Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

Obama’s troubles are ours now. We collectively identified Obama’s peculiarly militant brand of passive aggressiveness beginning in March 2009. Recall our frustration watching the Rightist initial fabrication of the Tea Party then go unchallenged. Or behold Obama’s White House spokesman joke in Summer 2010 they might even lose the House.


Seeing This Car Wreck In 2007

We could do little but share why the re-constituted Movement would quickly mutate into a demonstrably feral brand of anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic emotive rejections. In the face of Obama and Democratic inaction, we argued ‘the fever’ would not quickly subside. Did we not — at the time in 2008-09 –declare Obama’s chief task to be seen doing one thing surpassingly well? To rebut Rightist narrative and restore faith in empirical government?

Even before his 2008 victory, Obama’s congenital “Goldilocks Syndrome” of compromise in the face of extremes was obvious. Didn’t we predict with scary accuracy how it would work?

Here’s our take from 2007 for new Readers. NPR’s “Spilled Bong Water” show assessed the Obama Campaign and his presidency like a seer.

NPR Spilled Bong Water on 2007 Obama Campaign

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NSA, Obama & Digital Vandals Shaping American Power

NSA, Obama & Digital Vandals Shaping American Power

One of NSA Director Keith Alexander’s cruelest feats? Forcing some of his fiercest critics (us) again to defend American self-interest and the role and purpose of intelligence. Despite NSA’s (and the Community’s) wanton, flagrant contempt for both. If Neocons were America’s malignant Id at her moment of apogee, then as Nemesis follows Hubris, they ushered in her over soon decline. NSA and the Community, engorged on national security self-entitlement, scuttled behind as ever-present shadow.

We get no pleasure writing that. Nor seeing so much needless and perhaps irretrievable ruin in Snowden’s aftermath. Much of it gleefully celebrated by those who care nothing for American interests, privacy or otherwise. It takes a big man to bring down an epoch in American and global history, they say. So why are Alexander and Snowden perfectly, coevally so small?

Crushed Like A Spent Can Of Diet Coke

The seemingly ancient preceding post here about Obama’s first NSA-focused press conference reads quaintly now. We see in stark relief the cost of this Administration’s (typical) passivity. That’s not to excuse or diminish NSA’s stunning, profoundly stupid (and so totally unnecessary) transgressive acts. But we all should be clear about one distinction – intolerance for NSA’s transgressions is not embracing others’ attempt to exploit political fallout to see America diminished.

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Obama On Intelligence Reform: Same As It Ever Was

Obama On Intelligence Reform: Same As It Ever Was

We’re not smart enough to appreciate Barrack Obama. To cut the story short, that’s his press conference on intelligence oversight this past Friday. He proposes no changes really to current intelligence practices.

For those crediting Snowden and his odd travelogue for initiating this conversation? Here’s Obama’s ante so far: (a) a new Community website explaining that everything is constitutional; (b) a new someone called a ‘privacy officer’ at NSA with the immense power of an empty in box; (c) co-opting the Blumenthal-Udall-Wyden procedural bill proposing a special advocate to participate in select FISA proceedings to contest government representations; and (d) yet another outside group (joining President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and its Intelligence Oversight Board) to meet and do what?

A bit underwhelming. Even as opening gambit.

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A Day In Edward Snowden’s Moscow Life – The Secret History

Cut to scene: Ed Snowden flees to Hong Kong, spending his 30th birthday there at the Russian consulate. Yet we are told his immediate run to Moscow was both unplanned and caught the Russian government completely by surprise. Some tabulate the cascading coincidences intertwining Snowden and Russian operatives or their known consorts. The sheer weight of incidents is non-trivial.

As with all things, data by itself is not information. The key questions remain unanswered: (i) when did Snowden decide to be an adversary of the U.S. government?; (ii) how did he reach that decision – by himself or did Others recruit or encourage him?; (iii) carrying out his actions, did he have help and from whom?

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Snowden’s Pyrrhic Victory? *

Snowden’s Pyrrhic Victory? *

Episode Recap

State of play so far since our last episode. Putin bemoans now being stuck with an unwelcome Christmas present (Snowden). Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia offer Snowden asylum but can’t get him there. The man of the hour meanwhile finally seeks asylum in Russia yet’s vague about ceasing public ‘anti-U.S. activities’, a pre-condition set by Putin.

Greenwald in turn threatens the U.S. with the worst disaster in history should anything ever happen to Snowden – while decrying that people pay too much attention to Snowden. And the U.S. hints about canceling a tete-a-tete with Putin after the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg.

So we ask you to join in our poll:

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The Amnesiatic Society And Institutions Of Permanent Memory

L’Affaire Snowden is pretty much a Rorschach test. Except with consequences.

We haven’t weighed in almost at all so far. Frankly, most of the froth — from allegedly scandalized American sans cullottes to the security Nomenklatura — have been acting according to pre-determined, pre-ordained scripts. It’s been a bore. And doesn’t change the status quo.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden conceded after Snowden’s debut that the Verizon order and the PRISM slides contained almost nothing not already in the public domain. NSA’s major concern? The release tidied everything up in one morsel for grokking by a Twitter-debauched, nanosecond mentality. Snowden’s initial leaks were that most dangerous of things: meme friendly.

