Just One Degree At A Time

“We’re the United States of America. You’re just passing through.”

A quote from “Good Shepherd” that we find useful when thinking about the engorged Permanent National Security State. Our old fable about the craven people who created and eventually surrendered to a monster in illusory pursuit of security is timely as ever.

One objectively can understand the apparat’s disdain for Obama-as-political-force, Dems and that noisome rabble called the American people. Yawn. The apparat is swollen beyond recognition by hundreds of billions recklessly squandered by a cowardly Duma. Cheney/OVP’s raging paranoia nurtured the permanent apparatchiks’ darkest, basest instincts. And not a burp from the usual merry go round of ‘public intellectual’ worthies except on single issues like torture. Let alone the Duma et al.

Tonite's Top Story, Brad and Angelina Agree To Settle Iranian Crisis But Demand Their Percent Of The Gross Upfront !

Obama fails to offer more than gestures; his priorities are elsewhere. Releasing memos? A gesture. Tackling this bureaucratic golem is among the most fundamental tasks if one seeks to restore liberal democracy and rule of law. Only active, public presidential leadership can even try to arrest the golem’s growth, let alone pernicious impact. Installing the neophyte Panetta over at what used to be CIA? Or Blair atop it all? Blair’s view down the silos is like an overweight man no longer able to see his own feet. And the fields are alive to the sounds of . . . chirps.

What passes for an American Left, moreover, doesn’t get it. It’s not about torture. *That* is a symptom or by product, not the disease. We face now among the worst of all outcomes: an out of control Community surrounded by alleged masters or overseers themselves either inexperienced, exhausted, bored with it all, or no longer sure what the law is. ‘Wouldn’t it be just nice if it all went away so we could all focus on John Ensign, Sarah Palin and single payer options?’ We both know that’s a thought bubble in more than a few West Wing and OEOB offices.

Our merry little band could enjoy saying ‘told you so’ (Robert Conquest’s quote in our quote database is so much more righteous and actually hilarious) if the panorama wasn’t so bleak. At least the Times finally catches a Ross Johnson BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious). One assumes the Times tumbled to this insight after their initial flurry of meetings assessing whether the Daily Show piece on the Times and Keller was a net disaster or not. Today the Times intones “Once again, the country is learning about how the federal government has been exceeding its legal authority and violating Americans’ most basic rights in the name of fighting terrorism.” You don’t say?

This time it’s the NSA caught once again vastly exceeding legal limits and routinely collecting and reading the emails and communications of the American people at will. And the assessment that Congress is prostrate as usual because no one, principals or staffers, understands the technology strikes the Stiftung about right. The U.S. is not really a technologically advanced society. We are, rather, a society which uses advanced technologies. A big difference.

“For the Hill, the issue is a sense of scale, about how much domestic e-mail collection is acceptable,” a former intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because N.S.A. operations are classified. “It’s a question of how many mistakes they can allow.”

So that’s what our constitutional inheritance is now worth. Optics. How would it look? The Warlord’s 8 years of corrosive and contemptuous political culture left its stain. How could they not? Yet how meekly Americans gave up their freedoms. In exchange for what? Safety from a bogus threat under the Warlord. And healthcare and some new roads under Obama. Today we mused over FISA’s birth pangs and its evolution, all the controversies in 1977-1978, the FISA Court’s fight for legitimacy. How revealing that one is compelled to ask now, was it all worth it? With the Bureau’s still largely unaudited and accounted for use of national security letters?

The time to take on and change the Permanent National Security State in operational fact and culture was this year. The apparatchiks know now that there will be no real change. Oh, there will be turf fights like appointing station chiefs, etc. And torture will be spun out in a slow mo drive by. But the essentially unaccountable, permanent edifice? They’ve taken Obama’s measure already.

These days are all gone now but some things remain
When I look and I find no change

It’s a small comfort at least that the AMA is possibly on board with health care. Priorities doncha know.


