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Sexist: Calling her Shrillary
Not Sexist: Calling her Killary

Sexist: Calling her a whore for Wall Street
Not Sexist: Calling her a shill for Wall Street

Sexist: Criticizing her for focusing on rape and other women's issues
Not Sexist: Criticizing her for focusing on false rape charges to sell a war

Sexist: Pointing to her husband's neoliberal record as if it's hers
Not Sexist: Pointing to her own neoliberal record

Sexist: Criticizing her for standing by her man
Not Sexist: Criticizing her for standing by her man's horrible policies

Sexist: Saying she busts balls
Not Sexist: Saying she busts unions

Sexist: Saying she looks bad in black
Not-Sexist: Saying she's bad for black people

Sexist: Saying she wants to castrate men
Not Sexist: Saying she wants to kill Muslims

Sexist: Calling her a cold fish
Not Sexist: Calling her a cold warrior

Sexist: Criticizing her laugh
Not Sexist: Criticizing her laugh then

Sexist: Saying she hates men
Not Sexist: Saying she likes dictators

Sexist: Critiquing her hair and makeup
Not Sexist: Critiquing the makeup of her team

Sexist: Calling her imperious
Not Sexist: Calling her an imperialist

Sexist: Saying she put ambition over her family
Not Sexist: Saying her ambition put her in The Family

Sexist: Saying she placed her career over raising children
Not Sexist: Saying she placed her career over the children of Fallujah

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The US has bombed 14 countries in the Muslim world "just since 1980."
The US has killed "well over a million" Muslims since 1980.
The US has forced regime change in "Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Iraq (Twice), Afghanistan (Twice), Turkey, Libya."
"Muslim countries invaded and occupied by Westerners since 1798: what is now Bangladesh (Britain); Egypt (France), much of Indonesia (Dutch); Algeria (France); Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad (France); Moroccan Sahara, Ceuta (Spain); what is now Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan (Russia); Tunisia (France); Egypt, Sudan (Britain); Morocco (France); Libya (Italy); Palestine and Iraq (Britain); Syria and what is now Lebanon (France); Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain (Britain); Iran (Britain, US, Soviet Union during WW II); Iraq (US 2003-2011."
"Iraq Death Toll Reaches 500,000 Since Start Of U.S.-Led Invasion."
"Obama Is Fourth Straight President To Bomb Iraq."
"Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate."
"The United States is considered the number one "greatest threat to peace in the world today" by people across the globe."
Clearly the United States is an Islamic Nation.


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The US has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of fighting terrorism. The war is all too real. But it’s also fake. There is no clash of civilizations, no ideological battle, no grand effort on the part of the United States to defeat terrorism. As long as terrorism doesn’t threaten core US interests, American elites are content to allow it — and help it — flourish. They don’t want to win this war. It will go on forever, unless we make them end it.
That's the conclusion to my piece at Jacobin that I hope you read. The piece is a response, first, to the catastrophe known as the U.S. War on Terror and, second, to a flawed, even dangerous, line of argument often used by the war's ostensible opponents.
The standard liberal analysis has American elites bumbling into another war, oblivious to the consequences, unwittingly acting against their own interests.

How much death and destruction would American terror warriors have to cause before their ostensible opponents rejected their claims of noble intent? During the thirteen years of the “war on terror,” actions of the United States government have consistently and predictably strengthened anti-American terrorist groups. To chalk this all up to stupidity — rather than unstated imperial imperatives — is to choose ignorance.

The ugly consequences of the war on terror aren't unintended; those are the goals -- or at least acceptable results as the US seeks to pursue its actual core goals.
Many liberals recognize the economic imperatives at stake, yet these rarely enter their analyses of the “war on terrorism.” Without an awareness of economic motive — or, if you prefer, “geopolitics” — certain military moves of the United States make no sense.
The utter fraudulence of the US War on Terror is best revealed not by the war itself by US actions in Libya and Syria, which have empowered jihadist groups. Clearly, in both cases, fighting "terror" was not the overriding concern. On the contrary, the US was content to unleash terrorism as it sought to secure its interests. (In the piece I analyze what the US was/is really up to in Syria and Libya.)

The upshot: the war on terror isn't sincere. It's violence perpetrated and perpetuated by people who don't want it to stop, because stopping it doesn't serve their interests.

American war-makers — who’ve done so much to create terrorism — claim that opponents of war and imperialism are “soft on terrorism.” And some liberals believe that those who’ve done so much to create terrorism are sincerely trying to fight it. Compelled by the destructive logic of capitalism, American war-makers are playing dirty and playing for keeps, yet many of their foremost “critics” depict them as Keystone Cops.

As blogger Kevin Dooley points out, such analysis defies common sense and precludes the possibility of resistance: “[T]he notion that the ruling elite are so stupid they don’t even know their interests, much less how to go about securing them, is ahistorical, power-serving nonsense.”

For tweets on war, imperialism, state violence, and related left-wing agitprop [smiley face] follow me @davidmizner

A couple of weeks ago, having just read about yet another killing by the police, I wanted to know whether the police were indeed becoming more violent, or did it just seem that way? And I wondered the same thing when I read about the stop-and-frisk by white police officers that left Darrin Manning, an unarmed black boy, with a ruptured testicle.

