Jump to navigation
Archive for May of 2006
May 31, 2006
May 30, 2006
ur friends over at Global Paradigms
respond appropriately to Jacob Heilbrunn's somewhat stale and overwrought item in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, “Neocons in the Democratic Party”.
Like many others in the pundit class, Heilbrunn is working on a book about Neocons. So it is no surprise that this column is mainly a marketing advance for his book. One can almost hear a publisher plaintively pleading for Heilbrunn to use an Op-Ed to prime the buzz pump. After all, the American public is notoriously fickle. Absent reminders that “the Neocons are coming!”, they very well might just yawn when the book is unleashed.
Heilbrunn is not alone in his dependance on shooting up Neocons. As the Stiftung mentioned here before, an entire pundit subclass is addicted. Breaking that addiction is hard. Why give up a hoary stage act when it still gets the audiences?
The centrality of Neocons to the livelihood of these pundits is undeniable. One is almost tempted to believe that the Neocons should get a slice of the royalties. Without the hollow Neocon bogeyman in 2006, what would Heilbrunn and the others actually do with themselves?
eilbrunn's column belabors the longstanding obvious: Democrat wonks such as Will Marshall at the Progressive Policy Institute, along with Marshall Wittmann, Peter Beinhart, Ken Pollack over at Brookings, etc. share an interventionist (possibly even romantic) view of American power. And that Wittmann et al. are intellectually wholly on board with GWOT (tm). Well, Duh.
Apparently, Nick Gvosdev over at Washington Realist, wonders if Neocons departing the Bush Administration would fit intellectually within this existing Democrat stucture. The recent Financial Times piece describing the Summer of Neocon Discontent
(full article provided at the jump) adds fuel to the speculation that Neocons will bolt. Our friends at Global Paradigm correctly see such a migration as a mere rebranding effort to relaunch the meme without the brand damage associated with the Bush Administration's failures.
Oddly, Nick and Heilbrunn are not even aware of the Monty Python-esque parody of their musings: recall in Life of Brian
the factions splitting between the Judean Peoples Front and Peoples' Front of Judea. There is not a little of that here.
But on a serious note, is it news that the Neocons are opportunists? Forget their original flock to Reagan. In 1992, before Ed Rollins and Hamilton Jordon proclaimed Ross Perot a flake, the Neocons already abandoned Bush Sr. and were begging for access to Perot via John White et al. (The Stiftung saw some of this first hand). More lately, Kristol circulated a private email threatening to do just this very thing back in 2004. There, Kristol wrote that if Rumsfeld was not fired and more troops dispatched, he and those of his ilk could just as easily be “Neoliberals”.
In the end, it may not matter. The Stiftung agrees with Robert Jervis, professor of international politics at Columbia University, cited in the Guy Dinmore Financial Times
piece. Jervis is quoted from his Washington Quarterly
piece that the US system does not have the commitment to sustain the prolonged efforts required by Mr Bush’s “transformationalist” agenda. This is preceeded by this quote:
Graham Fuller former diplomat and intelligence officer, suggests the US is suffering from “strategic fatigue” brought on by “imperial over-reach”.
“The administration’s bark is minimised, and much of the bite seems gone,” he writes in the Nixon Center’s National Interest journal. “Has superpower fatigue set in? Clearly so, to judge by the administration’s own dwindling energy and its sober acknowledgment that changing the face of the world is a lot tougher than it had hoped.”
But the real losers of such a chastened and greyer world won't be the Neocons themselves. Instead, pity the Heilbrunners of the world. Do you know how hard it is to find a new Muse?
Read more »
May 26, 2006
n old miltary maxim is that amateurs discuss tactics, professionals worry about logistics.
This is especially true In today's world of joint operations. Bear with us, Dear Reader. We won't wade into dry milporn discussion. Or discuss the lamentable American fixation under Rumsfeld for festooning all things military with le mot du jour
, “jointness”. Those plucky supply clerks everywhere pleading for new staplers because they urgently need its “joint capability” will go unsung. For now.
ather, we speak of logistics and joint operations of a different sort. The Administration is creating a new form of combined arms in sharp departure with military theory. In traditional military terms, “jointness” grew out of pioneering conceptual work by the Russians M. Tukhachevsky, and G. Isserson and H. Guderian in Germany. The point of combined arms was to effect change — victory.
It is likely that Rumsfeld and Cheney will go down in history as giving birth to a new combined integration of AgitProp, military and economic affairs. PropaMil operations, if you will. Here, military operations are but one show theater component in a larger, politicized propoganda tapestry.
Instinctively, the Oppositionist blogosphere has discussed elements of this new PropaMil doctrine for some time. You Dear Reader will be familiar because PropaMil activities, like the illusion of government services at home, are symptomatic of the Administration's essential Post-Modernist being: control of narrative is more important than effecting real change. We and our readers have been consistently underscoring that analysis.
We raise the subject again today because vocal and influential components of the blogosphere believe the same PropaMil operation is imminent regarding Iran. Some highly trafficked sites warned about an attack on Iran coming in June. Dismissable — except that the Stiftung recently ran into several nationally known pundits and commentators familiar with this Administration. They voice the same concerns. We were startled to see the rage against the Neocons and belief in their capacity to impose duplicitous policies — it brought back memories of November 2002-November 2003 all over again.
We offer this as a possible comfort. Even PropaMil operations must bow before logistics. And logistics dicates, we believe, that U.S. military operations against Iran are not imminent — both an airstrike or sustain combat operations.
Of all the mistakes made in Iraq to be discussed for the next 30 years, from a PropaMil perspective, the failure of proper logistics will be front and center. We don't mean POL (petrol, oil, lubricants), ammunition, etc. We mean the logistics for reconstruction - human capital and resources. That is in addition to the troop strength needed. Bottom line? If Centcom's original estimate of 350,000 troops for Iraq to secure the occupation was the right area, Iran will need about a million. Even assuming this was politically feasible, the logistical footprint “to flow” this kind of force structure to Iran is likely a 12-18 month buildup. That does not include the additional logistical support for the reconstruction and occupation.
And the Brits are not likely to be along for the ride. Some of it is for domestic political reasons, and alot of it is due to military overstrech. Consider this item from the Telegraph
sent to the Stiftung by one of our readers at a major international news organization.
No planes to bring troops home from Iraq on timeT
The impact of [U.K. Army “overstretch” has emerged after the Government admitted that it is struggling to fight wars on two fronts.
Thousands of troops in Iraq have had their tour of duty extended from six to seven and a half months because the RAF does not have enough transport aircraft to move troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time.
he whole item is worth a read for several reasons. The realities of logistical limitations, as much as abysmal poll ratings at home, explains Blair's statement at the White House that the U.K. will not be marching off to Iran. They can't. And as the astute reader reminded the Stiftung in the email, the U.K. is the only non-U.S. NATO partner with any out of region capability.
The Stiftung takes a back seat to no one for disdain and contempt for this Administration's foreign policy and defense team. Certainly, this crowd which in Philadelphia 2000 billed itself as the grownups has proven to be dangerous amateurs. But it is equally amateurish to paint dark and lurid fears regarding Iran and justify the claims with the weak cop out “well, anything is possible because the Neocons (Cheney) are crazy”. Even if some see a different color sky than we do, they still have to obey the laws of physics and logistics.
The more insightful (and cynical, perhaps) observers note that all of the above may be true. But those vested in a confrontation with Iran may seek a half measure such as an airstrike. The logic here is that an airstrike will be unsuccessful and inevitably lead to escalation and war, albeit coerced. We remain skeptical. Target planners in the Air Force have already more or less conceded that they lack the non-nuclear means to ensure success. And moreover, the target sets are uncertain given dispersal and our lack of in country intelligence.
We'll come back to this theme of Neocons as punching bags in 2006. It is funny how such a greatly reduced and weakened strand of the Administration continues to loom so over sized in the fears and imaginings of some, mostly in the Buchananite wing of the Republican Party. But that is for another post. For today, we urge those looking at Iran to remember that even PropaMil operations can not escape the cruel realities of logistics and physics.
