Tag Archives: philosophy

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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Your Terrifying Quote For The Day

Tea Party tax day protest 2010

“President Obama waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition. Your listeners, US taxpayers, are now paying to give arms to terrorists including Al Qaeda. … This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history. … Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand.”

Michele Bachmann

…an active member of Congress.

Hallelujah.

Photo: Fibonacci Blue

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Best Of The Week

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Apologies to my readers for the lack of posts these past couple of weeks. I’m moving to London for grad school this weekend, so it’s been difficult to keep up with the blog, but mostly because I didn’t want to do a half-ass job for all of you who regularly keep up with Left and Center. I’m not sure what this blog will look like when I live in London. School will take up a considerable amount of my time, and the time-change will undoubtedly be an obstacle. What I imagine happening is that I’ll shift from a number of posts per day to one or two longer ones.

But back to the matter at hand. It’s been one hell of a week for news, and while I wish I could have written more, I’m happy about what’s been put out. The most popular post of the week was my reaction to where we now stand in regards to Syria: A Better Solution. Close behind in terms of traffic was my breakdown of Russian President Vladimir “KGB” Putin’s op-Ed in the New York Times, Putin, Troll.

Other popular posts (mostly because they were the only posts!) included The Astonishingly Bad Arguments For Another Middle-East War; Could This Kerry Gaffe Save Us From Another Middle-East War?; and, but of course, Forget The Pill, Meet The Pullout Generation.

Back soon.

Publius

(Photo: via wikicommons)

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A Better Solution

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In the march towards a congressional vote on military action in Syria, one thing became glaringly obvious: the Obama administration had run out of options, and leverage. Maybe Secretary of State John Kerry sensed it and knew exactly what he was doing when he offered Syria an olive branch on Monday. The terms were (and are) simple: give up your chemical weapons stockpiles. We don’t know if this was a strategic plan by Kerry, but we do know that it was accepted almost immediately by both Russia and Syria, and has become a far better solution to this whole saga than anything previous.

Military intervention was meant for one (double) reason only: deter the future use of chemical weapons, and make sure Assad can’t do this again. It was never meant to remove Assad from power, or substantially help the opposition — that would be “war”, according to the Obama administration. What this proposal from Russia/Syria/Kerry does is put these weapons under the control of the international arena — presumably some UN agency — therefore accounting for both deterrence and Assad’s capability to use chemical weapons. If the Obama administration has been honest all along, and chemical weapons have been the first and only reason to act, it couldn’t have worked out better.

Many are pointing out that, “we’re relying on Russia and Syria to carry this out? Fat chance.” They have a point. Maybe the plan will never be realized; but it’s still a better option than military intervention. Russia’s acceptance of the plan means we may see a Security Council resolution affirming this proposal — something that’s been missing all along. Russia wont veto a resolution they themselves proposed, and I doubt China would want to be the lone state standing in the way of a diplomatic solution.

Another pessimistic — but possible — take is that Assad will never agree to go through with this. Having chemical weapons is not an insignificant thing in the grander scheme of regional power politics, where Assad has to keep one eye on neighbors like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, who want nothing more than a regime change in Damascus.

But even if Assad balks, the entire paradigm of this conflict has been altered for the better. If the United States feels forced to attack Syria if the proposal fails, they’ll probably do so with a UN resolution and a greater number of allies behind them — both pipe dreams on September 8. And if by chance Assad agrees to whatever the proposal ends up being, the U.S. will have averted a war, saved face, and accounted for Syria’s chemical weapons. Win-win-win.

On September 8, the United States stood completely alone. Domestic support was horrendous; the backing of the Security Council (and NATO) was nonexistent; Russia was becoming more vocal and dangerous; Iran was threatening retribution; and even Britain pulled support.

How strange would it be, then, if a simple gaffe by John Kerry ended up preventing another Middle-East war?

(Photo: Chair. Joint Chiefs)

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You Have To Write Cold

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    “Don’t you drink? I notice you speak slightingly of the bottle. I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well-being that rum does?… The only time it isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. But it always helps my shooting. Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.”

    Ernest Hemingway, published in Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917–1961 (1981) edited by Carlos Baker.

