Tag Archives: America

Kalashnikov’s Remorse

The creator of the AK-47 assault rifle seeks mercy; regrets its use

66 years later, the Avtomat Kalashikova remains the world’s most ubiquitously used weapon, estimated in contributing – even in relatively “quiet” years – to the deaths of a quarter of a million of the world’s population per annum. Developed in the Soviet Union in 1947, used by its forces in 1949, the AK-47 assault rifle will undoubtedly endure for many decades more – a solemn fact that certainly contributed to its creator seeking mercy and forgiveness for his contribution to its existence. Mikhail Kalashnikov died late last month, two days before Christmas, at the age of 94. He lived to see and feel and weigh the horrors his invention was used to inflict; he lived with the astonishing fact that Kalashnikovs make up more than one in ten of all firearms, and are the weapon of choice for armies made up of drugged, deluded and manipulated child soldiers. In 2010, the then 91 year old Kalashnikov wrote the Russia Orthodox Church to ask a question I think he regrettably knew the answer to: was the blood shed by the weapon over the more than half a century since he created it, on his hands? “My spiritual pain is unbearable,” he wrote. “I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?”

The church told him not to dwell on the matter too heavily in his twilight years. Its press secretary, Cyril Alexander Volkov, wrote in a reply to Kalashnikov that, “The Church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both its creators and the soldiers who use it.” The press secretary was later quoted as saying, “He designed this rifle to defend his country, not so terrorists could use it in Saudi Arabia.”

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The church’s position is, I think, correct. It’s difficult to impart much guilt on Kalashnikov for his creation, meant for the safeguarding of his country against the better-equipped Nazi invaders, especially since he could not have foreseen the abominable future misuse of it, and feels obvious regret and remorse for that misuse. It’s noteworthy to remind ourselves that Kalashnikov is not the first – nor will he be the last – weapon inventor who has expressed regret and remorse for their contributions. The namesake of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel, expressed similar remorse when his creation of dynamite – meant to be used as an instrument of peace – was used to wreak untold havoc throughout the breadth of the First World War. The nuclear scientists that developed the nuclear bomb(s) dropped on Japan during the Second World War pleaded with President Truman to not use the weapon to such effect. Even Albert Einstein, who famously consulted with President Roosevelt to urge his continued research on developing the bomb, expressed remorse: “Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would have never lifted a finger.”

Still, as RT.com notes, “AK-47s have caused more deaths than artillery fire, airstrikes and rocket attacks combined.” It’s easy then to understand why the man responsible for that creation feels such pangs about the millions who have lost their lives because of something he invented. In 2007, Kalashnikov was posed a question of the state of his conscience, and confidently replied, “I sleep well. It’s the politicians, who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence.” It seems obvious that Kalashnikov is in some ways morally responsible for the weapon he created, but it’s perhaps unfair of us to depart on him much blame for the horrors perpetuated by the Avtomat Kalashikova. It was a weapon created for the defence of a people; it was meant for bringing about the end of a terrible war against a terrible foe. But wars were waged long before 1947, and will be waged for the entirety of our species’ time on this planet. We are all culpable for the millions who have given way to our frightful waging of war, not just Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Photo Credit: (Above) AK-47 assault rifle courtesy of Flickr user Brian nairB; (Below) Ethiopian National Defense Force 1st Lieutenant Ayella Gissa takes aim with an AK-47 assault rifle on a simulated enemy during a practical exercise as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa’s train the trainer course in Hurso, Ethiopia, December 27, 2006, courtesy of wikicommons.

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Theatre For The Absurd, By The Absurd

Tea Party Republicans Blame Obama for the Shutdown They Planned... Nice try Satan.

A Tea-Party rally posing as a veteran-rally, led by Senator Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, pushed through the [admittedly nonsensical] barricades at the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. on Sunday, in what has to be the lamest attempt yet by Republicans to co-opt this entire government shutdown debacle in the hopes of coercing the uninformed that they are not singularly to blame for the impasse the country finds itself in.

