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I have always been an idealist. If you look up Pollyanna in the dictionary, you'll probably see my picture.

I've also been naive, at least about some things. It just never occurred to me that people could have a motive other than doing the right thing. And I usually assumed that things were as they appeared, just because that's usually the way I operated, so didn't everybody? And if someone said something, didn't they really mean it?

Then, some years ago, I began to get seriously involved in politics. As in, volunteering for campaigns, activism, donating, and then blogging and writing and building opinion web sites and the whole thing. I made some good friends along the way, and began to ask them for the "insider viewpoint" on events and people.

We had a situation locally where a pro-union bill came before a legislative body, and one elected Democratic official not known for being especially union-friendly came out as a major sponsor. He made some strong comments to the press, garnered lots of favorable attention as a result. I asked one of my more astute friends what was going on, and he reminded me that this elected official was beginning to run for a certain office, and one of his opponents was another Democrat who tried to walk a line between unions and business. My friend noted that the first official was trying to make it so the second one had to take a stand, and either piss off his business supporters or give up any hope of getting union support.

My friend continued, "We're being played." When I asked him if the reality could be that cynical, he said something I've never forgotten:

Bruce, in politics there is usually a stated reason for something, and then there's the real reason. Your job is to keep your eyes open and look around for the real reason. Who benefits? Who gets hurt? Where's the money? Who is meeting, and with whom?
So, even as we look at the NSA controversy and other issues and decisions, I think we need to constantly be on the lookout, asking ourselves: Are we being played?

More below the circuitous path.

We recently had a whiplash moment in the Bluegrass, when a tape of a Mitch McConnell strategy session was released to Mother Jones. It generated a brief spate of negative attention for McConnell, only to be superseded by both the McConnell spin ("I'm a victim of Watergate-style tricks!") and the revelation that the tape came from a certain activist previously associated with Progress Kentucky, the PAC working to defeat McConnell.

I won't go through the whole episode -- it is still playing out, and it's painful to realize that McConnell successfully became the victim in it -- but one thing intrigued me along the way. As local media worked their way from person to person to figure out who did the taping, my question was "who put them onto the first person to call?" It wasn't necessarily the obvious person you would start with if you were a reporter. Someone tipped them off, for reasons many of us could speculate about. While most people were focused on the story of the taping, I was wondering what behind-the-scenes figure started the story rolling, and why. In my opinion, the media got played.

Now here we are, with secret documents rolling into the media's hands like manna from heaven, and stories popping one after another. Even as I try to keep up, and try to understand both the law and the rationale, and even as I worry about our 4th Amendment rights, I am also asking myself: "Are we being played?"

Who benefits from these leaks? Could Republicans be behind the leaks in order to discredit Obama just as the immigration debate is starting? Could this be a preemptive strike to get Democrats so disgusted with their own party and administration that they bail on the 2014 election? Or, are there factions within the NSA, or the security system itself, that want to see another group shot down and shut down?

Or let's take another place near and dear to our hearts: Daily Kos itself. Does it ever occur to you that some people posting diaries might be doing it for no good end? Are you sure that story you are reccing is both factual and on point? Or, is it a great story that is sure to get progressives riled up, firing off petitions and contacting their Congress-critter, only to find out that it's a distortion or even a hoax? When you see a story, do you ever stop to think "Who benefits from this?"

Have I become completely cynical? Have I completely bought into my friend's dichotomy between the stated reason and the real reason? No, I have not. I still believe there are good and honest people, in all the branches of our government as well as non-profits and business, who say what they mean and mean what they say. I believe that some leakers and whistleblowers are truly altruistic and idealistic.

But I also have become less naive, less willing to take people and stories at face value. I think it is an attribute we all need to cultivate, both in our dealings here and in activism in general.

As my friend also said,

If you're going to play politics with the big boys, you'd better learn to look around, observe, and put things together -- because they sure are.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips ... (32+ / 0-)

    ... for being both idealistic and realistic, both open and observant.

    Bruce in Louisville
    Visit me at brucemaples.com, brucewriter.com, or ThreePols.com
    Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

    by bmaples on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 06:33:11 PM PDT

  •  Depends on which diaries posted here (14+ / 0-)

    you're referring to.

    The ones "yawning," smearing people instead of addressing the core issues, and otherwise advocating complacency rather than oversight and accountability, do indeed have me questioning the motives of some here.




    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
    ~ Jerry Garcia

    by DeadHead on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 06:58:47 PM PDT

    •  There is a good flow of ideas here (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, Yasuragi

      Most of us ignore the most blatant approval as well as the disrespect. I tend to look for diaries that are interesting and informative rather than emotional. Diaries on climate change tend to be the first thing I look for.