May 25, 2006
ayden's anti-climatic confirmation as Director of the CIA (a newly created position during the ODNI reform impetus) itself is uninteresting. A clearly defined epoch in the Community ends. The curtain raises on another.
Plenty of time for navel gazing on What Does It All Mean later. Today, let's do a tour of the battlefield. What really have we seen?
o make a clear judgment, first we need to inject some reality into the dominant (and false) meme floating around since 2003. This meme, embraced mostly (but not entirely) by Oppositionists of all hues, is that the CIA was a competent and diligent organization bravely speaking up to the Administration in clear dissent. For this, the Agency suffered an unjustified purge by Cheney and the Neocons. In this nutrasweet narrative (encouraged by the Agency and its apologists) the Agency is a stand in for opposition to the Administration, while those supporting reform are either stooges or members of the Cheney purge clique.
Would that things are that simple. The latest manifestation of this simplistic bifurcation can be found on an item over at Ken Silverstein's Harper's blog.
Silverstein's “page 6” item on the Agency is interesting and not bad per se. We say “page 6” because the item is largely a recap of his Agency sources' agenda. Similar stories are peddled across the Imperial City around water coolers. We heartily approve of Silverstein rebuffing more of Stephen Hayes' Neocon water carrying. The piece adds to the dominant meme.
There are, however, three inaccuracies with that meme: (i) an implicit assumption that the Agency's resistance to necessary and profound reform is unrelated to Porter Goss' defenistration; (ii) the assumption that Goss was wrong to bring a coterie of outsiders with him to the Agency; and (iii) the implication that those who called for reform of the Agency are not its friends or mere stooges for Cheney/Neocons.
On the first point, the Agency was a malfunctioning institution long before 2002-2003 or even 2001. This has nothing to do with the Cheney/Neocon ideological critique. George Tenet's go-along-get-along malfeasance was obvious even in the 1990s before 9/11. The Stiftung called for Tenet's resignation during the Clinton Administration and even before 2003 under Bush. In our conversations across the Hill from from SSCI Counsel Ford to others — “the Tenet problem” and how to get reform underway was a common theme — long before the CIA was a political football for the Administration and the Left.
At the time, all those long interested in reform knew that the task would be hard, if not impossible. Absent some massive change in the landscape, the CIA's internal anti-bodies resistant to change would be formidable. The culture was so insular as to be damn near immune. This is something CIA apologists do not acknowledge, let alone address.
ny post-Tenet regime required reform. Inside CIA itself in 2004, some wiser senior personnel privately admitted that the corporate culture would be resistant, hostile and subversive to change. Change would have to come from without. The kind of reform needed far transcended Kappes' much lauded strategic reconception of the DO.
Even as a former DO Officer, given HPSCI's criticism of CIA as “heading over a cliff” (an assessment Harman also agreed with), Goss was coming as an outsider and critic. Stansfield Turner's unsuccesful tenure and other history all suggest that Goss would either be co-opted by the status quo culture or marginalized, isolated or even destroyed — unless he brought his own staff with him and loyal to him. Even friends of the Agency made that observation when his name was first being circulated. Once Goss pursued that path, his only shot at success was to have the finesse to try and make that inherent tension into a productive and positive internal relationship. Not to be.
So the idea of the “Gosslings” per se as some kind of hostile, malignant and aberrant presence was (a) inevitable to the CIA internal culture; and (b) not in and of itself, a bad thing. Reform is going to break rice bowls. Had Goss arrived with supreme diplomats and just a reform agenda, the institutional antibodies were poised to resist. And some of the leaks against Goss when he first arrived were pre-emptive bids to preserve the status quo.
Unfortunately, Goss also was carrying out the Cheney/Neocon purge agenda for ideological fealty. With Gosslings ill-suited for finesse. And Goss himself was simply managerially inept. A recipe for deserved insurrection. Thus the Agency's internal forces of status quo/anti-reform were able to conflate their stance with the quite sensible reacton of alarm to the clumsy and detrimental ideological campaign. The leaks against Goss, the threats of reprisal, the Kappes departure — from there reform and purge became a unified effort to be opposed.
Silverstein's reporting needs to be understood within this larger mosaic of conflicting institutional agendas. The Left simplistic meme narratives of our time, Goss = Cheney = Neocons = Purge = “Reform” = Evil, thus by definition CIA careerists = Competent = Anti-Bush = By Definition, Good must be discarded. Although Dear Reader, we have noted not without some statisfaction that the CIA has been very effective peddling this narrative. We are Oppositionists here, after all.
hus, Cheney et al. were actually the Agency's best friend as well as lethal foe. Resisting Cheney et al. via their hamfisted minion Goss allow the Agency largely to deflect substantive crititical analysis or discussion of its real need for reform. Had the ODNI legislation not passed, the Agency may well have emerged the victor. Goss' ability to function within the Agency was limited by his own personal shortcomings of poor work ethic and managerial inexperience, the personalities of his Gosslings, and the ability of the Agency to simply out wait him.
But the ODNI legislation set in motion the bureaucratic reform impetus CIA could not stop. ODNI and OSD poaching of CIA capability and status overpowered the internal resistance to change. This meant that both CIA and Goss lost.
Hayden's arrival at the greatly diminished and demoralized CIA is in a way perfect timing. The battle is over. “Reform”, at least in its most crude and politically perverted bureaucratic terms of budget, status and headcount, won. The dismemberment is a fact. True, substantive, non-ideological reform as the Stiftung and others envisioned — beyond org chart re-alignment — really has not even been started.
One can only shake the head at the precious time lost.
Bringing Kappes back not only sends the right signals, but the scope of repairs at CIA are now in alignment with the kind of reduced, diminished CIA and the NCS/DO re-thinking Kappes can offer. Managerial stability that Hayden can provide is the icing on the cake. Neocon calls for a continuing purge will be ignored.
(As we wrote in another post, one of the most prominent Neocons told the Stiftung directly that he is enraged that Kappes refused to follow up on Chalabi WMD leads. The Neocons believe that Kappes is “personally responsible for the WMD escaping to Syria!” Kappes' very presence back is a slap to the Neocons and a sign that the Great Purge is over).
But if Goss lost and the overt purges wind down, the same can not be said of the overall Cheney/Neocon agenda. A truism is if you shoot the King, you must bring the King down — a lesson forgotten at CIA. While they are not able to pour salt on the ground yet at Langlely ala Carthage, the vengeance wreaked on CIA has been fearsome.
May 24, 2006
his item from the publication Jewish Week deserves a read.
It exposes how some pro-Israel organizations and media outlets like the New York Sun
and The New York Post
peddled the bogus story that Iran was forcing Jews to wear badges as in the 1930s/early 1940s Germany.
Saturday's New York Post
front page screamed: FOURTH REICH? Iran law labels Jews?
Except it wasn't true.
clumsy Psyop misfire this time. Expect other efforts to manipulate media and mass emotion to follow. Likely to mine this same vein and deploy similar explosive emotional imagery. Use of historical memory for conditioning a pre-war psychology is nothing new in history — even as recent as 2002 here. But we have no excuse to fall for it a second time.
May 23, 2006
is frequently nauseating. Not just because of Matthews' deservedly lampooned delivery. Or his alleged 'betrayal' of [insert Democrat/Progressive cause here].
We find Hardball
contemptible because the show glorifies, worships and trumpets expediency. Successful tactics — wholly divorced from ethics or any notion of Public Good — are lionized by Matthews night in and out.
