spokesman for the billionaire deficit hawk cult called Fix the Debt. That is the group dedicated to the creative destruction of the New Deal. He was going on TV telling us we'd better lower our expectations about collecting Social Security and start tightening our belts for his future. He was a big cheerleader for the Sequester, which kicked 57,000 kids out of Head Start.
Blankfein also spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative as a Thought Leader, later paying Hillary Clinton several hundred thousand dollars for her own thoughtful and leaderly assurances that their fears of a populist uprising were merely bad thoughts in their thoughtful little heads.
Oh, and speaking of Orwell -- the term "thought leader" was invented by PR guru Joel Kurtzman when he worked for Booz Allen Hamilton. That outfit, you may remember, is the NSA contractor that once employed a fine and thoughtful patriot named Edward Snowden.


Will said...

Every time a white, middle-class, middle-aged Gen-Xer like myself rages against the American injustice machine, I picture an enormous crowd of poor & minority citizens laughing at me while saying in unison, "Welcome to our world." And I would deserve their ridicule for not waking up sooner. For this I will always be ashamed.

Here's an excellent Glenn Greenwald column from last year on the subject, if anyone's interested.


4Runner said...

@ Will, thanx for the link to Occupy. We down here in Flori-duh recall the name of Judge Vinson, mentioned in the article. He's been on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, wherefrom he signed the court order forcing Verizon to turn over its telephone calls metadata to the NSA. Other assorted sordid & sorry details on him available @ Wiki.

Pearl said...

School tries to silence fifth-grader’s speech on religion
via @Salon

Jay - Ottawa said...

In the same issue of the NYRB that Karen linked to Judge Jed Rakoff’s scathing indictment of prosecutorial timidity, historian Gary Wills reviews a book by Joe Scarborough, a self-proclaimed ‘moderate’ Republican retelling Republican myths.

Here are a few lines by Wills commenting at one point about the deep-seated ignorance of millions of Americans who still don’t get it.

“The proof that we live in a plutocracy is not that the wealthy get most of the prizes in our society, but that majorities think that is how it should be…. A new foundation set up to study unequal income found that the gap between the super-rich and everyone else has grown, but that support for the belief that ‘government should reduce income differences between the rich and poor’ has gone down even as the gap widened.”

A further point: for all his fine books and essays, Gary Wills, of all people, was in 2012 still thinking inside the box and loudly in favor of voting for Obama as the lesser of two evils.

Any talk about revolution is premature. There will be no turnaround until those that have been duped – both the learned and the ignorant – get un-duped.

James F Traynor said...

Jay, the revolution is over. They won.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@James F Traynor, @Jay - Ottawa (and @all):

I agree that things don't look so good, but defeatism (i.e. "The revolution is over. They won.") can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A more useful statement is the one made by Jay, that "There will be no turnaround until those that have been duped – both the learned and the ignorant – get un-duped."

The question that needs our attention is "what can bring that unduping about?". That's a difficult problem, particularly when people are educationally indoctrinated from an early age into the supposed benefits of unfettered capitalism, and then receive during the rest of their lives continuing sophisticated reinforcing propaganda via modern mass media, and ultimately accept and internalize the reduced "choices" available to them in the political and economic systems.



My above question takes us into the realm of social and economic "paradigm shifts", analogous to what Thomas Kuhn wrote about more than fifty years ago in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".


From Wikipedia: "Kuhn's insistence that a paradigm shift was a mélange of sociology, enthusiasm and scientific promise, but not a logically determinate procedure, caused an uproar in reaction to his work. Kuhn addressed concerns in the 1969 postscript to the second edition. For some commentators it introduced a realistic humanism into the core of science while for others the nobility of science was tarnished by Kuhn's introduction of an irrational element into the heart of its greatest achievements."

But here I'm not even talking about science, logical or not, but rather, social and economic structure. We should expect a substantial element of irrationality in the popular moods and power politics that underlie those areas of human society.

But I also think that the slow accretion of progressive information does enter into the equation of social change, and may even be essential to setting the stage for some relatively abrupt paradigm shifts, such as most recently initiated by Edward Snowden in the areas of privacy vs. surveillance.

Whatever the relative roles of slow accretion and paradigm shift in achieving social and economic justice, I am sure that defeatism doesn't help.

@Will and @Pearl: Thanks for the links.

Pearl said...

James: You've got it all wrong. The timing is thus: we will have l929 all over again quite soon, THEN the revolution will come while the banksters jump out of the windows, and a different kind of government takes shape.
Stick around to test my prediction.

Will said...

James, it's my new mission in life to cheer you up & turn that frown upside down. First up, I'm gonna go with this old reliable Howard Zinn quote. (That'll probably do the trick, but if you're still blue, I'll be back in a few minutes with something else. See ya soon.)

"TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Will said...

OK, here we go, James. Here's a great tune from The Waitresses called "Christmas Wrapping." It was released in '81 and is, in my humble opinion, one of the best Christmas songs ever. (The video has nothing to do with the song, but it's fantastic in its own right. Be on the lookout for a pretty Hooters waitress shaking her thang!)

