"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey, is copyrighted, and may not be republished without consent

Scrooge Sends Season's Greetings From Syria

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Estimated Reading Time: Longer than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but shorter than The Little Drummer Boy

Since it is the holiday season, I thought now would be a good time to try a different approach to my writing and actually say something nice for once. I know, I know, it is as big a shock to me as it is to you, but sometimes at Christmas there is a wondrous magic in the air that allows people to have their hearts opened and their perspectives changed…just ask Ebeneezer Scrooge (a role I once played…PHENOMENALLY…on stage!!).

In my case, I thought it would be a good time to give credit where credit is due for people who I usually chastise but who have recently done something good and honorable. The catalyst for my change of heart regarding these folks isn’t Scrooge, but Syria.

First on the list is everybody’s least favorite carnival barker, sideshow clown and general asshat Donald Trump. I loathe Trump with the intensity of a thousand suns and have for decades, but like a toddler, when he does something good, he deserves my encouragement. Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria is an excellent thing…a truly excellent thing.

My fear with Trump has always been that because he is such a needle-dicked, insecure bully and poseur, that he would start a war to bolster his flaccid virility and tenuous manhood. The fact that Trump is actually ending a war, or at least the U.S.’s involvement in one, is…and I can’t believe I am saying this…a courageous act.

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Trump is going against the entire political and media establishment in America. The Military Industrial Complex, the Intelligence community and their lackeys and shills in the corporate media, and the Israeli lobby, do not take kindly to American militarism and imperialism in the Middle East being curtailed in any way. This is why I think Trump was brave to do this (we will see if he actually follows through) because he basically signed his death warrant or the death warrant of his presidency. The forces Trump is taking on with this Syria decision are not known for playing patty cake and they do not forgive or forget. When Kennedy reversed course on the war in Vietnam and shifted toward deescalation, he ended up with his brains all over Jackie’s nice Chanel suit, I would not be shocked if a similar fate awaited The Donald in one form or another. Robert Mueller might be laying in wait on his own grassy knoll as we speak with an indictment in his hands instead of a Mannlicher-Carcano. (Or don’t be surprised if one of the CIA’s friends in ISIS kills a bunch of people in America and Trump is blamed because he pulled out of Syria or as evidenced by Mnuchin’s signals to the big banks, that the propped up, phony, smoke and mirrors American economy has the rug pulled out from under it in order to knee cap Trump and Trumpism once and for all)

Of course, Trump could reverse course on his reversing course, or could start a war somewhere else that is bigger in scale, in a place like Iran, in order to appease the rabidly nefarious neo-con class, but for now, leaving Syria is a very good thing, and because of that I am saying…gulp…Thank you Mr. President.

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There are a few other people that stand out for sticking to their convictions regarding Syria. Ted Lieu, the congressman from my neck of the woods, has been a vociferous attacker of Trump but he stood up for Trump’s Syria withdrawal. Republican Senator Rand Paul along with Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard and Republican Justin Amash have all done the same. These people have shown themselves to be loyal to something higher than political party, they are loyal to their moral and ethical values and beliefs, and it is refreshing and encouraging to see politicians actually have principles and stand by them.

What is not so encouraging are the plethora of politicians on both sides of the aisle who are slavishly addicted to American militarism. Most disheartening are not just the pro-war Democratic politicians, but everyday liberals who are so hypocritically opposed to Trump’s withdrawal from Syria (including the usually reliable Michael Moore).

It is truly astonishing but these supposedly liberal people are angry at Trump for ending U.S. involvement in a war. Of course most of these dopes didn’t even know the U.S. was so heavily involved in Syria in the first place (the U.S. occupies 1/3rd of the country), but that doesn’t matter, all that matters is if Trump is for something that means it must be bad. This is how the game works now, and the establishment has used that emotionalist response to great effect to get people to go against their own interests.

Liberals are currently being played by the establishment class. Liberals hatred of Trump has blinded them to reality, has muddied their mind, soiled their soul and left them with a permanent case of political myopia. Hating Trump is not a belief system, it is not an ideology, it is not a governing philosophy…it is a moral, ethical, political and philosophical cancer…and it is eating at the heart, soul and mind of liberalism and our democracy as it distorts the judgement and reason of both the liberal and conservative populace.

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Great examples of this are how liberals now adore the FBI and CIA. War criminals like John Brennan, Michael Hayden and James Clapper are held up as guardians of all that is good and pure. Robert Mueller and James Comey, two of the worst deep state operators, are held up as paragons of virtue. George W. Bush, who lied us into a war that killed millions, tortured thousands and surveilled millions across the globe, is being rehabilitated in the media and held up as a decent man because he gave Michelle Obama a piece of candy at church…what the fuck?. None of the crimes of these people, from their deceptions on Iraq, to their support and involvement in torture and illegal surveillance, are ever mentioned when they are spoken of in such hushed and reverential tones by know-nothing talking heads. (as an aside, the reason for this might be because St. Barrack Obama decided to look forward and not backward, thus becoming an accomplice to war crimes after the fact…thanks Obama!)

Bush cronies and Iraq war demagogues like Max Boot, David Frum, William Kristol and Richard Painter are regulars on America’s liberal network MSNBC, and their complicity in war crimes and their moral and ethical depravity are never mentioned. Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush administration official even has her own show on the “liberal” network.

These national security establishment shills in the media pout and preen like cheap tarts at a red light street when it comes to Trump and his “lawlessness”…but international and domestic laws are nothing but props for these people as evidenced by their embrace of torture, surveillance, the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by U.S. forces and their support for the war in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan and their unabashed adoration Israel and its illegal occupation of the Palestine.

The establishment, in an impressive bit of propaganda jiu jitsu, has used the fear of Trump to bolster their grip on the minds of Americans, most especially liberal Americans who should know better, or at least think they know better.

If only liberals would stop claiming to be “woke” and actually wake the fuck up and realize that the #Resistance is being co-opted by insidious and duplicitous neo-cons. Understand this, all of these newly politically active liberal anti-Trumpers out there are being indoctrinated and propagandized to worship the military/intelligence industrial complex, and that will be disastrous for the future of America and the world.

The allegedly liberal NBC and MSNBC have been the worst agents of disinformation and propaganda in this respect. Proven Intelligence Agency asset, NBC’s Ken Dilanian, has been breathlessly reporting how Trump is endangering America by leaving Syria and how the Pentagon is in shock and horror at the news. I wonder if the CIA proof read Dilanian’s work which is his standard operating procedure.

Another example of MSNBC’s madness has been the lather raving Russophobe and liberal charlatan Rachel “Mad Dog” Maddow has been in for days now, particularly when 5 star douchebag and ”confirmed life-long bachelor” (*wink-wink*) General “Mad Dog” Mattis, announced, no doubt with his signature lateral lisp, his resignation as Secretary of Defense over Trump’s Syria withdrawal.