Conor Friedersdorf shakes his head:

When the barricades are removed, whether because the Obama Administration is pressured due to the absurdity of it all or because the shutdown ends, conservatives will find a way to make Obama look bad in the next news cycle, and their political theater, whether successful or unsuccessful, won’t lead to any actual victories. They won’t marshall anything like the focus or grassroots passion that’s needed to actually improve the care of veterans in America or the degree to which our liberties are secure, because bettering governance is not their goal. Publicity stunts optimized for generating outrage in a given news cycle are all they’ve got, and even those haven’t been effective at winning converts.

And that’s the only motive here for these vandals posing as legislators and (in the case of Palin) patriots: their concern is how best to capitalise on the theatre of the absurd. But like Friedersdorf notes at the end of his piece, it might play well to the dying base of support they already enjoy, but they can hardly expect to win over any converts by staging this sort of inane political theatre.

At the rally in question, Sen. Cruz painted a picture of a malicious President hell-bent on using veteran misery to score political gains:

“Let me ask a simple question,” Cruz told the crowd. “Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?”

Sarah Palin was even more pointed in her comments:

“Our vets have proven that they have not been timid, so we will not be timid in calling out any who would use our military, our vets, as pawns in a political game,” Palin told the crowd.

But neither Palin nor Cruz went quite as far as Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch (though by their total refusal to distance themselves from his comments, one could argue they silently affirmed that which you’re about to read):

Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group, said the country is “ruled by a president who bows down to Allah,” and “is not a president of ‘we the people.'”

“I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out,” he said.

Andrew Sullivan delivers a strong, well articulated response to Klayman’s racist, xenophobic assertions:

Let’s not be mealy-mouthed. This speaker, Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, accuses the president of treason in this speech, of deliberately pursuing policies to kill members of the armed services, because he is an Islamist, and allegedly “bows to Allah”. What he is saying is the president is a deliberate mole of foreign agents determined to destroy the American way of life. And there is no pushback from the crowd and no pushback from GOP leaders.

This is what we’re dealing with. This is not an alternative budget; it is not another way of insuring millions and cutting healthcare costs; it is not a contribution to anything but to the logic of nullification of an election. It is yet another declaration of cold civil war – a call for a nonviolent refusal to be governed by a re-elected president because he is pursuing policies with which an electorally defeated minority disagree. Simply pursuing those policies has rendered Obama a “monarch” who is arguing “his way or the highway.” But all Obama is doing is implementing a campaign promise and settled law, while governing under a continuing resolution that reflects the sequester’s level of spending, a level agreed to by the Republicans. He wants a budget agreement between the House and Senate in a conference that the Republican House has long resisted entering. He has said that he is happy to negotiate with anyone on anything as long as the blackmail of a government shut-down and of a threatened global depression are ended. And his record shows that he has compromised again and again – as his own most fervent supporters look on in dismay.

In a few weeks, the government shutdown and [hopefully] the debt-ceiling debacle will be over. But the long term inadequacies of our political system will remain, and along with them these callous liars and disgraceful opportunists. We’re fortunate, though, that we live in a time and age where their exploits are documented by video evidence. We know exactly who and what we’re dealing with.

Photo: H. Michael Karshis

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Fear and Loathing in Washington D.C.

Washington DC Capitol - HDR

“President Obama will negotiate with the Syrian butcher Assad and erase his red line, will capitulate to Vladimir Putin, and he will negotiate with the happy face of the killer regime in Iran, President Rouhani, but not with Republicans over issues all presidents have always negotiated over.”

That quote – from American conservative radio host/shame-free liar and propagandist Hugh Hewitt – encapsulates how far the U.S. has to go to overcome the most embarrassing and pathetic government shutdown in the history of the country. Not every conservative in the United States is as crazy or deluded as Hewitt, but enough are to where an angry, xenophobic, racially charged minority, belonging to one faction in one house of government, has been able to manufacture a government shutdown threatening to destroy the US and global economy unless the party opposite capitulates to their bidding.