      I don't think we are being played on Obama or Snowden or anything coming from the small set of Dem Senators we trust. We take it for granted that anything sourced to Republicans is just out there to make your skin crawl.

      We know who our heros are and why. Most of us would not trade freedom for security and or wealth and or anything else but we do appreciate finesse and subtle feints. We won't enter the end game until the next Supreme Court pick. After that all the bullshit will slowly begin to fall by the wayside.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 06:07:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this, Bruce. (12+ / 0-)

    To not consider your point would be extremely naive. I wish it wasn't. But given what we know about the Roves and Kochs of this world, nothing would surprise me.

    The pieces of this puzzle could be being played. Or not. To discount it seems just as foolhardy as jumping to conclusions before the facts are in.

    That said, I hope we're not being played. It's bad enough as it is. Being played at this level, on an issue of such vital importance, crosses the line into evil.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

    by Onomastic on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 06:59:02 PM PDT

    •  What's the old saying? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, Diogenes2008, Yasuragi

      Money talks. Bullshit walks.

      Or something like that.

      •  The level of deception and game playing (10+ / 0-)

        coming out of vested interests is mind boggling. Connect that up with vested interests' favorite politicians and it becomes even more so. Add in political and power lust and it leaps 100 fold.

        I really hate it. It breaks trust so badly.

        Sorry. It's late and I'm tired.

        Perhaps, another old saying would work as well.

        "Follow the money."

        "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

        by Onomastic on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:10:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's the old saying. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Diogenes2008, Yasuragi, Onomastic

          I'm tired, too. And on steroids (prescribed). So I understand.

          Thanks for getting it right.

        •  Always intrigues me (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Onomastic, indubitably, CroneWit, Yasuragi

          how hyperventilating letters and emails are always followed by an appeal for money.

          I understand it, to some extent -- but it would be easier to believe they were really upset if they just asked for action, and not money.

          Bruce in Louisville
          Visit me at brucemaples.com, brucewriter.com, or ThreePols.com
          Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

          by bmaples on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:26:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  A brilliant person whom I worked for once (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pluto, Onomastic, CroneWit, Yasuragi, bmaples

          Told me: "It's always about the money."

          It really doesn't matter what m boss and I did for a living. I've wandered from that career path and found that no matter where I ended up, he was always right.

          If there's power, influence or money involved in any way (even amounts you'd think were ridiculously small) then it's always about the money.

          This simple truth has served me well in life and has allowed me to see through all the smoke and mirrors. Who benefits? Who profits? How much?

          Look at guys like Mitt Romney or the Kochs: more money than God. But they still want more. Power is nothing but gain not yet realized

          © grover


          So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

          by grover on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 09:48:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Money is a means to power and power is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Yasuragi

            the means to control.

            You may find this article on the hydra connections between Silicon Valley, its big money players, and the government interesting.

            ....In-Q-Tel’s highest profile investment is Palantir – the data mining firm founded with additional money from Valley uber-Libertarian Peter Thiel – but the venture firm’s entire portfolio includes over 100 companies, all reflecting the CIA’s current big obsessions: “big data,” video surveillance and encryption....

            .....For a more direct example of Arrington embracing the technology he calls on others to resist, you have to look to a company called Skybox Imaging, which raised $70 million from a number of major Silicon Valley investment firms including CrunchFund. Skybox plans to put 24 satellites into orbit in order to “empower commercial and government customers to make more informed, data-driven decisions that will improve the profitability of companies and the welfare of societies around the world.”

            If that line about improving “the welfare of societies” didn’t creep you out, the company’s list of advisors certainly will. Step forward Jeff Harris, Former Director of National Reconnaissance Office and Lt. Gen David Deptula, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.......

            http://pandodaily.com/...

            "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

            by Onomastic on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 11:04:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Oh dear. (5+ / 0-)

    Someone on Daily Kos is as suspicious as I am about these kinds of leaks and headlines and revelations that vanish in the mist and such.

    I guess the lesson might be beware the mighty wurlitzer ...

  •  I tipped you for trying to look at the big picture (12+ / 0-)

    I struggle with questions, too.  It's good to look at other possibilities.  It's possible this NSA leak is some kind of GOP game.  I don't really think so, based on past national history.  I think what we are seeing is an unsustainable system starting to come apart at the seams and it is happening all over the world.

    •  Agreed. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yasuragi, Onomastic, zett, Larsstephens

      I'm still, however, suspicious of the big huff. But I'm suspicious of quite a bit of it.

    •  That's a REALLY bigger picture. (6+ / 0-)

      I have thought about that, and it deserves its own diary -- or book, as the case may be.

      Thank you for pointing it out, though. There may be trends here, systems here, that are beyond our ability to either analyze or control. We shall see.