MSNBC has had a cavalcade of “national security experts” on as well to assure liberals that leaving Syria now is the worst decision ever and jeopardizes American lives. It is amazing to me that we are supposed to listen to and believe these “national security experts” as they are the same geniuses who got us into Iraq, which went so well, and Yemen, where that is going so well, and Libya, where that went so well, and Syria, which is again…going so, so well. These are the same moral and ethical stalwarts that have allied us with the deplorable terrorists of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, which gave us 9-11, and the Nazi coup in Ukraine….both of which have gone so swimmingly.

These are the same “national security experts” who got us into Somalia in the 90’s, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 80’s, South America in the 70’s and Vietnam in the 60’s…all of which worked out incredibly well too...right? RIGHT? Sadly, watching MSNBC has now turned into watching Soviet era state-tv or Fox News, where no voices in opposition to the war are ever allowed to be heard.

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Watching the media’s hysteria in the wake of Trump’s Syria plan has been extremely enlightening and entirely disheartening. As far as I can tell, there have been no voices in the corporate media that have pointed out the most obvious fact about America’s involvement in Syria…namely that it is entirely illegal. Not only is it illegal under U.S. law, as congress has not approved the war, but it is also illegal under International law, as the U.S. is illegally occupying a third of Syria. The fact that the media instinctively supports any and all military action by the U.S., and only gets up in arms over a proposed withdrawal of troops, tells you all you need to know about who is pulling the strings on the information machine. U.S. military withdrawal from anywhere in the world, be it Japan, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, is entirely inconceivable to the corporate media, who are totally blind to their imperialism and militarism. Somewhere Noam Chomsky is nodding to himself saying, “I told you so, you stupid sons of bitches”

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You know what else is never mentioned on NBC or anywhere else in the media? The Richard Engel scam that NBC participated in with anti-Assad forces (aka ISIS) when the reporter claimed he was kidnapped by Assad’s forces and then was saved by anti-Assad groups that killed his kidnappers. NBC hyped the story no end and kept up the charade after Engel was returned safely, even though the network knew that his story was bunk, and that the truth was that it was anti-Assad forces (aka ISIS, no doubt with an assist from the CIA) that kidnapped Engel in a bit of false flag political theater. I wonder why no one mentions that story when Syria is brought up?

Another topic that never gets explored are the alleged chemical weapons attacks that the U.S. blamed on Assad but that were in actuality false flag attacks by anti-Assad forces to dupe the American public into supporting more U.S. military intervention in the region. The media, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, simply regurgitates the dubious official story in regards to these attacks and blames it on Assad. I wonder why the corporate media doesn’t want to look to hard into those stories? I also wonder why liberals are so willing to accept them as proven fact? Maybe because they have stopped thinking rationally and are victims of their own emotionalism.

Speaking of emotionalism, remember when the media used a dead little Syrian boy washed ashore on a beach to try and get the U.S. more militarily involved in the Syrian war? Such naked pleas to emotion are a hallmark of manipulation and propaganda and are used to cover the truth, not reveal it, and in the case of that poor little boy, are a case of American foreign policy making it rain outside and then Americans complaining about the weather.

The truth is this, the U.S. and its intelligence agencies started the civil war in Syria. The intelligence community and their assets and shills in the corporate media have been feeding the American people a truck load of bullshit and blatant propaganda in order to drum up animus toward Assad and Syria (as well as toward Putin and Russia). This entire Syria (and Iraq before it) operation has been done for the benefit of neo-conservatives, Israel and powerful oil and gas interests that are all virulently opposed to Iran and Russia. The civil war in Syria that started in 2011 was, just like the coup in Ukraine in 2014, just another geo-political maneuver by the U.S. in an attempt to isolate, weaken and ultimately destroy Russia economically and eventually militarily by drawing Russia into two quagmires.

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The U.S. has also been in a full scale, blatant and shameless propaganda war against Russia and Russians for a long time, but that shifted into overdrive in 2014 with the coverage of both Ukraine and the Sochi Winter Olympics. The saddest part of all this is that since it began under Obama, liberals have fully and whole-heartedly embraced the vicious anti-Russian xenophobia being peddled by the corporate media and our government. Liberals blind hatred of all things Russian went into the stratosphere with the alleged “hacking” of the election, which is such a foolish and vacuous story that it truly boggles the mind that liberals, who pride themselves on being so smart, fall for it. But to be fair, Russia makes an easy scapegoat, and it is much easier for Democrats to blame Russia than blame themselves.

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Ok…I am not doing a good job of being filled with the Christmas spirit here, so I am going to end on a positive note. There is one media member in particular who has been the target of my ire and been on the receiving end of many a vicious drubbing from me over the years because he was consistently behaving like a brain-addled buffoon. An example of my distaste for this person is that I once eloquently and accurately described him as a “spittle-flecked, syphilitic baboon”. But since it is the Christmas season, I want to extend my thanks and gratitude and even my momentary respect to my favorite spittle flecked, syphilitic baboon…MSNBC’s Chris Matthews of Hardball fame.

Matthews actually stood up for genuine progressive values and principles when, during his “Let Me Finish” segment on Hardball last week, he fervently and ferociously took to task the neo-con and neo-liberal war mongers and chicken hawks who were so outraged by Trump’s withdrawal from Syria. I was genuinely shocked, and frankly moved, to see Matthews so boldly and brazenly take on the Washington Establishment and their default setting of war, war and more war.

What Matthews understands is that it is easy to get into a war and very difficult to get out of one. Once troops are in place, any attempt to withdraw them will be met with cries from war-mongering armchair tough guys of “appeasement” or “defeatism” or “anti-Americanism”. “Right-minded serious people”, as liberals like to think of themselves, will chastise any attempts at withdrawal by saying “now is not the right time” or that “we need a plan for the aftermath” or “we need to think about the children” or “what about our allies” or my favorite “we need to listen to the generals”, because yes, the people we need to listen to are the ones whose livelihood depends on maintaining war.

Anyone clamoring for the U.S. to stay in Syria, or Iraq or Afghanistan, needs to pick up a history book. As the Pentagon Papers show, the Washington establishment and the Military/Intelligence Industrial Complex knew full well for years that Vietnam could never be won but sacrificed young American boys and men at the altar of American Empire and ego rather than do the right, but difficult thing.

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The powers that be knew before any invasions ever took place that Iraq and Afghanistan were ultimately unwinnable wars, but winning those wars was never the point, fighting them was. Those wars in particular and the War on Terror in general, have generated billions if not trillions in profits for the weapons, construction, intelligence, surveillance, energy and technology sectors of the U.S. economy. War is big business and with the militarism of American Empire, business is booming. Pulling out of Syria is bad for the war business and bad for Israel which means it is bad for the business of corruption in Washington, which also booms during wartime. (As an aside, if you want to see real election meddling, turn your gaze from Russia and open your eyes to the real power behind the American throne…Israel)

And this is why I tip my cap to Chris Matthews, Ted Lieu, Ro Khanna, Justin Amash, Tulsi Gabbard, Rand Paul and even Donald Trump. These folks are swimming against the overpowering tide of blood-thirsty, greed-fueled war mongering, the deep-seeded moral and ethical depravity in the form of indifference to other people’s suffering among political elites and the shameless corruption of the Washington/media establishment and the Military Industrial Complex, and they deserve our praise for speaking up when everyone else, most depressingly liberals, are shouting for more war, more empire, more death and more destruction.