The truth is, no American president has ever “negotiated” repealing a duly enacted law [the Affordable Care Act] whilst being blackmailed with the destruction of his government, or indeed with the destruction of the global economy. But this line of baseless rhetoric has become the new mantra of the Republican Party and their apologists: repeat the lie until enough Americans have been coerced that they [Republicans] are not singularly to blame for the disastrous impasses the country continuously finds itself in (e.g. sequestration, shutdown, debt ceiling, etc.). This isn’t just a minority problem – it’s a party problem. The American Tea Party may be [entirely] comprised of callous fools and disgraceful opportunists, but we’re mostly here because “moderate” Republicans have consistently folded to these vandals rather than stand up to them.

It’s important not to forget that Republicans manufactured the U.S. government shutdown for one reason and one reason only: to stop poorer Americans from getting health insurance funded by cuts to Medicare and the taxing of the richest Americans. Let’s also keep in mind that Congress itself passed the healthcare law in 2010; the Supreme Court then affirmed its constitutionality through its landmark ruling earlier this year; and the majority of Americans want it – as proven when they re-elected the President who signed it.

In a few weeks (or sooner), the shutdown/default crisis will long be over and maybe even forgotten. The federal deficit will in all likelihood continue to fall, and growth will probably resume. But the long-term inadequacies of the U.S. political system will continue to be exploited by the Republican Party, creating a sort of dystopic future for American politics. The American people put pretty much all of the blame of the shutdown/default crisis on the shoulders of Republicans, but conservatives can still expect to hold enough seats in the House come the 2014 midterm elections (mainly because of the way district lines are drawn. Republicans were lucky enough to have had a huge win at the state level in 2010, which coincided with post-census redistricting or gerrymandering). Democrats may very well win the White House again in 2016 with Hillary Clinton or Papa Joey B, but the Congress will probably remain the same, meaning we’ll see more shutdowns/threats of defaults before it’s all said and done.

I’ve been able to gauge the puzzled, incredulous looks of my international friends at the LSE – many of whom come from democratic countries – when they hear that an extremist minority party caused the “most powerful” democracy in the world to close up shop. I tell them that American politics, as constructed by James Madison (“father” of the Constitution), was designed with stagnation, derision, and polarization in mind. But the country’s founders couldn’t foresee something as inane as the Tea Party (and warned against political party’s altogether); they couldn’t possibly expect the damning practice of gerrymandering districts or the influence of special interest groups both in elections and public policy.

Mostly, I’ve had to tell my foreign friends that what they’re currently seeing and reading about is not at all what American politics was meant to be. But they better start getting used to it, because it’s here to stay.

Photo: Nicolas Raymond

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Could The Shutdown/Debt Ceiling Cost Republicans The House?

Because the American people are a fickle bunch, the usual order of things is that the sitting President’s party loses seats in the House during the midterm election. Conventional wisdom would then lead one to accept the points expressed by The New Republic and Real Clear Politics in their estimation(s) that it’s unlikely Democrats will overturn the Republican majority in 12 months. The rule has exceptions, of course. Clinton’s Democrats actually picked up a few seats in 1998, following Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 21 day government shutdown.

It’s been reiterated quite exhaustingly that one of the main reasons Republicans have been able to keep the House despite losing the national popular vote to Democrats by 1.5% is that they enjoy the considerable majority of gerrymandered districts. In short, Democrats needed to win the House by a margin of more than 7% to become the majority party.

Fast forward to today. If this WaPo/ABC news poll is any indication (and I’d like to think it is), the country soundly puts the blame of the shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling disaster on the shoulders of the GOP.

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But while public opinion of the GOP might be very low, commentators have rightly noted that President Obama garners considerable blame (deservedly or not) for the current Washington impasse. That may be true, but luckily for the President and his party, Obama is not running for re-election in the next 12 months. That point led Public Policy Polling to conduct a set of district-level polls meant for ascertaining Congressional preference — which has, in the past, tracked the national vote pretty closely. So, PPP set out to survey 24 congressional districts held by Republicans, and asked voters there to chose between their current Congressional representative and a Democrat. Here are their results, plotted against last year’s election result:

It’s important to note that we’re talking about surveys taken during a government shutdown explicitly engineered by Congressional Republicans, but the results show that Democrats swung 23 races (below the red line) while Republicans held one race (above the red line). If the results hold (and I don’t expect them to), Democrats will win the House. Comfortably.

