The NSA news might be a birthday for the New America!

Summary:  These are special days! The New America approaches as the Second Republic (under the Constitution) dies.  Our children are the victims. Powerful elites are the agents. We are the cause. Recent events show this to any who choose to see.

Watching the little people

Contents

  1. The revelations
  2. We squawk loudly, but to what effect?
  3. Reform, starting when?
  4. Who can we count on?
  5. Always in motion is the future
  6. More Information about the surveillance state
  7. Other posts, what you need know to see our future

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(1)  The revelations

This week we learned more about the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance. Do not see this as an event, but as a step in a process. Slowly we are broken to accept a harness designed by our ruling elites, administered by their agents — the government.  Slowly since WWII, more quickly since 9-11, the government has extended its supervision over us. Not to control our daily acts — as in 1984 — but to limit our activities. Limit our ability to manage our own affairs.

The changes come slowly. Not like a frog being boiled, because frogs are smart and jump out of the pot. More like bondage porn, where a sub slowly surrenders to the domination by the will of another. Surrendering responsibility, the burden of self-government.

We cannot admit the harsh truth, and so take comfort in lies.

We yield to the government to save us from the shadowy threat of jihadists – who one day over a decade ago killed a fraction of those who die each year in traffic accidents, or suicide by guns, or from other causes we cannot bother to address because we spend so much on security (internal and external, formerly known as police and defense). We yield to fear of an organization which probably no longer exists in significant form (bequeathing their name to nationalistic movements who fight us because we go to their lands and fight them).

We yield to the government because they — and our ruling elites — are too strong. We let the democratic machinery of the Republic lie unused because we know that resistance is futile.

In fact we yield because it is easier for us. More comfortable.

(2)  We squawk loudly, but to what effect?

Yes, we boldly write and speak.  As we did when we learned of the previous set of outrages. The the ones before that. As we will for the next one.  And the next one.

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We take comfort from the DC courtiers who tell us that the government is good and wise. That Congress has our back, and the Court approves every surveillance request because that’s the right thing to do. And they’ll talk about safety.  Slick, soothing, well-paid voices. The result: polls show little concern for our eroding rights.

Ask yourself when will you will feel that this trend has gone on so far that you will work to change it? What is the red line for you, beyond which you will spend money, time, and personal credibility to join a movement to change it?

Write it down.  Let’s talk again when we reach that point. For whatever your red line, I believe that we will cross it.  The momentum has grown too great. We have proven ourselves too spineless. The growth of the government’s power will accelerate from here.

The next phase will begin when a leader comes along to take our reins. Then history will take a new turn.  The forms of the Constitution will remain for several generations, as it did for the Roman Republic. He will be called a President, and have a Congress.  Life will go on for the United States, but we will have become a different people.

(3)  Reform, starting when?

I fear the boomers have made their mark on America. Our parents were the greatest generation, and we are the worst. A future generation must build the Third Republic.

(4)  Who can we count on?

Not attorneys; most work for the large corporations and the government.

Not Judges, who will reliably (not always) support the corporations and government.

Not law enforcement agencies (now best called security police), oppressive agents of the government (as they have been during most of American history).

Not the mainstream news media, who will occasionally meow — but when it counts support the government (e.g., echoing government propaganda about our wars, slander of dissidents like Manning and Assange).

We will have to find each other, and build from there. People seeking reform will be strangers in an increasingly strange land (an inversion of Exodus 2:22).

(5)  Always in motion is the future

These are all guesses, about large scale political movements beyond our ability to see — let alone predict. Yet I’ve made quite a few big forecasts, with a good record. So far my predictions about the decay of the Republic have been accurate but too optimistic.

God help us if that’s true with this one.