His palpable desire to fluff the winners and kick the losers oozes from the television. The fierce clinging to winners is nothing more than a fear of being associated with despised losers. Social climbing in the Imperial City at its worst. And, in a microcosm, the social Darwinism unleashed by this Administration.
uring Clinton's travails and before the rot set in in 2002, Matthews' presentation offered some novelty. No longer. Under this regime, Matthews' instinctive Philly-esque Catholic mindset of obediance, cultural conservatism and reverence for Authority morphed into a pugnacious attack on dissent and unorthodoxy (in all its forms). All under Matthews' hollow mantle of allegedly speaking for “the ordinary American”. Thus does Hardball
more and more resemble a kinder, gentler forum for quasi Buchanan-esque brown shirtism.
The joke is that Matthews is so clueless he would probably deny all of this. In that sense, Hardball
is nothing more or less than one of countless other mirrors of our Time. But to do so in such a smarmy, self-congratulatory cocoon of ignorance as tonight's show is particularly bile-inducing. Matthews et al. were in fine form.
We caught the segment about the FBI raid on Capitol Hill offices (as mentioned more fully in the item below). From other sites, you Dear Reader doubtless have the latest developments.
Matthews was joined by such middlebrow titans as Kate Bierne and E.J. Dionne. The discussion radiated jocular if corrosive cynicism and ignorance. Was it good for Pelosi to join with Hastert? Who benefitted most? Wink, wink.
Now, clearly none of them are true political scientists, historians or lawyers. But they claim to be and are relentlessly marketed as experts on politics and our political system. Yet, the basic issue to them was “catching the guy with $100,000 in the freezer”. And as Matthews says, making Congress subject to the laws like the rest of us. All off the mark.
It's The Subpoena Power, Stupid
irst, as mentioned in the Comments to the item below, the real issue is how power of subpoenas are handled across branches of government. The Hardball
luminaries adopted the standard of expediency tonite — do what has to be done to catch “bad guys”. They never for a moment considered what this means as a precedent. What if a whistleblower approached Capitol Hill — the Executive would cite this case as precedent to raid offices over the weekend and retrieve whatever documents it felt were related to its unauthorized disclosure.
Or what of the converse? If a future executive ignored a congressional subpoena, are the Hardball
giants saying that the Capitol Hill police would be entitled to raid the offices of the NSA Director, or Attorney General, for example, over a weekend? Because under the Hardball
expediency standard, those agents of the President could not be alerted ahead of time of the raid because they would hide or destroy the documents. To those who think that involving a judge from the third branch of government to trump the other two is al that is needed, not so. A judge could be found sympathetic to the requests under usual judge shopping tactics. Or dispensed with.
Second, if the issue is searching a congressional office, that is what congressional police are there for. If the DOJ needs time urgent access to a congressional office, the congressional police can search the office under the direction of House leadership. The idea that this weekend raid was the only way to grab “hot” evidence is blatantly farcical, another reality lost on our Hardball
spent no time really discussing what this raid signifies about the Administration's contempt for other branches of government and separation of powers. Not once did anyone ask, what are the ramifications if this precedent is allowed to stand?
Which brings us to why we are devoting a post to an obscure cable news show with low ratings. Last I checked, O'Really does 4-1 over this show eyeball-wise. What aggravated the Stiftung tonite more than usual was to see the profoundly serious issue of collapsing separations of power treated to the tawdry Up Down arrow mindset of our time.
And in this, it occured to us, Rove and Bush may well have taken the true measure of America today. God help us.
ostscript: Now it is true that perhaps these Hardball
all stars or whatever Matthews calls them play to their hosts' base instincts and surrender insight and intelligence in a go-along-to-get-along mode. (With the exception of Bierne who is simply dense but has an instinctive knack for giving good television).
After all, as the late Pope told us, if it didn't happen on television, it didn't happen. So none would want to jeapordize their gig and access to the MSNBC set. But Howard Fineman manages to be both ingratiating to Matthews, play along and still stand up to Matthews when needed to impart actual insight. So it can be done. Someone email E.J. Dionne for me.
May 22, 2006
oday offers proof that there is a Loving God and he or she has a sense of humor.
I speak, of course, about the sputtering rage from congressional Republicans that the Administration would ignore separation of powers and constitutional perogatives of Congress and raid the offices of a sitting congressman. The background details of this matter, involving Rep. William J. Jefferson (D., La.) in an investigation for allegedly accepting bribes for Africa-related business ventures
, is an aside.
As relayed during Tony Snow's press briefing today, reports are rampant that Hastert's chief of staff enaged in a shout fest with the Department of Justice, trying to explain to the Executive that Congress as a co-equal branch of government is not subject to weekend raids by the Executive. The Stiftung is hearing from the Hill grapevine that Republican staffers and members are enraged that the Administation would treat them unconstititionally, like a banana republic.
A number of questions directed to Snow this afternoon asked the obvious: why didn't the DoJ realize that Congress was a co-equal branch of government and coordinate with the Speaker to observe constitutional requirements before the weekend raid? Snow wisely punted the question to the DoJ but the answer is clear. Gonzales is lying now on television as the Stiftung writes this saying he “respects Congress as a co-equal branch of government.” Gonzales has let slip his thinking — in pursuit of evidence and alleged wrong doing, the Constitution, while being respected, is not entitled to obediance. As always, Gonzales says expedience trumps the Constitution
But why should anyone respect Congress? They have rolled over time and again to obey the Schmittean Authoritarians since 2001. Congress euthanized its oversight rights and responsibilities. Congress looked the other way as the Administration misled, distorted and fabricated matters to justify ignoring statutes it simply disagreed with, beyond blowing past FISA and the 4th Amendment. Congress has abetted the incompetent war in Iraq. Congress imposed the Terry Schiavo madness upon us all.
And now they expect (demand?) to be respected?
The entire rotting Schmittean edifice must be overturned, starting this coming November. Republican misrule in Congress has proven more craven, more self indulgent, more unprincipled, and more corrupt than the most feverish imaginings of a The Nation tequila-powered editorial meeting. Enough of Baby Jesus in lieu of policy analysis. Enough of obedience in lieu of fullfilling constitutional obligations. And enough of pathetic outrage when Republicans on the Hill are treated as the lackeys and serfs that they themselves willingly proved themselves to be.
As disorganized as the Democrats are and will be, as spineless as they are and will be, far better to have them in power with the prospect of improvement than this pathetic crew. At least there is a good prospect that empirical analysis and logic will have a say even if not dispositive.
May 21, 2006
May 20, 2006
he by now well discussed posting by Wired News (remember when they were WiReD?) of AT&T/EFF litigation documents re alleged NSA Internet surveillance
prompts some questions.
You may recall that former AT&T employee Mark Klein alleges that AT&T created special access facilities to allow NSA monitoring of Internet traffic. This lawsuit is distinct from but related to the USAToday story about the NSA national telephone surveillance program.
The documents are under seal by the federal judge in San Francisco. Both parties to the lawsuit — EFF and AT&T — are under a gag order. The above links Wired's explanation for why they chose to make these documents public. Wired posts a statement by Klein about what he saw as an AT&T employee and some attached AT&T documents. AT&T claims the latter contain proprietary trade secrets.
Our reaction? Intriguing, but we are disappointed. We expected Klein to provide more facts and less Usenet-esque hyperbolic speculation. The Klein statement itself is frankly underwhelming. It actually reads like bad Xfiles drafts. When one strips away some of the overwrought speculation from this former AT&T employee, the facts set forth are fairly sparse. But we suspect Klein is on to something.
As far as the Stiftung can glean, the salient facts are:
(a) AT&T has installed a network monitoring facility in San Francisco (and likely other sites);
(b) access to this room is restricted (Klein offers no facts to support his allegation that only NSA cleared people can get into the room);
(c) AT&T (and likely other backbone carriers) are circulating internally documents about how to monitor fiber optic traffic without disrupting the traffic itself; and
(d) NARUS, a network monitoring technology company used by commercial and
government entities, provides equipment or consulting services for this AT&T facility.
