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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 05/06/2012 - 05/13/2012
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Matt Taibbi on the 2012 election: Two calculating centrists, fighting for the right to serve as figurehead atop a bloated state apparatus

just a short dose of reality from glenn...
Matt Taibbi has an excellent post on the 2012 presidential election, focusing on how boring and apathy-producing it is, particularly compared to the 2008 election, and how this threatens to undermine one of the prime purposes of American elections — distracting citizens’ attention from what is actually being done:
Meanwhile, Obama has turned out to represent continuity with the Bush administration on a range of key issues, from torture to rendition to economic deregulation. Obama is doing things with extralegal drone strikes that would have liberals marching in the streets if they’d been done by Bush. . . .
In other words, Obama versus McCain actually felt like a clash of ideological opposites. But Obama and Romney feels like a contest between two calculating centrists, fighting for the right to serve as figurehead atop a bloated state apparatus that will operate according to the same demented imperial logic irrespective of who wins the White House.
Then there’s one more thing – Obama versus Romney is the worst reality show on TV since the Tila Tequila days. The characters are terrible, there’s no suspense, and the biggest thing is, it lacks both spontaneity and a gross-out factor. In Reality TV, if you don’t have really sexy half-naked young people scheming against each other over campfires in the Cook Islands, you need to have grown men eating millipedes or chicks in bikinis drinking donkey semen. And if you don’t have that, you really need Sarah Palin.
This race has none of that. . . . The presidential race is always a great illusion, designed to distract people from the more hardcore politics in this country, the minutiae of trade and tax and monetary policy that’s too boring to cover. When the presidential race is a bad show, people might not have any choice but to pay attention to those other things. And this year’s version is the worst show in memory. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Digby dissents from that last point on the ground that political strategists and media mavens are adept at keeping interest levels high by manufacturing the appearance of meaningful conflicts: “It’s like one of those Housewife reality shows where everyone is obscenely wealthy and they create phony feuds and stage screaming fights and then magically become bffs the next season. It’s kind of a trainwreck that you can’t keep your eyes off of at first, but then you just end up falling asleep in front of the TV.”

and, lest we forget, this incredibly shallow, superficial reality show has been pushing its way onto our television screens and nagging us from every conceivable media outlet for the past 18+ months... beam me up, scotty...

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Sibel Edmonds re-emerges - finally - with a book

i've posted a great deal in the past about sibel edmonds (see here) but it's been nearly three years since my last post... the constraints of her gag order coupled with personal threats have been severely detrimental in getting her story out... now i see that she has a book which lays out everything and i can only hope that her re-emergence and renewed visibility will be sufficient to shield her from any unexplained, coincidental "accidents"...
first this from rt and the alyona show...
Sibel Edmonds has called the most classified woman in US history. But now, after a long battle with government secrecy, the full story has finally been written. She faced a nearly yearlong FBI campaign to prevent its publication. She joins the show to tell us about her memoir, "Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story".

here's david swanson...
Sibel Edmonds' new book, "Classified Woman," is like an FBI file on the FBI, only without the incompetence.

The experiences she recounts resemble K.'s trip to the castle, as told by Franz Kafka, only without the pleasantness and humanity.

I've read a million reviews of nonfiction books about our government that referred to them as "page-turners" and "gripping dramas," but I had never read a book that actually fit that description until now.

The F.B.I., the Justice Department, the White House, the Congress, the courts, the media, and the nonprofit industrial complex put Sibel Edmonds through hell.  This book is her triumph over it all, and part of her contribution toward fixing the problems she uncovered and lived through.

Edmonds took a job as a translator at the FBI shortly after 9-11.  She considered it her duty.  Her goal was to prevent any more terrorist attacks.  That's where her thinking was at the time, although it has now changed dramatically.  It's rarely the people who sign up for a paycheck and healthcare who end up resisting or blowing a whistle.