Andrew O’Hagan considers the question of drafting while inebriated:

George Best once said that the greatest disaster of his life was that everybody he met wanted to buy him a drink. You might say, in defence of a well-meaning public, that the disaster was compounded by Best’s inability to refuse. But drinking is in many ways a selfish art, and I say that as someone who likes drinking and who used to love it. There’s a world of difference between the drinker who always wants a companion and the drinker who yearns to drink alone. I’ve always been in the first category and that to me felt like an achievement: my family was riddled with people who died of drink or whose lives were totally unmanageable because of their addiction. They used to say it was an Irish thing or a Glasgow thing, but in fact it was a sad life thing, as if being numb was simply the best option.

Things that rely on disinhibition (dancing, charades, karaoke and fucking) can be improved with drink. But anything that relies on precision (fighting, writing) must be done cold, as Hemingway put it. There are writers who feel quite strongly that disinhibition is the essence of writing, that writing is a form of running naked through the streets. (Put it away, Allen Ginsberg.) My view would be that writing fiction is a form of inhibition made dense and technical. Other people might be freed by it, for a while, but the author is unlikely to be, and God help him if he isn’t sober for the time it takes to get the thing down.

(Photo: Bruce Tuten. Ernest Hemingway’s home Finca Vigia near Havana where he wrote Old Man And The Sea.)

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Quote For The Day: The Supreme Court Of Corporate America

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of big business.”

Elizabeth Warren, criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court as being too right-wing and pro-corporate. Full article can be read at Politico.

Can we just clone her already?

(Photo: flickr user Stephen Masker)

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Best Of The Week

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I feel like in years to come, we’ll look back on events this week and wonder what we could have done, or argued, differently. I don’t know what will happen if we intervene in Syria. No one can know something like that. What I rely on instead is what little I know about regional history, past military interventions, sectarian violence and the great fallacy that is international law. But despite my furious objection to intervention, my heart breaks that so many innocent people have died — and will die. In a perfect world, we could act as guardian protectors for all those who cannot protect themselves. Provide justice from above. But this isn’t a comic book, and limited air strikes won’t make a bit of difference in the rate of death, turmoil and despair in that poor country. What will happen, I fear, is that we’ll be sucked into another war.

That means more death. More suffering. That’s what I’m opposing.

The most popular post of the week — unsurprisingly — was one of my many pieces on the subject: Syria Is Not Iraq. It’s Much Worse.

Other notable posts included Republicans Were Invited To Attend And Speak At MLK Ceremony. They Didn’t Show Up.; Did The Worst Chemical Weapons Attack In Decades Just Happen In Syria?; the hilariously contentious Starbucks Is Better Than Your Local Coffee Shop. Deal With It.; The Arguments For (And Against) Intervention In Syria; and finally, Boomers, Ye Be Warned: Millennials Are Not Anti-Politics.

More after the holiday.

Publius

(Photo: Chair. Joint Chiefs of Staff)

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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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Good News Of The Day: Men Are Just As Depressed As Women

dazzled maniac Jim Morrison drowns out the haunting whimper of a coyote dying on the road by his dreadful death-scream into the abyssal sun ... HWY 01:23:47

The LA Times has the welcome report:

Depression can look very different in men and women. And many of its hallmarks — rage, risk-taking, substance abuse and even workaholism — can hide in plain sight.

Now researchers say that when these symptoms are factored into a diagnosis, the long-standing disparity between depression rates in men and women disappears.

That conclusion overturns long-accepted statistics indicating that, over their lifetimes, women are 70% more likely to have major depression than men. In fact, when its symptoms are properly recognized in men, major depression may be even more common in men than in women, according to a study published Wednesday by the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Take that, ladies.

(Photo: Karl-Ludwig G. Poggemann)

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Starbucks Is Better Than Your Local Coffee Shop. Deal With It.

We love Starbucks

When three anthropologists from West Virginia University set out to see how effectively three Starbucks locations in and around Boston matched up against three independently-operated coffee shops, in terms of providing a similar social environment that mom and pop coffee joints are usually attributed with, they probably didn’t expect the results they got:

The anthropologists conducted their observations at Pavement Coffee House in Copley Square, 1369 Coffee House in Central Square, Diesel Café in Davis Square, and in three nearby Starbucks locations. They focused their observations on five categories, derived by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, that describe how urban, social spaces function: how social and welcoming a place is; the arrangement of seating; the activities taking place there (work, socialization, leisure); amenities (like wi-fi and power outlets); and the overall atmosphere, as measured by music volume, volume of chatter, wall color, lighting, and décor.