What To Make Of This?
locked and secure room by itself raises questions, naturally. But does it by istelf point to NSA impropriety? Key will be the basis for Klein's statement that only NSA cleared personnel were allowed access. How does he know this? Given some of his other inaccurate assumptions in his statement, we think it important to nail down the basis for his claim. As far as we can tell, that is the only factual allegation that ties NSA to this matter at all.
The Stiftung has seen the other explanations for this physical and technological set up, ranging from the commercially innocuous to a CALEA-esque 1990s era digital wiretapping compliance facility that is unrelated to NSA surveillance. The Stiftung has more than passing familiarity with CALEA requirements and technologies. We are not persuaded that explanation is particularly compelling.
It is important to note that NARUS, founded in 1997, works routinely with telecom companies on network security, load balancing and architecture purely in commercial terms.
Like any commercial company, NARUS naturally sought to market this skill set to get more business in the national security obsessed America post 2001. But that does not mean that NARUS on site means that the NSA or other Community entity is involved. Some of the blogosphere breatheless rumor mongering about NARUS is, again, bad Xfiles stuff.
AT&T's claim that the documents contain trade secrets seems on its face not credible. The documents attached do not offer a reader any means of replicating any specific AT&T engineering or other technological approaches. The documents merely discuss and show conceptually how existing technologies are related to splitting optical signals.
Federal lawsuits, of course, are based on “notice” pleadings. This means that a plaintiff, such as EFF here, only has to allege enough facts to put a defendant on notice for the claim. Perhaps EFF has more. Is the NSA concerned about fiber optics? Yes, for years. One reason Sprint was discouraged from offering Russians fiber optic technology (remember the pin drop ads?) in the early 1990s was precisely the difficulty of NSA surveilling optical communications. This is an old concern, long predating the internal AT&T documents and conversations cited by Klein.
Net net? We think the judge in this case was wise to keep the case moving forward and denying AT&T's motions. But as noted elsewhere, the Klein statement and documents so far do not show themselves
that there is a specific NSA role or intent to surveil the AT&T backbone. Those facts must come out in discovery and the unfolding litigation process.
We strongly suspect that EFF is correct in challenging AT&T over its collaboration with the NSA. But it isn't here in the documents. Yet.
On a related note, the NY Times has a big write up today on Phil Zimmerman and Zfone.
We wrote about Zfone here before. It is a program that allows users to chat over the Internet using VOIP solutions with very secure encryption. Check it out.
May 18, 2006
ow the Catholic Church, its supporters and even apologists have reacted to the mediocre novel and apparently worse movie, the Da Vinci Code
is entertaining. A confession at the outset: the Stiftung has neither read the book nor seen the movie. Nor wishes to do either.
Even so, some of the frantic and comical overreactions to the commercial ventures are instructive — the Catholic Church is fairly adept at detecting and subduing threatening memes. Far more adept than even the most feverish paranoia in the Oppositionist blogosphere (including here) about the Administration. With almost twenty centuries of experience over Rove et al., one nonetheless should cut the latter some slack.
Because what is an orthodox religious doctrine in the end but a human tapestry of top down meme control? No disrespect is intended. Before Dear Reader you think it worthwhile to fire off an email, be assured we merely seek to recognize how ideas or beliefs are institutionalized, communicated, and defended from infiltration.
More interesting on this same score than the current Da Vinci
hoopla is the accompanying disclosure of the Gospel of Judas. The public release of these texts illustrates the complexity of the task before the Catholic Church. We found this item, “Betrayer's Gospel” in the New York Review of Books
an excellent write up on the new Gospel. Here, Eduard Iricinschi, Lance Jenott and Philippa Townsend explain that Gospel's role in the embryonic political, institutional and theological discussions of Church doctrine 1800 years ago. The authors skillfully explain how the misappellation of “Gnostic” has been used conveniently to discredit that Gospel and other works that challenge orthodox doctrine. Perhaps deservedly so on theological grounds — we make no judgment here. But from the point of view of institutional design and meme protection, the exercise is fascinating.
We wonder if there aren't lessons here, beyond the theological, as we survey our world today.
May 17, 2006
ne need not be an Ian Kershaw reader to glimpse in the the Hayden proceedings shades of historical imagery looming. Another talented technocrat eagerly pushing his services to please demanding, ideologically radical leadership — especially the EOVP. And obliviousness to the consequences.
Much has already been written about his NSA technocratic background. And his Air Force career, even if stovepiped in intelligence, ensures a disposition to the technological solution is magnified; that service is the most besotten when it comes to high tech.
We know this. But the technocratic deficiency pops up unbidden even now. For example, in his almost pendantic attempt to explain to the Senate that the NSA intrusion techniques are “reasonable”, he repeatedly interpreted that word by meaning 'capability of the technology' — not, as Senator Feinstein repeatedly underscored, the same meaning as reasonable in the 4th Amendment juridical sense. One could sympathize that he was tipping his toe in an area not of his link analysis expertise. In that sense, his admission he did not read any of the legal memos from DoJ himself but relied on seeing the signature of the Attorney General is not so bad as made out. He is entitled to rely on representations of that expertise, however flawed or wrong it may be. What wasn't explored, at least when we were paying attention, is whether Hayden was aware of any dissenting legal opinions from within NSA itself or in the Community.
Given his almost certain confirmation, how will he do? We expect him to do reasonably 'well' — well defined as not rocking the boat politically, instilling some internal managerial expertise and discipline forfeited by Goss and Tenet, deploying relationships to assist Negroponte should he seriously seek to counter-balance Rumsfeld.
Within, he will in all likelihood have the people skills to allow Kappes and others take the heavy lifting in helping to reconcile the Agency to its truncated and reduced role as the operational component of NCS with supporting capabilities. And should that shakeout stabilize, perhaps lay the groundwork for the migration in later years of some NCS elements back into the ONDI itself. The later is of course pure speculation — although that turn of the circle would recreate at ODNI what the Agency was always intended to be but never really was — assuming that Negroponte establishes some authority over even portions of the Community in real budgetary and tasking terms.
ack on the USA Today story, we noticed that Brad Berenson, now of Sidley & Austin and former WH associate counsel, is representing AT&T in some related litigation in SF with EFF.
We worked with Brad when he was in the WH on a project or two. And can attest to his genuine accumen and expertise (unlike, say, some others over there). Apparently, AT&T and the other companies are relying on provisions of Section 2511 of Title 18, which provides that companies may allow access to information without penalty if in receipt of a letter from the Attorney General stating that compliance did not require a warrant or other formal legal mechanism.
This is the same type of letter that Hayden stated he and the WH also relied upon. Presumably, the Senate will seek and gain access to the documentation in Hayden's case.
Call set up data historically is not given great privacy protection. As Toobin noted on CNN earlier, any Ass't U.S. Attorney can fill out a form request, submit it to a telco and get the info. But it is wrong, however, to extrapolate from that narrow and limited request, the assumption that seeking 100-200 million
accounts for an indefinite period, subject to no oversight and with new technologies is also given minimal protection. The courts' traditional analog legal analysis for essentially a specific and narrow analog pen register regime type intercept is not and should not be presented as immediately transmutable to the scale and purpose of this program.
May 16, 2006
aking a stand against the still embryonic national security State in 2006 remains problematic.
, Congress still in 2006 suppinely submits to the unified quasi-Parliamentary Cheneyist secret government. Even with a President hovering around 29% and a Veep at an astounding 19%, Congress refused to act as a co-equal branch of government and wield effective oversight. The Administration continues to violate the 1980 Intelligence Oversight Act and Congress does nothing. Under that law, collection activities such as the NSA wiretap program must be briefed to the full intelligence committess of both houses. The only exception, which permits notifying ranking members and leadership alone, is for covert action. The NSA program is not a special activity or covert action under law. Only today, to facilitate Hayden's nomination, will the Administration deign to brief the full committees. And Congress goes along.
This alone justifies overthrow of Republican control of preferably both houses.