  1. Anon says

    hehehe.. I wouldn’t worry about hackers that much, but about the technology itself. Who the hell knows what obsolete stuff is on those old mil networks and how they interact with modern GPS, bluetoooth, etc… ? That reminds me when a cellphone or palm could theoretically activate French nukes :p

    (2000) France’s National Agency of Radio Frequencies (ANFR) removed a major obstacle to the introduction of new wireless technology last week, raising a controversial ban on military range radio frequencies

    The radio spectrum used by Bluetooth conflicted with the band used for French military communications, from 2.446GHz to 2.483GHz.

    Also, with Tempest technology, serious spies don’t even need to hack anything, no ?

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    And so it goes. . . NSA’s ‘Einstein’ (oh please) gets the Obama Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.


    The other day an acquaintance from a government office sent out one of those ‘This Is Hilarious’ group emails re a clever YouTube-like site (and it actually was, surpisingly). Nice to know that the email traffic to the Stiftung and our LOLZ reply now are now ‘protected’ from ‘CHICOM/yellow peril/Terrorists’ by NSA surveillance.

    It all warrants a collective Amerikhun shrug these days. ‘A Republic if you can keep it’ indeed.

  3. Comment says

    “Lawyers are generally not well equipped to convey strategic information in a technically competent manner for mass audiences.”

    Somewhat similarly – indirectly – this is what Markopolis suggested about the sec not being able to figure out financial fraud a la Madoff.

    IMO – walls can be breached or gone around. In real world and cyberworld – Security has to be flexible and nimble and clever and not heavy and obtuse least it be obsolete soon (perhaps intentially for commercial reasons) or easily surmounted by the more clever – esp as millions in formerly poor nations become technically adept.

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    The admirable Jack Goldsmith of DoJ fame under the Warlord doesn’t get it re information security and network defense.


    The most crippling underlying tech problem since people thought nuclear power plants would explode and planes fall from the sky on January 1, 2000 because of old COBOL programming has been fundamental lack of trust both among industry as competitors and collectively regarding USG as reliable and wise confidante. Oh, there’s been improvement since early 2000s — after all, ‘infosec’ became a huge growth industry unto itself, churning out bogus and alarmist warnings to gin up sales and stock prices not unlike the Masters of the Universe in New York. If Y2K is now a dimly recalled boondoggle, ‘InfoSec’ quickly sprang up after.

    Contrary to what Goldsmith writes, a clear distinction should be made about CHICOMs joy riding through JSF data (contractor or not), USG owned network assets and the more diaphanous commercial networks. Each pose their own technical, cultural and political-economic challenges for coordination. It’s all an interesting and timely subject but perhaps better left for a stand alone post.

    We were disappointed to learn Goldsmith is chasing the meme of the moment with a forthcoming book on cyberwar. We admit to being a bit jaundiced. Ever since Dick Clarke ran around screaming (comically) about a ‘digital Pearl Harbor’ in the late 1990s because it happened to be his bureaucratic perch there’s unfortunately a Boy Who Cried Wolf aspect to it all that can’t be dismissed. On old friend was a White House Fellow and Clarke’s assistant at the time and his descriptions of Clarke’s forays to Redmond, Vegas and elsewhere are beyond amusing.

    The Nation does need a cohesive and integrated approach to securing networks, commercial, State-subsidized (the PNSS types) and USG assets proper. The problem for the Stiftung is we know and carried water for many of the InfoSec crowd in various guises and know for a certainty the Nation must distinguish between real needs and the crowd’s manic shoe salesman threat pitching for more revenue. And more importantly, there is little fundamental reason to believe commercial entities have any more reason to trust disclosure to the Feds than in the past, new ‘partnerships’ and ‘cooperation’ notwithstanding. ‘Trust us, we’re the Government’ is beyond ironic post-Warlord.

    Lawyers are generally not well equipped to convey strategic information in a technically competent manner for mass audiences. Given Goldsmith’s formidable intellect he may prove to be one of the exceptions. We hope so.


