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Member since: Wed Nov 10, 2004, 09:49 AM
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Journal Archives

Emerging meme alert: "Not cutting Social Security puts national security at risk."

Two separate narratives emerged today regarding sequestration and the upcoming CR. One is being pushed by right-leaning/centrist dems, and the other by establishment GOPers.

Here's the first: Steny Hoyer says NO CR with military sequestration cuts:

And the second is:
New GOP Plan Would Save Military From Sequestration By Cutting Social Security

Taken together you see how the two sides who're both beholden to investment bankers want us to see how there's "bipartisan agreement" that military cuts are so scary and so unthinkable that it's our sovereign patriotic duty to each and every one give up our Social Security benefits for the good of the country.

I have to go make dinner, so instead of a reasoned response, I'm just going leave you with this:

Posted by nashville_brook | Tue Dec 3, 2013, 08:51 PM (56 replies)

How to persuade: getting past "they think we're stealing from them"

So, I was at the Florida Democratic Convention yesterday, and listened to a wonderful presentation on messaging, or "how to talk to people who don't yet agree with you." The presenter, FLDems Comms Director Joshua Karp, provided this illustration based on a circle, a square and triangle.

CIRCLE = Circle of trust. You must establish trust before you can persuade.
SQUARE = Logic and facts.
TRIANGLE = The Delta or difference that pushes the opposition outside of their current circle of trust toward yours.

When we skip the first step and try to persuade using only facts we're opening ourselves up being called elitists, because we're kinda being elitists by expecting people to just recognize the inherent greatness of our arguments. That also kinda makes us assholes. Elitist assholes. See how this works?

It's about the trust.

So, in the entire thread "They Think We're Stealing From Them," we've made some good observations and asked some good questions about persuasion, but ultimately we miss the point by asserting that white working-class heartlanders don't vote their pocketbook because they're racist. They vote that way b/c they feel outside of our circle of trust... and painting all white working-class midwesterners as racist isn't helping. Regardless of whether this is the case, if we believe this, we will never persuade them.

Plus, I don't think we believe that. I think we know better.

White working-class midwesterners are HURTING because our party exported their working-class jobs to other countries so they can buy super cheap crap from Walmart. Then we post pictures of them on the internet and point and laugh. Is it any wonder there's no basis for trust?

I'm guilty of this too. In 1993 I thought that "globalization" sounded like a great post-modern idea, and recently I've gawked at some of the People Of Walmart photos. But I know better now. Those photos never fail to send me into a deep depression and globalization was a terrible scam.

Here's the truth: White working-class midwesterners' pocketbooks have been hurting for decades because of Clintonian free-trade policy coupled with trickle-down economics we saw accelerated throughout the Bush Jr years, and that continue today... but with growing resistance from OUR party as seen in holding the line against the shutdown.

The shutdown resistance has shown that we're indeed more trustworthy than the GOP and at the very least won't sink the country like they would. So how can we continue to persuade white working-class midwesterners that our party is better for them? How about holding the line on these issues that hit middle- and working-class people in the gut:

Protect Social Security
Raise the Minimum Wage
Make Sick Days Mandatory for wage earners
Raise Corporate Taxes and End Tax Loopholes

We're seeing the beginning of what could be an unstoppable coalition. We just have to continue doing what's right for the people, and persuade them that we're worthy of their trust.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Oct 27, 2013, 03:18 PM (23 replies)

Writing on DU is activism, actually

Lots of talk lately about what constitutes activism. And with that, there's the urge to draw the line neatly around one thing, and not "the other."

I've been kicking around activist circles since the 1980s and a LOT has changed since then. Back when I started it was easier to define activism. Things we would have listed as activism included:

-- turning out people to public meetings
-- hosting events for large-scale involvement
-- writing letters to the editor
-- phone-banking
-- door-knocking
-- participating in activist planning/strategy/forums (which, were mostly in-person at the time).

Since the 80s we've seen the rise of this thing called Social Media and most organizations either have a social media job with their communications department, OR they rely on organizers to use social media to take their message out.