It'd make sense if the police were becoming more violent, given the rampant militarization of police departments, spawn of both the war on drugs and the war on terrorism, which affects not only police officer's weapons but also their mentality. But I wanted stats to confirm the sense of a growing national problem.

To be clear, the fact of police violence, not the trend-line, is the most important thing. That is, police violence is a serious problem whether it or not it's increasing. But numbers can loom large in public policy debates, an important tool for activists.

And numbers are what's missing from the debate over police violence. While the government shared detailed statistics on violence by non-police, there are no reliable national statistics on -- to use the euphemism -- use of force, justified or otherwise.

In other words, at this point there's no way to know whether this problem is getting worse on a national level, and this -- the by-design secrecy -- contributes to the problem. There's been an effort in Congress to uncover info about people shot by the U.S. military -- and rightly so -- but where's the effort to uncover info about people shot by the police?

I wrote about the lack of transparency on police violence for Salon. As an ex-cop criminologist said to me: "I can’t think of a more important priority in a republic than knowing the facts about when agents of the state put bullets in people."

Here's the nut of it but please read the whole thing  if you're interested.

If it seems to you that the police are becoming more violent, you may be right. In 2011, Los Angeles County police shot to death 54 people, some 70 percent more than in 2010. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of people shot by Massachusetts police increased every year. In 2012, police in New York City shot and killed 16 people, nine more the previous year and the most in 12 years. In 2012, Philadelphia police shot 52 people—the highest number in 10 years.

But whether these statistics reflect a national trend is, at this point, an unanswerable question.

That’s because many of the country’s 17,000 police departments don’t release information on use of force by police, and the federal government makes no serious effort to collect it. While the government gathers and releases extensive information about violence by citizens, it conceals information about violence by police.

“Excessive force by police is one of the big problems,” says Brigitt Keller, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, who cites as causes the militarization of the police, persistent impunity, and a mythology that exaggerates the dangers police face and deters public officials from challenging them. “I believe the problem is getting worse,” Keller says, “but it’s hard to say for sure without comprehensive information.”

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Then: Rachel Maddow on workers organizing in February 2011.

"Because of organizing by people who cash paychecks rather than sign paychecks, because of organizing by employees, by people who work for the company, not the people who own the company, that's how we got laws against child labor in this country, that's how we got a minimum wage, that's how we got a 40 hour work week. And weekends--like those? That's why we have sick days, that's why there is such a thing as overtime. These things were all hard fought by the labor movement. Their insistence over generations that working full time in America should earn you a living, should get your out of poverty, that over time is what created the American middle class."
Now: Rachel Maddow on workers organizing in her own company.


"...[P]alin actually has this right: Let Allah sort it out."
Dr. Mr. Congressman With Guts:

Please stop making stupid, callous, bigoted statements, or step aside to make room for a better antiwar spokesperson.


PS. Congrats, though, on breaking with AIPAC.

Follow me on Twitter @DavidMizner


Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 02:10 PM PDT

Snowden & Greenwald Are Scary

by david mizner

This is terrifying, the rise of these anarcho-libertarian-mole-traior-terrorists.

What with their deceitfulness...

Clapper’s lie — that he took Wyden’s “collected any type of data at all” to mean “voyeuristically pore through emails” — is all the worse for how bad a non-sequitur it is. Caught in a lie, the head of our Intelligence Community responded with word salad.

Given that abysmal attempt to explain away his lie, I find it all the more curious the Administration decided Clapper, newly exposed as a liar, would be the guy to head pushback to the revelations of the last few days.

...and naivete...
But [former president Bill Clinton quickly got serious when Letterman mentioned Saddam Hussein.

Letterman asked, "Are we going into Iraq? Should we go into Iraq? I'd like to go in. I'd like to get the guy. I don't like the way the guy looks."

"He is a threat. He's a murderer and a thug," said Mr. Clinton. "There's no doubt we can do this. We're stronger; he's weaker. You're looking at a couple weeks of bombing and then I'd be astonished if this campaign took more than a week. Astonished."

...and dark utopian visions of remaking the world in their image...
In a speech to a friendly audience at the American Enterprise Institute three weeks before the invasion, President Bush described a democratic domino theory, in which Iraq would be the first domino to fall. “A new regime in Iraq,” the president said, “would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.”
they're engaging in criminal acts...
The events examined in this report are unprecedented in U.S. history. In the course of the nation’s many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some U.S. personnel committed brutal acts against captives, as have armies and governments throughout history.

But there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.

...that do great damage to the United States...
[T]he first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
...endanger innocent people...
How many Iraqis died in the Iraq War? That's the kind of question that should be asked, especially if you happen to live in the countries that launched the war that killed so many...Estimates of the death toll range from about 174,000 (Iraq Body Count, 3/19/13)  to over a million (Opinion Business Research, cited in Congressional Research Service, 10/7/10).
..and aid "our" enemies.
DEAR OBAMA, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda,” a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter last month. President Obama should keep this message in mind before ordering more drone strikes like Wednesday’s, which local officials say killed 27 people, or the May 15 strike that killed at least eight Yemeni civilians.

Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan — “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”

If we don't hold these technerdterrorists accountable...
[W]hy, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?
...they will undoubtedly inflict enormous pain on Americans.
A report prepared by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) on the causes of the Great Recession due for release today faults "reckless" banks and faulty regulators as the chief source of the recent crisis.
Trust the elites. Unlike these anarchocreeps, they know what they're doing and have our best interests at heart.


Follow me @DavidMizner




I'm sorry to sully this post by doing actual, you know, writing, but I want to say that the reaction this post indicates that the hunger for radical overhaul transcends the usual divides -- liberal v. leftist, Obotulism v. emoprogdouchebagger, anarchist v. socialist, etc. I'm in an optimistic, group-huggy mood: so sue me. I even just looked at this telling graph about labor strikes over the years (via Ian Welsh) and saw a reason for hope in that tiny recent upturn.


Profits Just Hit Another All-Time High, Wages Just Hit Another All-Time Low
A Pew Research poll from 2011 shows that more Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have a favorable opinion of socialism than of capitalism.
Roughly three-quarters of the public (77%) say that they think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the United States.
The U.S. banking industry posted record profits for the first quarter, the latest indication that the industry has largely recovered its financial footing in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Pew: Support for capitalism down in U.S.
U.S. income gap between rich, poor hits new high
U.S. sees highest poverty spike since the 1960s, leaving 50 million Americans poor as government cuts billions in spending
It is no accident that environmental crisis is gathering as social injustice is deepening and growing inequality is impairing democratic institutions. Each is the result of a system of political economy--today's capitalism--that is profoundly committed to profits and growth and profoundly indifferent to nature and society.
The violence of inequality and the culture of cruelty produced by the advocates of neoliberalism represent the Wild West of finance capital and are creating vast zones of suffering, terminal exclusion, and disposability
Today, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Roubini admitted that Marx was right about Capitalism and raised the possibility that Capitalism is destroying itself in the way Marx outlined more than a century and a half ago.
The past several years have demonstrated the obvious point that inequality and depression will combine to produce flares of mass social unrest. You see this in Europe and the Middle East, where rising food prices had as much to do with the Arab Spring as decades of political repression. Things are no different here in America. Even though elites are fortunate enough to have a militarized local law enforcement apparatus in place to make sure the rabble doesn’t get too out of control, these flares, indications of broader awareness that in an economy rigged against them, the only recourse is to step outside the system and shout to the heavens. We’ve seen this before in US history; it was called the Gilded Age, and it led to the set of progressive reforms as well as a legacy of labor organizing that might, just might, be awakening from what seems like a decades-long slumber...

Whatever you think of the value of public protest or one-day strikes with set time limits, I see them as part of a stirring. Occupy and Wisconsin and what’s happening right now in North Carolina (about 60 civil rights activists get arrested every Monday to protest the actions of their state legislature) fit within that context as well. These vapors circling around the country don’t have to form into a solid mass, and they won’t without a lot of clever, savvy organizing and strategizing. But the conditions do exist for it to happen. Life still retains the ability to surprise.

[T]he struggle to build social movements and transform an unjust society into a just one is taking place not only in Chicago, but in Paris, Athens, Cairo and in many other cities throughout the world. Chicago and other movements, including the Occupy movement, are redefining liberty as a collective good that is incompatible with the hollow shell of freedom produced by economic and social inequality endemic to the structural violence of predatory capitalism. Marginalized youth, workers, artists and others are raising serious questions about the violence of inequality and the social order that legitimates it. They are calling for a redistribution of wealth and power - not within the old system, but in a new one in which democracy becomes more than a slogan or a legitimation for authoritarianism and state violence.
Bonus link via tardis10.
Rise in Inequality Projected to Continue Until 2035
UPDATE: Monsieur bobswern has secured permission for me to reprint this piece by the excellent Dave Dayen in its entirety. Links avaialble at the original. I don't have time at the moment to put them i, because I have to put my son to bed.
The Uprising of the Second Tier in a Time of Late Capitalism

By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen

The past several years have demonstrated the obvious point that inequality and depression will combine to produce flares of mass social unrest. You see this in Europe and the Middle East, where rising food prices had as much to do with the Arab Spring as decades of political repression. Things are no different here in America. Even though elites are fortunate enough to have a militarized local law enforcement apparatus in place to make sure the rabble doesn’t get too out of control, these flares, indications of broader awareness that in an economy rigged against them, the only recourse is to step outside the system and shout to the heavens. We’ve seen this before in US history; it was called the Gilded Age, and it led to the set of progressive reforms as well as a legacy of labor organizing that might, just might, be awakening from what seems like a decades-long slumber.

Over the past year or so, low-wage workers have staged wildcat strikes, walking off the job for a day or two. It started at Walmart, America’s low-wage giant, the largest private employer in the US and the company that the Federal Open Market Committee looks to when making macroeconomic policy decisions. Workers in dozens of stores walked out last October and November, demanding better pay and working conditions, stable hours and above all, respect. This has predictably spread to other parts of the low-wage sector. Fast food and retail workers have been systematically striking, one city at a time, under the banner of a $15 per hour living wage. Workers in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee have walked off the job in the one-day wildcat strikes. SEIU and a variety of community groups have been behind the stoppages. It would be natural to expect chronic one-day strikes like this at the beginnings of union formation. This is exactly how voiceless workers in the 1880s and 1890s began to mass their collective power. That doesn’t mean it will succeed, but it means it’s following a very similar script.

