My employer, Credo, consults for colleges and universities, many of whom were spurred by the protest movement in response to George Floyd’s murder to spend some days in mid-June in reflection and discussion of what led to the racism in our world. Credo decided to do much the same, and today is that day. There were, of course, preparations and meetings with lists of readings and podcast resources in the weeks before. Someone suggested “journaling” which to me meant adding another blog post. Beyond that, simply having a day like this on my schedule brought back memories.
My mother used to tell a story that a stranger rang our doorbell when I was very young, and that I ran to tell her that there was a chocolate man at the door. I’ve often wondered if I really made that connection between skin color and food color. We lived in a mostly white Long Island suburb, but I recall there was at least one little dark-skinned girl in kindergarten, Felicia. I remember talking to Felicia, probably teasing her like all the girls, but her quietly responding, “I’m tellin’.” Which was no fun at all.
Later we had a sitter who if we didn’t behave, punished us with a drop of hot tabasco sauce on our tongue. So we behaved. As I recall, she worked for us for quite a while. But then my folks took two of us on a vacation, and we came home to find my younger siblings and about two dozen of Mrs Brown’s family in our swimming pool. I had never seen so many dark bodies. That was the last we saw of her.
I was around ten when we moved to a still-rural (but soon to be suburban) area in Maryland, and a lot of things changed. My teacher went from being Mrs Grant to Mrs Lee, which I thought was enormously funny. At school, we stuck out with the NY accents we didn’t realize we had, and the other kids called us, “city slickers.” At the ES, our classes were perhaps a quarter to a third black students. For some reason many of the black boys sat in the back row. A few of them could barely read aloud, which puzzled me because they could talk like anyone else. Mrs Lee was local and read to the class from Huckleberry Finn, but her pronunciation of the Southern dialect didn’t sound like it had in my head.
Later I had Mr Jackson, my first black teacher. I truly believe he liked me, but I wasn’t particularly observant of rules, and he often punished me and sometimes my unlucky friends with the long, flat Board of Education across my backside. I remember he broke it on one of us once, and wrapped it back together with masking tape. After that broke, too, he taped three yardsticks together. For music we had Mr Thacker, who would play standards on the piano, by ear, while we sang along. He sent Mr Jackson among us to remove those singing off-key, and I got culled. For three decades I was convinced I couldn’t sing.
Junior High was more of the same, except different teachers. We had a black art teacher, Mr Washington, who used to do silk screens while we were sketching or painting. He also let the black girls bring in their record players and play 45s, so I heard a lot of music, like Grazin’ in the Grass, that they never played on middle-of-the-road radio. (Until they played the Hugh Masakela instrumental cover.) One day he came in wearing sunglasses. The talk was that he had been tear-gassed while marching in DC. It was truly amazing to me that such a laid-back man would have been marching in the streets.
My father had attended a private, Jesuit-run school in NY, so my folks sent me to Georgetown Prep, which is now famous for spitting out two conservative Supreme Court Justices but used to have somewhat liberal professors and teachers. Prep’s student body was diverse, but there weren’t that many African-American kids, and there were no girls. We had boarding students from South and Central America, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, and Iran but a lot of the day students already knew each other from Mater Dei School, a Catholic 1-8 boy’s school in Bethesda. One black fellow joined my class in a later year, though. When he played basketball, I heard that one of my ex-roommates responded to his baskets by shouting out, “three-fifths of a point!” Later we elected him the first African-American President of the Yard.
While I was at GP, my brothers and sisters were encountering racial tensions at the Jr and Sr High Schools. I suspect that a lot of city slickers from a lot of ethnic and economic backgrounds had moved to new developments in the area, and the rural strategies of coexistence weren’t working as before.
At Prep, I read Travels with Charley. In his road tour of the US, Steinbeck only hints at racial troubles as talks with an old man he calls, Monsieur Ci Git, who dismisses it as a problem for later generations. I spent a lot of time then trying to figure what Ci Git means in French, but read now that it was used instead of, “Here Lies” on grave markers. Though I believed Steinbeck then, this reviewer convinced the publishers that most of the book was actually fiction. Later we read Black Like Me, and it seemed too simple that a Caucasian man would really be seen as black simply by darkening his skin. Eddie Murphy did a reverse skit on that theme on SNL, right? But thirteen years before that, in 1948, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter who had exposed Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s KKK membership, also passed, and wrote Thirty Days a Black Man: The Forgotten Story that Exposed the Jim Crow South, which I suppose I’ll have to find and read now. Reason review and podcast here.
I already told some of my coworkers this story, but when my folks began bugging me about what I wanted to do, I told them Architecture. They thought that was great, but my father told me that Yale or Harvard would want me to attain a Bachelors (non-professional) degree, then get a Masters in Architecture. With six siblings behind me, he couldn’t afford to send any of us to college for multiple degrees. So I got this big, fat green book of college statistics from the College Board, and started going through looking for schools that had Architectural programs, had swimming teams, didn’t cost a fortune, didn’t require public-speaking (I was still very much an introvert) and had a reasonably even male-female ratio. After four years of all-male high school, I wanted to meet some women.