Pay attention to that last line..."to take their message out." This is what we used to do primarily with Letters to the Editor. LTEs are still very important, especially when trying to move electeds to a better policy position. It's VERY important b/c electeds use SEO and web searches for their name to report back to the lawmaker on how their messaging is doing out in the world, and...in the best case scenario...to reality check if their constituents are still with them. DU is recognized as having excellent SEO. Often when researching a new issue my searches put DU on the first page, even when I'm using a work computer that isn't full of DU cookies.

This forum can be seen as a daily paper for *engaged Democrats." An engaged Dem is someone who is a likely voter and someone who can be mobilized to participate in other actions such as social media engagement LTEs, phone-banking and doorknocking. We are also likely to turn-out to assemblies, town halls, and protests.

When you're posting your thoughts to DU you're talking directly to Democratic party people with the intent of *moving people* in the direction of your point of view. The audience is different from an LTE; much larger and clearly more Dem.

If there wasn't the potential to move decision-makers with our actions here, there wouldn't be such turf fights over policy issues. It's activism in the clearest sense, using social media to bridge the divide between rank-and-file Dems and their national leadership.

Posting on DU isn't only activism, it's effective activism. But I would agree with others that it's not complete. Also go out and work on the issues that you're passionate about. Election reform, job quality, school reform, environmental and of course, peace and justice organizations all NEED your help.

Use DU to help you think and to better communicate your POV. Save your posts here for LTEs in your local newspapers. If you have a really good one, pitch it as an op-ed, post it on Facebook, or add it to another blog. Use DU's Twitter and Facebook buttons to extend your social reach.

But don't let anyone tell you that what you're doing isn't activism. It is. As a DU poster, you're valuable and needed part of the activist eco-system.

Posted by nashville_brook | Mon Sep 23, 2013, 09:37 AM (129 replies)

Alan Grayson: attacking Syria is the "wrong decision," Obama "boxed himself in" w/the "redline"

Some here have been making a case for attacking Syria based on the notion that progressive leaders such as Alan Grayson are supporting it...based on nothing more than their silence in the media.

That's no longer a legitimate argument as heard in this interview with Sirius' The Agenda with Ari Rabin-Havt.


Important points in this interview:

-- chemical weapons allegations are unproven and "genuinely ambiguous"
-- there's no benefit to the Syrian government for killing these 200 citizens
-- conventional munitions also have the effect of suffocating victims
-- if CW were used, the victims would be dangerous to the rescuers; no report of rescuers effected by CWs
-- if they were going to use CWs they would be using them everyday and gloating about it
-- "dead people are dead people" - that chemical warfare presents an arbitrary "redline"
-- the US has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world -- dubious moral high ground
-- evidence must be UNEQUIVOCAL that the Syrian military used CWs and that there's a vital US interest
-- let's finish the wars we're already in
-- puzzling and disturbing the Obama administration is only putting out unsupported information RE the use of CWs
-- no desire in his district to be world's policeman (subject of my recent post here)
-- fwiw the manufacturer of the missiles we'd use against Syria, Raytheon, has seen a dramatic bump in stock value over last few days
-- nobody wants this except for the military industrial complex - the president should recognize and rise above the interests of the military industrial complex in this matter.

Posted by nashville_brook | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 11:25 AM (119 replies)

Obama taps "cognitive infiltrator" Cass Sunstein for Committee to create "trust" in NSA

This is an interesting development. Not sure how smart this is on the part of the White House/NSA/Clapper because it could undermine faith in pro-NSA voices and reinforce the perception that those advocating for weakened privacy and security are not independent.


Advocate of Secret Infiltration, Cass Sunstein, on Obama’s “Committee To Make Us Trust the Dragnet”
Posted on August 22, 2013 by emptywheel

ABC reports that, along with former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell, former Homeland Security Czar Richard Clarke, and former Obama special assistant for economic policy Peter Swire, the White House (or James Clapper — who knows at this point) has picked Cass Sunstein for its Review Committee on NSA programs.