In conclusion, I wish all my readers, all my friends, all my enemies and everyone everywhere, even the spittle-flecked, syphilitic baboon Chris Matthews and spittle-flecked, syphilitic orangutan Donald Trump, a very Happy Christmas. May the celebration of the birth of Jesus bring about a birth of conscience in the halls of power and in the hearts and minds of less powerful people across the globe.

©2018

Election 2016 : Random Dispatches From the Shitshow

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 8 MINUTES 19 SECONDS

This election has broken my already diseased brain. So, instead of writing a coherent and intelligible article about it, I decided to go through my notes and write an incoherent and rambling post about it. I think these seemingly random ravings perfectly capture the madness that is the 2016 election. Enjoy!!

DISPATCH 666: MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS

On Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, the U.S. Presidential election will come to a merciful end (hopefully!!). In a country of over 320 million people, Americans are forced to choose between the repulsive Donald Trump and the repugnant Hillary Clinton. This is how low we have sunk as a nation, may God help us all.

It is difficult to wrap your head around how the alleged "Greatest Nation on Earth™" found two such odious people to run for the highest office in the land. If Nixon and Nero had a baby and its wet nurse was George W. Bush, that baby would be Donald Trump. If Nixon and Margaret Thatcher had a child that had Dick Cheney for a nanny, that child would be Hillary Clinton.

In my opinion, voting for Donald Trump is an irrational act born out of emotion, that emotion being anger. Voting for Hillary Clinton is an act of insanity, if you define insanity as doing the same thing over and over agin and expecting a different result. Either way, whether you are acting irrationally out of anger, or acting insane out of fear, you are making a really terrible decision. But that is what America has become, we only act out of emotion…be it fear or anger. This is who we are, an anti-intellectual, frightened and impotent nation of cowards. We can bitch about it all we want, but we have gotten the nominees we deserve.

The funny thing to me are the people who support either candidate so vociferously. To think that there is any difference between them is absurd. We do not get to choose between different ideologies in American elections, who only get to choose between different faces upon the same ideology. There are not two opposing parties in America, only one party that wears different colored jerseys for some occasional intramural scrimmages, usually revolving around abortion or guns, with the result always being a draw where nothing changes. No matter who is elected we will get a corporatist who worships Wall Street and a neo-con who fellates the military-intellegence-law enforcement-industrial complex. The only choice we are given is between different sides of the same coin. Whether Trump or Clinton is elected we will have another war, we will have more intrusive surveillance, we will have more economic instability and we will be forced to bail out more "too big to fail" institutions, and we will have more downward pressure on wages and more squeezing of working and middle class Americans. In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

To see the mental gymnastics people put themselves through in order to support or oppose a candidate for reasons that are beyond their conscious, rational minds is pretty funny. So many Republicans absolutely hate Hillary Clinton…and yet you can never actually pin them down on the exact positions she holds that they hate, it is entirely personality based. She is a war-monger and a corporatist…a big supporter of the Iraq war and Wall Street banks, which are two things the Republicans celebrate, and yet Hillary is despised by them because of her "corruption" or her pantsuits or her shrill voice. Republicans, and many other Americans, have an emotional and visceral hatred of Hillary that is irrational and not based on her positions or policies. Me on the other hand, I hate her for her positions and policies, but thankfully I am neither a Republican or a Democrat. 

The same can be said of Trump as well since he will do in office exactly what Hillary will do. Many Democrats hate Trump for his style, not his substance, the same for Republicans and Hillary. Many people hate Trump because he is a loud mouthed braggart and a braggadocios buffoon. In America, whether we want to admit it or not or acknowledge it or not, we choose our presidents based solely on personality, look at Republicans and their hatred of Obama, as it was with Democrats and Bush. Next to nothing was different between Obama and Bush except for their personality and style. Democrats just don't like Trump as a person, and Republicans just don't like Hillary as a person. It is immaterial as they are both going to serve you the same steaming shit sandwich and we are all gonna have to take a big bite.

DISPATCH 327: AMERICAN IDOL-ATRY

At some point over the long, hot summer, I watched on tv as President Obama gave a speech to a raucous Democratic party crowd in some battleground state, where he said, in a not-so-veiled shot at Donald Trump, that the Presidential election "wasn't a reality show." Oh Obama, you silly little man, you couldn't be more wrong. This election is nothing but a reality show from start to finish. This is what happens when you have a dumbed down, uninformed, ill-informed or mis-informed, emotionally driven populace…you get the shit show that is election 2016. Speaking of shitshows…what follows are some of my observations and thoughts on this Presidential reality show that I lovingly call American Idolatry.

DISPATCH 47: AND THE WINNER IS….

I have thought all year that Donald Trump is going to win the election. I have been and probably still am in the minority on this thought, but as my readers know, I am used to being out on my own. I am not an expert on polls, so why do I think Trump will win? Because this is the time we live in. History has an ebb and flow to it with multiple actions and reactions shaping the course of events. The time we live in now is the time of the backlash against what is left of the establishment. You can see it across the globe, most noticeably in this years Brexit vote, but also in the recent Iceland elections, and in recent years with the rise of nationalist and independence parties of both the left and the right across Europe from Ireland (Sinn Fein) to France (Nationalist Front) to Britain (UKIP) to Scotland (SNP) to Spain (Catalans). For good or for ill, the establishment is crumbling and people want to throw off the yoke of globalism and internationalism and return to their nationalist roots. And so it is in the U.S. Since we don't have a parliamentary system, the route for these nationalist and independence parties is limited, but they have still taken hold of the collective unconscious (and conscious) to throw a monkey wrench into the "business as usual" plans of the establishment. This is why I thought it was such a tremendous error by the Democrats to select Hillary Clinton to be the nominee. She is the antithesis of this pushback against the establishment. She IS the establishment. Bernie Sanders, with his passionate populism, would've trounced Trump, cutting him off at his populist knees, but instead we will see Trump beat Clinton. The torches and pitchforks are out folks, and the Frankenstein's monster that is the political establishment is going to be attacked by the angry villagers. Moronically, the Democrats nominated the ultimate Frankenstein's monster in Hillary, and the Republicans got a con-man who sells pitchforks to rile up the locals. This is also why Trump is immune from the barrage of "attacks" on him by the media as the media are part of the establishment and the angry villagers justifiably hate them as much as they hate the rest of the establishment. So whenever the media "attacks" Trump whether it be by stating facts or with scandal, Trump only gets stronger, whereas Clinton is tied in knots over every single scandal and troubling story that gets thrown at her. 