As I recall, Dad forbade me from applying to Stanford, probably because it was so far away, but possibly because he had read about their integrated coed dorms. Dad wanted me to look at Catholic University, as a commuter, and he wanted me to get accepted at William and Mary because a guy at work claimed I couldn’t get in there. There were cards in the back of the big green book that you could send to colleges for additional information. Rice University and The Hampton Institute also met my criteria, and Hampton wasn’t that far from DC. When a thick envelope arrived, I started looking through Hampton’s brochure, with pictures of students and buildings and facilities. Even in the 1970s colleges were trying to show some diversity, but it dawned on me that almost everyone in the brochure was black.
Hampton had been founded after the Civil War to teach freed slaves. They later included Native Americans, but were criticized for racial-mixing. Native Americans found that they couldn’t get jobs with a degree from a black college, so that enrollment dried up. I frankly don’t recall if I even showed the brochure to my folks. I couldn’t imagine going to a mostly black college, and I couldn’t imagine them paying for it. Based on my SATs, Carnegie-Mellon sent me a small brochure and also fit all my criteria, and that is where I went. I have thought back over the years on what it would have been like to be in the minority on a campus.
Fast forward to Baltimore in 2018. I moved from the Mt Washington suburb to an apartment downtown, and began walking past The Real News Network (TRNN) offices on my way to the farmer’s market. TRNN featured a live talk by Dr Gerald Horne, so I dropped by to watch, Why Black Lives Don’t Matter. Horne recounted many of the points from his book, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. I bought this book for my stepson, who is widely-read in American history. You can sing Molasses to Rum all you want, but Horne claims that the Revolutionary War was an attempt to preserve the cash cow that slavery represented to wealthy people in the American colonies.
Last week I was telling a friend about this day of reflection, and he told me that he had recently watched a talk by several speakers, the best of whom was a black woman. A questioner noted that a review called her, “articulate,” and asked if she was offended. She replied something about enduring microaggressions (PDF). My friend, and his partner, couldn’t get their minds around interpreting a compliment as an insult, but as described in this legal reference site, they are very real to minorities.
Anyway, coworkers suggested many pieces for us to watch or read. I got a jump last night and watched 13th on Netflix, which explains how the prison-industrial complex has evolved to replace slavery. I also watched the first of a series of NY Times podcasts called 1619, which asserted that Lincoln, after freeing the slaves, hoped to return them to Africa, and indeed had a Commissioner of Emigration for that purpose. But it is clear that this subject cannot be dealt with in just one day or several. I will have to keep reading and watching for probably the rest of my life.
Comet TV showed The Creeping Unknown a few weekends ago. I remembered this old black and white British sci-fi flick from when I was a kid, but had forgotten a few details. According to wikipedia, TCU was the American name of The Quatermass Xperiment, a 1955 film version of a popular 1953 BBC series called The Quatermass Experiment. Hammer Film Productions changed the title to emphasize its X-Certificate, which was not the American type X-rating but the old British Board of Film Censors’ X for too much sex, violence or coarse language. There is no sex or coarse language at all, and the violence is extremely tame by today’s standards, but after reading the script, the head of the board sent Hammer a letter advising that the film might be too disturbing for even an X.
Maybe they were reacting to one scene – I still remember being scared by it – in which the still human-looking Unknown comes upon a friendly young girl playing with her dolly. Turns out the young actress was Jane Asher, who nearly married Paul McCartney, but was lucky again. Other than that there is a bit of implied violence as two or three people and a lot of zoo animals are killed by the Unknown off camera.
People react emotionally to violence against children … sometimes. Mass shooters kill children and we hear, “thoughts and prayers.” US police shoot dark-skinned children and we hear, “well, all lives matter.” The US has been killing Middle Eastern men, women and children with drone strikes for decades, and we hear almost nothing. Israel has been killing Palestinian men, women and children for decades, and we hear that they were a threat. Saudis have been bombing Yemini men, women and children and we hear how great it is that Saudi women can drive cars now. But recently the resistance has been clutching their pearls over Trump’s executive order that immigrants be separated from their children. So we’ve seen wrenching images of children crying and kept in cages. And Rachel Maddow cried.
All of this is loathsome, as is Trump’s strategy to use the suffering of these children to make his immigration bill seem more palatable. But right wing Trumpists and left wing Sandernistas correctly point out that rough treatment of immigrants didn’t begin with Trump. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created in 2003 following the Homeland Security Act of 2002. So George W Bush, Barack Obama and the current President have each had purview of the agency. Obama did not urge separation of children, but under his administration from 2009 to 2016, ICE deported a record 2.4 million immigrants, earning Obama the nickname “Deporter-In-Chief.”