I say I don’t expect this to last because, well, Americans have the tendency to forget about things like the shutdown when it comes time to vote. The midterm elections are still a long away off to where Republicans can successfully coerce their constituents to re-elect them to the House. I do expect Democrats to pick up some votes, which is not totally inconsequential since they’d be able to force the chamber to actually vote on resolutions that Boehner refuses to allow.

The survey doesn’t take into account how voters will feel about House Republicans if the Government hits the debt ceiling, but given the plausible disaster that would ensue if such a thing were allowed to happen, when compounded with the shutdown and the [still] terrible sequester, these results could hold true to the midterm, and possibly even increase.

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Coming Back On October 7!

Due to the lack of consistent access to internet and space, as well as the natural need to assimilate into a new environment (it’s been quite a change going from California sunshine to London fog), I’ve been absent from my duties here on Left and Center. Orientation week just started, so I’ve pinpointed October 7th as the date when I return to active service.

Until then, dear readers!

Publius

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What The Rest Of The World Thinks Of US

U.S Military Forces in Bosnia - Operation Joint Endeavor

Paul Waldman provides timely perspective on how the rest of the world feels about U.S. military action since 1963:

Some of these operations worked out very well, others didn’t. And just to be clear, this history doesn’t tell us whether bombing Syria is a good idea or a bad idea. But if you’re wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. It doesn’t matter whether you think some or even all of those actions were completely justified and morally defensible. From here, we tend to look at each of these engagements in isolation, asking whether there are good reasons to go in and whether we can accomplish important goals for ourselves and others. But when when a new American military campaign begins, people in the rest of the world see it in this broader historical context.

If you take a longer look at the list he provides (and do some basic math), you’ll find that the United States has launched one significant overseas assault every three years since 1963 — or every 40 months. Kevin Drum laments how little of this resonates with the American people:

Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits. But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action (drone attacks, the odd cruise missile here and there, sending “advisors” over to help an ally, etc.), the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. They don’t see a peaceful country that struggles mightily with its conscience and only occasionally makes a decision to drop a bunch of bombs. They see a country that views dropping bombs as its primary means of dealing with any country weaker than we are.

Considering the rate at which we’ve launched bombs against foreign states the past 50 years, we’re actually ahead of schedule for the next round. It’s only been two years since Libya.

(Photo: U.S. military forces in Bosnia — operation Joint Endeavor, by Expert Infantry)

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We Used Sarin

Warriors

Newly declassified documents from the CIA show that Saddam Hussein relied heavily on U.S. intelligence and satellite imagery when he used mustard and sarin gas against Iran during the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war:

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” [retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona] told Foreign Policy.

According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. The CIA declined to comment for this story.

The disclosure is timely, considering the United States is set to launch a military strike against another dictator who probably definitely used chemical weapons:

If, as is looking increasingly likely, the U.S. does conduct a military intervention in Syria it is worth remembering that the U.S., while condemning the use of chemical weapons now, once supported a dictator knowing that he intended to use chemical weapons on his enemies, another example of how policy makers too often justify ugly and obscene policies in order to pursue what are considered desirable ends.

Ah, perspective.

(Photo: by Kamshots — Painting of the Iranian soldiers during the Iran-Iraq war, outside walls of the Ex-US embassy-Taleghani street in Tehran.)