The biggest surprise was that, on the whole, Starbucks actually provided a more welcoming environment than any of the three local coffee houses. They credited the Central Square Starbucks with having the most vibrant sense of community, and observed that the baristas there knew many patrons by name and could anticipate their orders. The anthropologists also noted that the Starbucks baristas were friendlier to new customers than the bespoke hipsters behind the counter at the local places: “The Starbucks baristas would help customers by explaining the many options available and even offering suggestions. In contrast, the baristas at the independently-owned coffee houses were more aloof and would just wait or sometimes stare at a customer, offering minimal assistance.” The Starbucks friendliness advantage was further accentuated by its greater amenities. In particular, the locally owned coffee shops were more restrictive with their Internet policies, either charging for wi-fi access (Diesel Café and 1369 Coffee House) or setting a cap on daily Internet use (Pavement Coffee House).

(Photo: MissTurner)

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Boomers, Ye Be Warned: Millennials Are Not Anti-Politics

Millennials Jam Workshop: Youth and ICTs beyond 2015

I’m usually pretty ambivalent when it comes to “generational” studies aimed at proving something that’s never really been proven: that somehow, someway, kids today are better (or worse) than kids in the past and yadayadayada. I’m even more put off when boomers try to “explain” Millennials with “hard data”, which usually amounts to assertions backed up by “expert” opinion and small sample sizes. But hey, it’s August, and when there’s little good news to be had, sometimes it’s necessary to create some.

So when I read boomer journalist Rob Fournier’s worry that “those born between 1982 and 2003” are either too disgusted with partisan politics or too disillusioned with the scope of impact available to those who work within government to be involved in politics, I shrug it off. I just don’t buy it. Sorry.

Here’s Fournier’s basic premise:

The trouble is that Millennials believe traditional politics and government (especially Washington) are the worst avenues to great things. They are more likely to be social entrepreneurs, working outside government to create innovative and measurably successful solutions to the nation’s problems, even if only on a relatively small scale. … A generation ago, government had a monopoly on public service. To Millennials, the world is filled with injustice and need, but government isn’t the solution. They have apps for that.

It’s probably worthwhile to note that none of the “hard data” compiled by Fournier would suggest that the assertions you just read are distinctively Millennial, which is to say that if a piece like this wants to be taken seriously, I’d like to know how many similar students and young people felt about government service say, 30 years ago. My gut tells me the results would be eerily similar.

And since when has it been a bad, or even new thing that young people would rather involve themselves in various forms of work prior to entering politics? Do we really want a bunch of college grads entering the public sector without experience that matters? I sure as heck don’t, and I’m one of them!

This annoyed me too:

College students increasingly prefer the private sector, graduate school, or non-profit work, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s analysis of the 2011 National Association for Colleges and Employers Student Survey. In 2008, 8.4 percent of students planned to work for local, state, and federal governments after graduation. That number reached an all-time high of 10.2 percent during the 2009 recession, before dropping to 7.4 percent in 2010.

Now, just 6 percent of college students plan to work for public sector institutions, and only 2.3 percent want to work at the federal level.

Wait, college students — most of whom are completely overwhelmed by massive student loans and horrendous job prospects — prefer the private sector (or where the money is), to government work? Well knock me over with a feather.

Ok so in the end, Fournier sort of concludes that the two-party system may see its demise in the future, replaced by apps and a younger generation hell-bent on destroying the natural order of things.

What he actually finds is that it’s kind of a popular thing for young people to express disinterest in involving themselves in partisan politics, especially since part of the deal of being young and arrogant and know-it-all is accepting that you just don’t jive with that whole Washington thing. Millennials, like boomers and whoever the hell came before them, believe that they are set to do new, awesome, groundbreaking things that their elders necessarily couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

And yeah, new technologies, human progress, societal tolerance, changed demographics and everything-else-you-can-think-of-that-is-unique-to-Millennials, does signal that the parties will change and “how will government work in 15 or so years?” is a legitimate question we’ll have to grapple with — it just doesn’t happen within Fournier’s article.

But here’s my expert analysis: Millennials are just better, ok? I have “hard data” to back that up.