The separated children issue appears to have been effective. Trump was forced to back down on his policy, or at least to appear to back down. And some photographer will win a prize for his photo of a weeping little girl. But I suspect that the Resistance is doing itself no good in the long run. They continue to search for some tangential issue to trip up Trump, instead of criticizing him as the useful idiot of the oligarchy. Because the resistance is also part of that oligarchy.
Last year, when I read that TYT fired reporter Jordan Chariton, I had a visceral reaction. I dropped my subscription to The Young Turks and subscribed to The Real News Network. I thought Chariton had used poor judgment in sleeping with one of his interns (who was young, married and ambitious), but I also realized that I had become increasingly dissatisfied with TYT’s “shtick” if you will. I liked Jimmy Dore on Aggressive Progressives, and thought Emma Vigeland and Michael Tracy were promising, but except for Chariton, the show seemed like a rehash of other peoples’ reporting, regurgitated for hip, young viewers. TRNN was about as sober as Democracy Now! and even featured Aaron Maté, whose name I remembered from Amy Goodman quickly reciting the DN credits. TRNN also seemed devoted to local reporting in Baltimore.
A few months ago, TRNN brought on liberal radio stalwart Marc Steiner and his first interview was with Chelsea Manning. I had heard a lot about Bradley Manning alerting us to military abuses in Iraq, languishing in prison, changing his gender to become Chelsea, surprisingly being pardoned by President Obama, and now running for the Senate here in Maryland. Before watching that interview, she was a cipher in a uniform, but afterwards she seemed credible as a candidate.
I ran across a notice that Manning was going to be in town at a place called The Impact Hub, and was thinking it would be interesting to attend. I got an email from Penny, who runs Light Street Cycles, where I go for all my bike needs, and sometimes just to chat. I was already a customer when Penny and I ran into each other at an Occupy Baltimore event, and realized we were on the same political wavelength. Manning is one of her heroes, and she had signed me up for the Circles of Voices discussion of Mass Incarceration that featured Manning. Cool.
So I took light rail to North Avenue Station and walked over the Hub, which is part of the renovated Centre Theatre, in what was once a prewar car dealership near the intersection of North Avenue and Charles Street. The door was supposed to be locked, but they opened for a fellow delivering pizza so I came in, too. The Hub appears casual inside with lots of techie design flourishes contrasted with rough concrete, rusted steel and sliding fire doors. I was half an hour early and happened to ask JC Faulk, who runs the sessions, if I was in the right room, and he had me sign in and fill out a name tag. I poked around and noticed very small signs for wayfinding to restrooms, which after several turns, corridors and doors turned out to be inside the Centre Theatre. On my way back, I found Manning looking a bit confused and led her back to the Hub. I tried introducing myself but she didn’t respond.
Back in the Hub more people were showing up. I’m tall so I always sit towards the back in flat spaces. I started speaking to a young teacher named Erin about Lies My Teacher Told Me, and a former teacher named Jason joined in. Eventually Penny showed up. I introduced her as the mother of a teacher, so they all chatted away while I people-watched. JC was fine with us hobnobbing, but asked us to find a person we didn’t know and tell them something that wasn’t obvious about ourselves. Birte turned around and told me she was German, but had lived in the Netherlands for several years. She was a few weeks from obtaining her PhD in the US, and returning to the Netherlands. I said, “dankuwel,” and she smiled, which reminded me of Angelique Kerber’s toothy head shot on the WTA site. I told her I used to sing and act on stage. She had been brought along by her friend, a tall, blonde girl named Rachel. My hound dog days are long past, but there were a lot of pretty young women in that room.
JC settled the crowd of about sixty and laid out the ground rules, such as Attack the ideas, not the person. One would think that rule was fairly obvious but last week a firefighter throttled a city planner during a public discussion of whether separated bike lanes were crowding out fire lanes. Right here in Baltimore. Another rule was Immunity. Another was Don’t Interrupt. Another was Know When to Step Up and Step Back. Another was No Recording or Filming, but JC pointed out that CoV staff was filming this event. He also told us that the door was locked to keep out a white supremacist that was trying to use the available office facilities.
JC told us that he started this effort after seeing his community in turmoil after the death of Freddie Gray. He introduced Tawanda Jones, the sister of Tyrone West who was killed during a struggle with police some months before the Freddie Gray riots.
JC said he wasn’t interested in promoting candidates and hadn’t much use for the sly talk of most politicians but felt that Manning had been honest and forthright in her campaign. Manning said she was running for Senate, but wanted to set that aside for the evening’s discussion. She told us some of the ins and outs of being incarcerated, and it occurred to me that being alone in a corridor with a large stranger like me would probably be intimidating for a rather small person like her who had been in prison for seven years.