Edmonds found at the FBI translation unit almost entirely two types of people. The first group was corrupt sociopaths, foreign spies, cheats and schemers indifferent to or working against U.S. national security.  The second group was fearful bureaucrats unwilling to make waves.  The ordinary competent person with good intentions who risks their job to "say something if you see something" is the rarest commodity.  Hence the elite category that Edmonds found herself almost alone in: whistleblowers.

[N]o branch of our government has lifted its little finger to fix the problem of secrecy and the corruption it breeds, which Edmonds argues has grown far worse under President Obama.  That's why this book should be spread far and wide, and read aloud to our misrepresentatives in Congress if necessary.  This book is a masterpiece that reveals both the details and the broader pattern of corruption and unaccountability in Washington, D.C.  Edmonds has not exposed bad apples, but a rotten barrel of toxic waste that will sooner or later infect us all -- not just the whistleblowers like Sibel and the thousands of people in our government who see something and dare not say something for fear that we will not have their back.

now, if our brain-dead media could just manage to sit up and take notice of what sibel is exposing, we just might be able to shed some light on all the creepy-crawlies that infest even the highest reaches of our government...  

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Adbusters: Spring re-occupations have largely failed here in North America

once again, adbusters leads the way... 

TACTICAL BRIEFING #32 – Occupy’s Turning Point

We innovate spontaneously – we play jazz

Hey you nimble dreamers, occupiers, believers,

Last May 15, a hundred thousand indignados in Spain seized the squares across their nation, held people’s assemblies and catalyzed a global tactical shift that birthed Occupy Wall Street four months later. Our movement outflanked governments everywhere with a thousand encampments in large part because no one was prepared for Occupy’s magic combination of Spain’s transparent consensus-based acampadas with the Tahrir-model of indefinite occupation of symbolic space. Now exactly a year later, a big question mark hangs over our movement because it is clear that the same tactics may never work again.

Spring re-occupations have largely failed here in North America. The May Day General Strike was stifled by aggressive, preemptive policing that neutralized Occupy’s signature moves. In light of these challenges, Saturday’s May 12 rebirth of the indignados could be a tactical turning point.

Across the world, authorities are using “lawfare” to piecemeal outlaw any tactic that we used last year. In Spain, there is an attempt to criminalize the use of the internet to catalyze nonviolent protests and occupations. The International Business Times reports that this is part of a larger European move to “punish those who use social media and instant messaging to organize and co-ordinate street protests.” Canada wants to ban wearing masks at “unlawful assemblies,” a legal designation often used to disperse nonviolent protesters. Meanwhile Germany is taking a more direct route: they have simply issued a decree “banning” the Blockupy anti-bank protest in Frankfurt. As in the U.S., when outlawing free speech and the right to assembly doesn’t work, authorities are increasingly using brutal, paramilitary force.

The power of Occupy lies in its ability to harness the collective intelligence of our leaderless movement to tactically innovate. We move at viral speed – always one step ahead. “Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again… till victory.” When one tactical constellation fails, we innovate spontaneously – we play jazz.

Across the world, indignados are preparing for a big blast on Saturday, May 12. Some, like Occupy London, are planning to retake the squares and set up encampments. Others have totally new tactics in mind. Whatever happens, let’s learn from the indignados with an eye towards our Camp David inspired May 18 #LAUGHRIOT and the global convergence on Chicago to confront NATO

Let’s be humble … let’s “fall in love with hard and patient work” – and keep in mind that this is all just the beginning.

for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ

"tactical innovation"... has a nice ring to it, eh...?

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

JPMorgan Chase and Jamie Dimon decide on a little derivatives sunshine

bwahahahaha...! long overdue...

JPMorgan Chase announced surprise “significant mark-to-market losses” on credit derivatives in its chief investment office, an opaque unit whose aggressive trades have recently drawn controversy.

The bank said in a regulatory filing that the portfolio at the CIO had “proven to be riskier, more volatile and less effective as an economic hedge than the firm previously believed”.