, the Administration attacks reporters now as essentially counter-intelligence targets like the former Second Chief Directorate of the KGB used to do inside the Soviet Empire. The public yawns. Those few journalists willing to do real investigative reporting and thus buck the 2001-2006 trend of sycophancy to power are understandably intimidated. Their sources more so. Mission accomplished indeed.
, with Agitprop mechanisms like Fox, Talk Radio and blogs, even when media do their job such as the USA Today report on the NSA program, what is accomplished is often soon under attack.
One must accept that reporting on the black world will be incomplete or even error prone. The reasons are many: (a) the source, while well intentioned, could be only marginally familiar with the actual activities; (b) the source is knowingly or unknowingly peddling disinformation or bad facts; (c) the reporter does not understand or misunderstands nuances or details that are crucial; (d) the information, even if accurate, is compartmentalized or dated and thus presents an inaccurate impression of the existing activity; or (e) insert new reason here.
When the media or an advocacy group like EFF assemble some facts and challenge alleged black programs as illegal and extra-constitutional, it becomes all the easier to ridicule the reports (and delegitimize the forum further) or simply stiff arm the complaint. We see this today in San Francisco. Here, the Administration is brazenly seeking to quash a lawsuit over AT&T's complicity with the NSA in wiretapping the Internet.
(This is not
the same as the USA Today story, more on that below). Here is the national security state at work:
The Bush administration has launched a multipronged attack on a lawsuit that accuses AT&T of collaborating with the U.S. government in illegal electronic surveillance, arguing that customers can't prove their phones were tapped or that the company or the government broke the law — and that, in any event, the entire case endangers national security. So it should come as no surprise that Verizon and BellSouth both offer carefully parsed and hedged denials of the USAToday story.
Those assertions in a move for dismissal were based on arguments and evidence that the government submitted to a federal judge under seal, keeping them secret from the public and from the privacy-rights group that filed the suit on behalf of AT&T customers.
Verizon notably omits reference to MCI. MCI, because of the accounting scandal, should have been put on the GSA government contracting black list back in 2001. That it dodged that bullet raised more than a few eyebrows back in the day. Certainly for ordinary technical reasons given its backbone status and relationship with government entities, putting MCI on the black list would have been difficult. But the magnitude of Ebbers' fraud was so vast. And the rules for barring fraud clear. Cooperation with the NSA at the time would have been a corporate no-brainer. And Verizon itself does not deny that it has a “relationship with the NSA” on this matter, but both Verizon and BellSouth deny the existence of a “contract”.*
We know from Qwest that NSA did approach what is known as a LEC or local exchange carrier. (The biggest LECs are also BOCs or Bell Operating Companies). Verizon and BellSouth (along with SBC, now AT&T) are the other major LECs (BOCs). It would make no sense for NSA to approach Qwest alone. Qwest was and is the weakest of the BOCs competitively and serves comparatively rural and marginal areas. To cover the East Coast, the West and Southwest, the NSA would need the others. If Qwest was approached, it is certain that Verzion, BellSouth and SBC/AT&T were as well. SBC/AT&T's non-denial is noteworthy.
MCI was primarily a long distance company or IXC (interexchange carrier). Its residential offerings were trivial in comparison to the BOCs. If MCI was approached, it could have been either for its Internet backbone or its IXC traffic or both. If the latter, then the Stiftung also wonders about Sprint, which so far has escaped mention. Certainly the federal lawsuit over AT&T cooperation with the NSA for Internet wiretapping raises this concern.
The Stiftung can sympathize with the phone companies. Not only because the BOCs face ruinous and well-deserved litigation. They could have taken a stand like Qwest and asked for the Administration to obey the law. But competitive services such as VOIP are fast eliminating the raison d'etre for companies living off annuities of dead copper in the ground. A public relations disaster like this is just another incentive for customer flight.
Except. Perversely, leaving a traditional phone company actually reduces one's security. VOIP transmissions are fairly easy to intercept. Even companies such as Skype which offer reasonably sufficient encryption for day-to-day consumer use are no match for NSA surveillance let alone attacks. So Dear Reader, enter Phil Zimmerman, he of PGP fame. Zimmerman is offering VOIP users encryption power that will make even Fort Meade break a sweat, Zfone.
Zfone will defeat packet sniffers and even mathematical attack techniques. And when Phil says there are no backdoors or other ways in, one can be as confident as one can be. Such software will not protect you, of course, if the surveilling entity has physical access to your computer and contaminates it with keylogging or other technologies. How ironic then, that this is where the Bush Administration is leading the Nation? Americans honoring the 4th Amendment, privacy and a liberal democratic republic increasingly have no choice but to resort to hot swapping cell phones, Zfone and other furtive techniques. Hiding from a rogue government hunting Americans in the name of “Freedom.”
It truly is time to take back our country. Not just from Bush. But from the latent national security State he has unleashed on us all.
* A spokesperson from BellSouth has uttered a more categorical denial, claiming that the BOC had no contact with the NSA “whatsoever”. Assuming this to be true, the question arises whether BellSouth or its subsidiaries or their subcontactors are covered by this statement, given the billions in liability how hovering over the company. The Stiftung suspects that we will see that this apparently sweeping denial is less than it seems.
May 15, 2006
hat to make of the President's school boy twitching last nite?
Surely no one watching believed the Administration has the competence to execute and deliver. $2 billion is purely a symbolic token, and thus easily dismissed. 6,000 national guardsmen are also too few to have more than a Potemkin-esque impact. And the xenophobes, alarmists and the genuinely concerned (we will let you sort them out, Dear Reader) are all right to point out there is *zero* chance of meaningful enforcement within the U.S. interior.
We know all this. So what?
And here is the main concern for us all, what happens post Bush. The Administration has succeeded in three disparate but linked accomplishments that will be noted in the histories of our time. First, it eggregiously rolled back the Republic and the Rule of Law. That is uncontestable. We are now, more than at any other time, a government of Men, not law. Second, the Administration has bungled every major issue it has confronted. Not mishandled, but bungled in so overtly incompetent manner that it has undermined the prestige and legitimacy of government itself. And finally, the Administration simultaneously has swollen the size and intrusion of said incompetent government into the daily lives of each American.
The pretext and apparatus is thus in place for What Comes Next. We have not taken seriously any speculation about '08 simply because it is an eternity away. And we must endure 2 1/2 years more of the current car wreck in power. Although we do note with bemusement the clamoring in certain circles to ingratiate in the hopes of snagging that Ass't Secretary-ship in the next administration.
Contrary to what you might expect, we find ourselves oddly wishing the Administration would find a way to muddle through and surprise us all with some competent execution. Not for their own fortunes or prestige, but to restore some faith in government. And thereby to remove the politically powerful emotional overhang of anger waiting to called down in Gotterdamerung
fashion in the next election cycle.
Contemplating a McCain candidacy, seizing on the emotional overhang of frustration and anger, actually frightens the Stiftung a bit. McCain is too clever by far to peddle the mean anger of the wingnuts. And that is the danger — uplifting those emotions with the siren songs of bellicosity abroad and “National Greatness” at home. Should the current extra-legal governing apparatus be married to competent execution, the danger to us all would be real and immediate. In some ways, America continues to be blessed by having this crowd at this time. Imagine a competent Man on the White Horse . . .
May 12, 2006
lease pardon our delay in posting, Dear Reader. This weekend, while the troops were being called to the border and the NSA phone database issues played out, we indulged in a little time off.
We were glad that we managed to get to the Sackler down at the Smithsonian
before the Hokusai exhibit closed yesterday. Most of us are dimly aware of Hokusai from his ubiquitous wave
and Mt. Fuji prints, now festooned on refrigerator magnets and t shirts. Yet the man, who lived into his 90s, created the first manga
in Japan and left an astounding legacy of art and spirituality. The Sacker is largely underground, and the dim lighting — needed to preserve the art — added an almost sepulchral ambiance to the exhibit.
All of which is by way of an aside to this item, tendered by a reader: Clifford Orwin's review in Commentary of Steven Smith's Readling Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy and Judaism.