Manning talked about the guards “losing” the request forms that prisoners had to submit for toiletries, and prisoners looking out for one another by stockpiling those items for anyone that got screwed over. My mind turned to the infamous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which a researcher named Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned nine male students each as guards and inmates, dressed them accordingly, and let them loose against each other in a few basement rooms on campus. Despite the crude simulation, all parties seemed to conform to their roles with utmost seriousness:
There were three types of guards. First, there were tough but fair guards who followed prison rules. Second, there were “good guys” who did little favors for the prisoners and never punished them. And finally, about a third of the guards were hostile, arbitrary, and inventive in their forms of prisoner humiliation. These guards appeared to thoroughly enjoy the power they wielded, yet none of our preliminary personality tests were able to predict this behavior. The only link between personality and prison behavior was a finding that prisoners with a high degree of authoritarianism endured our authoritarian prison environment longer than did other prisoners.
The two-week experiment ended after only six days at the urging of Zimbardo’s girlfriend, a psychologist named Christina Maslach, who was appalled by what she saw. One “prisoner” had been in solitary confinement for several hours, and was interviewed two months later:
I began to feel that I was losing my identity, that the person that I called Clay, the person who put me in this place, the person who volunteered to go into this prison – because it was a prison to me; it still is a prison to me. I don’t regard it as an experiment or a simulation because it was a prison run by psychologists instead of run by the state. I began to feel that that identity, the person that I was that had decided to go to prison was distant from me – was remote until finally I wasn’t that, I was 416. I was really my number.
Manning was under Prevention of Injury isolation, essentially solitary, for about ten months. BTW, Zimbardo and Maslach later married, and each has had a successful career in psychology.
Manning said that after three years in prison she had accepted, like most prisoners, that she would be serving her full 35 year term. (Though she would have been eligible for parole after about a third of the sentence.) She was initially in denial that all but four months of her remaining sentence had been commuted by President Obama – a charitable act for which I forgive many of his neoliberal transgressions – except drone strikes on innocent civilians.
After she had finished, JC broke us into circles. After some negotiation we settled on three groups: those who had been incarcerated, those who knew someone incarcerated, and my group, those who had not been and did not know anyone who had been incarcerated. A big fellow named Mike began to collect our group, describing himself as a natural extravert who was trying to step back. I told him I was a reformed introvert. IIRC there were only about eleven of us. Mike, Peter, me, Asia, a woman without a tag, A woman with very short hair, another woman, a man, Maria, an older woman, and Magda. I said I was surprised we had even one person of color, and then hoped I wasn’t offending her. She seemed OK.
JC told us to begin, so I brought up the Stanford Prison Experiment, which most had heard about. I suggested that it was very easy to fall into the assigned roles in prison and in society. As if to verify that, someone suggested that prison was a necessary evil. Others objected and felt the entire prison system should be dismantled. I pointed out that many outlets credited the increase in incarceration with a corresponding decrease in crime. I recounted surveying Mecklenburg Correctional Center, a medium security facility in Southern Virginia in the late 1970s, which seemed like a relatively civilized place.
I asked if anyone felt that American prison was restorative rather than punitive. They all laughed and said punitive. Someone brought up the Nordic prison system as much less abusive to prisoners, but someone else observed that it worked well but in a very homogenous society. JC had told us that the US had 25% of the world’s prisoners but only 5% of its population. The US has 655 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, depending on how it is calculated. Seychelles has 735, but their total population is only 92,000. I thought Russia was next, but Cuba has 510, while Russia has 450 and Thailand has 445. Norway has 70, Denmark has 61 and Sweden has 53. CoV staff were roaming with boom mikes and cameras.
Several people pointed out that increasing prison population was a result of the War on Drugs, which was intended as an extension of slavery and Jim Crow oppression. Hence we had non-violent offenders thrown in with serious criminals. Maria talked about being from an immigrant family and always being afraid of dealing with the police. Someone asked if being in jail counted. We realized that while we had not been incarcerated in prison, several of us had been arrested and held for some short period of time. I asked if anyone expected that they would be able to stay away from incarceration the way things were going. The older woman foresaw having to be arrested for protesting.
JC asked the different groups to sum up. The incarcerated groups had been extremely in favor of dismantling the prison system, and had covered many of the same issues we discussed. Penny added that while our group self-selected and were against mass incarceration, she knew lots of people that considered it a sensible response to crime.
JC closed by asking us to speak one-on-one with someone answering the question, What happens if I ignore someone in pain? Peter and I paired up, and we each had to speak to the other for three minutes while the other listened intently. He talked about trying to be more empathetic as a mental health professional, and I spoke about what had happened in personal relationships.
Many thanks to Penny for including me, and for giving me a ride home.
Update 20180528: AP reports that Chelsea Manning was literally on the ledge.