Yesterday’s action in Washington involved the 2 million workers paid, directly or indirectly, by the federal government, who make $12 an hour or less. The federal government is actually the largest low-wage job creator in America, higher than Walmart, McDonald’s or anyone else. The Demos report detailing this is very thorough and has already spurred a House Democratic investigation (believe it or not, Steny Hoyer’s going to show up at it):


These are employees working on behalf of America, doing jobs that we have decided are worthy of public funding—yet they’re being treated in a very un-American way. Our nation has a history of ensuring our tax dollars provide decent jobs. From the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act to Executive Order 11246 of 1965, and a host of other laws and executive actions, our laws have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices. Yet as the nature and prevalence of federal contracting, lending and grant-making have changed, and some laws have been weakened, working people have fallen through the cracks.

    When our tax dollars underwrite bad jobs, the economy as a whole is weakened and all of us are negatively affected. There is a ripple effect as low-paid workers and their families have little money to spend, hindering economic growth that could be creating more jobs. Poorly-paid workers also contribute less in taxes and are more likely to rely on public benefits to care for their families. In contrast, we would all benefit from an economy where workers earn good wages—and we have a special responsibility to see that the people working on behalf of our nation are paid and treated fairly. Raising standards for people working on behalf of America is one important piece to providing opportunities for workers to reach the middle class.

Hundreds of these employees walked off the job yesterday. Food courts at the Reagan Federal Building and the Air and Space Museum had to shut down. Here’s one worker’s story:
   “I can’t even afford to get an apartment or raise my daughter properly because of the money that I’m making,” said Jonathan Ross, one of the D.C. strikers. Ross works at the Constitution Café, a privately managed restaurant in the Smithsonian Institute’s American History Museum. He told MSNBC that after four years of being employed at the restaurant, he still makes only $9.71 an hour.

    “For the four years I’ve been here, I’ve had a 10-cent raise, a 15-cent raise, and another 10-cent raise,” he said. While he doesn’t receive federal assistance in the form of food stamps or subsidized housing, he said he struggles to provide for his 15-year-old daughter, over whom he has sole custody.

Josh Eidelson has more. The President could actually do something about federal contractors who violate labor law and underpay their workers without having to go through Congress, incidentally.

These low-wage worker actions are small in the grand scheme of things, but significant because of what they represent – mass dissatisfaction with the current economic order. The land of the free imposes lots of barriers to this type of assembly, action and speech, many of them psychological. The American “ideal” of individual work ethic places lots of pressure on people not getting by in this economy to blame themselves, to see their lot as part of some personal deficiency. And when that doesn’t work, there’s good old-fashioned police repression.

I highlight this even though I don’t completely support yesterday’s action by homeowners out in front of the Justice Department. I don’t completely support it because one of the main organizations that put the action together, under the umbrella group Campaign for a Fair Settlement, basically sold out these same homeowners when they threw in their lot with Eric Schneiderman and his Potemkin task force, squandering whatever leverage was gained over banks for their abuses of property laws. I don’t trust the instincts of these people, nor do I trust that the protests will amount to anything of value, and I fear that elements of the Occupy Our Homes movement, who stayed overnight in front of DoJ, are being misled by bad leadership. But at some level, this exists on a continuum with the labor strikes; desperate actions by desperate people fighting a rigged economic system and their own government’s implication in the policies that support it. And what happens in the clip below to Carmen Pittman, an Occupy Our Homes fighter in Atlanta who spent a year saving her house from JPMorgan Chase, is indicative of how the state reacts to these flares of unrest:

Digby summons the requisite outrage at this; that it happened on the steps of the Department of Justice makes it all the more shameful. Unfortunately, if this doesn’t connect to an actual strategy to build power, it’s just ritual pulverizing. And I don’t know if the galvanizing power of outrage even exists anymore in America – the famous pepper sprayer at UC-Davis was basically a one-day story. But I include it because it’s worth noting what happens to non-elites when they step outside carefully constructed lines of polite dissent.

Whatever you think of the value of public protest or one-day strikes with set time limits, I see them as part of a stirring. Occupy and Wisconsin and what’s happening right now in North Carolina (about 60 civil rights activists get arrested every Monday to protest the actions of their state legislature) fit within that context as well. These vapors circling around the country don’t have to form into a solid mass, and they won’t without a lot of clever, savvy organizing and strategizing. But the conditions do exist for it to happen. Life still retains the ability to surprise.

Follow me @DavidMizner

Crossposted from Rogue Nation.

When I moved to DC at in January 1993, I was a partisan liberal Democrat who thought the Republican Party was the country's central problem. When I moved away from DC in 1996, I was an unaligned leftist who thought corporate power's stranglehold on the political system was the country's central problem. What happened?

