We want heroes, not leaders. When that changes it will become possible to reform America.

Summary:  Before we can find solutions, or even slow the fall of the Republic, we need accurate diagnosis of what ails us.  Facile answers point to evildoers, or flaws in the Constitution. Fix them and our awesomeness will be rewarded. But America’s weakness lies elsewhere, and can be seen by each of us when looking it the mirror.


Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
— Cassius to Brutus, in Julius Caesar


Hollywood’s Real Bias Is Conservative (But Not in the Way Liberals Often Say)“, Elias Isquith, The Atlantic, 9 January 2012 — “The political criticisms of Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and The Dark Knight Rises stem from the fact that for Hollywood, history and ideology are second to business — and individualistic narratives sell.”

Isquith ends with an essential insight to understand America’s dysfunction:

It’s individuals, and individuals alone, who matter. In Zero Dark Thirty, an isolated, single-minded CIA agent — a loner that no one believes in—is the chief reason the butcher of 9/11 is lost to time at the bottom of the sea. In Lincoln, it’s only through the singular grace, wisdom, and humanity of the 16th president that the greatest evil in American history, an evil few but he sees with true clarity, is finally put to rest. And in The Dark Knight Rises, Gotham is saved by the orphan Bruce Wayne as the pariah Batman. These people do great things. And they do them alone.

This is Hollywood’s — and indeed, much of entertainment’s — enduring, conservative belief. But it’s less ideology than business imperative. Recall the feeling you had the last time you walked out of a really good blockbuster. You probably felt elated, invigorated, like you could master the world all by yourself. It’s a good feeling, and it’s happening right now at a theater near you.

But it’s not happening in a neighborhood near you. Nor in America.  The 1% don’t rule as individuals, dressing in latex and swinging through the city. They recruit followers; their money is their superpower.

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As we finish a dark 2012, what will we see in 2013 of The New America?

Summary:  It’s the time of year to look back on our deeds of the past year, and contemplate what we’ll do in the next. In the past American could think of bold exploration ventures (from Lewis & Clark to Apollo), great projects of domestic infrastructure (from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highways), and expansions of civil rights (from Emancipation to the 1960s). What have we to look back upon with pride? Or forward to with expectation?

… the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
— From C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, chapter VII

Americans watch Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of torture, exulting in their moral decay:




  1. Stage One: the rot starts in the government
  2. Stage Two: decay of professional institutions
  3. Stage Three: evil takes root in our hearts
  4. What comes next?
  5. For More Information

(1)  Stage One: the rot starts in the government

Dark deeds were done in the Cold War, fighting a superpower in the shadow of atomic war.  Sometime during those years evil took root in our government’s national security apparatus.  Exposing soldiers to test their resistance to radiation. Testing LSD on government employees. Massive secret domestic surveillance programs.  All this and more was revealed during the 1970s, especially by the 1975 Church Committee hearings.

Then Bush Jr’s neoconservatives exploited America’s panic after 9-11 — shattering our illusions of olympian invulnerability — to lead us into the pit. Nothing new, but embracing torture and assassination on a larger scale and openly.

And, of course, involving us in combat with more foreign insurgents — dirty wars, which have a long history of corrupting armies. All supported by a scaffolding of lies.

To see the effect on our armed forces: Bleak news, but vital for us to understand: American Morlocks: Another Civilian Massacre and the Savagery of Our Soldiers, 17 March 2012.

(2)  Stage Two: decay of professional institutions

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The intelligence community’s meritocracy in action

Summary:  A combination of events has provide a window into the operation of the CIA. The leaks about Ms. Bikowsky, the model for the lead character in “Zero Dark Thirty”, show us  how people in the CIA think, about their values, and how the CIA promotes. This is a follow-up to yesterday’s sad post; today’s provides equally dark news.

Hollywood CIA agent
Hollywood’s version of a CIA agent



  1. Introducing Alfreda Frances Bikowsky
  2. Torture is entertainment
  3. The CIA meritocracy at work
  4. About the heroine in “Zero Dark Thirty”
  5. For More Information


(1)  Introducing Alfreda Frances Bikowsky

Chief of CIA’s ‘Global Jihad Unit’ Revealed Online“, Gawker,
22 September 2011 — Excerpt:

Her name is Alfreda Frances Bikowsky and, according to independent reporters Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, she is a CIA analyst who is partially responsible for intelligence lapses that led to 9/11. The two reporters recently released a “documentary podcast” called “Who Is Richard Blee?” about the chief of the agency’s bin Laden unit in the immediate run-up to the 9/11 attacks and featuring interviews with former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, former CIA agent Bob Baer, Looming Tower author Lawrence Wright, 9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Keane, and others.

In it, Nowosielski and Duffy make the case that Bikowsky and another CIA agent named Michael Anne Casey deliberately declined to tell the White House and the FBI that Khalid al-Mihdhar, an Al Qaida affiliate they were tracking, had obtained a visa to enter the US in the summer of 2001. Al-Mihdhar was one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77. The CIA lost track of him after he entered the US.

… Nowosielski and Duffy also contend that Bikowsky is the unnamed “particularly overzealous female officer” described in Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side who traveled to personally view Khalid Sheikh Muhammed’s interrogation despite having “no legitimate reason” to be there.

(2)  Torture is entertainment

From The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer (2008):

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Bin Laden won, with our assistance. Our applause shows the scale of his victory.

Summary:  The real story told by “Zero Dark Thirty” is the historic victory of bin Laden, and the price he paid for it. Americans demonstrate this by their ignorant, enthusiastic applause for darkness of The New America, and their eager acceptance of the lies lovingly told by the film.

Bin Laden's BFF
Bin Laden’s BFF


About the hit by a heavily armed high-tech special ops team on an unarmed old guy and some women living in a suburban house, gloriously dramatized by “Zero Dark Thirty”:

What endures on the screen are scenes that can make a viewer ashamed to be American, in the context of a movie whose ending scene makes viewers very, very proud to be American.
— “Two Cheers for Zero Dark Thirty’s Torture Scenes“, Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s “Danger Room”, 10 December 2012

Bin Laden and al Qaeda accomplished what might be the most effective single military operation in history, especially on a effect per man basis.  It cost Bin Laden his life, eventually — a price he probably considered a fair exchange for this historic victory.

9-11 changed the course of a great nation, turning America decisively toward the dark side. Massive internal surveillance, militarization of police, endless war, hatred of Islam., torture, lifetime detention without trial, incessant propaganda, and a stream of fake terror plots (created by the government).

We pay for this with larger deficits, loss of global leadership, and corruption of our people (eg, jingoism, bloodlust).  We see celebrate these things, the death of the America-that-once-was, by applauding the film “Zero Dark Thirty”.

Welcome to The New America!   Brought to you by al Qaeda and the US government, with the willing assistance of the US people.

For more about bin Laden see:

  1. ImportantWas 9/11 the most effective single military operation in the history of the world?, 11 June 2008
  2. Bin Laden wins by using the “Tactics of Mistake” against America, 6 February 2011
  3. Important:  About the strategic significance of bin Laden’s execution, and the road not taken, 5 May 2011

Other layers to the film’s significance, showing our true selves

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