RSSCategory: Orwellian

How to advance your career as a “national security expert.”

February 18, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald reports:

[t]hink tank “scholars” don’t get invited to important meetings by “national security professionals” in DC if they point out that the US is committing war crimes and that the US president is a war criminal. They don’t get invited to those meetings if they argue that the US should be bound by the same rules and laws it imposes on others when it comes to the use of force. They don’t get invited if they ask US political officials to imagine how they would react if some other country were routinely bombing US soil with drones and cruise missiles and assassinating whatever Americans they wanted to in secret and without trial. As the reaction to Cornel West shows, making those arguments triggers nothing but ridicule and exclusion.

One gets invited to those meetings only if one blindly affirms the right of the US to do whatever it wants, and then devotes oneself to the pragmatic question of how that unfettered license can best be exploited to promote national interests. The culture of DC think tanks, “international relations” professionals, and foreign policy commenters breeds allegiance to these American prerogatives and US power centers – incentivizes reflexive defenses of US government actions – because, as Gelb says, that is the only way to advance one’s careerist goals as a “national security professional”. If you see a 20-something aspiring “foreign policy expert” or “international relations professional” in DC, what you’ll view, with some rare exceptions, is a mindlessly loyal defender of US force and prerogatives. It’s what that culture, by design, breeds and demands.

Share

Read More

Orwell on the crossroads of language and power

February 11, 2013 | By | Reply More

Terrific article at Salon revisiting the works of George Orwell. Here’s an excerpt:

The essay is an investigation of what Orwell called the “special connexion between politics and the debasement of language.” Using as his point of departure five short representative extracts from various contemporary political publications, Orwell decried a creeping invasion of the political vernacular by insidious waffle. Meaning and clarity, he complained, were giving way to hot air and opacity, contributing to a general impoverishment of British political culture. His polemic is censorious yet witty, offsetting a surly, jaded disaffection — the man, one feels, has seen too much — with a disarmingly brisk and easy turn of phrase. Politics and the English Language rails with suitably understated flair against pretentious diction, verbal false limbs, jargon, archaisms, meaningless words and journalistic clichés, culminating in a six-point checklist for avoiding bad prose:

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

This was about more than just style as a thing in itself. Orwell was writing in defense not of a pedantically rigid standard English, but of honesty and sincerity in politics.

This article then challenges Orwell, who suggested that cleaning up language would clean up the problem. The argument is that we now see many simply worded official pronouncements that are meaningful. Many are vapid exercises in evasion.

Share

Read More

Huxley v Orwell: Two routes to dystopia

February 7, 2013 | By | Reply More

Excellent illustrated comparison of the concerns of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

Orwell huxley

Share

Read More

Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free

January 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free. The story is at Democracy Now.

Share

Read More

Julian Assange: “The Fifth Estate” is a hit piece against Wikileaks

January 26, 2013 | By | Reply More

From Huffpo:

“Julian Assange says he has obtained a leaked copy of the script for “The Fifth Estate,” a DreamWorks film about the maverick computer expert and his famed secret-busting site. In a speech before the Oxford Union debating society earlier this week, Assange said his unauthorized sneak peek has left him convinced the film is a hit piece.”

Share

Read More

Unending U.S. hypocrisy in the Middle East

January 20, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald sums up a large part of U.S. Middle East foreign policy:

Obama administration has continuously lavished the Saudi Kingdom with a record amount of arms and other weapons, and has done the same for the Bahraini tyranny. He has done all this while maintaining close-as-ever alliances with the Gulf State despots as they crush their own democratic movements.”

According to a high-ranking adviser to four Presidents, including President Obama, this means:

“work even harder, do even more, to strengthen the Saudi regime as well as the neighboring tyrannies in order to crush the “Arab Awakenings” and ensure that democratic revolution cannot succeed in those nations.” The result is flagrant U.S. hypocrisy: “US policy to support the worst tyrannies that serve its interests, sitting right next to endless US pro-war rhetoric about the urgency of fighting for freedom and democracy.”

Share

Read More

Why did the feds over-prosecute Aaron Swartz?

January 17, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More
Why did the feds over-prosecute Aaron Swartz?