At the highest levels of government, the power to decide things has gravitated from the many to the few, just as ordinary citizens suspect. Instead of popular will, the government now responds more often to narrow webs of power -- the interests of major economic organizations and concentrated wealth and influential elites surrounding them. These organizations and individuals manage to shape the largest outcomes to the extent anyone does, while they neutralize and deflect what ordinary people think and believe.
The most obvious thing that happened was Bill Clinton's presidency. I hadn't been a supporter in the primary, finding him cynical and hollow even for a pol. It was one thing to have a bad position or three; it was another to traffic in right-wing racist populism by flying to Arkansas to preside over the killing of a mentally addled black man. Still, I had hope that he possessed, along with the bad kind of populism, some of the good kind. Alas, it was not to be. He hired Robert Rubin, pushed NAFTA, and the rest is (current) history.
In place of meaningful democracy, the political community has embraced a permissive culture of false appearances. Government responds to the public's desires with an artful dance of symbolic gestures--hollow laws that are emptied of serious content in the private bargaining of Washington. Promises are made and never kept. Laws and enacted and never enforced. When ordinary people organize themselves to confront the deception, they find themselves too marginalized to make much of a difference.
Another thing that happened was that I got a job at People for the American Way. Getting paid to oppose the Christian Right? Hell, yeah; I'd watched the '92 Republican National Convention along with everyone else. Yet I came to believe that this kind of reactive, look-at-those-freaks politics was no way to secure rights, much less win a class war. I also concluded that PFAW was weaker for working within the Democratic Party. Among PFAW's "principles" was the belief that pols shouldn't claim Godly sanction for their policy views. It just doesn't matter what position someone claims God backs. This kind of WWJD rhetoric cheapens religion and corrupts politics: at least that was what PFAW said it believed. So when Clinton went into a church and said his crime bill, the one that expanded the federal death penalty, was the "will of God," I naively suggested we condemn him. My superiors looked at me as if I'd said The 700 Club was quality programming. The partisan game, wasn't for me.
The practical result is a lawless government — a reality no one in power wishes to face squarely since all are implicated, on way or another. The clear standards that citizens expect from law — firm definitions of right and wrong, commandments of thou shalt or thou shalt not — are corrupted by a fog of tentative declarations of intent. The classical sense of law is lost in sliding scales of targets and goals, acceptable tolerances and negotiated exceptions, discretionary enforcement and discretionary compliance.
Something else that happened was Waco. No, I'm not suggesting that Janet Reno intentionally killed people. I'm not even talking about the event itself but rather the hearings. I watched, rapt and horrified, as Congressman Schumer, protecting the administration, bullied and insulted people whose children had died. Whose side was I on? Not his, never on his.
The usual story of great powers is that sooner or later, when the glory faded, they sank into social decay and bitterness. That is the usual ending for a political system that persistently ignores reality, and for a people who become alienated from their own values...The present generation and the next, in other words, must find tangible way to reinvigorate the social faith in the promise of democracy. The nation's sense of its own continuing search for something better is endangered and, without that civic faith, this nation is in deep trouble. If democratic character is lost, America has the potential to deteriorate into a rather brutish place, ruled by naked power and random social aggression.
Another thing that happened: in 1993, William Grieder's Who Will Tell the People? came out in paperback, and I read it. This masterwork confirmed what I feared to be true about the government, providing fact-based narratives as proof. A polemic, yes, but also a work of reportage that is, sadly, still relevant. I reread it recently and discovered that despite dated period detail, it still vividly and accurately describes the country's predicament. If anything, it seems understated because the problems he examined have only deepened.  
My encounters as a reporter with ordinary citizens have led to optimism about the potential for democratic renewal...Ordinary people do assert themselves despite the obstacles. Rehabilitating democracy will require citizens to devote themselves first to challenging the status quo, disrupting the existing contours of power and opening the way for renewal.

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These days, few liberals are willing to directly defend drones. This is a victory of sorts for opponents of drone warfare, whose work exposing its horror has made it difficult for any kind of liberal (Joe Klein, the neoliberal sociopath, doesn't count) to be triumphalist about American killing by remote control. It's tough to shake poms poms in the face of dead and maimed children. The truth is beginning to prevail over government propaganda.

That's not say, however, that there's been a surge in opposition from progressives and Democrats, only that expressions of support have become muted. The argument most commonly used to defend drones is some version of: Drones are no worse than other weapons, maybe even better, so what's the fuss about? Often this argument is preceded by a tentative objection, as in Hey, I don't like drones either.

When people depict drone warfare as a "humanitarian advance" or argue that it's no worse than other kinds, often their purpose is to try to normalize it and depict critics as eccentric and irrational, fetishists. Why're you so obsessed with the method of killing? I can't tell you how many times I've seen some variation of Scott Lemieux's comment:

[K]illing people with drones is a million times worse than killing them with conventional bombing operations, because…why was that again?
Oh, those silly critics of drone warfare. Never mind that not one of them has ever said killing someone with a drone is worse than killing her the old-fashioned way, it's a savvyish line of argument, because it allows Lemieux and his ilk to assume an antiwar pose while playing down a form of war. Call it the sophisticated dodge.