(6)  More Information about the surveillance state (will be updated)

(a)  Background:

  1. An archive of articles about the government’s increasing surveillance of Americans, at ProPublica
  2. A summary of the many different means by which the government spies upon us at Washington’s Blog, 6 June 2013
  3. Fair Warning: Julian Assange’s Cypherpunks“, Adam Morris, Los Angeles Review of Books, 28 April 2013 — Assange warned us
  4. Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen, 2009 — Five years ago these programs, and their growth, were easily visible. We just didn’t want to see.

(b)  The revelations:

  1. The National Security Agency: surveillance giant with eyes on America“, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 6 June 2013 — “The NSA is the best hidden of all the US intelligence services – and its secrecy has deepened as its reach has expanded”
  2. NSA taps in to internet giants’ systems to mine user data, secret files reveal“, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 7 June 2013 — “Secret PRISM program gives intelligence agency access to web and email of Google, Facebook and Apple customers”
  3. U.S. mining data from 9 leading Internet firms; companies deny knowledge“, Washington Post, 6 June 2013
  4. Boundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data“, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 9 June 2013 — “Revealed: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing data – including figures on US collection”
  5. Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations“, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 9 June 2013 — “The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows”
  6. Important: The NSA Files at The Guardian — archive of the leaked documents and news articles

(c)  Analysis:

  1. Priorities of Justice in New America: “Judge behind phone records threw out Obamacare“, AP, 6 June 2013
  2. Could There (Finally) Be a Backlash Against Domestic Surveillance?“, John Sides (Prof, Political Science, George Washington U), The Monkey Cage, 6 June 2013 — The answer is no.
  3. The Perils of (Vague Delegations of) Power“, Andrew Rudalevige (Professor of government, Bowdoin), The Monkey Cage, 6 June 2013 — Why could the government collect data on pretty much every phone call you make? The answer gives a lesson in legislative drafting
  4. Section 215: The White House’s Bullshit Talking Points, Marcey Wheeler, 6 June 2013
  5. What’s the Matter with Metadata?“, Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 6 June 2013
  6. Public Documents Contradict Claim Email Spying Foiled Terror Plot“, BuzzFeed, 7 June 2013 — “Defenders of “PRISM” say it stopped subway bombings. But British and American court documents suggest old-fashioned police work nabbed Zazi.”
  7. The tangled web of empire“, Stephen M. Walt (Prof of International Affairs, Harvard), Foreign Policy, 7 June 2013 — The government’s growing power is an inevitable result of the Long War.
  8. Security-State Creep: The Real NSA Scandal Is What’s Legal“, Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic, 7 June 2013 — “The Court has failed to develop a robust system for applying the Fourth Amendment meaningfully to the questions of the 21st century”

(d)  Consequences: the US government has just trashed the overseas reputation of our tech & telecom industries

  1. How PRISM could ruin Apple, Google, and every other big tech company“, Farhad Manjoo, Slate, 7 June 2013
  2. NSA Surveillance Threatens US Competitiveness“, Richard Stiennon, Forbes, 7 June 2013

(7)  Other Posts, what you need know to see our future

(a)  About these revelations:

  1. The NSA news might be a birthday for the New America!, 7 June 2013
  2. The Empire Strikes Back: The Demonization of Snowden Begins, 15 June 2013
  3. America’s courtiers rush to defend the government – from us, 22 June 2013
  4. Thoreau reminds us about one of the few tools we have to control the government, 24 June 2013 — About civil disobedience
  5. Will a wave of leakers undercut America’s national security?, 8 July 2013
  6. The government strikes again, but finds yet another American willing to fight. Applause is not enough!, 9 August 2013
  7. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”, 21 August 2013
  8. Scoring the game so far: NSA is winning, we’re losing, 23 August 2013

(b)  About America, pretty much all you need to know to see our future:

  1. Loki helps us to see our true selves
  2. The several versions of the American Republic: our past, present, & future
  3. There is no problem with America’s political system, or the Republic
  4. A nation lit only by propaganda

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26 thoughts on “The NSA news might be a birthday for the New America!