If there’s one thing America in the Age of Obama can do well, it’s consuming memes. Still, why would a society obsessed with forgetting yesterday in return for a transient dopamine fix today take a stand on privacy now? Some of it’s politics to be sure. A white God Emperor King presiding over socialist authoritarianism from 2001-2008 is an all too different kettle of fish to someone, er, half white. So the Movement’s reaction is pre-cooked. Then there’s the motley crew (note the e and w) of long time privacy activists, Mac Book Air anarchists, Twitter self promoters, Net Roots types and everyone else who long since sold their souls to Google, Amazon and Facebook. Who here thinks this assortment can create durable politics when the memes grow stale? To take on and prevail against Nomneklatura planning on global, decades-long scales? These are institutions of permanent memory.

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Dealing With The Clueless Leading The Clueless

Americans finally talk about the elephant in the room. Obama is infatuated with detachment and rhetoric. We called that one since 2007.

Still, what took Progressives and Liberals — now 6 years after the fact — so long?

Tout le monde now knowingly declare Obama’s signature trait when facing a manageable political situation is to do nothing. His political inaction empowers implausible Rightist narratives to coalesce and gain traction through sheer repetition. He transforms initially manageable circumstances into viable Rightist political narratives.

Benghazi. IRS. AP surveillance. And so on. Each have differing fact patterns and political consequences. Each also easily telegraphed a warhead for Rightist narratives. Pro-active political engagement would meet and combat those narratives. Perhaps Obama the cynic may not care, knowing these memes really will mature in the 2016 campaign.

Many felt shock seeing an aged Clinton masterfully demonstrate the joy of political combat this past season. Politics is about engagement. Triangulation and other sins aside, Clinton engaged and neutralized Rightist resurgence. The country he turned over in 2000 was far more stable and available for purposeful, constructive non-Rightist politics than in 1994. What will Obama bequeath us?

But it’s not all Obama’s fault, even if mainly so. The ‘Commentariat’ and permanent government are transactional. If diagnosis is easy, what to do about it?

That’s our challenge. We’ve all predicted the political incompetence. We may be galled that professional or self-promotionally visible Liberal voices come to party only now. But he still has 3 years to go.

Thoughts On Boston’s Crisis, The New Tribalism And Participatory Meaning

Thoughts On Boston’s Crisis, The New Tribalism And Participatory Meaning

Events in Boston last week illustrate how technology shapes our personal identity. And how little we understand the process. Boston shows us a foretaste of the new tribalism that relies on ephemeral situations and adrenalin to create a sense of belonging. It will change what it means to be an American.

Boston Is Saved By An Angel

What Is The New Tribalism?

First, the definitions. We’ll start with new tribalism is an individual’s sense of self, belonging and loyalty. That sense of self is defined by participating in communal activity responding to an ad hoc event or crisis. Here, it’s a new tribe following a terrorist bombing. This new ‘tribe’ is interesting because its values can supplement traditional ones, at least temporarily.

Doubtlessly you are already asking, ‘So is it really new’? In the past, rallies and concerts might be seen as the forerunners to today’s phenomenon. Certainly true of the Party rallies in the 1930s, for example. And the various ideologies of the now trite ‘happenings’ and ‘sit ins’ in the 1960s, as well as mass spectacles of Woodstock, etc.

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State of Play Spring 2013

Enough time has passed since the election for us to ask “What precisely has been learned?”

Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, “Not much”.

Our politics remain inert and non-enrolling because there aren’t any, aside from the febrile paroxysms within the Movement. We remain isolated and suspended, our very expression of self denied by the suffocating paralysis of Obama and the Democrats’ admonition “At least we are not Them”. Their impotence is imposed upon us.

Witness the Commentariat. What to make of self-identified progressives and liberals [sic] trolling CPAC in 2013? Old 6 years ago. How little understanding still. One well known ‘liberal’ commentator asked “Why do Republicans allow CPAC to happen?” And so on. Decrying Politico’s transactional information culture misses that’s always been DC.

More damningly, the same Commentariat continuously is surprised by events. After their ‘reporting’ these last years purporting to explain Movements, political and economic histories. Do they not read their own words? Demonstrating that the last 20 years taught them nothing. Leaving us further stifled.

The Post November Hangover

It’s Just Something In The Eye

Cheney et al. re-taught the world the basic lesson: process is not politics. Process can serve political purposes, can illuminate and clarify values and goals, but by itself is a nullity. Yet for the last five years, non-radicalized political space in America has been wholly subsumed by nothing other than process and related commentary. We remain stupefied, distracted from concrete engagement by empty rhetorical ephemera and Tweets.

Nothing has changed.