Sophistry like this calls for an extended response:

It's the government that has made drones a big issue.
Obama, even more than Bush, has made drones integral to U.S. "defense" policy. Drones are the primary killing tool in the U.S.'s dirty wars in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The U.S. used them extensively during NATO's regime change operation in Libya and drones are flying over Libya right now as part of the effort of the United States to bring the Benghazi attackers "to justice." They're set to be an integral part of the next phase of the U.S. War on Terror, which those in charge are creepily calling the "disposition matrix."

In response to expressions of outrage over drone attacks that kill children and other civilians, defenders say things like, would it matter if they'd been killed by sniper fire? Short answer: of course not. (Note, too, that with arguments like this, it's defenders, not opponents, who are changing the subject from killing to the method of killing.) If the United States were using nail-guns to kill people without due process, terrorize and kill civilians, violate international law, and wage dirty wars, then opponents of war would focus on nail-guns.  

In fact, one of the most widely discussed and lamented acts of violence during the Obama presidency is the attack that killed 40 plus civilians, including 21 children, in Yemen in December 2009. The weapon was not a hellfire missile shot from a drone but a cruise missile carrying cluster munitions shot from a aircraft carrier. Well-known drone fetishist Jeremy Scahill did nothing less than co-produce a film about this incident.

The very people speaking out against drones also speak out against other forms of American violence overseas. On the other hand -- and let me try to put this gently -- the people playing down drone attacks aren't generally well-known for their opposition to, say, the war in Afghanistan or militarism generally. Drone critic critic Bob Cesca says that the priorities in this debate should be "civil liberties and war powers," as if someone had argued otherwise. But Cesca hardly writes about civil liberties or war powers except in the context of complaining about what he calls "drone hysteria." There might be a well-known antiwar activist or writer chiding drone critics, but I'm not aware of one -- are you?

Opponents of war must talk about drones, because they're what's for breakfast:

Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’—reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.
Tell me again: who are the fetishists?

'More accurate' does not mean 'acceptable'
The notion that drone strikes are "surgical" is spin. Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have died in drone strikes. Reporting on drone strikes is notoriously difficult, but last year one credible source reported that as many as 881 civilians had died in Pakistan alone. A study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law found that only 2% of casualties in Pakistan have been high-level targets.

But even if drones are more precise than other weapons, its relative accuracy wouldn't legitimize even a single strike, much less thousands. A knife is an accurate weapon, but a knife-stabbing could still be wrong and illegal.

Or consider this: A man who's had eleven bourbons "has to" drive home in the snow, so his friend offers him her brand new Suburu Outback, which is better in the snow than his '77 Gremlin with the bald tires. In the Outback, he would pose less of a threat to other drivers and to himself, but that fact doesn't make driving home wise or ethical. The man, his friend, and everyone else at the party need to challenge the assumption that he has to drive home.

To say that a drone strike is more accurate killing tool only works as a defense if it's a fact that the United States must go to great lengths to kill people all over the world in the name of fighting terrorism. As Greenwald says, drone defenders:

...tacitly embrace the unexamined assumption that the US is inevitably going to engage in aggression and kill Muslims, and then pat themselves on the back for cheering for the way that kills the fewest (I support drones because they're better than full-scale invasions; I support sanctions because they're better than air strikes). They are seemingly incapable of conceiving of a third alternative: that the US could or should refrain from killing innocent people in predominantly Muslim countries.
Chris Hayes has more:
This narrow choice between big violence and smaller violence shows, I think, just how fully we have all implicitly adopted the conceptual framework of the War on Terror, how much George W. Bush’s advisers continue to set the terms of our thinking years after they’d been dispatched from office. Because that argument presupposes that we are at war and must continue to be at war until an ill-defined enemy is vanquished. What, people ask, is the alternative to small war, if not big war? And the answer no one ever seems to even consider is: no war.

If the existence of people out in the world who are actively working to kill Americans means we are still at war, then it seems to me we will be at war forever, and will surrender control over whether that is the state we do in fact want to be in. There’s another alternative: we can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks.

It's not necessary to oppose the so-called war on terror to oppose the way the U.S. is using drones -- more on that below -- but the plausible, or plausible-seeming, defenses of US "targeted killings" hinge on the premise that the U.S. global war against AQ and "associated forces" is legitimate. Which is why liberal defenders often liken the battle against AQ to World War II -- just the sort of Bushian rhetorical ploy liberals used to mock.

Under Bush, most liberals and many Democrats rejected the notion that the United States ought to fight an open-ended global war against AQ, and this view was hardly relegated to the hippie fringe. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic candidate for president, likened AQ to a criminal enterprise. He reversed himself in the face of criticism, but the criticism came from the right, not from liberals like Harold Koh, now a willing warrior in Bush's global war on terror.

The Method of Killing Does, In Fact, Matter

In response to critics of the U.S. drone wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen, liberals defenders are apt to say something like: It's better than a ground invasion. Or: would you prefer carpet bombing? If I haven't already made myself clear, listen up: I'D PREFER NO WAR!

Sure, if you accept that there must be war, then drones look OK by those sorry standards. But drones are really the only choice. The fact is, the United States isn't going to invade Yemen or unleash massive conventional air power on Somalia. Because drone warfare poses no immediate danger to Americans and no risk of a hostage crisis (there are no pilots to be shot down), because it is -- or perceived to be -- more accurate than other forms of killing, it's really the only option. (That, and, to a lesser degree, special ops.)