[Friend and Campaign Communications Director Kelly] Wright said that Manning’s adjustment to life outside prison has been “extremely difficult.”
“I have seen firsthand and up close the violence inflicted on her by years of imprisonment, solitary confinement and torture,” Wright said. “This is made worse by the impossibly high expectations our society sets for public figures, especially on social media.”
I read that Fox will be no longer using their, “Fair and Balanced” tagline. I wonder who will snap that one up? Maybe the DNC? Maybe the Republican’s charity softball team? I think Fox is replacing it with, “Laughing Our Ossoff.” Or maybe the Democrats already have that trademarked, having spent a fortune to run another Republican-lite candidate while campaign consultants laughed all the way to the bank.
The Dems reminds me more and more of the Washington Generals, who were paid to play straight up basketball (and lose) against a team that ignored the rules in favor of showmanship.
The Redskins get to keep their name, and no NFL team has signed Colin Kaepernick, who offended the league by pointing out that police were shooting dark-skinned people almost as casually as they shoot barking dogs.
Shaun King believes that Black Lives Matter is losing the struggle. I think we are all losing the struggle, but no one is shooting at me yet.
FBI Director James Comey spoke today at the Clements Center for National Security at UT Austin. PBS News Hour live-streamed it over Youtube, and I caught it 30 minutes in, then watched again from the beginning.
Comey began by stating that the FBI’s primary counter-terrorism concern is Islamic terrorism. Initially, he said, Islamic terrorists had some success attracting people to the caliphate, but those numbers have been dropping, and it seems to be failing. Social Media efforts peaked in Spring 2015.
But, recruiters like Anwar al-Awlaki have tried and are still inspiring people, “who are seeking meaning,” to use violence. How do you spot them? Will people close to them report to the authorities?
Comey says intelligence predicts that after the caliphate is crushed there will be a terrorist diaspora into Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa, and that they will be bent on continuing global jihad.
In response, the FBI has knitted together agents and analysts. They now assign tasks in a less geographic way, based more on talent. They have “Fly teams” prepared to go anywhere. They’ve established “Cyber task offices” and recruit for Integrity, Physicality, Intelligence, Technical Expertise. They want to shrink the world for the good people and embed analysts around the world.
If this sounds like a millennial TV show, well, Comey is looking to recruit from this student body, and he has to offer something that competes with private sector salaries.
The FBI intends to impose costs on foreign hackers.They urge cyber and media companies to establish relationships with the local FBI office so they can be rescued the way that Sony was rescued from the North Korea hack. He describes a relationship where the FBI would know a companies cyber-footprint the way that a fire marshal would know a building’s exit plan.
Comey assured the audience that he loved encryption, and that he even had a private Instagram account for family only. But now he feels there is a creeping darkness caused by effective encryption as the default. He worried that there are too many messages that the government simply can’t read. The deal, he says, was that there was “no such thing as absolute privacy.” In the past, he said, you had privacy, but your house, accounts, spouse and even your thoughts could always be investigated – with official authorization. He believes that manufacturers should be held responsible for the information on their devices being available for judicial review.
The moderator asked, given that there were hardly any cases right after 9/11, what are the causes and indicators of home-grown domestic radicalization? Comey responded that, “the internet has transformed the way we live.” He said there was no hotspot, but that all around the nation troubled people, who may be drug users, child pornographers, disaffected teens, people with troubled relationships were seeking meaning or a different world without ever leaving their computers. He used that, “seeking meaning,” phrase a lot. He also felt that usually somebody saw something and didn’t speak up.
My first thought was of the local terrorism cases that seemed to clearly be instigated by an FBI plant. My second thought was that like Neil Gorsuch, Comey is a very personable fellow with a scary agenda. He closed with an inspiring talk about the request to wiretap ML King requested by Hoover and approved by Robert F Kennedy. He says he doesn’t want the FBI to make that mistake again, but I didn’t feel reassured by the tenor of the sales pitch.
One of the better plotlines on Star Trek: Voyager was the Year of Hell. In that two-part episode, Voyager was battered and her crew decimated over the course of a year of running battles with an implacable enemy. It struck me as a much more likely scenario than the usual melodrama of a lone ship escaping every situation either triumphant or at least mostly intact. The writers made everything revert to normal, of course, but continuing it would have been a learning experience for fans.
So in our real world plotline, we’ve had 100 days of limbo. Most of my friends and most of the media are outraged by President Trump, but a lot of the people I read or follow are equally outraged at the resistance which seems to have been encouraged, propagandized and orchestrated by the Deep State.
Why are progressives suspicious of the resistance? At Truthdig, historian Paul Street explains, The Deep State’s Hatred of Trump Is Not the Same as Yours :
… The issues that concern the swirling, record-setting crowds that have arisen from coast to coast are evident on their homemade signs. They include women’s and civil rights, climate change, social justice, racism, nativism, the police state, mass incarceration, plutocracy, authoritarianism, immigrant rights, low wages, economic inequality …, hyper-militarism and the devaluation of science and education. The marches and protests are about the threats Trump poses to peace, social justice, the rule of law, livable ecology and democracy.