Glenn Greenwald makes a strong case that the government was intentionally making an example out of Swartz in order to assert corporatocratic control over the Internet. Government information belongs to the government and big business

But the abuses here extend far beyond the statutes in question. There is, as I wrote about on Saturday when news of Swartz’s suicide spread, a general effort to punish with particular harshness anyone who challenges the authority of government and corporations to maintain strict control over the internet and the information that flows on it. Swartz’s persecution was clearly waged by the government as a battle in the broader war for control over the internet. As Swartz’s friend, the NYU professor and Harvard researcher Danah Boyd, described in her superb analysis:

“When the federal government went after him – and MIT sheepishly played along – they weren’t treating him as a person who may or may not have done something stupid. He was an example. And the reason they threw the book at him wasn’t to teach him a lesson, but to make a point to the entire Cambridge hacker community that they were p0wned. It was a threat that had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a broader battle over systemic power.

The government bullying of Aaron Swartz is one of many government abuses that all fit into a pattern, as Greenwald notes:

The grotesque abuse of Bradley Manning. The dangerous efforts to criminalize WikiLeaks’ journalism. The severe overkill that drives the effort to apprehend and punish minor protests by Anonymous teenagers while ignoring far more serious cyber-threats aimed at government critics. The Obama administration’s unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers. And now the obscene abuse of power applied to Swartz.

Why the focus on the Internet?

[T]he abuse of state power, the systematic violation of civil liberties, is about creating a Climate of Fear, one that is geared toward entrenching the power and position of elites by intimidating the rest of society from meaningful challenges and dissent. There is a particular overzealousness when it comes to internet activism because the internet is one of the few weapons – perhaps the only one – that can be effectively harnessed to galvanize movements and challenge the prevailing order.

Share

Read More

EFF: Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years

January 10, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’m reprinting the following, with permission, from the site of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments

Today, after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconsitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans’ overseas communications.

Incredibly, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government’s activities, despite previous refusals by the Executive branch to even estimate how many Americans are surveilled by this program or reveal critical secret court rulings interpreting it.

The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.

Sen. Ron Wyden’s amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA’s powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.

You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden’s entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.

Sen. Jeff Merkley’s amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.

Tellingly, Sen. Rand Paul’s “Fourth Amendment Protection Act,” which would have affirmed Americans’ emails are protected from unwarranted search and seizures (just like physical letters and phone calls), was voted down by the Senate in a landslide.

The final vote for re-authorizing five more years of the FISA Amendments Act and secretive domestic spying was 73-23. Our thanks goes out to the twenty-three brave Senators who stood up for Americans’ constitutional rights yesterday. If only we had more like them.

Of course, the fight against illegal and unconsitutional warrantless wiretapping is far from over. Since neither the President, who once campaigned on a return to rule of law on surveillance of Americans, nor the Congress, which has proven to be the enabler-in-chief of the Executive’s overreach, have been willing to protect the privacy of Americans in their digital papers, all eyes should now turn to the Courts.

EFF was just in federal court in San Francisco two weeks ago, challenging the NSA’s untargeted dragnet warrantless surveillance program. And the Supreme Court will soon rule whether the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the “targeted” portions of the FISA Amendments Act can go forward.

But make no mistake: this vote was nothing less than abdication by Congress of its role as watchdog over Executive power, and a failure of its independent obligation to protect the Bill of Rights. The FISA Amendments Act and the ongoing warrantless spying on Americans has been, and will continue to be, a blight on our nation and our Constitution.

If you decide to view the speech of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), be sure to listen to the portion starting at min 38, where you can see that national intelligence authorities have been completely stifling even the reasonable requests of U.S. Senators regarding the numbers of communications of innocent American that have been intercepted.

Share

Read More

Tax hikes for everybody

January 8, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

According to Public Citizen’s Consumer Blog, Compared to 2012, the Just-Enacted Tax Bill Hikes Taxes for Nearly Every U.S. Worker.

A tax increase for middle-class working class families is exactly what the new tax legislation — The American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) — effectively imposes, compared to what those families had been paying. And the President, the Democrats, and the Republicans knew this when they supported ATRA.

Why are workers’ taxes going up? Because ATRA allowed the 2011 and 2012 payroll tax “holiday” to expire, meaning that, as of January 1, 2013, payroll taxes on wage income increased from 4.2% to 6.2%. But not on all wage income. The payroll tax is doubly regressive: Everyone pays the same rate, regardless of income, and only the first $113,700 in wage income is taxed.

Share

Read More