  1. Orwell’s prediction about the dawning of a new world absent real liberty had a certain fatalistic resignation about it. He seemed resigned to its inevitability – there would be little resistance amounting to none, whatever form the new order took. Apparently he was correct. One man on the street typifies the lack of real objection. I’m paraphrasing his response “I don’t have anything to hide therefore I don’t object to the intrusion”.

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    1. I agree. Silence means assent.

      The man on the street doesn’t realize the effect the growing government power will have on the ability of citizens to protest and control. It’s already happening, with dissenters smeared as terrorists or whatever and suppressed.

      Furthermore, consent of the governed requires knowledge of citizens as to what the government does in our name. With so many key programs secret, we are no longer in control.

      It will probably grow worse from here. Sharks first bump their prey to check for resistance. If none, then the attack begins. Our rulers have done the same, and found no resistance — or even interest in what the government does.

      America, meet the slippery slope.

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  2. I just happen to be listening to “White Mansions & Jessie James–>Bad Men” and o the irony while reading ur post. As always full of enlightened jewels. Thanks.

    Well worth a listen while reflecting on the Death of our Republick and r continued us of Yellow Journalism, Bad Men and the extremes of both sides to Chain the Middle.

    http://lyrics.wikia.com/White_Mansions_(1978)

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    1. I wish I had happy news. Or some glimmers of hope for the foreseeable future.

      There are good times and bad times. Looking ahead I see some dark scenarios becoming possible.

      Like

  3. A casual inspection of the various deficits suggests neither this government nor this nation are as strong as you suggest.

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    1. To further this post. Rome at the time of Caesar was a kick ass expanding organization that would actually expand for more than another century. Ceasar himself returned triumphant from Gaul.

      In contrast, the United States today is retreating. While the banks may currently be all powerful, they also do not work; they are running out of credit in the deepest senee. They do not work. Meanwhile, the vaunted American military does not strut home, Mission Accomplished. Rather, it slinks home whining that the “Surge Worked” fearful of fighting in Syria or anywhere else where it might actually get bloodied.

      I would be as if the resurgent Gauls were now contemplating stirring up trouble in the Po Valley while 5th column mafias stir in the Geek cities of the South. Meanwhile, Eastern potentates note that legions and proconsuls can be subverted, seduced, and bribed; while mad monk John the Baptist types raise voices crying in the wilderness.

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    2. Duncan,

      I believe I understand why you say these things, but I believe you misunderstand.

      “While the banks may currently be all powerful, they also do not work”

      They work perfectly, wealth-generating machines like the world has never seen. Profit profits, with the public taking on any bad bets. Like their bad loans to Latin America in the 1980s, and the real estate debacle after 2008. The managers and key employees (de facto) make fortunes, as do their adjuncts running hedge funds (outsourced speculators).

      “they are running out of credit in the deepest senee.”

      Can you provide some evidence for that assertion? In fact today they have massive excess reserves.

      The state of the military is similarly misunderstood. It works quite well as a wealth-generation machine for senior employees and defense vendors. It’s a mine, extracting wealth from the US people. That’s is its core function.

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    3. Fabius:

      Whether things exist in their present state and whether they may be sustained are two different things.

      When an organization, the banks or the military, is fundamentally bullshit – can it do this? Yes? Can this last? No.

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    4. Duncan,

      You might be right. Such bold assertions without evidence carry little water in my eyes, just empty rhetoric telling us nothing useful — but each to his own.

      Also, nothing “lasts”. People look at Rome as if it was crashing in 75AD, and 175 AD, and 275 AD. All true in a sense, but it nevertheless lasted in some fashion until 476 AD.

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    5. “When an organization, the banks or the military, is fundamentally bullshit ”

      I gave a brief but IMO cogent rebuttal to this. You are IMO just making stuff up. Please provide some evidence for your assertions.

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    6. My evidence is from you, i.e., the “wealth generating machines” you talked about.