      I hope, though, that the unraveling doesn't include representative democracy. That's a Dark Ages I do not wish to return to.

      Bruce in Louisville
      Visit me at brucemaples.com, brucewriter.com, or ThreePols.com
      Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

      by bmaples on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:34:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortunately, we're too far down the path now ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CroneWit

        to avoid the inevitable return of some form of "Dark Ages".  The trouble-makers outnumber the good folks by far, and it won't be too much longer now before they achieve what they seek.  Too bad they're too ignorant to understand what they're really in for.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:46:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well the FBI Was Planting Operatives in Leftist (12+ / 0-)

    organizations in the 60's and maybe 50's not merely to spy on them but to goad them into action that would get them discredited; so yes, always there are many situations in which we're being played.

    I watched police undercover operatives trigger one of the largest riots in modern Ohio history in 1970, by posing as students and blockading a public road in front of a large police presence. The identity of the operatives was later established in court with an acquaintance of mine one of the witnesses, so I'm not guessing about it.

    It's been known for years that conservative organizations pay people to call talk radio and participate on blogs to push rightwing views and trip up the left. Add to them conservative Democrats, and then whatever state and corporate actors there may be here, yeah not much doubt we get played from time to time.

    There are certainly times conservative ideas are advanced here openly and directly too.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:14:36 PM PDT

  •  Yes, we're being played... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indubitably, bmaples

    ...but the reasons for the play can vary from the deeply jaded and cynical to the outright tragic.

    In our town, we've got a lady in council who is waffling on issues and votes in the year before election that previously were a slam-dunk, to our great exasperation. I suspect she's looking for a broader base of support in order to fight against a popular challenger. She also has cancer, and stands to lose medical benefits if she loses the election.

    •  Not sure that is playing the cynical game (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, indubitably

      as much as it is just trying to broaden her base. But, it is still frustrating. And usually doesn't work, in the times I've observed it.

      Bruce in Louisville
      Visit me at brucemaples.com, brucewriter.com, or ThreePols.com
      Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

      by bmaples on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:31:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anything's possible I guess (8+ / 0-)

    Maybe Obama secretly engineered the leak himself in order to create widespread public opposition as cover for eventually shutting down the program without revealing his true liberal nature.

    Now that would really be 11-dimensional chess!

    •  I've wondered about that, a little (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, indubitably, grover, Yasuragi

      Just like some of us wondered if McConnell figured that the PK people might try to listen to his meeting from the hallway, and intentionally spoke loudly about what he would do to Ashley Judd, then threw them to the media reporter once it happened.

      Of course, Occam's Razor applies here too, so I tend to go with the "McConnell is a sleazy operator" option instead.

      Bruce in Louisville
      Visit me at brucemaples.com, brucewriter.com, or ThreePols.com
      Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

      by bmaples on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:30:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Occams' Razor? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Onomastic, Yasuragi

        Or just objective observable scientifically-proven fact?

        McConnell is a sleazy operator

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 10:02:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well, the latest CT fad (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic

      I've heard about claims that Snowden is a CIA agent, or something like that.

      So, yes, anything is possible with the right amount of imagination.




      Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
      ~ Jerry Garcia

      by DeadHead on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 08:02:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very little in politics, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indubitably, Onomastic, CroneWit, Yasuragi

    and even less in intelligence, is what it appears to be from the outside. Even with the best of intentions, both are about playing people.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:41:46 PM PDT

  •  I think we are but in more ways than you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kbman, DeadHead, CroneWit

    might think.  It's not just politics involved, it's the imperialist foreign policy agenda, the war on terror, the Asian pivot and China, the national security and military industrial complexes among other things.  The public is being conditioned to accept things, as always.

    "America is the Terror State. The Global War OF Terror is a diabolical instrument of Worldwide conquest."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:44:38 PM PDT

  •  Yes, we are being played by the NSA and their... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angryallen, DeadHead, CroneWit

    ...enablers.

    Stop the NRA and the NSA
    Repeal the Patriot Act and the 2nd Amendment

    by dream weaver on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:53:49 PM PDT

  •  Cui bono, eh? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Onomastic, CroneWit, bmaples, Yasuragi

    Over the past few weeks,  so much has emerged on so many fronts that it's hard not to imagine that your thesis is a real possibility. Before the 2008 election I remember reading about all the Bush appointees and lesser bureaucrats who were "burrowing"  - I believe that's the accepted term - into their various positions so that no matter who was elected they would be there for years to come. While Obama and some of the Dems have certainly aided and abetted, I cannot recall a time with so many ill-founded accusations and outright lies clogging the national arteries. And all emerging one after the other in a rapidfire game of domestic dominoes.  Will the public even know that,  for starters, Issa's IRS witchhunt has been completely disproven, thanks to Cong. Cummings release of hearing transcripts?
    The most serious of these, the Snowden story,  is still unfolding. I'm left wondering if any President is given the complete picture when it comes to NSA and the rest of the alphabet soup. To mix metaphors, the barbarians are through the gate and are now running the asylum.