The reader was kind enough to highlight this interesting 'graph from Orwin's review:
The climax of Smith’s attempt to rescue Strauss from his critics, especially those who consider him the progenitor of neoconservatism, lies in a final discussion offering a critique of the war in Iraq delivered in the name of Strauss himself. The discussion focuses on the Bush administration’s definition of its goal as the elimination of political evil. By contrast, Smith emphasizes, Strauss always considered evil a permanent aspect of the human situation, and just as he stood against liberal illusions on this score, he would have objected no less strenuously to the illusions of present-day neoconservatives.
About the effort to pigeonhole Strauss as a neoconservative, Smith is undoubtedly right. But, to deal with last things first, his own effort to recruit Strauss to the anti-war cause is every bit as dubious.
he whole thing is preposterous, of course. First, Smith does not even understand what neoconservatism is and was. To take the children of the neocon movement (JPod, Kristol The Younger, etc.) at face value is a gross mistake of the first order. The Straussian commitment to esoteric writing was and is to be reckoned with. In political terms, the closest analogy is with modern day Trotskyites (found mostly in France) and their infiltration
techniques. And second, the idea that Strauss would be anti-war is simply delusional.
May 11, 2006
he Stiftung is not surprised that over 60% of the Americans support a national telephone surveillance program
. And why should this poll guide Congress or the courts? The veneer of freedom and protections of a liberal democratic republic never has rested on the voice of demos
. Indeed, the demos
by and large supported other eggregious actions of the government in the name of 'national security' such as the internment of Japanese-Americans.
The Administration is banking on this, of course. As a transition phenomenon to a future post-liberal democratic republic, the Administration continues to lay the foundation for its successors well. Demos
today is scared, angry about gas prices and their right to SUV luxury, and otherwise distracted with emotion. It will get worse as Rove revs up the politics of division and hate later this summer to preserve this rotten edifice.
As William Arkin notes today
, and as we noted yesterday, the real issues have always been the subcontractor and private sector linkages — not only via the NSA itself, but elsewhere in the distribution chain, most prominently DoD. There is no effective oversight, no effective safeguard, no check at all on how this data is used and abused. None. Pat Roberts' dereliction of duty borders on the treasonous.
Based on the Stiftung's familiarity with some of the technologies involved, we would agree with Arkin's assessment here:
Although there is no evidence that the harvesting programs have been involved in illegal activity or have been abused to reach into the lives of innocent Americans, their sheer scope, the number of “transactions” being tracked, raises questions as to whether an all-seeing domestic surveillance system isn't slowly being established, one that in just a few years time will be able to reveal the interactions of any targeted individual in near real time.
As Arkin describes in more detail than we will get in here, the technological infrastructure in place to exploit this collected information far transcends the primitive graphical depictions on CNN and MSNBC. Moreover, how the data would be exploited in the netherworld of the private/public intelligence community that has been created since 9/11 is a quesiton no one can answer — Cambone can't, Negroponte can't, Hoekstra and Roberts are jokes. The permanent national security state, radicalized by the ideological cadres recruited by this regime, is now empowered, funded and energized like never before. It is beyond the scope and comprehension of its putative masters today, and will be only more so in the years to come.
his development goes to the crux of how demos
willingly embraces its subjugation — and anyone with a sense of history should not be surprised. We therefore will pass on commenting on the comparatively trivial soap opera issues of what is happening to Foggo today — the raid on his offices, the Ignatius column that seeks to insinuate that everything that went wrong at the Agency under Goss can be traced to Foggo's elevation to Executive Director, etc. (an analysis that is too simple, too pat and too packaged for the meme marketplace). More on the soap opera at another time.
May 09, 2006
iven that Gonzales some time ago already hinted that the Administration had other invasive surveillance programs in place, including in the domestic sphere, USA Today's revelations about the NSA domestic database should not come as a surprise. We never took at face value the NSA's and the Administration's claim the program was limited to international communications.
The immediate sensationalism of the story has led to a vast outcry against 'the world's largest database' being assembled by NSA, villifying the mercenary telecom companies who sold the data under contract (Qwest the lone exception). While understandable, this outrage may be misplaced. Courts have ruled that the telephone numbers of whom one calls is a business record and thus not normally accorded the privacy assumptions most Americans place on their calling patterns. But judicial precedent is based on relatively limited activity — no court anticipated the NSA turned inwards and set loose on Americans.
Aside from the basic fact of the NSA's collection, the key issue is who shares and uses the database product. The CIA, FBI and DoD elements routinely use NSA intelligence product. This is beyond the NSA itself. But the rules for information sharing have been watered down significantly since 2001. DoD in particular has proliferated intelligence entities by outsourcing activity with an aggressive contractor program. Some pressing questions arise immediately: Who has access to this data? Under what conditions and supervision? What safeguards and auditing mechanisms are in place?
May 08, 2006
ack in the day, before his Ross Perot-esque bizarre flame out during the Clinton nomination to SecDef
, Bobby Inman was considered the Gold Standard for smooth operators. Who could forget his ploy when Casey's deputy of reaching down and pulling up his socks to signal to congressional oversight panels that Casey was rationing the truth?
In New York, at a panel, Inman spoke up about the NSA warrantless activity and criticized it and the President directly. He said, according to Wired
“This activity is not authorized,” Inman said, as part of a panel discussion on eavesdropping that was sponsored by The New York Public Library. The Bush administration “need(s) to get away from the idea that they can continue doing it” . . .He called on the president to “walk into the modern world” and change the law governing the wiretaps — or abandon the program altogether.
A blast from Inman today has less voltive force than it would have in an earlier time, but there is also little doubt that Inman speaks for many within the NSA as well. As NSA Director when FISA was negotiated and passed, Inman knows the legal and policy issues first hand. His call for the NSA to come back into compliance should be given weight.
Unfortunately, other than Specter and few others, there seems little appettite for Congress to stand up to the Executive on this issue. According to our conversations, it seems that even at the hearings there will be little more than a superficial questioning — a news cycle worth of hay. This is far more serious than the silly “military uniform” canard “issue”.
It could not hurt to try and pin Hayden down on his notions of the legal frameworks that would control his actions as DCIA. What other activities would Hayden take to the President and ask to rely on specious notions of inherent Executive power and override an explicit statute? Getting Hayden on the record now may save him, the Administration and the Nation down the road.
May 06, 2006
n dreary Mondays, with predictable news like Hayden's annointment, the Stiftung likes to slum. Usually we delve into the dark corners of wingnuttery on the Internet. One can find little gems like LGF's pimping a talk at Heritage by Perle protege Laurent Muraweic (he nee of RAND and of the infamous Defense Policy Board briefing about Saudi Arabia)
. Muraweic has a great sense of humor and by all accounts is a good cook. But we wouldn't recommend him in more than small doses. But Muraweic can be counted on to make two points: the Saudis must be overthrown by force of arms or covert action, and the CIA must be destroyed.
oving onwards, we came across this bizarre, unsigned item just posted over at NRO that seemed in harmony: CIA Run Amok.
The reasons for Porter Goss’s abrupt departure as CIA director are shrouded in mystery. But its effect is not. It gives the impression that there has been a coup by the CIA insiders who have waged a covert policy war against the Bush administration for five years. The White House must act quickly to correct the impression that the renegades have won . . . It is crucial that the administration and Hayden make clear from day one that, while Goss is gone, the CIA purge is far from over. Those who are using the agency to undermine the war effort must be rooted out, no matter who is in charge.
A couple of points. First, what prompts this missive's tone and note now? Could it be the rumors that former DO veteran Steve Kappes is being considered as Hayden's deputy? Kappes was the personal bete noir of a number of Chalabi-boosters across the OSD/AEI network, refusing to assign resources or follow-up on a number of alleged leads provided by Chalabi and the Iranians (!!) before March 2003. One well known member of that network who dealt directly with Kappes exclaimed to the Stiftung that Kappes was responsible for all the WMD escaping to Syria. So you see how that goes. A Kappes appointment indeed would lead AEI et al. to claim the “internal coup” in the demoralized Agency in fact was successul — as bizarre as that sounds.