      But my citing evidence really isn’t the point. The point is that the government is not on top of the situation but rather is running around putting out fires. And it will continue so to scamper.

      Rather than “cite evidence” I will make a prediction. This is but the latest in many such episodes. There will be more. Their tempo and their volume will increase.

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    7. Duncan,

      You are dreaming. That’s why I insist in evidence, otherwise we’re just wasting our time. We might be watching porn, reading literature, or watching clouds drift by.

      The machines are running fine. Generating profits is not a sign of problems, but of strength. Describing minor glitches — the normal routine of life — as a sign of distress is absurd.

      That the tempo of disclosures — like the current ones about the NSA — will increase is my prediction, and a sign of the current regimes strength. Each such episode shows our passivity and weakness. Each encourages them to move more boldly.

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  4. Is there a party or independents that seeks election in the US that seeks to roll back the post 2001 security measures? Or sitting members of congress who seek to?
    On this issue those would be the people to support. I’m sure there are plenty of those people out there. The enemy has made such gains not because they have been strong, but because people haven’t resisted.

    We must appeal to the self interest of politicians, resisting and rolling back the surveillance state must be the vote winner. To do that the surveillance state must become unpopular.
    This requires, over time, a slow drip drip drip into the news-cycle of bad news about the security state.
    Stories of corruption, waste, foolishness. In-cert them at a low level into low level security blogs like danger room, watch them trade up the media food chain. Start small, build slowly, awareness comes like the dawn, bright, the process imperceptible. Big splash stories like the times and the guardian ran wont linger long in the memory.
    Consider the way support for the EU was destroyed in the UK, it was by a constant drip of bad news stories which mainly laughed at the EU, many of those stories were incorrect or exaggerated out of proportion, but over time credibility was destroyed.

    That’s my proscription, find credible political leaders who will seek to highlight and confront the issue in the political sphere, support them on this issue.
    Run Info ops on the security state, this relies on action by media publicists consultants who routinely run this kind of thing companies. After a while this kind of thing will take on a life of its own, as long as it drives page views, the public will take over.
    If the issue becomes popular it will start to attract more real political support from within the political establishment.
    Main resistance will come from the white house and the permanent government.

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    1. See my comment #4. Both the Green Party who ran Jill Stein for President and the Libertarian Party who ran Gary Johnson say they want to get rid of the post2001 security measures and get money out of politics. So there you have Left and Right. It also allows you to stop playing their game and not vote for the “lesser of two evils” that are both evil. If enough of us do that maybe we can change things. Frankly it’s all we have.

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    2. “We must appeal to the self interest of politicians, resisting and rolling back the surveillance state must be the vote winner. To do that the surveillance state must become unpopular.”

      What do you mean by “we”, kemosabe?

      There is little evidence that Americans have any interest in changing the current system, except in the sense that Cinderella wanted a different life (ie, she dreamed about it). There is no “we” today in the sense you speak of. *That* is the problem.

      As I have said many many times, the first task is to awaken America’s desire to assume the burden and responsibility of governing themselves. That is, not dreaming of better times, or bitching about the present — but willing to work and spend to make it happen. This is quite obvious. Ignoring it makes your dreams nothing more than clouds in your coffee.

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  5. I don’t think your being entirely fair. I outlined a way too change the current mind set by using the same techniques the state uses to influence opinion, against them. There are many organisations committed to constitutional rights in america, you are not a lone voice in the wilderness.

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    1. You appear not have to understood what I said, although your works and my reply appear quite clear. Today’s post explains this in more detail; here’s a brief version…

      You describe ways to change the decisions of those in Washington. I say that will not work because the evidence is clear that the majority of Americans — including the most powerful — support the decisions of our rulers. You are pissing into the wind, along with whatever organizations your refer to.

      No matter how much energy you put into it, pissing into the wind does not work.

      The task is not to change the thinking of our rulers, but to change the thinking of the American people. That does not change the actions of our rulers, but makes doing so possible (although not certain).