On a hastily convened conference call, Jamie Dimon blamed “errors, sloppiness and bad judgment”.
Separately, JPMorgan said it was on the hook for as much as $4.2bn in excess of reserves for various legal proceedings.

there's been a great deal of abortive effort to uncover the precise extent of the toxic derivatives held by our criminal, too-big-to-fail banks... suddenly, in this surprise announcement, lo and behold, a little sunshine... my hunch is that this is the thin edge of the wedge and that's there a lot more to come...

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What is common-good conservatism?

truthout via alternet...
What is common-good conservatism? It is a political philosophy rooted in the stewardship ethic of traditional conservatism. It begins with three simple premises: that recognition of the shared dignity of all human beings is the essential predicate of a just society, that rights always correspond to duties and that we bear a collective responsibility toward one another. Forward-looking, solutions-oriented and committed to social, economic and environmental justice, common-good conservatism champions the interests of average Americans and promotes civic virtue while laying the foundations for broadly shared prosperity and human flourishing in the 21st century. It is both transformative and restorative - a political and intellectual rebirth.


We must ensure that our economy and our government equitably distribute the benefits and burdens generated by both booms and busts. Taxation is also a mechanism for putting reasonable moral boundaries on greed. We must abandon libertarian-conservatism's reflexive opposition to any proposals to increase revenue - a millionaires' tax, ending the Bush-era tax cuts, or returning the top personal income tax rates to their levels during the Clinton administration, are all measures that we should discuss and consider. At the same time, we must identify and eliminate subsidies, loopholes and exemptions that benefit giant corporations, like the famous corporate jet tax break, in order to ensure that they also contribute their fair share.

Growing inequality, declining opportunity and a widely shared perception of systemic unfairness (that the game is rigged in favor of the super rich), ultimately undermine the stability of the social order and delegitimize our political and economic institutions. They must be addressed, so that our society can be maintained and extended forward in time.


Common-good conservatism, with its emphasis on stewardship and its recognition of the traditional conservative concern for preserving communities and institutions over time, is the solution.
Intellectually bankrupt and morally craven, libertarian-conservatism is hurtling toward its Gotterdammerung, a political version of Ragnarok where the sky falls and the world burns.

But there is still hope. From the smoldering ashes of libertarian-conservatism's funeral pyre, something fresh and wondrous might emerge, a conservative phoenix, singing a beautiful new song. That song is conservatism, for the common good. And with its first notes, we will greet the coming of the dawn.

wouldn't it be loverly...?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

James Bamford talks with Thom Hartmann about the NSA's Bluffdale, Utah, project

Welcome to America's biggest spy center

here's some more from wired's threat level...
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

"everybody's a target"... shit... everybody's BEEN a target for many years... bluffdale is just an upgrade...

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Obama endorses gay marriage

about freakin' time...

President Obama declared for the first time on Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage, putting the moral power of his presidency behind a social issue that continues to divide the country.

“At a certain point,” Mr. Obama said in an interview in the Cabinet Room at the White House with ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

The comments end years of public equivocating over the divisive social issue for the president, who has previously said he opposed gay marriage but repeatedly said he was “evolving” on the issue because of contact with friends and others who are gay.

Mr. Obama’s remarks — becoming the first sitting president to support extending the rights and status of marriage to gay couples — came after long-standing pressure from gay rights activists who are among his most loyal constituent but have been frustrated by his refusal to weigh in on the issue.

yeah, obama's going to take an enormous amount of shit on this but it's absolutely the right thing to do...

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The five rules that govern Big Pharma

from alternet...

  • Science has been supplanted by rank hucksterism
  • The strictest "moral duty" of corporate executives has been reduced to maximizing profits
  • A "good" regulation is one that's good for profit seekers
  • Public reproach is just a momentary embarrassment to be covered over by corporate image makers
  • Legal "punishment" never includes jail time, but only a fine that's easily absorbed as a necessary cost of doing business by these immensely profitable entities.
it's truly appalling to see the number of advertisements on tv for prescription drugs... by my rough estimate, they account for nearly half or more of all tv ads... it's also appalling to listen to the hastily-recited warnings that often take up 1/3 or more of the total time of the ad... the one that i find most disturbing are the abbott ads - all separate ads but many run within the same tv program - for humira - adalimumab - which is featured as THE remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn's disease, and moderate to severe chronic psoriasis among others... c'mon... you gotta be kidding... all THOSE...?

