Just to keep a sense of perspective.
Hat tip to kottke.org.
Just to keep a sense of perspective.
Hat tip to kottke.org.
A lot of my friends, including my fellow white liberals as well as Tea Party Republicans, think that racial discrimination in the United States is a thing of the past. The only problem, as many of them see it, is the bad behavior of the black underclass.
I accept that there is such a thing as a black underclass, in which crime, addiction, ignorance and irresponsible sexual behavior are acceptable. I don’t know enough to say to what degree these are problems of the African-American culture specifically and to what degree they are problems of the larger American culture, although I suspect the latter.
But I do not believe that members of the black underclass represent African-Americans. They are not a majority of the African-American population. The black people I’m acquainted with are all middle-class professionals like myself, or struggling poor people with middle-class values. Most of them had harder struggles than I have had to get where I am. This is not something I feel guilty about. It is fact of life which I recognize.
My opinions are based partly on stories they’ve told me about how they have to shape their behavior around the fears and prejudices of what people—how they feel in danger when they encounter a police officer, or they have business in an all-white suburb, or how they have to make a special effort to seem mild-mannered because white people are afraid of aggressive black men.
A minister friend of mine told me about his brother, an aerospace engineer, who was stopped while riding his bicycle by police who believed he had committed a robbery or larceny nearby. He showed them his corporate ID to no avail; they simply assumed he had stolen somebody else’s wallet. It was only when he phoned his employer to have someone vouch for him that they believe he was who he said he was. The important thing about this story is that it happened to the same person twice, in two different cities.
I remember once when I was a reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, and was working on an article on what kinds of things people were buying as Christmas gifts that season. To make the article more readable, I went out to stores and interviewed shoppers.
I approached a well-dress black man, and was struck by his stricken here-we-go-again expression. Obviously he thought I was some kind of store official who thought I suspected him of shoplifting or something. A great expression of relief came over his face, when I identified myself and he told me what kind of computer games he was buying for his grandchildren.
The white-sheet racism that dominated so much of the country in 1963 has been pushed to the margins of society. American society has changed for the better, and white people of my generation who’ve made an effort to change their attitudes can take some of the credit for that. But racial prejudice is still a part of American life.
The video above, which shows how differently people react to a white guy, a black guy and a pretty white girl doing the same thing, is an example of this. Testers have found that a white person with a criminal record has a better chance of getting a job than a black person with a clean record. Use of illegal drugs is just as common among white people as black people, yet the vast majority of arrests and jail sentences are of poor black men.
In New York City, the police with Mayor Bloomberg’s approval engage in racial profiling—singling out young black men in poor neighborhoods to be stopped and frisked in humiliating ways. Black people that I know argue for affirmative action on the grounds that if they are singled out for bad treatment, it is only fair to get some special advantage as an offset. I oppose both racial profiling and affirmative action, but my righteous indignation is reserved for the former.
But what about the dysfunctional culture of the black underclass? I was brought up in the Christian tradition, which teaches that you should be more concerned with your own faults, the beam in your own eye, than with your neighbor’s faults, the speck in his eye.
I don’t believe that being lectured by someone like me is going to change the behavior of any black person, but maybe there is some slight possibility of influencing some of my fellow whites.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a proposed treaty being negotiated by representatives of the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations, which would create international tribunals with authority to override laws and court decisions that interfered with corporate rights.
The treaty is being negotiated in secret, but some alarming provisions have leaked out. Corporations would have allowed to ask for damages from unfair health and environmental regulations that cost them “expected profits.” Food safety laws could be overridden if they exceeded “international standards.” The U.S. Department of Energy would lose the right to regulate exports of natural gas.
Even if I’m wrong and some of these ideas are good, Congress ought to have the final say on these issues, and ought to be able to change policy to meet changing circumstances.
In order to get the treaty through, President Obama will need “fast track” authority, which limits debate, creates an accelerated time frame and requires an up-and-down vote on the treaty with no amendments.
Asking for an up-and-down vote is reasonable; foreign nations shouldn’t be expected to negotiate twice. But the limited debate and accelerated time frame only make sense if the Senate is fully informed about the treaty in advance. In this case, the draft treaty and the U.S. negotiating position have been withheld from Congress—although not from some 600 corporate representatives who are providing expert advice.
At present the government does not have “fast track” authority. It lapsed in 2007. It should not be renewed just to get TPP through. Even if I’m wrong, and TPP is a good idea, Congress ought to be able to fully understand it before enacting it. Americans should write their Senators and ask them to vote against “fast track” authority.
