“Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singular mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”
— Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener
Bartleby, the Scrivener is the story of a man who one day decides he would prefer not to — first work and, eventually, live. We needn’t worry about that with Bartleby, the President. He has too high a degree of self-regard to starve himself from indolence or despair, as should we all, and insufficient attachment to principle to risk his life on a hunger strike.
As you must know, the passions of various Senators on the Senate intelligence committee are inflamed by agents of the CIA having illegally surveilled them and illegally executed covert operations against them. We say illegally because the CIA is proscribed from practicing its arts domestically on anyone, even Senators and their staffs, who probably bear watching more than most of us, even when the CIA believe themselves to have good reason; especially so, in fact, because that’s when the risk is highest. The CIA think they have good reason now because the Senate intelligence committee has been preparing a report that will document the agency’s crimes against humanity, including torturing people and disappearing them.
The surveilling and operating was evidently done with the knowledge and approval of the CIA director, one John Brennan. It is particularly fraught because the CIA is an executive branch agency, and the executive branch is not meant to spy upon or coerce other branches of government. This is in part why the great Richard Nixon lost his job. What we have here is the very definition of a constitutional crisis, a plain breach of the separation of powers.
Continue reading Bartleby, the President
The Obama administration has sprung a gusher. This is pretty remarkable. In the space of three days, we have learned (so far) that
The National Security Agency has been collecting complete call records on Verizon users (and probably all the other telcom customers as well) for perhaps seven years; The National Security Agency is . . . → Read More: Somebody is seriously pissed off about the Obama administration’s iteration of the national security state
I was browsing through my news feed yesterday morning when I ran across a story about the US bombing a wedding in Afghanistan. I thought something like “Jeez, again?”* and didn’t click through for the full story because it was so familiar. Now I can’t find it, but I think it said 30 dead. . . . → Read More: Routine carnage in Boston
Many people are wont to wrap themselves in Martin Luther King’s mantle now that he’s safely dead these two score and five. Until yesterday, the most ludicrous example was the gun fetishist who argued that non-violence be damned, King would have agreed that slavery would have never been an issue had the prospective slaves been armed. That was in the days before the US became the greatest arms merchant of all time, so it’s unclear where the Africans would have got their weapons and the credit to buy them. Possibly they could have traded themselves.
Continue reading In which America’s nuclear warriors bask in the radioactive glow of imagined admiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
John Boehner’s next job could be as a safety buoy bobbing gently in the waters of the Fiscal Shoals, warning off the unwary. (“These are not tears,” he will say with a sad little smile; “it’s only the life-giving waters of the sea in my eyes.”) If he falls, he’ll likely give way to one among the group of 40-something white guys who call themselves The Young Guns, which right there gives you multiple insights into some of the things troubling the Grand Old Party.
House and Senate staff members will take an 8.2% pay cut if their bosses don’t get a tax and deficit deal done before the end of the first federal pay period in 2013. Collectively, the staff are looking at more than $100 million in cuts for the year. Possibly this will have an impact on the negotiations. Their bosses, who included themselves among America’s Warriors and others so valuable or vulnerable as to warrant protection from any budget reductions, face a 0% cut (although their foreign currency conversion allowance will take a brutal hit). Even John Boehner will still get paid despite demonstrating live on national television that he can’t do the job for which he draws a larger pay check than anyone else in the House.
(“Who should get pay cuts?” “Well, let’s start with the obvious: not us. VA nurses first.”)
Continue reading Bobbing for sharks with Orange John Boehner
Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. doesn’t say what sounds “close-air support overhead” resembles, probably on the assumption that his audience, readers of the American Forces Press Service, do not need a description. He does say that the sounds “are often referred to as “the sounds of freedom,”” although he doesn’t say . . . → Read More: From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom
I like to read the contract notices issued by the Pentagon. On a good day you can watch billions and billions of dollars go out the door in support of blowing various things and people up. Among the beneficiaries of today’s contracts is UNICOR, the government corporation that contracts prison labor to make stuff . . . → Read More: In which we use prison labor to make body armor to sell overseas
The invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of Libya’s Qaddafi are supposed by liberal interventionists to have been good wars. Most of them have by now had their fill of Afghanistan and want out, but getting out is likely to be a nightmare. The Libyan adventure is still quite popular, when it is remembered, but is well on the way to becoming a classic case study in blowback. A recent story in Foreign Affairs magazine, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, named some of the harsh consequences of the war for nearby countries and Libya herself.
First, there are the weapons: The neighborhood, especially Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger, was always uneasy about Libya’s civil war. Many feared that it would pry the lid off Tripoli’s sizeable weapons cache and lead to the dispersal of arms across the region. It turns out that they were right to be worried. Then, there is the money: Locating Libya’s financial assets after the war has been another complicated matter. Members of Qaddafi’s inner circle who know where the money is stashed are missing or unidentifiable. Basically, billions of dollars might wind up in the hands of individuals who could use the cash to sponsor terrorism or otherwise destabilize Libya. And finally, there are the refugees: Tens of thousands of Africans, no longer welcome in Libya, returned home this year. Besides the fact that many of them are ripe for jihadi infiltration, they will further strain the region’s weak economies. Already, food security is becoming a major issue and famine looms.
Continue reading The good wars: Libya metastasizes and Afghanistan has a cobra snake for a necktie
He’s concerned that the Greeks won’t have as much money to spend on killing humans in other countries as the US would like.
“Today Secretary Panetta met with Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopolous at the Pentagon to discuss a variety of mutual defense interests including the upcoming NATO Summit, the missions in Afghanistan and . . . → Read More: US Secretary of War Leon Panetta ponders the human cost of the Greek financial crisis