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Chart Of The Day: Africa’s Upcoming Population Explosion

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Max Fisher directs attention to a report from the United Nations Population Division, whose projections for what the earth’s population will look like in 90 years concentrates on the unprecedented explosion set to take place in Africa:

Right now, with a couple of exceptions, Africa’s population density is relatively low; it’s a very big continent more sparsely populated than, say, Europe or East Asia. That’s changing very quickly. The continent’s overall population is expected to more than quadruple over just 90 years, an astonishingly rapid growth that will make Africa more important than ever. And it’s not just that there will four times the workforce, four times the resource burden, four times as many voters. The rapid growth itself will likely transform political and social dynamics within African countries and thus their relationship with the rest of the world.

CJTF-HOA veterinary experts team with Uganda to treat 30,000 animals [Image 9 of 16]

Nigeria, currently Africa’s most populous country, is poised for one of the world’s most rapid population booms ever. In just 100 years, maybe two or three generations, the population is expected to increase by a mind-boggling factor of eight. The country is already troubled by corruption, poverty and religious conflict. It’s difficult to imagine how a government that can barely serve its population right now will respond when the demand on resources, social services, schools and roads increases by a factor of eight. Still, if they pull it off – the country’s vast oil reserves could certainly help – the rapidly growing workforce could theoretically deliver an African miracle akin to, say, China’s.

(Photo: A young village boy watches service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion Functional Specialty Team and local Ugandan community animal health workers during a veterinary civic action project. Veterinarian students mentored the CAHW’s during the VETCAP, which assists in building a highly trained and skilled veterinary force while directly impacting the nation’s capability to provide for its own animal population. Courtesy of DVIDSHUB)

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Quote For The Day: The Lost Republican Soul

stk_001294

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable. … The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week. … What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called “losers.” If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold.

Paul Krugman, Hunger Games, U.S.A.

(photo by Ze Carlos Barretta)

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Best Of The Week On Left And Center

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It was quite a heavy week of reporting here on Left and Center, but we gladly stayed away from writing anything about the Zimmerman Trial, and instead focused on the news. As always, the vast majority of the traffic went to the homepage, which is what I always intended with this blog.

Your favorite posts from this past week were a Massacre In Cairo: One Step Closer To Civil War, my polemic against Republican inaction and indifference titled Conservatives Don’t Give A Damn About Governing, Cato’s timely piece written more than a week past about Why The Farm Bill Mattered, my take on the importance and difficulties in Comprehending Evil, and a rather distressing and callous story out of one of our more tiny states where Iowa’s All-Male Supreme Court Says It’s OK To Fire A Woman If You Really Want To Sleep With Her.

Other notable posts included Koch Brothers To Launch Huge Misinformation Campaign Against Obamacare, my argument of the vital and usually overlooked impact of labeling something as what it is in Edward Snowden And The Difference Between Prosecution And Persecution, some thoughts regarding a really groundbreaking yet controversial college financing plan entitled Everything You Need To Know About Oregon’s “Pay It Forward” College Program, and finally our double dose of wonkish charts: the first showing that the U.S. Is Ranked 28th In Health Care Outcomes, and the second proving Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of Flying, Ever.

A wonderful weekend to you, dear reader. More on Monday.

Publius

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Quote For The Day: “End Aid To Egypt And Israel”

An Egytpian man holds a shoe with pictures on its sole depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R), US President Barack Obama (bottom-L),  Hillary Clinton and Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyau

“End aid to Egypt and Israel. The first doesn’t deserve it; the second doesn’t need it. And the long taxpayer-funded bribery to keep the two countries from conflict has inevitably led to what Washington warned so presciently against. Because of this “unbreakable” bond, we have supported violent dictators in Egypt and a brutal, grinding occupation in Palestine. And the Arab world blames us for both. They are not wrong.

Turning the US into a slave of the expansionist Jewish state and of the Egyptian military needs to end. It has hurt all three of its participants … and may even force the US into an insane attack on Iran’s nuclear program. This is a golden opportunity to cut our ties. We should take it – and would, if the Congress were not also a victim of this departure from America’s ‘duty and its interest’.”

Andrew Sullivan, Will We Cut Egypt’s Aid?