Which is to say that drones are enabling war.

There exists a danger that the political ease with which these systems can be deployed, and their future potential to deliver even more precise effect, might encourage the normalisation of the use of violence in response to crisis and conflict.
That grim future, I'd argue, has already arrived. And so would Rosa Brooks, who worked in the Defense Department from 2009 to 2011.
The trouble with drones is that they make it a little too tempting to use force. When you have a nifty tool that allows you to deniably knock off potential bad guys with no risk, why wouldn't you use it more and more? Thus, we've seen drone strikes evolve in the last decade, from a tool used in limited circumstances to go after specifically identified high-ranking al Qaeda officials to a tool relied on in an increasing number of countries to go after an eternally lengthening list of putative bad guys, some identified by name, others targeted on the basis of suspicious behavior patterns, with an increasingly tenuous link to grave or imminent threats to the United States.
So when defenders -- or, for that matter, opponents -- argue, as I have, that the kind of weapon used in an attack is irrelevant, that's true only in terms of the morality and legality of the attack. In terms of the overall level of violence and future of warfare, the rise of the drones is relevant indeed. It makes bloodshed more likely.

It's Not Drones; It's the Way The Government is Using Them

Whether a weapon can be intrinsically immoral (a nuclear bomb?) is an interesting philosophical question. Whatever the answer, there wouldn't be much opposition to drones if the U.S. government were storing them in hangar somewhere, or using them in extremely rare cases.

At issue, of course, is how the U.S is using them. Try to reconcile the following with the claim that the US drone program is humane.

Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.
If a organization or some other non-state actor were doing this, its name would be obvious: terrorism. That's what Digby calls it:
[T]o the extent we talk about it in anything but hushed tones and without any detail, we are talking about how "careful" we are to only kill the "bad guys" with our precise hi-tech weapons. But how different is it, really, from an Islamic extremist setting off a bomb in a shopping center where a politician might be present? Would the effect on the civilian population be any different here than the drone attacks in Pakistan?
And to the extent that we talk about drone warfare, we focus on "targeted killings" in which the government attempts to whack a suspected terrorist on its kill list. But many, perhaps most, drone attacks have been "signature strikes." That's when the government tries to kill someone who seems like a terrorist because his behavior. That is, the government doesn't know who the target is. The best evidence suggests (government secrecy precludes definitive determinations) that many US signature strikes have violated international law. In any case, the high probability of killing civilians make them egregiously immoral.

President Obama reportedly had an initial aversion to signature strikes, but he nonetheless ordered them in Pakistan and then authorized them in Yemen.

One of the more disturbing recent revelations into White House foreign policy decision-making is that President Obama authorized targeted drone strikes while unaware that he had actually authorized signature strikes. According to Daniel Klaidman, when Obama was first made aware of signature strikes, the CIA’s deputy director clarified: “Mr. President, we can see that there are a lot of military-age males down there, men associated with terrorist activity, but we don’t necessarily know who they are.” Obama reacted sharply, “That’s not good enough for me.” According to one adviser describing the president’s unease: “‘He would squirm…he didn’t like the idea of kill ‘em and sort it out later.’” Like other controversial counterterrorism policies inherited by Obama, it did end up “good enough,” since he allowed the practice to stand in Pakistan, and in April authorized the CIA and JSOC to conduct signature strikes in Yemen as well.
"Kill ‘em and sort it out later." It's no wonder that, as McClatchy reported, U.S. drones have killed hundreds of Pakistani who posed no threat to the United States, revealing as a lie the Obama administration's claim that it's targeted only AQ leaders. But then the claim is, has always been, incompatible with signature strikes.

We can argue about the killing of high-level AQ via strikes that pose little threat to civilians, but the reality is that between signature strikes and the killing of funeralgoers and rescuers and attacks on groups that didn't even exist on 9-11, the War of Terror is a different kind of beast altogether. Rosa Brooks sums it up well when she writes of "unknown numbers of unnamed people executed by the United States for unspecified reasons in unacknowledged drone strikes, with no safeguard against abuse (or simple mistake) beyond the good faith and good sense of executive branch officials."

Brooks touches on the secrecy of the drone war. The call for transparency may seem like a sideshow, a demand of establishment "opponents" and good government types who don't want to directly oppose the war, and it can be that. But the secrecy cloaking the drone-based dirty wars helps to sustain them and, as Charles Pierce points out, poses a particularly insidious threat to the country.

...[S]ecret wars, waged by the Executive branch beyond the reach of congressional oversight, inevitably lead to a deep and abiding corruption in the government of this country. It is unavoidable now. It was unavoidable in the 1980's, when Reagan and his band of geopolitical fantasts were running amok in Central America...

Secret war is anathema to free government. Period. Now, you can argue that it's necessary, that the world has changed, that dangers come upon us too quickly, that the length and breadth of the evil in the world has made the perils Madison described quaint and irrelevant. You can do all that and people will applaud you and elect you president. But you cannot make the argument that secret wars conducted by the Executive are consonant with constitutional government, because they are not, and they never will be, and because, sooner or later, you wind up lying about the rape and murder of nuns.