Context is everything when evaluating the waves of history. Think of it this way, Obama never would have become President if it weren't for the disaster of 8 years of the George W. Bush administration preceding him. Obama was the polar opposite STYLISTICALLY of Bush, and style is the most important factor now in elections. People don't understand or care about the nuance of positions and policy, they just understand that they are casting the person they will have to see on tv almost everyday for the next 4 to 8 years…that is why the election is a reality tv show. So W. the rube was elected as a reaction to Bill Clinton (Slick Willie) the calculated politician. Then Obama, who was perceived as thoughtful and articulate is selected to replace W. who was perceived to be instinctively acting from his gut and a verbal stumbler. In keeping with this casting theme, Trump is the polar opposite of Obama, whereas Hillary Clinton is just a far inferior version of Obama, that is why the historical wave favors Trump.

When you add together the wave of nationalism and independence and anti-establishment sentiment sweeping the globe with the context of the reality tv casting couch, you get a President Trump. Trump is seen as going from his gut just like W. which is opposite of Obama, and when people think to themselves that he may not know what the hell he is talking about, they will calm themselves by saying that he will "surround himself with the best advisers", just like they told themselves with W. when they got cold feet because of how stupid he seemed. Of course, that worked out really well the last time and I am sure it'll go just as swimmingly this time around.

And just to be perfectly clear, just because I think Trump will win, doesn't mean I want Trump to win. And just because I don't want Trump to win doesn't mean I want Hillary to win, I sure as hell don't. What I want is for both of them to be stuck in an elevator together that is filled with raw sewage, then catches on fire, then explodes and is propelled into deep space, never to be seen or heard from again. That is my dream…this election is my nightmare. 

DISPATCH 411: THE UN-AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't matter who you vote for, you are going to get the same thing no matter what.  Remember Obama's "Hope and Change" ? He sold a lot of hope, but not much changed. Why do I say that? Well…here is one piece of evidence…the Affordable Care Act…which is neither affordable nor does it provide care. Before the Affordable Care Act came to be, when Obama was rallying support to do something about health care, I knew that we the people would get royally screwed. And surprise, surprise, that is exactly what happened. Obama turned the creation of the health care bill over to…insurance companies. I find it is always a wise move to turn the solving of a problem over to the creators of the problem…in case you weren't sure I am being sarcastic. Now, you have a lot of liberals who defend Obamacare tooth and nail, this always makes me chuckle. The only reason they defend it is because it has Obama's name in it. The plan is a Republican plan, it is a corporatist plan. Liberals also tell me that Obama actually wanted a "government option" or a "single payer" plan but that he knew it would never pass. Of course, this is psychological projection as Obama never fought once to get a public option or single payer. Obama turned health care reform over to health insurers just like he turned Wall Street reform over to Wall Street, and it turned out going just as well for regular Americans. 

I am a healthy man in my forties. I have never been to the doctor for any other reason than to get a yearly check up. Never. I am healthy as a horse. I bought "catastrophic" health insurance the year before Obamacare came online just to make sure my family would be ok in case I got hit by a bus. That insurance cost me $107/month, with a deductible of $5,000 and an out-of pocket max of $8,000. That worked well for me as I never had any need to go to the doctor that whole year and, thankfully, I wasn't hit by a bus. Then Obamacare rolled into town, and don't you know it, my monthly rate jumped to $253/month. That is a jump of over 150%. Sweet!! The kicker is that my rate jumped astronomically for a plan that gave me worse health care coverage, with my deductible rising to $8,000 and my out-of pocket max going to $12,000. See this is what happens when the government forces you to buy an industry's product…that industry gauges the hell out of people because they can.

Things didn't exactly get better for me with Obamacare as the years rolled by, after my first year with this plan, the cheapest I could get by the way, my rates jumped again to $289/month. This was especially awesome because I never once used my insurance except for my yearly check up, which told me I was in great physical condition and completely healthy.

Things took a turn for the better the next year when my plan got slightly less expensive, which was a relief. My plan dropped down to $268/month..a savings of a whopping $21!!! This is how you condition people to eat shit, you raise their rates by $182/month over a few years and then a you cut prices by $21/a month and tout it as the plan working to save people money. Thanks Obama.

The kicker came just last month when I got a notice from my insurer that my rate would be going up from $268/month to $354/month in 2017. That is over a 300% increase from my original pre-Affordable Care Act of $107/month. Good times. So I am now forced to purchase this product, which is for no other reason than catastrophic coverage and which I have never used except for a yearly check up, for $4,200 a year. If I don't purchase it I will have to pay the penalty tax, so either I pay the money and get the plan or I pay the money and get no plan. I get no subsidies because I am eligible for my wife's health care plan through her work, but that plan would cost each of us $500/month. 

So here I am, a working-class man, who is busting his back by running three of my own small businesses where I am the only employee. I am hustling my ass off just to barely keep my head above water and now I am forced to purchase a shitty health care plan that does nothing for me that eats away at my already very narrow margins. I am not alone, and this is why Donald Trump, as loathsome as he is, and he is extremely loathsome, and as much of a charlatan as he is, and he is a yuuuuge charlatan, has garnered traction in this election with "regular" folks. Of course, the reality is that he will do nothing to fix the health care debacle and will only make things worse, but at least he isn't saying the Affordable Care Act is working. It isn't, and I am proof of that.

Speaking of health care, this past year my father, a true blue conservative, died after a brief illness. As sad as he was to be shuffling off this mortal coil, there was a part of him that was greatly relieved to sneak away without having to suffer through this nightmare of an election. My father had always been very interested in politics and was well read and followed the news religiously. Even though he was proudly registered as an independent, in the entire fifty years he was eligible to vote he had only voted for Republicans. My father is an interesting litmus test for this election, as he, like many Republican men of his generation, loathed Hillary Clinton. Interestingly enough, he also loathed Donald Trump with the power of a thousand suns. My father was a native New Yorker, so he knew of Trump's father Fred and had watched from the very beginning as his obnoxious spawn, The Donald, rose to prominence. My father thought Trump was "full of shit" and was a "self-serving asshole" and "scumbag". When I asked my father who he would vote for this year he said he might write in Paul Ryan or someone else like that as a protest, but he also said he was seriously considering moving out of the country. I laughed when he said that…he didn't laugh…because he was deadly serious. This election made my father despair, and while we didn't agree on much, I agreed with him in that.

Oddly enough, or not, my father, the deeply conservative, life-long Republican voting man, hated Obamacare as much as I did. And oddly enough considering his political disposition, he agreed with me on the only way to solve the problem…single payer health care. I can't emphasize how extraordinary this revelation is, that my father, whose hatred of government and bureaucracy knew no bounds, actually thought the only rational and fair way to make health care work in America was to have a single payer plan. I agree with him. I understand the arguments against it, as did he, but we are at the point where we have no other viable options. The fact that two people of such disparate views like my father and I both agreed on this and yet it is a total non-starter in the public debate, is damning evidence to the disconnect between Washington and Main Street.

As much as I am sure my father wishes he were alive today, in some ways I'm sure he is glad he didn't have to live to see the vacuous and repugnant Donald Trump become President of the country he held so dear. Sadly, the rest of us will have to bear witness to the clusterfuck that will be the Trump administration. And if I am wrong and Clinton wins, don't kid yourself, we are still in for one hell of a gigantic shitshow.