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Glenn: You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are

glenn comments on the "accidental" killing of an afghan family and the latest cia foiled al qaeda bomb "plot"...
No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information... [...] We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.

At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.

and with the latest bomb "plot" comes the inevitable call for more restrictive travel measures...

The disruption of a plot by al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula to attack a US-based jet using what is being billed as an "improved" underwear bomb is likely to lead to increased security at American airports, the chief White House adviser on terrorism has indicated.

John Brennan, the deputy homeland security adviser to Barack Obama, gave a clear suggestion that additional security measures lay ahead across the country. Asked whether the interception of a bomb plot emanating from Yemen indicated holes in US security, Brennan told NBC that the examination of the IED device that is currently being carried out would lead to modifications.

"Whatever we learn from this IED, we're going to ensure that it's going to be incorporated into the measures that we take at airports, as well as any other avenues of approach that the would-be terrorists would take," he said.

it's yet another "engineered" carefully crafted to ratchet up the already smothering National Security State...

The would-be suicide bomber, the man al-Qaida entrusted with its latest device, actually was a double agent working with the CIA and Saudi intelligence agencies, officials said Tuesday. Instead of sneaking it onto a plane in his underwear, he delivered it to the U.S. government and handed al-Qaida its latest setback.
The extraordinary intelligence operation was confirmed by U.S. and Yemeni officials who were briefed on the plot but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.

 are we having fun yet...?

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Mr. Fish: The altruism and profound compassion of the 1%

from truthdig...


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Chomsky: We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.

as always, chomsky's ability to recognize and describe the patterns and structures of our socioeconomic and political realities is unmatched...

There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact.  Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn’t really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There’s a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.

The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.

For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it’s been pretty harsh -- and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less -- the .1% -- it’s just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they’re concerned, sure, why not?


[T]he Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long, hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories.


We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted -- and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.

It’s not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures.  It’s inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

the 1% or, more accurately, the .1%, our ruling super-rich elites, will not go gently into that good night, but it would sure be nice to give them a hearty push...

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Glenn: Why is the unprecedented increase in domestic surveillance and a corresponding increase in prosecuting whistleblowers not a campaign issue?

yes... why indeed...

glenn greenwald...
[I]ssuing subpoenas to journalists to force them to reveal their sources is now obsolete — unnecessary — because the U.S. Government’s Surveillance State is so vast, so comprehensive, that it already knows who is talking to whom. It now subpoenas and harasses reporters simply to force them to confirm in court what they have already learned through surveillance, but the limitless Surveillance State it has created has rendered undetected whistleblowing — or undetected anything — virtually impossible.


[I]t’s just as necessary for a government to shield its own actions from any transparency and scrutiny as it is to know everything which citizens are doing and saying. That’s the one-way mirror which all authoritarian regimes attempt to construct: those in power know everything about the conduct of those who are ruled, while those who are ruled know nothing about the conduct of those in power. That’s what keeps the power dynamic so imbalanced in one direction. But this unprecedented attack on whistleblowers, as obviously significant as it is, also enjoys full bipartisan support (as well as the indifference of a supremely passive media), and so it, too, will be completely ignored by the grand Election-Year clash of America’s two great and oh-so-fundamentally-different political parties.

here's glenn's take on how all this plays out in our election year politics...
Even for those issues that are actually significant and receive election-year attention — such as, say, America’s oligarchy and the economic policies that sustain it — the differences are largely symbolic, just substantive enough to keep tribal loyalties high and to maintain the illusion of real choices (watch how often Obama supporters defend him from GOP attacks not by rejecting their premises but by insisting that he’s adopting conservative policies). The differences which are genuinely stark — Supreme Court choices, reproductive rights, marriage equality — are relegated to mere sideshows, exploited as tactics for maintaining acute cultural divisions and keeping certain base factions loyal, invested, and energized.

i can't count how many emails i receive each day imploring me to reject the evil republicans and to loosen my purse strings and toss a few dollars to white hat democrats... yeah, right...

