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Bartleby, the President

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.
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Somebody is seriously pissed off about the Obama administration’s iteration of the national security state

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

Routine carnage in Boston

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

From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

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

The good wars: Libya metastasizes and Afghanistan has a cobra snake for a necktie

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

Bad things your mad dog government has got up to lately; the Unity Candidate arrives

The law is a ass, and it wants to see yours. Watch what you think; don’t think it out loud; don’t think it in the vicinity of a marijuana dispensary. Good news: the one candidate who can truly unite Americans of all political stripes has jumped into the race.

In a decision supported by the Obama administration, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that security services can strip search anyone they arrest even when they have no reason to think the search is necessary. Given the latitude police have to determine probable cause for arrests, the ruling licenses police to arrest and subject anyone to a strip search for no particular reason.

In his dissent to the ruling, Justice Stephen Bryer paraphrased the language of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Breyer described unwarranted strip searches as an “affront to human diginity.”

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Ain’t gonna study war … oh, never mind. Plus: torture inquiries! (Not here, of course.)

Like as not we’re now fighting three generations of Taliban in Afghanistan. Can we hold on long enough to make it four? Yes We Can!

The Department of Homeland Security just extended an ammunition contract for up to 450 million .40 caliber hollow-point rounds. That works out to something like 150 15-round clips for every DHS employee, including the IT guys. So don’t ask them to reboot the internet when your browser locks up.

Other countries actually attempt to hold people accountable for torture and stuff, even when it was on our dime. Novel!

Continue reading Ain’t gonna study war … oh, never mind. Plus: torture inquiries! (Not here, of course.)

Drugs, guns and money, plus: was Zimmerman set up? Plus: Blogs on Parade

I haven’t seen any right-wing conspiracy theories yet about how George Zimmerman was set up by ___________ to kill Trayvon Martin so that ____________, and I’m somewhat surprised by that. My bet with myself was that somebody would blame the anti-gun crowd, as in, “They knew he was a loose cannon and they set him up to kill the gangster so they could attack our right to bear arms.”

I would like to note that so far this century, US government employees salaried by you and me, dear reader—well, not me, exactly but all for one and so on—have violently destroyed, degraded, uprooted or otherwise disrupted the lives of millions and millions of people who live (or lived, as may be) in other countries and never did you or me or those government employees a lick of harm. And the spasm has nowhere near run its course. No need to internalize that, of course, as what would that accomplish?

Somebody somewhere remarked on some right-wing person’s assignment of blame for widespread drug use to hippies and liberals of the 1960s, which reminded me that a while back I found this trove of 1950s New York Times stories on drug use.

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The IMF wants me, plus, Iraq Who?

The latest scam spam in my inbox is a letter from a high-ranking official of the International Monetary Fund telling me to deal only with him in recovering my money from Nigeria. What is it with Nigeria?

Okay, so the war in Iraq is over, according to Obama. This is because the Iraqis rejected his energetic pleas to let him keep some troops in the country—”Okay, not 30,000. How about 10,000? 5? 3500? Okay, fine, we’re leaving, but don’t blame me if we have to come back in with guns a-blazing …”—rather than observing the exit plan humorously agreed upon by the Bush administration.

But even with that we’re not leaving, not if you count the 16,000-strong crowd manning the murder holes in the State Department’s gigantic downtown Baghdad bunker. By way of comparison, that’s almost as many people as staff every other US embassy in the world combined, minus Afghanistan.
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Tanned, resurrected and ready: Nixon’s the One in 2012

This country is in trouble. Our economy is on life support; our foreign policy is on autopilot and there are mountains dead ahead. What the country needs now is a proven winner, an economic innovator, a foreign policy genius, a man who knows how to more or less end pointless and interminable wars.

Now more than ever, that man is Richard Milhous Nixon.
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