Meanwhile, the national corporate media and the U.S. intelligence community have been attacking Trump for a very different and strange reason. They have claimed, with no serious or credible evidence, that Trump is, for some bizarre reason, a tool of the Russian state. …. Citing vague and unsubstantiated CIA reports, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other forces in the establishment media want Americans to believe that, in Glenn Greenwald’s properly mocking words, “Donald Trump is some kind of an agent or a spy of Russia, or that he is being blackmailed by Russia and is going to pass secret information to the Kremlin and endanger American agents on purpose.”
Beneath the wild and unsubstantiated charge that Trump is some kind of Moscow-controlled Manchurian president is a determination to cripple and perhaps remove Trump because he wants to normalize U.S. relations with Russia.
In The Deep State vs. President Trump, retired polysci prof Gary Olson hits many of the same notes:
Why does the Deep State fear and despise Trump? First, his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is a fervent disciple of capitalist economic nationalism. Further, his America is the “shining city on a hill,” but where the dwellers are Christian white people. Deep State types are convinced Trump’s skewed priorities will undermine the dominant role played by the U.S. in the global capitalist system from which they derive their power, wealth, and ultra-lavish lifestyles. We are witnessing a no-holds-barred clash between two warring camps.
Second, both the Pentagon and their arms-dealer friends are salivating over a new Cold War with Russia and will do anything to sabotage enhancing peaceful understanding between Washington and Moscow. This explains their hysterical Kremlin-baiting of Trump. Likewise, Trump sent chills through the Deep State when he voiced doubts about NATO as an archaic relic of the past, expensive and dangerously misused outside of Europe.
Third, Trump’s erratic behavior, penchant for confrontation and unwillingness to be a team player render him an unreliable caretaker of Deep State interests. They much preferred Hillary Clinton or even Jeb Bush. Trump was the “Frankenstein Populist” (Paul Street’s term) who, shockingly, won the election. Now he threatens to unwittingly expose their “marionette theater” of contrived democracy. My sense is that if Trump does not satisfy the Deep State doubts about his trustworthiness, his days in office are numbered.
“Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly?”
Essentially, a lot of people who were doing fine under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama aren’t ready for that ride to be over. They expect everyone, EVERYONE to forget that life under neoliberals sucked and was getting worse for a lot of people, and to unite to defeat Trump. It’s the same deal they worked hard to arrange in the election, and even though it was a loser, they would rather make it work through insurrection than change one damn thing about the establishment.
We watched the film Elysium last weekend, which like Snowpiercer was a fairly transparent metaphor for our unequal society overlaid with fight scenes that resembled video gaming. As in Snowpiercer, the establishment was overthrown, and society was able to quickly reboot. Is the Trump administration robust enough to survive all his missteps? If not, is the US government robust enough to survive a bitter insider revolution? Are we robust enough to survive a series of authoritarian administrations?
In, American Regicide, Akim Reinhardt warns that the institution of the Presidency is increasingly fragile:
After Nixon’s resignation, 5 of the next 7 presidents suffered an impeachment motion in the House, and one of them, Bill Clinton was actually impeached. In fact, every president beginning with Ronald Reagan has seen a member of Congress move to impeach him.
Ronald Reagan faced an impeachment motion over the Iran Contra Scandal.
George Bush the Elder faced an impeachment motion over the first Iraq war.
Prior to actually being impeached over the Monica Lewinski scandal, Bill Clinton faced an impeachment motion for allegedly obstructing an investigation of alleged campaign contributions from foreign sources.
George Bush the Younger faced an impeachment motion over his version of the Iraq (and Afghanistan) war.
Barack Obama faced two impeachment motions: one for administering the drone program in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the other for the odd combination of charges that he failed to do perform his presidential duty while also abusing his presidential powers.
All of this is not a coincidence.
What Reinhardt doesn’t get around to saying is that the roots of government weakness lie in our failure to take part in, or even pay attention to its workings. Many of us work hard, and more of us play hard, but few of us go to the long boring meetings that determine the direction of government. Taking part in marches is a fine thing, but making one’s voice heard at all sorts of town meetings is a better thing. People get the government they deserve, but more to the point, we have also gotten the deep state we deserve, and we may get many years of hell while our government and deep state fight for supremacy.
I’ve been seeing a barrage of posts by many of my friends lamenting that such a dignified man is leaving office to be replaced by a coarse caudillo. Barack Obama is certainly very intelligent, and I suspect that he, Michelle, and their children are very nice people, but I regard him as only a placeholder president.