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Ernest Callenbach: A looter elite has fastened itself upon the decaying carcass of the empire

from tomdispatch...
Long-time literary agent Richard Kahlenberg wrote me that Chick [Ernest Callenbach] had left a final document on his computer, something he had been preparing in the months before he knew he would die, and asked if TomDispatch would run it.  Indeed, we would.  It’s not often that you hear words almost literally from beyond the grave -- and eloquent ones at that, calling on all Ecotopians, converted or prospective, to consider the dark times ahead.

We live in the declining years of what is still the biggest economy in the world, where a looter elite has fastened itself upon the decaying carcass of the empire. It is intent on speedily and relentlessly extracting the maximum wealth from that carcass, impoverishing our former working middle class. But this maggot class does not invest its profits here. By law and by stock-market pressures, corporations must seek their highest possible profits, no matter the social or national consequences -- which means moving capital and resources abroad, wherever profit potential is larger. As Karl Marx darkly remarked, “Capital has no country,” and in the conditions of globalization his meaning has come clear.

The looter elite systematically exports jobs, skills, knowledge, technology, retaining at home chiefly financial manipulation expertise: highly profitable, but not of actual productive value. Through “productivity gains” and speedups, it extracts maximum profit from domestic employees; then, firing the surplus, it claims surprise that the great mass of people lack purchasing power to buy up what the economy can still produce (or import).
Here again Marx had a telling phrase: “Crisis of under-consumption.” When you maximize unemployment and depress wages, people have to cut back. When they cut back, businesses they formerly supported have to shrink or fail, adding their own employees to the ranks of the jobless, and depressing wages still further. End result: something like Mexico, where a small, filthy rich plutocracy rules over an impoverished mass of desperate, uneducated, and hopeless people.

Barring unprecedented revolutionary pressures, this is the actual future we face in the United States, too. As we know from history, such societies can stand a long time, supported by police and military control, manipulation of media, surveillance and dirty tricks of all kinds. It seems likely that a few parts of the world (Germany, with its worker-council variant of capitalism, New Zealand with its relative equality, Japan with its social solidarity, and some others) will remain fairly democratic.

The U.S., which has a long history of violent plutocratic rule unknown to the textbook-fed, will stand out as the best-armed Third World country, its population ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-educated, ill-cared for in health, and increasingly poverty-stricken: even Social Security may be whittled down, impoverishing tens of millions of the elderly.

As empires decline, their leaders become increasingly incompetent -- petulant, ignorant, gifted only with PR skills of posturing and spinning, and prone to the appointment of loyal idiots to important government positions. Comedy thrives; indeed writers are hardly needed to invent outrageous events.

We live, then, in a dark time here on our tiny precious planet. Ecological devastation, political and economic collapse, irreconcilable ideological and religious conflict, poverty, famine: the end of the overshoot of cheap-oil-based consumer capitalist expansionism.

very articulate, very eloquent and very disturbing...

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

The definitive authoritarianism of the U.S. National Security State

glenn speculates on the ramifications of ongoing efforts by the obama administration to force the internet industry to provide the u.s. government with “backdoor” access to all forms of internet communication...
[F]or anyone who defends the Obama administration ... and insists that the U.S. Government simply must have access to all forms of human communication: does that also apply to in-person communication? Should home and apartment builders be required to install monitors in every room they build to ensure that the Government can surveil all human communications in order to prevent threats to national security and public safety? I believe someone once wrote a book about where this mindset inevitably leads. The very idea that no human communication should ever be allowed to take place beyond the reach of the Government is definitive authoritarianism, which is why Saudi Arabia and the UAE — and their American patron-ally — have so vigorously embraced it.

in-home communication monitors...? wow...! just think about that for a few minutes...

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