P.S. Here's the story of "Christmas Wrapping" from Wikipedia:

The song is told from the perspective of a busy single woman adamant not to participate in the exhausting Christmas period. She has "turned down all her invites" and resolves to "miss this one this year". Earlier in the year, she saw a man in a ski shop and got his telephone number, but had no time to ask him out. Despite the pair's attempts to meet in the following months, a succession of mishaps keeps them apart. Finally, on Christmas Eve, as she is roasting the "world's smallest turkey" (courtesy of A&P) for her dinner alone, she realizes she has forgotten to buy cranberries. She runs to a convenience store and, by coincidence, runs into the man (who has also forgotten cranberries), bringing her Christmas "to a very happy ending." In the final chorus, she admits that she "couldn't miss this one this year."


Zee said...


How interesting that you should compare the current difficulty in swaying public opinion in the direction of progressive thought with the slow—and, yes, often emotional—progress of scientific “revolutions.”

Laypeople tend to think of scientists as our most pure-minded, objective, logical and unemotional human beings. Scientists like to bill themselves that way too, which is probably why they were so piously indignant when Thomas Kuhn revealed us for what we really are. But as I have tried to point out at other times in this forum, scientists are only human, and can be as flawed, mean, petty, and jealous as anyone else, and as protective of their pet hypotheses and theories as a big, poorly-trained dog is of its bone: watch out not only for you fingers, but your entire arm!

When I want to be reminded of a particularly “glacial” scientific revolution, I think of poor Alfred Wegener, who proposed the possibility of “continental drift” way back in 1912, and who was often ridiculed by the geological/geophysical community until—long after his death—the hypothesis became a fact in the late 'fifties and early 'sixties, long after Wegener's death in 1931.


Think of that. Forty- to fifty-odd years for a scientific revolution to be accepted by the world's most educated, logical and analytical of people!

Still, Wegener's theory is now fully accepted; Wegener even had many of the details correct, such as asserting that sea-floor spreading from mid-ocean ridges was what sent the continents a-driftin'.

Wegener was vindicated because scientists, as stubborn, emotional and irrational as they can be, are forced by the very process in which they participate to communicate with other scientists, and to acknowledge and pay proper respect to both prior and competing work in their fields: or they don't get listened to or published. They have to respect each other at some fundamental level, which, I think for them is that almost all are highly educated truth-seekers.

As nearly as I can tell, Progressives and Conservatives are so politically and socially polarized these days that they cross-communicate with each other infrequently—in writing or verbally—and then, only with the goal of shooting to pieces each others' beliefs and opinions, preferably as cleverly and snarkily as possible.

Mostly, we spend our time trapped in our respective echo chambers, drinking our own respective bath waters and nodding our heads in agreement as we all talk about how insensitive, stupid and/or evil the other side is.

I truly believe that we have almost completely lost the ability to respect each other at even the most fundamental level, that is, as fellow human beings who, like it or not, have to live side-by-side with each other on this planet.

I shouldn't drag my faith into this, but perhaps at Christmas time it's not entirely inappropriate: Progressive Christians might say that we are no longer even trying to see the Christ in each other, no matter how difficult it is at times. We demonize each other in every way possible, to assure that we will no longer see the other side as fully human.

So, Fred, I think that your analogy between scientific and sociopolitical revolutions is an apt one, and that “[w]e should expect a substantial element of irrationality in the popular moods and power politics that underlie those areas of human society.”

But if scientific revolutions take decades to accomplish at the hands of our most educated and logical citizens, how much longer will it take to achieve a social revolution amongst our less-educated, less logically-disciplined members of society, especially when neither side sees the other as worthy of respect at that most fundamental of levels, as fellow human beings?

Zee said...


Thanks for the link to "Christmas Wrapping" and the Howard Zinn quote. They both brightened up my day considerably.



Thanks for the link to the story about the fifth-grader who was almost silenced in the name of "political correctness."

It happens all too frequently these days. I'm glad that the young boy was able to be heard, and to win his blue ribbon!

The Black Swan said...


Well the Buddha was 2500 years ago, Christ was 2000, the wheels of change move slowly, but they have been moving for a long time.

And I wholeheartedly agree that we have lost a lot of our capacity to communicate across racial, social, ideological, religious, and cultural divides. The 'other' has become so foreign, and the media echo chamber we surround ourselves with so powerful, that not only can we not see the Christ/Buddha in each of us, but we refuse to believe it exists. (I say we in a very general sense, I don't specifically mean those of us talking on this blog) I believe an important step in human progress is the recognition of the godhead within all of us, whichever names or metaphors we choose to describe it with.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

The Black Swan said...

To all,

The holidays are an interesting time, especially when you think about how we can start to awaken the masses from their ignorance. There is only one person in my family who is even open to these types of discussions, and even they would rather avoid it. It is going to be hard to get people to confront the truth behind the veil.