(photo by freedom house)

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The Incredible Irony Of Venezuela Offering Snowden “Humanitarian Asylum”

ELEICOES 2013 NA VENEZUELA

By now it’s no secret to anyone interested enough in the storyline of Edward Snowden to have heard that three Latin American countries — Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela — have officially offered the former NSA contractor, turned leaker, asylum from the United States. Leaving aside the fact that the Venezuelan president took some time after offering Sowden “humanitarian asylum” to decry that the U.S. “launches bombs and arms the terrorist Syrian opposition against the people and legitimate President Bashar al-Assad…”, Venezuela also happens to be one of the most openly oppressive surveillance states in the world — irony not lost on Isabel Lara, who once had a phone conversation with her mother broadcasted on Venezuelan state television:

Edward Snowden is heading to Venezuela? Seriously?

The Venezuelan government’s offer of “humanitarian asylum” to Edward Snowden rang hollow to most Venezuelans, who are by now used to the government spying on opposition leaders, journalists and even their own loyalists. Not only does the government routinely record their phone conversations, it broadcasts them on government-owned TV channels.

The news that the NSA leaker has been offered asylum in Venezuela seems especially ironic to my mother and me. A few years ago, we had the bizarre experience of hearing one of our private phone calls aired on Venezuelan TV. It was played over and over again and “analyzed” by pro-government talk show host Mario Silva—a man who is now in disgrace himself because, in a weird twist of fate, a recording of him was leaked and broadcast on TV.

What was most surreal about our experience was that there was no excuse or justification for taping our phone conversation. None was needed. The government just had it.

It would be nice for Snowden, who cherishes privacy and freedom of speech so much, to be aware that in Venezuela one cannot have any expectation of either.

Look, Venezuela — along with Nicaragua, Bolivia and even Cuba — finally has an opportunity to stick it to the United States, and they aren’t going to let a little thing like irony and hypocrisy get in the way of that. But it is telling that these seem to be the only states willing to even consider asylum for Snowden.

(Photo by flickr user joka Madura)

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Quote For The Day: A Different America?

Daniel Ellsberg

“Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.”

Daniel Ellsberg, Defending the actions of Edward Snowden

Some thoughts:

If Ellsberg is suggesting that the United States he chose to remain in was somehow more transparent and fair than the one we currently enjoy, then he lost me here. For Ellsberg it all boils down to the fact that he was able to remain free on bail during his trial, and Snowden certainly wouldn’t. First off, we don’t know that for sure, and secondly, even if Snowden were kept under lock and key, the White House that Ellsberg went up against engaged in secret operations meant to — at the very least — besmirch his name, and possibly even kill him. So, referring to Nixon’s gang as somehow more preferable to Obama’s is kind of ridiculous.

(photo by flickr user B.M Support)

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EU Threatens To Suspend Data Sharing With The U.S. Amid Spying Reports

Worn out European Union blue flag

Unsurprisingly, Europeans are kind of upset about being spied on by the United States:

(Reuters) – The European Union is threatening to suspend two agreements granting the United States access to European financial and travel data unless Washington shows it is respecting EU rules on data privacy, EU officials said on Friday.

The threat reflects European disquiet about allegations that the United States has engaged in widespread eavesdropping on European internet users as well as spying on the EU.
(…)
The European Parliament, some of whose members have long worried that the agreements granted the United States too much access to European data, called on Thursday for the scrapping of both accords unless Washington revealed the extent of its electronic spying operations in Europe.

Many of the eavesdropping reports were based on leaks by fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Much of this is probably political pandering. The fact is, all states engage in cyber-intelligence against allies and enemies alike, but the U.S. does it bigger and better than the rest (as far as we know). The European Union is unlikely to make a real stink of this, since many of its members are one leak away from being accused of similar practices; compounded also with the fact that the EU needs the U.S. far more right now than the U.S. needs the EU.

But politicians in Europe have to seem rightly indignant against the spying revelations, so threats like this will probably persist for some time.

(photo by flickr user horia varlan)

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An Independence Day Poem

Kansas Summer Wheat and Storm Panorama

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the
steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon
intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing
or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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