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  6. The ‘red line’ for me, as I imagine it would be for most people, is when I feel like these developments might start to affect me personally.
    Sounds selfish, I know, but I’m just being honest.

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    1. Quite right. Quite a change from past generations.

      The Founding generations worried that men without property would have little concern for the fate of future generations.

      Some, like Jefferson, believed that only economically independent men could maintain a democracy: craftsmen, merchants, farmers, etc.

      Perhaps both fears have come to pass in America. We must either find a new foundation for democracy — or reconcile ourselves to being subjects.

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    2. From Allan Bloom’s great book, The Closing of the American Mind:

      de Tocqueville describes the tip of the iceberg of advanced egalitarianism when he discusses the difficulty that a man without family lands, or a family tradition for whose continuation he is responsible, will have in avoiding individualism and seeing himself to be an integral part of a past and a future, rather than as an autonomous atom in a merely changing continuum.

      … America is experienced not as a common project but as a framework within which people are only individuals, where they are left alone. To the extent that there is a project, it is to put those who are said to be disadvantaged in a position to live as they please too. The advanced Left talks about self-fulfillment; the Right, in its most popular form, is Libertarian, i.e., the right-wing form of the Left, in favor of everybody’s living as he pleases. The only forms of intrusion on the private-life characteristic of liberal democracies, taxes and military service are not now present in student life. If there is an inherent political impulse in man, it is certainly being frustrated. But this impulse has already been so attenuated by modernity that it is hardly experienced.

      Students may indeed feel a sense of impotence, a sense that they have little or no influence over the collective life, but essentially they live comfortably within the administrative state that has replaced politics.

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    3. Yes, Mr Maximus, Americans are essentially selfish. No argument there.

      The point I meant to convey was that most people seem to think the government surveillance, torture, and assassination programs only go after the ‘bad guys’, and not after them personally.

      I remember hearing the reaction from people on the news when the friend of Boston bomber Tsarnaev was killed by the FBI during an interrogation. People generally jumped to the conclusion that he was guilty by association, deserved to be killed anyway, and shouldn’t receive either remorse or an investigation.
      Take as another example, the largely neutral reaction when it was found that the NYPD was conducting extensive surveillance and building large files on ordinary Muslim citizens in New York. Most people didn’t care because they didn’t think they might personally be caught up in it.

      I’m sure a lot of it has to do with post 9/11 racism and some kind of neo-crusader sentiment.
      Unfortunately, for people to really start to care, I think it would have to become undeniably clear that the government was targeting ordinary non-Muslim white Americans (as opposed to ‘bad guy’ Americans). That hasn’t happened yet.

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    4. I agree on all points.

      But we are well beyond that now. Leakers are revealing dark government programs about widespread torture and assassination, about widespread government surveillance of Americans. This goes far beyond govt acting against “others”.

      These are things that have sparked widespread opposition in the past. If they pass quietly, as I expect, we will have passed an important milestone on the path to a New America.

      Furthermore, our leaders will see our weakness. I suspect the pace will accelerate from here. The “s” curve often confuses people. The foundation slowly is laid, with little obvious change. The suddenly, apparently out of the blue sky change happens.

      I have been writing about this for a decade. I suspect in the next few years to be adding many of those posts to the “successful forecasts” page.

      “There are decades when weeks happen; then weeks when decades happen”
      — Lenin

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    5. “Yes, Mr Maximus, Americans are essentially selfish. No argument there.”

      Yes. But that’s not the point de Tocqueville and Jefferson worried about.

      We are selfish. We were selfish. Everybody always and everywhere is selfish. The point here concerns the social mechanisms by which selfishness drives welfare of the overall society. Western civilization was built on “low but solid ground” so that drives like selfishness work for society’s long-term health. In this case, men’s concern for the descendents broadens their concerns from purely personal selfishness.

      That might no longer be working for America.

      Like

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