As described in Listen, Liberal, which I am most of the way through reading, our outgoing president initially enjoyed a supermajority in Congress, but instead of executing the will of the American people as a whole, catered to the concerns of about ten or twenty percent of Americans: highly-educated, successful professionals.
While most people wanted Wall Street to be reformed, Obama bailed out the institutions and guaranteed millions upon millions in bonuses.
While most people wanted peace, Obama continued war-for-profit and escalated assassination via drones.
While most people wanted a single payer system, Obama settled for a mandated gift to private insurance companies.
While most people wanted a more transparent government, Obama has persecuted whistleblowers.
And today, while people are praying that he will pardon Chelsea Manning, we read this:
In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.
The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.
Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.
Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.
But Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the move an erosion of rules intended to protect the privacy of Americans when their messages are caught by the N.S.A.’s powerful global collection methods. He noted that domestic internet data was often routed or stored abroad, where it may get vacuumed up without court oversight.
“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” Mr. Toomey said. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”
Update20170118: President Obama has commuted the sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, and has pardoned retired Marine General James E Cartwright, who had been convicted of lying to the FBI. Obama has reportedly pardoned or reduced the sentences of a few hundred non-violent drug offenders.No one is sure whether Julian Assange will make good on his promise to face extradition to the US in exchange for Manning’s commutation.
Greenwald just knocks it out of the park. Here are some snippets, but read the whole thing at The Intercept. [Update: Greenwald was interviewed on this topic on today’s Democracy Now]
THE PARALLELS BETWEEN the U.K.’s shocking approval of the Brexit referendum in June and the U.S.’ even more shocking election of Donald Trump as president last night are overwhelming. Elites (outside of populist right-wing circles) aggressively unified across ideological lines in opposition to both. Supporters of Brexit and Trump were continually maligned by the dominant media narrative (validly or otherwise) as primitive, stupid, racist, xenophobic, and irrational. In each case, journalists who spend all day chatting with one another on Twitter and congregating in exclusive social circles in national capitals — constantly re-affirming their own wisdom in an endless feedback loop — were certain of victory. Afterward, the elites whose entitlement to prevail was crushed devoted their energies to blaming everyone they could find except for themselves, while doubling down on their unbridled contempt for those who defied them, steadfastly refusing to examine what drove their insubordination.
The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.
1. Democrats have already begun flailing around trying to blame anyone and everyone they can find — everyone except themselves — for last night’s crushing defeat of their party.
2. That racism, misogyny, and xenophobia are pervasive in all sectors of America is indisputable from even a casual glance at its history, both distant and recent.
3. Over the last six decades, and particularly over the last 15 years of the endless war on terror, both political parties have joined to construct a frightening and unprecedentedly invasive and destructive system of authoritarian power, accompanied by the unbridled authority vested in the executive branch to use it.
The Charles Theatre’s Revival Series matinee yesterday was The Conversation, a Francis Ford Coppola film about surveillance and eavesdropping. In 1974, having seen Gene Hackman in Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection, and Cindy Williams in Laverne and Shirley and American Graffiti, I drove two of my siblings and their friends to some theatre on Wisconsin Avenue to watch it. John Cazale, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford and Teri Garr played supporting roles. I already knew Duvall, but not the others. Even after Watergate, I found the idea that we could always be watched very dark and paranoid. Roger Ebert reviewed the film as one of his Great Movies, in 2001:
Coppola, who wrote and directed, considers this film his most personal project. He was working two years after the Watergate break-in, amid the ruins of the Vietnam effort, telling the story of a man who places too much reliance on high technology and has nightmares about his personal responsibility. Harry Caul is a microcosm of America at that time: not a bad man, trying to do his job, haunted by a guilty conscience, feeling tarnished by his work.
I had to work midday Saturday, but watching that film again would have been a fine lead-in to Oliver Stone’s new film, Snowden, which was showing at only a few local theatres. I had read several positive reviews – some recommended seeing Laura Poitras’ 2014 documentary CitizenFour first – and one discouraging review. One friend at work had heard (on NPR) a former NSA deputy director’s claim that it was all lies, that Snowden had actually stolen important state secrets, and that agents had died.
I stopped off to see Snowden on the way home Saturday afternoon. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a convincing Edward Snowden. I had watched him telling Steven Colbert that he met Snowden in Moscow, which helped his characterization. Rhys Ifans was convincing as a composite of a CIA bigwig that took Snowden under his wing. Nicholas Cage was restrained as a composite of a disaffected techie genius, reduced to teaching young agents. Zachary Quinto, playing Glenn Greenwald, had a chance to yell a bit (at his cautious Guardian editor); Melissa Leo had more to do playing Laura Poitras, but I wonder if she is actually that warm and motherly on the job.