That’s not to say, for example, that real choices aren’t being made. They are. But as defensive reaction to a fraction of a minority’s submersion in ritual role-play as self-identity. So we are dosed with ‘victories’ permanently enshrining 99% of Cheney’s tax cuts. Surely, you have another favorite.

Perhaps you are thinking health care? Recall health care largely began in the House. With the Senate trailing. A disaster in the making because the other Branch remained bizarrely mute at times – after the infamous Tauzin meeting. Many times the entire enterprise careened into near failure needlessly (from the Ds point of view). Labeling the legislation Obamacare later does not make it so. These words have profound meaning.

As one example, Andy Pincus, former General Counsel at the Clinton Commerce Department, largely on his own initiative and tardily dominated a Republican controlled conference successfully on a major bill that affects your very ability to read this. The EOP wasn’t even really paying attention. Pincus manipulated the appearance of EOP interest to sow discord among Republican factions.

Don’t take our word for it. Committee staffers for a once powerful ex-senator from Texas railed in the press about the Republican debacle. Among others who blamed Lott, etc.

That’s just example when a departmental lawyer can have an impact on a frozen, tectonic situation. The level of toxicity then only seems less with time. Knowing when and how to engage is crucial. Or being lucky. It’s possible Pincus never planned or even knew how Republicans perceived his role. But he acted even if as Quixote.

So back to today. Dinners are nice. Phone calls, too. But if not wed to an expression of goals transcending serving process they’re ultimately nihilism. All of us here have long prepared for accepting calamity by disengaged default in lieu of catastrophe. Long before others, our hearty band here diagnosed the Disengagement Disease (AKA as Goldilocks Syndrome – ed.). November’s sweet escape from Movement’s grasp turns sour quickly.

If only so-called progressives, etc. mocking CPAC, for example, could husband that energy building real, tangible post-2016 politics. All of us in our hearts feel their lack. Perhaps the 2008-2012 crowd took our measure correctly. And dreams of escaping our marginalization become merely recursive. One thing we do control: our hope.

Keeping Up With ‘The Americans’

Keeping Up With ‘The Americans’

Pop culture fascination with the covert continues to crest. Under Bush besides the torture porn of ’24’, NCIS began its long run exalting ‘warfighters’ and hierarchical obediance. We endured the Bournes’ editing and celebrated a more brutal Bond.

And it continues. “Homeland” has become a ‘Starbuckian’ touchstone. “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” pull crowds. Even lighter, sillier cable fare like the CW’s “Nikita” and USA’s “Burn Notice” name check espionage argot.

And Comrades, Remember The Paco Rabanne

And Comrades, Remember The Paco Rabanne

So what to make of FX’s new series, “The Americans”? Larval CIA employee Joseph Weisberg (1990-94, no overseas) launched it all. He runs with the 2010 ‘Anna Chapman Spy Ring’ sensationalism but places his ostensibly married Soviet ‘illegal’ couple in Reagan’s 1981 America. The producers add some “Californication”-esque gestures; within the pilot’s first hour the female Soviet spy fellates a hapless presidential confidante, ostentatiously wiping her mouth afterwards and is later shown raped brutally. She also asks said confidante, supra, if he liked her finger up his ass. Quelle shock!

If It’s Phil Collins, It Must Be The 80’s

But is it any good?

When credits rolled, we asked “What did we just see?” It’s all preposterous, of course, as it must be. A show survives if it entertains. Here, the team generously drops gratuitous and titillating details to provide a modicum of verisimilitude – beyond say, “Burn Notice”. Yet for all that “The Americans” likely will be a soap opera.

The Soviet husband likes American malls and wants to defect. The wife is fiercely opposed, clinging to a memory of Moscow in 1962. And their kids! Already their young boy seems to have the hots for the next door neighbor’s daughter. Her dad’s an FBI counter-intelligence agent (yes, really). Oh, and there’s a KGB general. He pops up somehow at the end in D.C. to tell the female spy he’s fighting off extremists in Moscow while defending the motherland.

The atmosphere is the show’s real star and asset. Like Miami Vice, the show wants us to notice the music, style and set decorating. The clothes accurately are post 70s muted browns and not the much later, stereotypical big hair, neon and mullets. (Watch for Members Only jackets in future eps). They’ve gone the extra mile recreating 1981 on a basic cable budget. The music from Phil Collins to Pat Benatar is true to that year’s charts. (The only bum note was using The Who’s ‘Eminence Front’ as the FX TV ad campaign, which was from 1982).

Still, atmosphere can carry only so far. A soap opera requires caricatures acting broadly. The show’s premise and conceit point the other way. And nothing suggests ambition to deconstruct the American self-image through the eyes of its Soviet protagonists. Leaving us with what, precisely?

We doubt we’ll stick around after initial novelty dissipates. Aside from name-check fan service, it feels like Oakland, no there, there. (For that matter, we’ve never been able to sit through a re-watching of the recent “Tinker, Tailor” remake; the original BBC show remains sublime). Many pulp series have overcome inauspicious pilots. Will be interesting to see if we’re given a reason to care in time.