The drone wars have gotten so out of hand that even many tuffonterra types who basically support the war on terror, including members of the military, believe that the U.S. relies on them too heavily.
During his confirmation hearing to become the director of central intelligence, John Brennan repeated his prior pledge regarding al Qaeda -- "We will destroy that organization" -- which, according to the latest State Department estimates, is growing to thousands of individuals among its various "affiliates." This current U.S. counterterrorism strategy of "mowing the grass" (as it's indelicately called) through indefinite drone strikes, without thinking through the likely second- and third-order effects, will never achieve its strategic objectives. This highlights the question military planning staffs will pose to civilian policymakers who ask about bombing a target or individual: "And then what?" In the case of a campaign of drone strikes, the answer these military planners see is more drone strikes.
Mowing the grass: how disturbingly apt. And now a number of former military leaders are making like Susan Sontag or Chalmers Johnson and pointing out that drone attacks are breeding terrorism. They've come to realize the obvious: that there's no such thing as risk-free war, and that there's no form of American violence that won't produce anti-American violence.

Opposition to the drone war from Serious Members of the Establishment offers a less-bad-than-usual chance to roll back the U.S. killing machine. "Antiwar" liberals who depict opposition to it as irrational aren't helping.


I recently signed up for Twitter (@DavidMizner). The influx of info and verbiage is a bit overwhelming, at least for me, but on Twitter you're privy to valuable links and interesting exchanges, like this one between Zaid Jilani and Chris Bowers. Jilani calls out Bowers for not running campaigns on drones and the NDAA. To which Bowers says:

I don't do campaigns that will flop due to lack of interest.
To which I reply: hunh? There's clearly considerable interest here. Jesselyn Radack has placed more than 250 posts about counterterrorism abuses on the rec list, including many specifically about drones and targeted killing. I, too, often write about the War of Terror (or I did when I was posting here frequently), and many of them were well received. One on the NDAA hit the top of the rec list. Opposition to the 2012 NDAA was widespread and loud. Many popular diarists here -- like OPOL, Joe Shickspack, and Joanneleon -- often focus on this stuff, as do some, if not all, of the site's beloved cartoonists.

Interest here in the War of Terror is medium wide and quite deep; many of the people who care care a lot, as evidenced by the massive response to Armando's post defending President Obama's policy on drones. Certainly, issues like fighting austerity and gay rights attract wider interest. But consider some of the issues Daily Kos has chosen for campaigns. Was there great interest in trying to prevent President Obama from naming Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense? Or in urging the FEC to investigate Michelle Bachman?

In the back and forth, Bowers said he's a listener, not a leader, so please listen up. The U.S. War on Terror -- which is really a collection of secret, dirty undeclared wars -- is doing incalculable damage. It's killing children and other civilians, terrorizing entire communities, undermining constitutional and human rights, bringing the U.S. government into close alliance with tyrants and war lords, making a mockery of U.S. democracy, and feeding the National Security State and those who benefit from it, such as defense contractors. Like all war, it's killing the poor while enriching the rich. Oh, and it's also putting Americans in danger, as no less an establishment-man than Tom Brokaw has acknowledged:

...[W]e also have to examine the use of drones that the United States is involved--and there are a lot of civilians who are innocently killed in a drone attack in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq. And I can tell you having spent a lot of time over there, young people will come up to me on the streets and say,  we love America, but if you harm one hair on the head of my sister, I will fight you forever and there is this enormous rage against what they see in that part of the world as a presumptuousness of the United States.
And trust me, Chris, many of us care.
Preview of Rich Rowley's and Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars:

This guy, not Groucho.

Sign of the times. Capitalism's flaws have become so manifest, the suffering so widespread, that a corporate publication is praising Marx.

With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.

A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right. It is sadly all too easy to find statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. A September study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington noted that the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the U.S. in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973. Between 1983 and 2010, 74% of the gains in wealth in the U.S. went to the richest 5%, while the bottom 60% suffered a decline, the EPI calculated. No wonder some have given the 19th century German philosopher a second look.

This being Time Magazine, I expected the author to beat a furious retreat and explain all the ways that Marx was wrong, dangerous, and smelly, and there's a little of that, but to the author's credit, he points out that...
...current economic policy continues to fuel class tensions... Debt-burdened governments in Europe have slashed welfare programs even as joblessness has risen and growth sagged. In most cases, the solution chosen to repair capitalism has been more capitalism. Policymakers in Rome, Madrid and Athens are being pressured by bondholders to dismantle protection for workers and further deregulate domestic markets. Owen Jones, the British author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, calls this “a class war from above.”
No word in the piece on "class warfare from above" in the United States, but what do you want from Time/Time Inc/Time Warner?

The author point outs, reasonably, that that "there are few to stand in the way" of the ruling class's war, citing the decline of labor unions. But he doesn't note the bubbling activism on the left (other than to say OWS "fizzled") or the rise of anti-capitalism in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere or the increasing class consciousness, of which his own piece is an example.

Yet he ends by mentioning a possibility he calls scary and I call the humankind's best hope: that if policy makers don't address poverty and economic inequality, "the workers of the world may just unite. Marx may yet have his revenge."

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