Second, the NRO item shows how out of touch they are — locked in a prism 2 years old. The NRO piece is again about imposing (their brand of) ideological discipline, not about objective performance, resources or bureaucratic prestige. The ideological conformity issues are from 2004 , gave rise to Goss' original mission, and are increasingly yesterday's agenda. Today, the real game afoot is about institutional identity, standing and clout. Institutional mission-related tensions, not his 'loyalty', between Negroponte and Goss finally triggered Goss' defenistration. The President decided in favor of shifting missions and resources to ODNI. That decision and Goss' firing clears the decks for resolution of the way forward between the DNI apparat and OSD. NRO's failure to even address these larger questions (which will shape the intelligence community for the foreseeable future) prompts us to ask 'What color sky do they see?'
May 06, 2006
e are blessed with some terrific readers. One of them is our friend Armchair. Armchair has been riffing off the earlier “Temptation of Leviathan” post with its closing paragraphs on Stan Kurtz's paranoia at NRO.
You already may have seen some of Armchair's hilarious depictions of a pundit circa 2015 struggling in post “Central Asian War” America over in the Comments sidebar. Highly recommended. Cuttingly funny.
If you haven't take a peak at “Temptation of Leviathan” and follow his musings from the beginning of the comments.
Armchair has given us some truly inspired stuff. Thanks, Armchair!
May 05, 2006
o one outside his coterie of House aides he brought with him will lament the passing of the Goss era. That he was forced out so unceremoniously is a final testament to his bad judment. Goss lacked even the modest ability to finesse a graceful departure from a regime desperate to choreograph almost everything.
ut the real loser here is not Goss per se. It is the Agency itself. Not only passed over within the new DNI framework and deprived of ritual direct access to the president, the Agency is likely to lose still further in the bureaucratic carrion game underway. Forget about the National Counterterrorism Center struggle — although in bureaucratic terms, that is not in itself insignificant.
Should the DNI apparatus succeed in seizing operational control of the NCS out of the Agency, then in effect, the Agency will have lost both its lead analytic and operational roles. Having many knuckledragger activities largely subsumed within OSD already leaves the Agency with . . . virtually nothing. It becomes more less a support and derivative organization.
McLaughlin, looking positively funereal on CNN the last two days, still maintains a brave face and insists that negotiations between CIA and DNI can still result in a “win win” for both entities. And perhaps he is even right. But we think he is deluding himself. The blood is in the water. The sharks are gnawing.
No one should feel for Goss. But in taking a stand for himself in the scheme of things he was also taking a stand for the Agency. His diminished political capital merely tainted the Agency in doing so, while internal disarray continues to grow. Should Hayden succeed him, it will remain to be seen if or how the Agency will survive in a recognizable form in a meaningful way. Perhaps its viable elements may eventually all migrate into DNI, while the remainder linger until some future Adminisation to be quietly phased out with no fanfare. Much like a skillful M&A situation, with the original entity rendered a shell before dissolution.
Has Negroponte been planning this? Or will the DNI apparat stumble upon this path by default? Can a post-Goss Agency carve out a rationale for itself and succeed? Many will be watching and wondering.
To clarify, what I meant in paragraphs two and three is that if the Agency becomes merely a HUMINT collection entity under the direction of DNI as currently proposed, it essentially is just an executor and support entity. On turf already poached by OSD. There are interesting philosophical, theoretica and practical issues on this question to be addressed in later posts.
May 03, 2006
ur friends at Global Paradigms have once again a great item, this time on the Juan Cole/Hitch feud
. GP likened it to King Kong and Godzilla. We always found those old kaiju movies had a certain kitschian charm. Watching those two squabble is akin to a WWF run by C-SPAN without McMahon's bravura genius. Read the GP item, not least for mentioning a great line from “A Fish Called Wanda” — Kevin Klein as Otto's genius.
Are we completely disinterested? Not really. Long time readers know our attitudes on Hitch. New visitors can use the search bar to the right. As for Cole, we visit the blog now and then. Mainly for reporting and new facts. The analysis that goes along with it is often unpersuasive. We don't care one way or another whether he goes to Yale, like GP. Although imagining Kagan having to deal with Cole at faculty functions promises amusement.
Some seek to impose a “if you oppose Hitch you must support Cole”. And a similar commissar-like attitude accompanied the more recent Colbert fallout. Such ubiquity of “with us or against us” mentality is one of Rove's gifts to the Nation. We all know, of course, that wedge issues have always been with us. “Darkness at Noon” notions aside from the Left, everyone is familiar with other similar politics in even mainstream matters. Yet the polarization is reaching a novel degree. While the Administration perfected this approach as a tool to govern via a polarized but intense minority, it is unhealthy and unwelcome trend elsewhere.
The WaPo's RIchard Cohen, cited by GP, claims the blogosphere is telling people what they already know and pissing off everyone else. Cohen is cute, but not particularly clever. As with Talk Radio, Fox and now with certain blogs (even those on the Left), building eyeballs requires chasing an audience somewhat. No difference among blogs, radio, print or even Fox News in that regard. Moreover, as an opinion columnist paid to do exactly that to help the WaPo sell furniture advertising, his judgment on the blogosphere is ironic.
The Stiftung eschews pursuing that kind of tact and audience for a variety of reasons. The most prominent is we simply don't know how to do it. Consider this: guess which post here generated the most traffic? By a factor of 5 at least? Here's a hint: there were no women, no explosions and no gleaming tech porn.
Right, if you guessed the simple morph of Rummy into Joementum. Made on a lark. And it continues to generate traffic. Did that follow Cohen's dictum? Not really. Apparently some Republican readers of this blog who support the Administration even liked it.
In the meantime, indulge us for taking a pass on the Hitch/Cole grapple. Or for thinking that Colbert, as much as we like and agree with him, just didn't make us laugh.
May 02, 2006
hile the Stiftung frequently mocks the History Channel for its milporn and generalities which often verge on the inaccurate, a benefit of its constantly churning programming is that it helps erradicate alot of Western-centric views of recent events. One aspect of this that might be most useful is education about the realities of the Eastern Front 1941-45.
ven with better programming and access to Soviet archives (which revealed startling new insights about Stalingrad and other pivotal moments), today few Americans still fully appreciate the staggering magnitude of sheer apocalyptic horror accompanying the Soviet storming of Germany and finally Berlin in 1945. D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and all the usual suspects in the American collective memory of war are mere echoes of the real thing, not even in the same frame of destructive, barbaric reference.
One of the last catastrophic obliterations awaited the German 9th Army in the Battle of Halbe (April 24th to May 1st, 1945)
, known for the town of Halbe located in the Spree Forest, south of Berlin. German losses trying to escape the maelstrom of a forest ablaze in a cyclonic firestorm and Soviet encirlcement brought the curtain down on Barbarossa begun almost four years earlier.
Human Events, a reliable organ of the Right, now advises Ken Mehlman, RNC Chair, is “impress [ing] upon them [Republican Senators] just how bad the opinion polls are looking for them, and warning that they face a possible catastrophe in November”
Halbe indeed. Just a few years ago, the regime embarked upon a radical anti-democratic, anti-rational agenda here at home and launched an incompetent war of aggression abroad. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. A few months ago, talk of impeachment was viewed skeptically by Imperial City denizens, the kind of 'crazy talk' these all-knowing types claimed was reserved for 'the blogosphere (like here)' and 'Air America', etc.
Why does the Stiftung say this now? A simple truism: 'When Sports Illustrated turns on you, you're screwed.'