    •  Thanks for the reminder about the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yasuragi, northerntier

      "burrowing" in of the Bush appointees, etc.

      That is something that should not be forgotten, especially given Karl Rove's tentacles.

      I can't remember a time of so much scandal mongering either, and that's after living through the Clinton years.

      And MSM plays right along.

      Yeah, something smells.

      "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

      by Onomastic on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 12:30:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You raise some good questions and leave me (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, Onomastic, CroneWit, Yasuragi

    wondering if it is possible to become too cynical when considering our government.

    I have tried very hard to make no judgements about Snowden, the NSA and PRISM because I realize that I don't have all the facts. There is simply too much I don't know, can't know and will have to wait and learn.

    Doesn't mean I don't think about the issues involved, or don't care.

    I bought a cookbook today, an enhanced ebook, that contained multiple pressure cooker recipes. I've never owned one so I started looking for one online, wondering if entering the term 'electric pressure cooker' would offer any protection. There was a time when I would have found that thought process to be a good foundation for humor. Now I simply don't know.

    That is the first time that has happened to me. I had to stop and think about our national security apparatus.

    I would much rather we were being played than living in a country where stray thoughts like that occur to those of us accustomed to functioning in a reality based world.

    •  My sources of hope (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, CroneWit, bmaples, Yasuragi

      I have some sources of hope:

      1. I consider it very likely that there are a lot of good Americans behind the scenes. 1 or 2 good Americans for every 8 or 9 assholes would be good enough for me.

      2. There are many clashes among the money- and power-hungry. In their attempts to destroy one another, we can hope for nuggets of truth.

      3. Sinister plots that require mass coordination are terribly difficult to keep under wraps.

      "The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn’s early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what’s going on in our collective life." (Garret Keizer)

      by Couch Activist on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 01:22:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  #3 is a key point. (0+ / 0-)

        You have to decrease the likelihood of success exponentially for every extra person included.

        Unless ...

        You use cutouts, so that no one knows the whole picture.

        I continue to share the same points of hope, though.

        Bruce in Louisville
        Visit me at brucemaples.com, brucewriter.com, or ThreePols.com
        Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

        by bmaples on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 01:07:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Someone wise just said this week, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Onomastic, CroneWit, Yasuragi

    You shouldn't always assume good faith here on daily kos.

    I think it's a true observation and excellent advice.

    I would add that certainly shouldn't let anything you read here disillusion you or dissuade you from acting according to your strongly held beliefs.

    I am quite certain that some here strive to demoralize  because 1) they authentically disagree with what many of us believe, 2) they get their jollies from screwing around with people or 3) they are in fact working for the other side.

    Regardless of their motivations, it's absurd that I would let a total stranger on the internet affect my mood for five minutes , much less change my opinion about what is worth working for.

    If either of these happen, it's time to log off for a while.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 09:58:39 PM PDT

    •  I'm always willing to believe that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grover, Onomastic

      possibility... what I'm not willing to do is be called "a shill" and not push back.

      "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox." -- Willie Stargell

      by Yasuragi on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 01:11:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nah, Yas, you aren't someone I doubt... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yasuragi, Onomastic

        But maybe that shows what a brilliant actor you are.

        /running and ducking.

        ;)

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 04:11:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It doesn't matter much to me if (4+ / 0-)

    I'm being "played". That speaks mostly about motivation.  That's a much lesser concern to me than to what the truth is.  Regarding the NSA, if Snowden is telling the truth (and I believe that its been established that he is), then I don't care who advances politically.  I care about the American people demand that it stop.  I care about the truth.  The silly games being played by operatives is about framing.

  •  Doubt it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Onomastic, CroneWit

    "Who benefits from these leaks? Could Republicans be behind the leaks in order to discredit Obama just as the immigration debate is starting? Could this be a preemptive strike to get Democrats so disgusted with their own party and administration that they bail on the 2014 election? "

    I think this transcends party lines. If it did turn out to be a Republican strategy, I'd hope that most on the left wouldn't dismiss the leaks BECAUSE of that.

    I will say this: At first I toyed with the idea that it was a hoax designed by stock-market manipulators, but that idea obviously didn't hold water for very long.

    "The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn’s early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what’s going on in our collective life." (Garret Keizer)

    by Couch Activist on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 01:01:40 AM PDT

  •  Look who is fundraising and making money off of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Onomastic

    ...this story. Once money is asked for and starts to flow in, then principle can be hard to find.

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:07:19 PM PDT

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