DISPATCH 911: DEATH RATTLE OF AN EMPIRE

Just as my father's body deteriorated and failed him, so it goes with America. This election is the death rattle of the American empire. Nominating Trump and Hillary is a sign of a nation mired deep in a self-destructive decadence that will destroy what is left of its power and prestige. The decay at the heart of America and American life has corroded the institutions that held up the nation. Those institutions are crumbling and the future of America is dying on the vine. There will be those that will tell you that this election is merely the end of the beginning of the fall of America, it isn't, this is the isn't even the beginning of the end of the fall of America, this is the death rattle of the rabid, diseased-ridden beast of American empire that flails about gasping for its final breath.

DISPATCH 69: WHO'S THE BOSS?

 

The other day I emailed a friend of mine, a well regarded financial writer who I call Red Dragon. I emailed Dragon an article form the LA Times which was about the working class people of Youngstown, Ohio who Bruce Springsteen has often written about in his songs. The article showed that these left behind blue collar workers of Youngstown are Trump's base, which is ironic since Bruce Springsteen is such a strong supporter of the Democratic party. It is an interesting article which you should check out here

Red Dragon's response was thus, " The frustration of these people, and millions more like them around the country, is understandable and palpable. However, that has led them to a state of delusion, in which they think an aristocratic, billionaire, plutocrat actually cares about them and their problems, and that he alone can “make American great again.” It reminds me of the 'hope and change' that so many Americans fell for in 2008. It’s all so transparent that it’s hard to believe that they fall for it. Desperation causes delusion, I guess." Red Dragon is a smart guy, and as usual he was spot on in his analysis. I could not agree more.

I had a conversation with another friend of mine, a successful radio and tv host who I will call Johnny Steamroller. When I asked Johnny what he thought of this election he said, "Hillary Clinton is what is wrong with American politics, and Donald Trump is what is wrong with America." It is good to have smart friends. Steamroller and Red Dragon are always insightful guys. I would describe Steamroller as a center-right conservative and Red Dragon as a center-left liberal. Their political views may at times be at odds, but one thing they agree on, they do not want to vote for either Trump or Clinton. Whether they do or do not only they know for sure, but I think they are not alone in their reticence to vote for either candidate.

Even though I live in Los Angeles, a liberal bastion, I have many friends across the political spectrum who live in different states across the country. Here is some anecdotal evidence about the election that I have observed, take them for what they are worth.

1. I have not spoken to a single person among my many conservative friends across the country, who said they would vote for Trump. Not one. That doesn't mean they won't vote for Trump, just that they wouldn't tell me they would.  

2. Of all the women in the same age bracket as Hillary Clinton who I have spoken to about the election, none of them like her and none of them would vote for her. In fact, all of the baby boomer woman I have spoken with, from the far right, to the right to the center to the left to the far left, absolutely despise Hillary Clinton. They have a visceral, deep-seated dislike of her. None of them said they were going to vote for her.

3. Being in Los Angeles I do know of a lot of people who will vote for Hillary, some even enthusiastically, but all of them are women under 45. I know of no man who is excited to vote for Hillary. The majority of women I know who are voting for her are voting for her just because she is a woman. In my opinion, if you want to vote for a woman, vote for Dr. Jill Stein, at least she is an honest and decent person you can trust and can be proud to have supported.

Speaking of excited…whenever I see either Trump or Clinton or their surrogates give a speech to a crowd on the campaign trail, I always wonder, who the fuck goes to a campaign event? Think about it, these people have to take time out of their day, and maybe take the day off from work, to drive to some event, find parking, wait in line, then stand waiting for the candidate to arrive, and then after the nonsensical speech they wait in line to leave, then sit in traffic, then drive home. There whole day is shot just to be in the same room while one of these asshats gives a vapid and vacuous speech about absolutely nothing. Who are these dipshits and assholes standing behind the candidate as they give the same canned, manufactured speech over and over again? I am sure these people think they are being civically and politically engaged…but they aren't. They are nothing but props on a reality tv show. They are not only dupes, but they are proud of being dupes. These people are the living, breathing, walking definition of "useful idiots." It doesn't matter the candidate, if you go to a rally or a speech of either one of these people, you are part of the problem, and you will get the shit sandwich you deserve.

DISPATCH 007: DIAGNOSIS AND CONCLUSION

 

A brief look into Donald Trump's history reveals a great deal about the "man", and I use that term very lightly. Trump is a charlatan, a silver-spooned, mealy-mouthed, spoiled brat of a douchebag who has never worked a day in his life. He is also a failure, an utter loser who has only managed to promote his family name, but never has been able to succeed in business or anything else. He is a punchline and a, pardon the language, "pussy". 

Trump is symptomatic of the disease that ravages America. His spiritual life consists of following Norman Vincent Peale, the power of positive thinking guy. Trump worships greed and self-delusion, which is right in line with the prosperity gospel and its new age counter part, The Secret. This selfish and myopic approach to life is not only morally and ethically untenable, it is politically and economically cancerous. This cancer has eaten away at our society and culture. It infects everything it touches, be it government, business, religion, family or society. Trump being President will be like treating terminal brain cancer with a cyanide tablet.

Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, manipulative and manufactured politician who has risen to power through nepotism. She should be everything liberals and Democrats rail against, and yet she is held up by them as someone to admire. The stench of the Clinton's and how they have conned the Democrats and liberals into selling their soul is repulsive. Clinton being President will be like treating terminal brain cancer with even more brain cancer.

Do I sound pessimistic? Trust me, I am not a pessimist, I am a realist. And history, and my eyes and ears tell me that we are in for a very bad stretch no matter who gets elected. The only thing you can hope for is that something better, something more local, something more sustainable, something more generous and thoughtful, rises from the ash heap of the American empire. Clinton or Trump? It doesn't matter. And if some bumper sticker sloganeer chastises you and tells you this is the most important election ever, tell them to stop moving deck chairs, put down the violin, and either make a run for a lifeboat or sit back and enjoy the up close view of history as the Titanic goes down and sucks us all down with it. It doesn't matter who we vote for on November 8th…the Iceberg is going to win. And it is going to be a landslide. 

What am I going to do? I am going to take the advice of the great, leather-clad American poet and prophet Jim Morrison…I am going to get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. You in?

EMBRACE THE INEVITABLE!!!

VOTE ICEBERG/GODZILLA 2016!!

 

© 2016

Citizenfour : A Review and Random Thoughts

ESTIMATED READING TIME :  23 MINUTES

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act " - George Orwell

Citizenfour is the Academy Award winning documentary that chronicles whistleblower Edward Snowden's release of classified National Security Agency materials to journalist Glenn Greenwald and the ensuing NSA spying scandal. The film is directed by Laura Poitras and co-produced by Steven Soderbergh.