In the same way that Hannah Giles attracted right-wing fanboys to the Acorn entrapment story, Snowden’s outgoing girlfriend Lindsay Mills let it all hang out on the internet, and was a bonus ‘manic pixie dream girl’ for his libertarian supporters. Shailene Woodley gave a fine performance, but she doesn’t look that much like (how I remember) Mills, and reportedly never could meet up to learn her mannerisms. One of the dumbest criticisms I read beforehand was a complaint that the film spent too much time on their romance. Mills was, and is, a big part of the Snowden story.
Snowden was very dramatic, well-filmed, well-paced, etc, but I wanted to see more of his time hiding with poor refugees in Hong Kong, and more of his escape and refuge in Moscow. Towards the end when Toronto students cheer Snowden speaking via a video feed, I felt like standing up and cheering, too, but still I felt that a more balanced, less laudatory film – one that addressed and answered criticisms – would better serve Snowden’s desire for repatriation.
The film was careful to make clear that Snowden published all documents through the established news outlets, but just today, the Washington Post editorial board repudiated calls that Snowden be pardoned and may have become the first newspaper to call for prosecution of its own source.
The complication is that Mr. Snowden … also pilfered, and leaked, information about a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy. … he also leaked details of basically defensible international intelligence operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain offensive cyber operations in China. No specific harm, actual or attempted, to any individual American was ever shown to have resulted from the NSA telephone metadata program Mr. Snowden brought to light. In contrast, his revelations about the agency’s international operations disrupted lawful intelligence-gathering, causing possibly “tremendous damage” to national security, according to a unanimous, bipartisan report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. What higher cause did that serve?
In response, the real Glenn Greenwald yelled, in The Intercept:
In arguing that no public interest was served by exposing PRISM, what did the Post editors forget to mention? That the newspaper which (simultaneous with The Guardian) made the choice to expose the PRISM program by spreading its operational details and top secret manual all over its front page is called . . . . The Washington Post. Then, once they made the choice to do so, they explicitly heralded their exposure of the PRISM program (along with other revelations) when they asked to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Our crusading mainstream media.
No event has caused me to lose faith in the mainstream and new internet media as has their reaction to the revelations of Edward Snowden. Former Attorney General Eric Holder made news last week when he admitted that Snowden had done a great service to the citizens of America by revealing the extent to which we were being monitored by our government. But Holder, President Obama, candidate Clinton, and many others also assert that Snowden should have followed normal whistleblower channels, and now should return to face the sealed charges against him.
Last week on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interviewed Mark Hertsgaard, author of a new book about the experiences of two NSA whistleblowers before Snowden, and one of his subjects, John Crane, whose career was ended when he revealed NSA wrongdoing:
MARK HERTSGAARD: … everybody knows what Snowden did at this point, but to really understand it, what Snowden did and why he did it the way he did it—he did it, you need to know the stories of … Thomas Drake [and] John Crane. … when you see everything that John Crane tells us about how the whistleblower protection system inside the Pentagon is broken, only results in a whistleblower having his life ruined, as we saw with Tom Drake, you see that really Edward Snowden had no other choice but to go public. …
And so I think that’s what’s important about John Crane’s story, is it puts the lie to what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are saying and have been saying about Edward Snowden from the beginning. “He broke the law, bring him home. He should face the music,” is what Hillary Clinton said. “Face the music. He could have been a whistleblower,” Hillary Clinton added, “and he would have gotten a very good reception, I think.” Well, I would just like to invite Secretary Clinton, tell that to Thomas Drake, tell that to John Crane, that you would have gotten a good reception by following the whistleblower law inside of the Pentagon.
And today, Juan Cole has addressed Holder directly, Dear Mr. Holder: Why Ed Snowden can’t get a Fair Trial in your National Security State:
… nobody in the Obama administration still in office ever said that Snowden did a public service. He certainly did, since the NSA and other intelligence organizations had gone rogue. In essence, they unilaterally abrogated the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. PBS Frontline alleged that the NSA did not even read Obama into their warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans until 2010! In a system like that, the president isn’t really the president– the Deep State does as it pleases.
It is also clear that the NSA has been sharing metadata with local law enforcement, which has been using it to build cases against people without ever seeking a warrant, and then lying to judges about how they knew someone was, e.g., in touch with a drug dealer by phone. In other words, NSA surveillance has corrupted the entire justice system of the United States and made the Fourth Amendment a dead letter.
Such sharing of illicitly-gathered private information among US government agencies is becoming routine. (These cases have nothing to do with terrorism.)
My favorite moments in CBS’ The Good Wife, which recently ended, was their matter of fact portrayal of just how routine it was that Alicia Florrick, her governor husband and all their associates were being electronically-monitored on the basis of a tenuous connection with a former client. That the agents were a bunch of geeky millenials in a cubicled space out of Dilbert, who fit their surveillance between teasing each other with the latest memes, added to the absurdity, but might have led people to think the writers were joking.
And we’re the ones who will face the music.