In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper’s abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”

And remember, a big mandate for this committee is not to review the programs to see if we can make them more privacy-protective, but simply to increase our trust in them. Which goes to the core of what Sunstein was talking about in his paper: using covert government propaganda to, in this case, better sell covert government spying.

Well, if Obama and Clapper’s rollout hadn’t already discredited this committee, Sunstein’s selection sure does.

- See more at: http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/08/22/advocate-of-secret-infiltration-cass-sunstein-on-obamas-committee-to-make-us-trust-the-dragnet/#sthash.HGsvq7ua.dpuf

Link to Greenwald's 2010 reporting on Sunstein:

Link to ABC news report on appointments:

Posted by nashville_brook | Thu Aug 22, 2013, 10:41 AM (215 replies)

"Journalists are terrorists...truth-telling is violence." I'm calling bullshit.

(h/t DirkGently from his comment here, with my own comments)

So. Threats of truth telling should be treated like threats of violence?

This is exactly the rationale applied by every despicable authoritarian regime in history.

He's too nice to say it, but I will. "The rationale" of "every despicable authoritarian regime," referenced here calls to mind some really nasty times in history such as:

Chile under Pinochet
China under the Chinese Communist Party
Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge
Saudi Arabia under the House of Saud

And many more. Something they have in common is need to control information to protect their crimes. It's just too inconvenient to have reporters running around reminding people they're being spied on or worse.

This isn't to say that we're there, or even headed in that direction. I believe we're going in a completely different direction...but I'll save that for later.

Congratulations. This post bulls-eyes the absolute bottom of the philosophical barrel.

The argument that embarrassing the state with truthful information that is threatening only in its likelihood of raising the public consciousness of government wrongdoing is precisely the most anti-democratic, purely vile and evil sentiment possible, on not only the subject of press freedom, but as to civilization or government of any kind.

It's the absolute bottom of the philosophical barrel precisely because we're not any of these authoritarian regimes. Not even close. It's historically been a point of patriotism that we fought wars for our freedom, and ostensibly for the "freedom" of other countries (although, that's rarely true -- we fight wars in other places for resources).

Dirk hits the nail on the head when he says that the threat level of truth-telling is proportional to the wrongdoing of the governments threatened by it. This is plain as day to most people. Uncontroversial. In the civilized world we know that we fight to keep things transparent in order to keep things civilized and working for the people. Otherwise we get trampled. We see it on school boards, county commissions and in the U.S. Senate -- when we're locked out, that's when bad things happen (which, I thought was the whole point of electing Democrats...to keep things open, transparent, and working for the people).

This is how you get to dictators and genocide and everything else Americans and all decent people everywhere oppose.

Repellant. Filthy. Indefensible.

Like I said, we're not there now, but letting this djinn out of the bottle is NOT something that patriotic Americans cheer for. We're not subjects under King George. Our forefathers fought and died for these freedoms. It is filthy, repellant and indefensible to argue for their demise when they are figuratively written in blood in our Constitution.

I am deeply saddened and ashamed to see Democrats willing to dismantle that which makes us uniquely American. And for what? What is possibly so threatening about Greenwald, Gellman or the truth of the domestic spying program, that you would be willing to burn the Bill of Rights?

Shame. Seriously. We should all be ashamed of this.

Talk about being detrimental to the party: how fast will people run from the Democratic brand when they see party members proudly shouting to lock up journalists?

The good news is that we're talking about a tiny but noisy minority of voices carrying this repellant message. Together we're shining a light and turning down the heat on this nonsense. This shit isn't going to stick -- not if we have anything to say about it.

Posted by nashville_brook | Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:28 PM (54 replies)

Greenwald's partner's detention is not convenient, hype or self-promotion.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Greenwald's partner's detention is not convenient, hype or self-promotion.
And no one needs to wait a 'couple of days' or even minutes to figure that out.