(Photo: itupictures)

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Quote For The Day: “Exhumations”

What happened downtown / Los Angeles

“To live sanely in Los Angeles (or, I suppose, in any other large American city) you have to cultivate the art of staying awake. You must learn to resist (firmly but not tensely) the unceasing hypnotic suggestions of the radio, the billboards, the movies and the newspapers; those demon voices which are forever whispering in your ear what you should desire, what you should fear, what you should wear and eat and drink and enjoy, what you should think and do and be. They have planned a life for you – from the cradle to the grave and beyond – which it would be easy, fatally easy, to accept. The least wandering of the attention, the least relaxation of your awareness, and already the eyelids begin to droop, the eyes grow vacant, the body starts to move in obedience to the hypnotist’s command. Wake up, wake up – before you sign that seven-year contract, buy that house you don’t really want, marry that girl you secretly despise. Don’t reach for the whisky, that won’t help you. You’ve got to think, to discriminate, to exercise your own free will and judgment. And you must do this, I repeat, without tension, quite rationally and calmly. For if you give way to fury against the hypnotists, if you smash the radio and tear the newspapers to shreds, you will only rush to the other extreme and fossilize into defiant eccentricity.”

Christopher Isherwood, from Exhumations.

(Photo: Ryan Vaarsi)

Hat tip: Matt Sitman

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Quote for the Day: “The Key Is To Distract Yourself”

Woody Allen glasses

“It’s just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don’t have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we’re just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone. And everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There’ll be nothing. The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself.”

Woody Allen

(Photo: Flickr user feelingofnostalgia)

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Glenn Greenwald Vindicated, Surveillance State Out Of Control

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If you’ve been keeping up with this blog the last couple of months (and I hope you have, dear readers), then you’re probably well aware that when it comes to the quite complicated question of whether it is apt and justified for governments to relinquish privacy in order to combat Jihadist terrorism, I’ve been a little more hawkish than I’m usually comfortable with. Knowing what little I know about the way governments and terrorist organizations operate, i’ve expressed — through a great many posts — my skepticism towards the NSA leaks broken by journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman. I read all the articles, looked at all the available evidence, and concluded that as long as the program(s) in question relied on meta-data, were transparent — meaning had Congressional oversight — and accountable, were checked by a FISA court that actually did its job, and most importantly, did not — accidentally or otherwise — cause innocent Americans to lose their rights to privacy, I would continue to support them.

But it seems that as time goes on, truth will out. Every single one of the “as long as” parameters I noted have been totally shattered. The sheer amount of actual spying going on is so mind-numbingly huge that I don’t think anyone, even the most ardent supporters of Ed Snowden, could comprehend the magnitude; the supposed check against it all, the FISA court, has been shown to be a front for the operation, full stop; and innocent Americans have been victims of privacy loss — accidental or otherwise — over 3000 times. Do I think competent intelligence operations, if transparant and controlled, are valuable and indeed necessary in the times we live in? Of course. So do Greenwald, Snowden, Poitras, Gellman, and every other anti-surveillance state observer. But the exposed programs have been shown to be so absolutely dangerous to basic civil liberties, and so totally out of control of the people that rank abuse has become a certainty, rather than a possibility.

I still don’t know if any of these out-of-control programs have been effective in preventing terrorist attacks. Intelligence officials affirm that they have, but without proof we’ll never really know. What I do know, though, is that by detaining his partner for 9 hours under a stop-and-frisk like anti-terrorism statute, the British Government more or less vindicated everything Glenn Greenwald has been saying and writing:

The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London’s Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.

The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.

David was eventually released, of course, but all of his digital possessions were confiscated — including his “mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles”. One of Britain’s leading human rights lawyers, Michael Mansfield, had this to say to Reuters in response to the insanesly stupid act by British authorities:

    “The detention of David Miranda is a disgrace and reinforces the undoubted complicity of the UK in U.S. indiscriminate surveillance of law-abiding citizens. The fact that Snowden, and now anyone remotely associated with him, are being harassed as potential spies and terrorists is sheer unadulterated state oppression.”

Greenwald — justifiably incensed, but still controlled — was a little more direct in his reponse:

    “They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism,” he wrote in a column in the Guardian, adding that Miranda was given no access to a lawyer.

    “If the UK and U.S. governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively … they are beyond deluded.”

Glenn’s partner flew to Berlin to meet with Laura Poitras on the Guardian’s dime, but that hardly makes a difference here. He was acting, then, as a journalist — not a fucking terrorist. The New York Times reported that Miranda was helping Greenwald and Poitras exchange documents, later confirmed by Glenn:

Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden.

“I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England too. I have many documents on England’s spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did.”
Glenn Greenwald

As well he should.

(Photo: Flickr user Inf-Lite Teacher)

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