Edward Snowden, in case you don't know, was at the time of filming in 2013, a twenty nine year old U.S. citizen who worked as a system administrator for the National Security Agency under a sub-contract with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It was at his job at the NSA that he surreptitiously obtained thousands of classified documents that exposed massive government spying and data collection programs. Once Snowden had taken possession of these documents, he then anonymously contacted director Poitras, and later journalist Glenn Greenwald, then of The Guardian newspaper, and set up a rendezvous in Hong Kong where he revealed the classified documents and explained their meaning and significance. The first face to face meeting took place on June 3, 2013 in Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room and the meetings continued for the next week. These meetings were filmed and make up a significant portion of Citizenfour.

In trying to disseminate the information he had gathered, Snowden had originally tried to reach out to Greenwald, but when they could not find a secure way to communicate, he contacted documentarian Laura Poitras, using the codename "Citizenfour" to protect his identity, hence the title of the film. Snowden couldn't have chosen a better film maker to document his story. I had not seen any of Poitras' work prior to Citizenfour. After seeing the film and being blown away by the sublime skills of the filmmaker, I eagerly searched out her earlier work. Both My Country, My Country (2006), about the first Iraqi election post-Saddam and The Oath (2011), about a pair of terrorists and their divergent paths, are remarkable documentaries and make up the powerful first two-thirds of what Poitras describes as her "post 9-11 trilogy" which she completes with Citizenfour.

Poitras, unlike many documentarians of our time, is notable in that she disappears behind the camera and never interjects her presence into the unfolding story. Her filmmaking confidence is highlighted by her lack of a need to direct action or explain circumstances. Poitras' minimalist presence creates documentaries that make the viewer feel like they themselves are behind the camera and, oddly enough, are eavesdropping and prying into the lives of the film's subjects. Even in Citizenfour, where she IS a part of the story, she never makes herself an obvious part of it,  but rather treats herself as just another character in the unfolding drama.

Poitras masterfully creates an ominous sense of menace lurking throughout the story of Citizenfour. This foreboding sense of menace is palpable, as is the tension. The tension building was so effective that there were times in the film when Edward Snowden would walk over and stare out the window of his Hong Kong hotel room and I wanted to yell at him "get away from the god damn window!!" While Snowden's story naturally has tension and hidden menace within it, Poitras adroitly enhances them with her use of camera framing, color scheme and temperature, and Trent Reznor's moody and eerie soundtrack.

"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." - Thomas Jefferson

Citizenfour also excels at conveying to the viewer how colossal and invasive the surveillance and spying programs the government employs truly are. As Snowden tells us in the film, every piece of communication or information traveling over the internet or by phone is collected by the intelligence community of either the United States or the United Kingdom. Internet history, Skype, Facebook, emails, texts and a whole host of other information, are all collected, spied on and tracked. That information, including physical location through the use of cell towers, can be used to show where you have been, who you have been with, what you have done and what you have talked about. This surveillance is done in close collaboration with the technology and telecom companies. And to be clear, this is not just "meta-data" as it has been portrayed elsewhere in the media, but rather, this surveillance and data collection scoops up content as well as meta-data, and not just of foreigners but of United States citizens.

The spying programs, with names like Tempora, Prism, Special Source Operations, Boundless Informant, Stellar Wind and X-Keyscore, may seem benign or passive yet they are anything but. The scope and scale of the spying is so invasive, the intelligence gathered so vast and the government ability to misuse that information so gargantuan, that it is inconceivable to even think of ever reigning the behemoth of the surveillance state back in line. As Snowden says in the film, "This is about state power versus people's ability to oppose that power." And that is why the state will never willingly relinquish this near-omnipotent spying power. History teaches us that once a state takes a power, it never peacefully gives that power up. It will use it's ever expanding power to insure its continued existence and dominion over those who would dare dream to oppose it.  Governments and government power only expand, and never peacefully contract. This is the lesson that our founding fathers knew all too well, but it is one that our current society has forgotten in our distracted and disgraceful civic sloth.

Edward Snowden presciently says while in Hong Kong, that the media strategy against him will be to make him the story, in order to distract from the rampant government spying he has revealed. Snowden knows the playbook of the establishment and their lackeys in the media all too well.  And sure enough, when Glenn Greenwald's story breaks and Snowden shares his identity, the usual suspects in the establishment press and government come out in droves with old rusty knives drawn. By employing the tactic of focusing on his personality, the government and its lapdogs in the press hope to obfuscate and undermine the legitimacy of the information he has exposed. The establishment is all too eager to make this an emotional issue and not a rational one. They do this by trying to convince us that Snowden is simply a narcissist out for attention, or a troubled man with a checkered past, or a loser with a history of failure behind him and last but not least, a traitor, who hates and betrayed his country.

Many Americans bought into these foolish narratives hook, line and sinker, and still do. I doubt many of those opposed to Snowden would sit down and watch Citizenfour since the media has already told them what to think about the man and the situation, which is a terrible shame. The film is a powerful antidote to the venomous disinformation and distractions spewing forth from the government and establishment media. In the film, Snowden comes across as a person who loves his country very much, but doesn't trust his government. To me, that is the mark of a civic-minded, sane, reasonable, rational and logical person. Snowden seems to be an intelligent, fiercely principled and genuinely decent person, which is in stark contrast to the shills in the government and establishment press who attack him and question his motives and integrity (in my opinion, anyone working in government or establishment media questioning the integrity of ANYONE, no matter what they are accused of doing, is the height of comedy).

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison

Keith Alexander, "Maybe if I put my hook in front of my mouth I will stop lying."

Keith Alexander, "Maybe if I put my hook in front of my mouth I will stop lying."

The government claims that this vast amount of surveillance is necessary for national security and to stop terrorism. Snowden and Greenwald make a convincing case in the film  that the spying isn't just for national security but also for political, industrial and economic reasons.  For instance, the U.S. has spied on its allies, including but not limited to, officials and citizens from Germany, Brazil, France and Spain. It was even revealed that the NSA tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for a full decade starting in 2002, even before she ever became Chancellor.

James Clapper, "My conscience is this big!"

James Clapper, "My conscience is this big!"

In regards to surveillance keeping us safe from terrorists, National Security Agency General Director Keith Alexander has claimed that 54 terror plots have been thwarted through these spying programs. Of course, a closer look at Alexander's claims proves them to be false, and at best, maybe one terror plot was discovered by this vast spying. Keith Alexander was lying with the 54 plots-stopped claim, but that shouldn't be a surprise, Keith Alexander is a liar, it's his job to lie. He has lied to congress and the American public, but he isn't alone, lying is par for the course for those in the government and the intelligence community when it comes to surveillance. So many intelligence agencies and officials lie about so many topics, one wonders why anyone besides their stenographers in the establishment press ever believes a word that comes out of their mouths. 

"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice." - Charles de Montesquieu

CIA Director John Brennan, "I care about the rule of law… this much !"

CIA Director John Brennan, "I care about the rule of law…this much!"