    Added postscript to original comment –Murdoch’s WSJ has good piece on one angle of the government/private sector sync issue at:


  5. Comment says

    re – right/left/Obama – IMO – the longer Obama is in office the more he will naturally try to grab power. It’s only human – That’s why he has to pressed to do the right thing on a number of issues (mostly war and peace related) because he will find it easier to accomodate the apparatus and attempt to steer it a bit –
    This is what Powell defenders and Blair defenders always say – they had to accomodate the bad situation so they could change and modify from within etc.

    Obama (who we root for) will gradually need more pushing from outside forces. We understand he has to make tactical concessions and keep his enemies closer etc – but time will tend to make him try to accumulate power.

  6. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @cbgb, my bad . . .

    “How about ‘I told you so you fucking idiots’?”

    Robert Conquest (Response to publisher asking for a title for a new edition published after his original work ‘Stalin and the Great Terror’ was confirmed by documents available after glasnost’)

  7. cbgb says

    “Robert Conquest’s quote in our quote database is so much more righteous and actually hilarious…”

    I have now hit “reload” 8000 times to try to get this quote to come up, and no luck. What is it?

  8. Euskal says

    The tremulous liberals scales are slowly falling from there eyes DFH Dave.. Bill Maher seems to come out in front in being critical of the presidente. Daily Kos, Comedy Channel are not quite there yet. The only thing to add is that we are indeed being run by the Unitary Corporate Oligarch Party.
    I too am not trying to dispare Captain Goto. I am concern that while the lefties are all about demorcratic processes, our Right wing fringe are arming to the gills. What to make of this troubling situation? The right seems to have all abandon the republican ideals and are willing to go for a Vichy/Francoist option at the tea bag moment.

    I agree DFH Dave, it is said the every generation will be forced to pledge one’s life, fortune and honor to defend what is sacred. We seem to have taken for granted our liberties and seem to think the sacrifices of the past will hold us in the future. Hope I am wrong and we will not be tested to make these choices and sanity can be restored in the Imperial Village. History has shown us to be aware and prepared in case it does’nt

  9. DFH Dave says

    These developments can be cast in a good light. Maybe the scales will finally fall from the eyes of the credulous, tremulous liberals. It’s been blindingly obvious for a long time now that there aren’t two major parties in the US, only the far right and center right wings of the Unitary Oligarch Party. If we want to save what’s left of our democracy, we’re gonna have to fight for it, perhaps even pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor…

  10. Captain Goto says

    What Euskal said…tho’ I hope he’s wrong about this notion:

    What is being destroyed is the last notions from the left that o[b]taining power through the electoral process can make any changes and that can’t be a good thing.

    As much despair as I feel when seeing what Obama has/hasn’t done so far, the thought of the left just saying “fuck it” and handing things over to the Not-Left is enough to move me from despair to existential dread. The last eight years were as close to going off a cliff as I want to get. Granted, lately, it feels like we’re still driving right along the edge–but what happens when we stop pulling on the steering wheel?

  11. Euskal says

    I think the American Left gets it. Afterall, the article written could have been penned by Chomsky. What the recent drops in polls, however minor shows that the left are begining to see that Obama can’t/wont make any significant changes to restore the constitutional rights lost. Guantanamo, NSA, torture, not releasing the pictures are clear indications of the not changing status quo or Obama sad attempts to maintaining the status quo. What is being destroyed is the last notions from the left that optaining power through the electoral process can make any changes and that can’t be a good thing. I laugh at Obama, if he thinks he can go to the left with “i maintained Gay civil unions” in midterm elections as the main success while failing on everything from health care, continued wars overseas, and not restoring the economy when the dollar loses its value. From the left’s perspective, we are witnessing a one term president in action….

  12. Hunter says

    The Amish are the only technologically advanced society (in the sense of carefully, collectively, and explicitly deciding what technologies to allow into their society in view of the likely effects of doing so) I know of…

  13. Anon says

    But the Census trying to do it’s job is an unacceptable intrusion of privacy, doncha know ?

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