David Miranda's detention is an act of intimidation that will likely become a rallying point. The fact that some suggest it's a publicity stunt only proves how ludicrous the pro-NSA arguments have become. You see, it's just too "convenient." It's a set-up. You'll see..it's a devilish ploy.

There's a pattern here. When the NSA dragnet story broke is was derided by some as a "fake scandal." It was imagined to be a broadside aimed at the president, regardless of the fact that no rational commenter suggested that. It was imagined to be an attack on POTUS regardless of the fact that republican leaders took time out from bashing POTUS and the ACA to vigorously defend the NSA and their defense industry patrons.

When the story became larger to include layers of programs, contractors and countries, some said that it was all made up...it was all self-promotion...all to "sell" clicks for a media organization...and that it would "all blow over" when Greenwald and Snowden are proven to be liars, libertarians or leprechauns.

So when a member of Greenwald's family is detained under suspicion of "terror," this pretty much refutes the idea that this journo is not to be taken seriously -- because someone, somewhere is taking him very seriously.

What we're seeing emerge here is the criminalizing of investigative journalism. Miranda was held under Schedule 7 which is intended to ferret out suspected "terrorists." Here we see it used instead to intimidate someone suspected of making the intelligence establishment look bad.

This is a very big deal. It's bigger than partisan politics. It's bigger than the POTUS. It's time to get serious and stop with the comforting bedtime stories of hype and publicity stunts.

It's time to put away these childish things.


As an FYI here's some background on Schedule 7 which is the law that UK police detained Miranda under. From the ACLU press release:


Schedule 7 is the law that allows the police to detain anyone at the UK borders without any requirement to show probable cause and hold them for up to nine hours, without seeking further justification. The detainee must respond to any questions, regardless of whether a lawyer is present. No lawyer is provided automatically.

It is a criminal offence for the detainee to refuse to answer questions -- regardless of the grounds for that refusal or otherwise fully cooperate with the police.

According to the advice published by the Association of Chief Police Officers’, Schedule 7 should only be used to counter terrorism and may not be used for any other purpose.

A similarly over-broad and vague section of the Act which allowed stop and frisk without any grounds was held to be unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010. Section 44 - as it was known - violated Article 8 of the European Charter of Human Rights which protects privacy.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Aug 18, 2013, 08:13 PM (203 replies)

You want "Nixonian"? This, right here, this is Nixonian, if Nixon had grown up in East Germany

The Snowden Effect, Special Sunday Edition
By Charles P. Pierce
at 10:36am


Sooner or later, we're all going to start paying more attention to the folks at McClatchy than we do to the kidz at Tiger Beat On The Potomac. It was some of them who kept warning us that the Bush administration case for going to war in Iraq was shot through with moonshine and bullshit, but the courtier press got itself dazzled by mushroom clouds, aluminum tubes, African uranium, and Colin Powell, aka The Most Overrated Man In The World, and off to war we went. Now, they've come out with a gigantic story revealing, in detail, that the Obama administration is the most fertile environment for paranoids since the Nixon people first cut a check to Egil Krogh.

President Barack Obama's unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of "insider threat" give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct. Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for "high-risk persons or behaviors" among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

You want "Nixonian"? This, right here, this is Nixonian, if Nixon had grown up in East Germany. You've got the entire federal bureaucracy looking for signs of "high-risk persons or behaviors" the way Nixon sent Fred Malek out to count the Jews. You've got created within the entire federal bureaucracy a culture of spies and informers, which will inevitably breed fear and deceit and countless acts of interoffice treachery. (Don't like your boss at the Bureau Of Land Management? Hmm, he looks like a high-risk person. Tell someone.) And this is the clincher.

Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States," says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

I don't want to hear about "safeguards" because I don't believe in them any more. I don't want to hear about "transparency" any more because the president lost his privileges on that word when he cited the secret rubber-stamp FISA court as the vehicle for transparency last week. I don't want to hear about "oversight" because, really, stop kidding us all. And I especially don't want to hear about how all the administration's really done is "formalize" programs that were already in place, as though giving the creation of a culture of informers the imprimatur of the presidency makes it better. This, after all, is what you're "formalizing," as dramatized on June 13, 1971 by the Oval Office Players, Richard M. Nixon, artistic director:

President Nixon: Doesn't it involve secure information, a lot of other things? What kind of-what kind of people would do such things?
Kissinger: It has the most-it has the highest classification, Mr. President.
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: It's treasonable. There's no question it's actionable. I'm absolutely certain that this violates all sorts of security laws.
President Nixon: What-what do we do about it? Don't we ask for an-
Kissinger: I think I-I should talk to [Attorney General John N.] Mitchell.
President Nixon: Yeah.

No, Mr. Current President, this is not business as usual. This is not even the NSA sifting through e-mails and phone calls. This is giving Big Brother a desk in every federal agency and telling him to go to work.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Jun 23, 2013, 01:14 PM (138 replies)

This is why ALL liberals *should* oppose dragnet surveillance

Nashville_Brook note:

This is for those of us who are horrified at the "so what" response to the PRISM/Boundless Informant revelations.

We know that when people say "I assume my email is read," or that "my every move is logged," they're admitting tolerance and complicity to a form of totalitarianism that has a long and predictable history.

We also know it's not going to be different because of who holds office at this point in time. Indeed, these intelligence programs might even be beyond the control of an executive who is beholden to the most rarified ranks of the elite. Obama admitted as much when he passed the buck back to Congress during his remarkable comments on the subject Friday.

As this article points out, there's a LOGIC to state spying, and it's not what they're telling you. It's not about terror. Not exclusively. It's about keeping all of us pliant.

The very existence of such state spying apparatus is enough for MOST people to forgo any serious involvement in organizing against it. People fear losing their jobs, of having their secrets revealed, and of having their lives upended. People in this state of insecurity are not going to mount a serious campaign for Congress or the president to do anything...let alone give up the crown jewel of power: total surveillance.

The Logic of the Surveillance State

Liberalism, in its classic form, is, among other things, the proposition that you get more out of people if you treat them well. Conservatism is the proposition that you get more out of people if you treat them badly.



The problem with surveillance states, and with oppression in general, is the cost. This cost is both direct, in the resources that are required, and indirect in the lost productivity and creativity caused by constant surveillance. Surveillance states, oppressive states, are not creative places, they are not fecund economically. They can be efficient and productive, for as long as they last, which is until the system of control is subverted, as it was in the USSR. We forget, in light of the late USSR’s problems, that it did create an economic miracle in the early years, and tremendously boost production. Mancur Olson’s “Power and Prosperity” gives a good account of why it worked, and why it stopped working.


If you want despotism, as elites, if you want to treat everyone badly, so you personally become more powerful and rich, then, you’ve got two problems: an internal one (revolt) and an external one: war and being outcompeted by other nations elites, who will come and take away your power, one way or the other (this isn’t always violently, though it can be.) The solution is a transnational elite, in broad agreement on the issues, who do not believe in nationalism, and who play by the same rules and ideology. If you’re all the same, if nations are just flags, if you feel more kinship for your fellow oligarchs, well then, you’re safe. There’s still competition, to be sure, but as a class, you’re secure.

That leaves the internal problem, of revolt. The worse you treat people, the more you’re scared of them. The more you clamp down. This is really, really expensive and it breaks down over generations, causing internal rot, till you can’t get the system to do anything, no matter how many levers you push.

What is being run right now is a vast experiment to see if modern technology has fixed these problems with surveillance and opporessive states. Is it cheap enough to go full Stasi, and with that level of surveillance can you keep control over the economy, keep the levers working, make people do what you want, and not all slack off and resist passively, by only going through the motions? The oligarchs are betting that the technology has made that change... with the creation of a transnational ruling class, and with the ability to scale surveillance, it may be possible to take and keep control indefinitely, and bypass the well understood problems of oligarchy and police and surveillance states.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Jun 9, 2013, 10:21 AM (162 replies)
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