Joining Alexander in lying to congress, which is a crime punishable with prison time by the way, is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who lied to congress about surveillance. Will Alexander or Clapper be held to account for their criminal conduct? No, of course not. And neither will CIA director John Brennan, under whose leadership the Central Intelligence Agency spied upon the senate for having the temerity to actually investigate it. And neither will George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush gang for ordering torture. And neither will Barrack Obama for ordering "extra-judicial killings" of American citizens. None of these people will be held to account because the law doesn't apply to people like them, only to people like us, proving America is no longer a nation of laws, just a nation with laws. When you hear those in power pontificate about "law and order"what they really mean is "ORDER and law". To those in power, laws are meant to not only keep other people in order, but to keep the order of things where they are the ones atop the hierarchy. In their minds, "Laws and punishment for thee, but not for me!!" 

David Petreaus, "A slap on the wrist? I'll drink to that!"

David Petreaus, "A slap on the wrist? I'll drink to that!"

One final example of the two-tiered justice system for the elites is the recent case of General David Petreaus. Petreaus, if you remember, was the four-star darling of the neo-cons, the hawks and the mainstream media for his "surge" in Iraq, although his popularity probably had more to do with his "surge" in media glad handing and public posturing than in any battlefield success. Petreaus was then appointed the Director of the CIA, and proceeded to have an affair with his biographer with whom he shared troves of highly classified notebooks. For sharing classified materials, including the identity of agents, for no other reason than foreplay, Petreaus got a slap on the wrist in the form of losing his job but getting no jail time. But Edward Snowden reveals a massive government conspiracy of criminal spying on innocent American citizens and we get government officials openly talking about assassinating him or executing him. And people question why Snowden won't return to the U.S.?

"Speak the truth but leave immediately after" - Slovenian Proverb

Another favorite distractionary tactic by the establishment is to imply Snowden is a spy or a coward for not returning to the U.S. to face the charges pending against him. President Obama, Hillary Clinton and others have said that Snowden should have just gone through the chain of command at the NSA with his concerns and he would have gotten whistleblower protections by doing so. This is false. First, because Snowden says he did bring his concerns to his superiors and was either ignored or told to keep quiet. And secondly, because Snowden was under a sub-contract, and not an employee of the federal government, meaning he was not eligible for whistleblower status.

The other issue regarding Snowden and getting a fair trial, is that due to the law used against him, he cannot defend himself by claiming the government was committing crimes. The law, the Espionage Act, was originally meant to be used against spies, but in recent years has been used to prosecute people who have withheld information or shared information with the media. In fact, Obama has used the Espionage Act more than twice as much as all the other presidents in history…combined. What makes this all the more despicable is that Obama has used the act against whistleblowers and not spies. So much for Obama's pre-election pledge to be more transparent. It is obvious that Snowden could not get a "fair trial" under the law used to charge him, he could only give the government the opportunity for a show trial.

And as for the "spying" allegations, there is no credible evidence whatsoever that Snowden has turned over any classified information to any foreign government, including the Russians and Chinese.

"Truth is treason in an empire of lies" - Ron Paul

On Saturday, July, 20, 2013, British intelligence officials stormed The Guardian newspaper in London and demanded that the hard drives which contained the Snowden material on them be destroyed. In an act of monumental cowardice, The Guardian submitted to the request and destroyed the hard drives in front of the impatient intelligence officials.  The Guardian explained the reasoning behind their acquiescence was because of a "threat of legal action by the government". Oh no, NOT THAT!! Why not let the legal process play out? Why not force the government to actually have to prove their case in court. Even if you lose the case and have to destroy the hard drives, you still maintain your adversarial relationship with government and, more importantly, the public's trust in your journalism.

The Guardian aren't the only ones the intelligence community has bullied. Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was detained using an anti-terrorism law at Heathrow airport by British Intelligence for nine hours and was not allowed any legal representation. Even upon Miranda's release, British officials refused to return seized possessions, including his laptop, cellphone and USB sticks.

Citizenfour director, Laura Poitras, was repeatedly held by U.S. custom officials after her film My Country, My Country came out in 2006. During the filming and editing of Citizenfour she moved to Germany in order to escape the strong arm tactic of the intelligence community.

The treatment of Miranda, Greenwald and Poitras has paled in comparison to the whistleblowers who have stayed in America and faced trial.  For example, torture is a crime according to U.S. law, but the only person prosecuted in regards to torture is the whistleblower who confirmed it, John Kiriakou, who spent nearly two years in federal prison. Other whistleblowers have been arrested and charged too, like Thomas Drake and Bradley Manning (who was sentenced to 35 years in prison and later became Chelsea Manning) as two examples, while none of the crimes and war crimes they exposed were ever prosecuted. And just note that Kiriakou, Drake and Manning were all charged under the aforementioned Espionage Act.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." - Edmund Burke

In the United States, "Good Citizens" allowing the police or intelligence agencies to spy upon them is anathema.  To be not only a good citizen, but a patriot, one MUST resist government intrusions. This isn't optional, it is required. According to the Declaration of Independence, it is their duty, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government"To use a more recent quote, from V for Vendetta, "People shouldn't fear their government, governments should fear their people". 

There are those who tremble at the sight of every jihadi video and threat, and run to government to protect them from the boogie man of the day, be it God-fanatic terrorists or back in the day, God-less communists. These people should understand one thing, government is not here to protect them, it is here to protect itself.

The reality behind this instinct to defer to authority is one that has been deeply ingrained in us as children. Children rely on authority, in the form of their parents, to keep them safe, fed and alive. That hard wiring of the brain during its development in infancy, is a difficult thing for people to overcome even once they have grow up. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, did some famous studies on the psychology of obedience in 1963. In a nutshell, Milgram's experiment tested whether regular people, when prompted by an authority figure, would give electric shocks to other people in the context of a test if they gave the wrong answer to a question. Milgram's basic conclusion states, "Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we were brought up. People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school and workplace."

Milgram's work is in many ways relevant to this issue in that it shows people's strong, unconscious tendency towards obedience to authority. Milgram's experiments in obedience help us to understand the deep seeded psychological need some of us have to defer to authority and why some may reflexively defend government spying and decry Snowden for revealing it. 

Another psychologist, Abraham Maslow, came up with the "hierarchy of needs" theory in 1943. This theory states that people are motivated by the impulse to fulfill an unmet fundamental need. In Maslow's theory, he created a hierarchy of five needs, and one of the most important foundational needs is "safety". According to Maslow, people are motivated to satisfy their need for "safety". This "need for safety", or more accurately stated in relation to our topic, this "need for a feeling of being safe", may be another one of the psychological reasons for people to be so obedient to authority when it comes to surveillance.

In previous posts I have written about social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's excellent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, which may also shed some light on the "obedience to authority" issue as well. In the book, Haidt hypothesizes that people can be divided in their political thought due to differing moral priorities. A few examples of the moral priority categories Haidt describes are Authority, Liberty and Fairness. So according to Haidt's approach, some people may have Authority as a greater moral priority than Fairness or Liberty. If someone is hard wired that way, it is easier to understand why they would find Snowden contemptible because he challenged and usurped authority and undermined the hierarchy. And, of course, the opposite is true as well, if someone has Liberty or Fairness as higher on their moral priorities than they would be less inclined to see anything wrong with Snowden revealing incriminating evidence against those in authority. 