SI's Peter King devoted an entire column to his visit to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He said:
Am I ticked off? Damn right I'm ticked off. If you're breathing, you should be morally outraged. Katrina fatigue? Hah! More Katrina news! Give me more! Give it to me every day on the front page! Every day until Washington realizes there's a disaster here every bit as urgent as anything happening in this world today — fighting terrorism, combating the nuclear threat in Iran. I'm not in any way a political animal, but all you have to be is an occasionally thinking American to be sickened by the conditions I saw . . .
I'm a sportswriter. It's not my job to figure how to fix what ails the Gulf Coast. But the leaders of this society are responsible. And they're not doing their jobs. I could ignore everything I saw and go back to my nice New Jersey cocoon, forgetting I saw it. And I know you don't read me to hear my worldviews. But I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't say something.
When major sports columnists risk straying from the recently completed NFL draft to write such a damning and passionate column, the seismic tremors Mehlman's worried about are probably worse than even his polling indicates. Our own unscientific survery among non-policy, non-blogosphere acquaintances of the Stiftung indicates the anger level at the Administration and Congress incredibly seems to be surging even more, if that was possible.
We were skeptical of impeachment being achievable before. And it is still a long shot. But we no longer dismiss it as impossible. Not anymore.
The only thing that stays even cautious optimism is that the Soviets wielded a ruthless focus on outcome, with brutal disregard for casualties. Their sole aim was the destruction of their enemy. That is what led from retreat in 1941 to Halbe in 1945. The Democrats still may be the Republicans' best friend with their lack of message, coherence, focus or even rationale for existing. There is still time. And even that weak reed is better than this feckless regime. But imagine where we would be if the Democrats could offer a reason for being.
May 01, 2006
ife continues to offer surprises.
Yesterday, the Stiftung joined some people and attended “United 93”. The movie is respectful and well done as reported widely. Simplicity's poetry works well here. The day's chronology alone compels sufficient dramatic tension. Bittersweet grief watching normal, everyday Americans confronting the ultimate challenge of spirit, courage and humanity at times is nearly and genuinely overwhelming.
Returning to 9/11 is a unique experience for each of us. The Stiftung remembers the day as clearly as you do. Before the movie began, in the audience the tension was palpable. Each of us was likely lost in a wave of memories, many of them unexamined for some time.
uring the movie and for hours afterwards, the Stiftung's reaction was personal and introspective. The rest of the audience seemed to react the same way. Perhaps because the 40 strangers on that plane took a stand for themselves and those they saved here in D.C. for the most simple of reasons: for life. Today's politics, ideology, “GWOT” and all the cynicism of what has happened to America since 9/11 seemed worlds away. Blessedly.
We highly recommend this movie.
(Above is the new duet from Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, “If This Is Goodbye”, a song written expressly by Knopfler about how some that very day had to say the final goodbye . . . )
ll the more reason to be jarred then to come home and watch a recording of last night's “24”. There, Jack Bauer stowed aboard an airplane, attacked the federal marshal and stole his gun. Bauer then stormed the passenger section, pointing the gun at terrified passengers promising he would shoot them. All the more reason to be stunned when Bauer grabs a stewardess and hauls her terrified down an aisle. In the name of national security and the “good guys”.
An interesting bookend to the earlier experience. Here was mass American entertainment clearly comfortable depicting and inverting the United 93 scenario into a transgressive Bauer moment. At first the thought arose immediately and unbidden, 'is this somehow right?' The emotions from United 93 were still raw and present.
And then, the Stiftung smiled and took solace. Events on board Flight 93 deserve a sacred place in our memory. Indeed, one can not see that movie and not confront that small, quiet internal question — “would I have the courage and dignity to rise to the challenge as they did?” We would all like to think so.
Yet the passengers took action for life. Their refusal to go meekly — even as they knew there was little chance for themselves — was a message about valuing and treasuring life. “24” and the dramatic fiction of Jack Bauer seizing an airplane to uncover bad guys is part of that tapestry. If we can honor and remember what transpired on that airplane without burdening it and ourselves with overwrought emotional or even worse, political baggage, all the better.
We took away from last night's juxtaposition this simple lesson. Honor events on United 93. And enjoy and value the life they thought so important to fight for.
ne of Life's brutal ironies is how the Neocons passed from a 'dangerous' and nefarious leading intellectual force ('we are all neocons now') to twitching political corpse. A corpse used now by their deadliest enemies as a mere prop. All in about 2 1/2 years.
The Nativist/Schmittean authoritarians such as Buchanan and others make up the Administration's true political base. They are the real danger. And always were.
Neocons, while a convenient target for a while, were never that grave a threat because:
(a) their projects were internationalist — too grand and overt in impact — to escape notice and eventual corrective action; and
(b) as essentially Leninist elitists, they were all vanguard without any real masses.
By contrast, the Nativists and Schmitteans comprise most of the Republican and so-called 'conservative' (read now Evangelical and authoritarian radical) base. The bulk of these 'Movement' authoritarians were non-plussed or even opposed to the Neocons' internationalist agenda because they rightly saw it as undermining their own agenda of domestic radicalism at home. For a time, many succumbed to the “Freedom' bandwagon. Or they obeyed the President because of their instinctive obediance and reverence of authority. But they are returning to their domestic radicalism agenda. Yet they still in 2006 brandish the Neocons and Iran to distract us from their own encroachment at home.
They have achieved alot. Consider: the Boston Globe notes that the Schmitteans have created a precedent of the President as Imperator, declaring he is above over 750 laws passed by Congress
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower” protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
Read the whole thing. 750 laws. Not 1. Not 20. But 750. And Congress, the media and the Nation really have done nothing.
The Boston Globe merely affirms what the Stiftung has been saying for years. This sweeping rejection of liberal democracy, this contempt for separation of powers, the hatred for Rule of Law — that is far more lethal threat than Neocon adventurism. Far more crippling than Iraq, or even Iran. For all the money, all the blood, all the loss of life, those adventures are a sideshow.
Moreover, some anti-Neocons misdiagnose this internal danger by saying that Neocon radicalism abroad enabled radicalism at home. Actually, it is the converse. Granted, in Irving Kristol's daydreams, that would be the Neocon agenda. But as noted above, in the end, the Neocons are yesterday's news. They got played. They now flop on the end of the Nativist/Schmittean strings, shambling about as a hollow bogeyman.
The Administration's dismantling of the Constitution from within, the barely concealed racial agenda on immigration (hiding a more malignant eugenic agenda in some quarters and its Ur goal of utilizing the uterus as nationalist racial recovery tool), the national security state, the dismantling of science and rationality for Belief and Authority, all are hallmarks of the Counter Enlightenment. Ignore the fact that these people also bash the Neocons. It is 2006. That game is 2 1/2 years out of date. Yesterday's exercise. Rather, pay attention to what the Schmitteans are doing, saying and advocating.
The Stiftung wrote earlier about debates among some of the smarter conservatives about the prospects of a Nativist/Schmittean future.
And we noted how alarming it was that smart conservatives not only are resigned to such an outcome but are covertly rooting for it. One nationally famous commentator said to the Stiftung over drinks that Nativist/Schmittean anti-democratic future, while not to be relished, might not be 'that bad — what's the worst that could happen? We end up like Franco's Spain.'
Think about that. 'Franco's Spain . . . not that bad.' This is indeed how many think. Some friend of liberal democracy. Some conservative
. A prime example why the whole crew must be tossed out.
The Republican Party deserves defeat. Its mindless and cynical AgitProp apparatus smashed. A national party that no longer stands for or defends liberal democracy at its most basic level is a far greater menace than a band of terrorists or immigrants and illegals singing a national anthem out of key in a foreign language. The Schmittean and Nativist internal coup must be reversed. The double joke is if the Neocons now are just a political prop, in this time of crisis we must rely on feckless, pathetic and disorganized Democrats. But if they are all that is left to us to make a stand for liberal democracy, so be it.
Who knows? May be the Republicans will learn from Hubris, Nemesis and defeat. They might rejoin the Enlightment and re-discover liberal democracy. If not, they deserve a spot on the ash heap of History.