In addition to Milgram's, Maslow's and Haidt's work, our old friend cognitive dissonance rears its head once again when we look at the obvious contradictory thought involved in the war on terror and civil liberties. Cognitive dissonance, if you'll recall from previous posts, is defined as "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously" . The contradiction, or "incongruous attitude", at the heart of the war on terror is that people in power tell us that we must give up some rights, liberties and freedoms in order to protect ourselves from terrorists...who want to take away our rights, liberties and freedoms. We are told "they" (the terrorists) hate us for our freedoms, and in order to counter their attack upon our freedoms, we must reduce those freedoms. On its face this idea is absurd, to preempt a tyranny we fear so much with our own self-imposed tyranny. In order for this illogical premise to survive even the most basic scrutiny of reason, one must either contort oneself with extraordinary dexterity in order to create a willful blindness to it, or be under the unconscious sway of both cognitive dissonance and the psychological need for security in the form of Maslow/Milgram's work we touched upon previously. As a culture, it seems we would rather follow our more primitive impulses, and embrace authority and self deception in the search for that feeling of being safe, rather than the more psychologically difficult yet more evolved task of looking at these issues with the rational mind rather than the emotional one.

"It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen " - Homer Simpson

There are also those people who defend the NSA by saying "if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about". This whistling past the graveyard is little more than a short cut to thinking. Spying isn't about what you may or may not be doing wrong. Spying is about control. Spying is about defanging, declawing and defeating any and all dissent and protest. Government tyranny sees no political ideology or party. Surveillance kicked into high gear under Bush and it has gotten even worse under Obama. According to the material Snowden released, The U.S. government has over 1.2 million people on its watch listI would be willing to bet that that government watch list includes a considerable number of people from "Occupy Wall Street" AND the "Tea Party". And if pro-spying citizens think they are safe by being "good government bullshitters"*, guess again. As history shows us, the playing field will shift, it always does, and they will eventually be on the wrong side of the goal posts.

An important thing to remember is that the intelligence community is not an elected branch of government. But they are very capable and more than willing to spy upon our elected representatives, who, of course, are outraged when it happened to them, but not so much when it happened to us. I am speaking about both my former congresswoman, Jane Harman, and my current senator Dianne Feinstein. Both of whom have spent their political careers as little more than shills for the intelligence community, but who were incensed when they learned they were on the receiving end of the surveillance they so supported when it was directed at regular citizens. In Harman's case (linked above), she showed tremendous political and moral flexibility by aiding and abetting not only the criminality of the U.S. intel community but also the Israeli intelligence community. 

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

The intelligence community now has the capability to bully and blackmail elected officials who try to exercise their Constitutional role of governmental oversight. How can a democracy flourish when there is an unelected, unaccountable, extremely powerful group (the intelligence community) running roughshod over the Constitution which is meant to keep them in check? Technology has outpaced the ability for oversight of the use of that technology. Corruption, the human impulse for power and self preservation in government officials, make a "just trust us" approach to government powers in general, and surveillance powers in particular, an obvious act of futility, if not outright insanity. 

With an overly muscular and aggressive intelligence community and a neutered congress with no interest in oversight and a subserviently compliant establishment press, we are left with government only as an act of theater. In the final analysis, we only have the appearance of a democratic republic but not the actual practice of one.

If, as a citizen, your instinctive response is to always and every time defer to authority and mindlessly "OBEY", then you are one of those fools who have given up liberty for security, and you deserve, and will get, neither.  One should never confuse their government for their country as so many often do. "A waving flag is a blindfold for the fool." - Me

"Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it" - Emily Dickinson

Some call Edward Snowden a traitor, others a hero. Some call him a leaker, others a whistleblower. Regardless of what you call him, thanks to Edward Snowden, willful ignorance and blindness is no longer an option in regard to government surveillance. Our republic can survive another heinous terrorist attack, no matter how awful, but it cannot and will not survive the obliteration of the liberties and freedoms upon which it was built. Sadly, if the United States government continues to trample the most basic principles upon which it was founded, it does not deserve to survive, and it most assuredly will not. Snowden's decision to bring to light the crimes of the government was a last ditch effort to save the republic from itself.

In the United States of America we now have "First Amendment Zones" where protestors are 'allowed' to voice their dissent away from eyes and ears of their political representatives and fellow citizens. Government officials openly break the law by lying to congress and face no punishment. The Intelligence community spies on American citizens and other branches of government and no one is held to account. Civil liberties, which our Constitution tells us are granted by God, are now little more than a nuisance and punch line to those who have sworn to defend them. We have an executive who uses imperial powers in the form of extra-judicial killings of American citizens. Not only have we tortured and killed people in our charge, we openly celebrate the torture and the war criminals who committed it. 

Everything chronicled in the previous paragraph and in the film Citizenfour, from the spying to the lying to the lack of legal accountability, sounds like something that would happen in some backwoods banana republic or a despotic, tyrannical dictatorship. Which brings us to the only rational conclusion possible once we study all of the facts presented to us, and that is that those who still think the United States of America is a force for moral good in the world, a "shining city on a hill", have lost their mind or moral compass or, very likely, both.  One must disabuse oneself of the notion that the United States of America is anything other than, at best, an amoral imperial kleptocratic aristocracy/oligarchy or, at worst, a mentally deranged, immoral, evil empire. To think anything else in the face of the current reality is an act of extraordinary self delusion, albeit an unconsciously self preserving one in terms of psychological health. The hard, brutal truth is that America is not a "shining city on a hill" anymore, it is a plague spreading its imperial disease across the globe, suffocating freedom and liberty in its wake.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever " - George Orwell

In conclusion, Citizenfour is an extraordinary documentary well worth your time. It would also be worth the effort to watch Laura Poitras' other films My Country, My Country and The Oath. As great a film as Citizenfour is, one can't help but feel overwhelmed by the stark and bleak reality of the dystopian world it reveals to us. The government spying leviathan will not return to its lair in the deep and its slumber any time soon. It is wide awake, voraciously hungry and here to stay. Americans, and the rest of the world, must try to navigate this perilous world under the surveillance beast's watchful eye. We will be at its cold, bureaucratic mercy for the foreseeable future. As George Orwell presciently said, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever ". Thanks to our insidious intelligence community, and their chicken-shit apologists in the form of weak kneed politicians, access addicted establishment 'journalists' and a pliable electorate populated by feeble-minded dupes and dopes, we better get very used to the taste of boot leather. We are going to be having more than our fill of it in the years and decades to come.

© 2015

*Goodfellas

For further reading on the history of all things Edward Snowden and NSA spying. Please check out The Guardian, which has a full primer on the NSA spying including the actual files that are here and Glenn Greenwald's Guardian work here . Also check out Glenn Greenwald's new website The Intercept.

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