He believed that everyone who wanted to work should be guaranteed a job. This is more relevant now than ever. All you have to do is to look around, and there is work that needs to be done, from ensuring old people in nursing homes get good care to rebuilding our nation’s bridges and water systems.
Yet the jobs aren’t there. Why should the upper 1/10th of 1 percent of income and wealth holders be the job creators? Why can’t we the people create jobs?
Dr. King also believed in a minimum guaranteed income, which I’m not sure about. I’d rather have a guaranteed jobs program, in which everybody could do something useful according to their abilities and receive an income adequate to their basic needs. But then again, a guaranteed minimum income might work better than our present hodge-podge welfare system.
Our Sad, Misunderstood Labor Unions by David Macaray for Counterpunch.
Labor unions are the only organizations whose purpose is to defend the rights of working people. Why, then, have they gotten such a bad name?
Reversing the Labor Movement’s Free Fall by Stanley Aronowitz in Logos.
Aronowitz argues that labor unions must go beyond collective bargaining and champion the interests of working people across the board.
The AFL-CIO’s New Strategy by Shamus Cooke for Counterpunch.
While the AFL-CIO leadership recognizes the need for new strategy and tactics, it is limited by its commitment to the Democratic Party and the anti-union Obama administration.
Productivity Rose 7.7 Percent Post-Recession; Workers Have Seen None of It by David Dayen for Naked Capitalism.
The decline of labor unions is turning the United States into a low-wage nation.
Workers Greatest Power Over Owners and Bosses? The Ability to Stop Work and Walk Out by James Cersonski for AlterNet.
Largest fast food strike ever: 58 cities will be affected by Joseph Eidelson for Salon.
Workers in the fast-food industry use strikes to protest unfair treatment and low wages rather than waiting until they can negotiate contracts.
Fast Food, Retail Worker Strikes Do Honor to King Legacy by David Dayen for Naked Capitalism.
Martin Luther King’s 1963 speech was given for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and he was murdered while in Memphis, Tenn., to support a strike by municipal garbage collectors. If he were alive, he would support union organizers of low-wage workers and strikers against low-wage companies.
Five reasons for optimism about labor unions this Labor Day by John Logan for The Hill.
[Added 9/17/13] The United Nations report indicates that the Syrian military used sarin gas on civilians. Click on UN Report Conclusive: Sarin Gas Was Used On a Large Scale, Linked to Syrian Regime for a summary by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.
If I were a dictator trying to put down a rebellion, and the world’s most heavily-armed superpower told me that the one thing that would unleash their attack on me is the use of poison gas, I don’t think I would use poison gas.
And if I did use poison gas, I would use it in a decisive way, that would end the rebellion once and for all. So I have been skeptical about charges that the Syrian government used poison gas against rebel forces. But a report by Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres provides strong circumstantial evidence that thousands of people have symptoms of being victims of poison gas. [New Scientist magazine published a similar report. Added 8/30/13.]
I don’t think the rebel forces could have been the ones to use poison gas. It would have been virtually impossible to cover up. So while it still doesn’t make sense to me that the Syrian government would use poison gas, my experience of life tells me that people sometimes do things that don’t make sense.
Juan Cole, on his Informed Comment web log, suggested a reason why the Syrian government might have used gas and thought they could get away with it. Or maybe there is some other explanation. I don’t know. Neither do Joe Biden or John Kerry.
If gassing of civilians really is the main issue, the best thing is to wait for the report of the UN inspectors in Syria.
Overthrowing the Assad regime could create a haven for al Qaeda, larger than the one that Osama bin Laden formerly had in Afghanistan.
The U.S. war on terror evolved in a bizarre way. Back during the Bush administration, Congress authorized military action against al Qaeda and associated forces. Osama bin Laden and his followers were Sunni Muslims. Using that authorization as its legal basis, the U.S. government threatens attacks on governments that are enemies of al Qaeda—the Shiite Muslim government of Iran and the Shiite-friendly government of Syria.
The rebel forces that the U.S. government is supporting in Syria are led by supporters of al Qaeda—the same kinds of people the U.S. is waging drone warfare against in Pakistan and Yemen. We’re told that, on the one hand, al Qaeda is such a threat that we Americans have to accept perpetual war and perpetual martial law, but now we’re being told that, on the other hand, it is okay to support al Qaeda to attain a geopolitical objective.
How U.S. Strikes on Syria Help Al Qaeda by Barak Barfi for The Daily Beast. The ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), the local al Qaeda affiliate, is the leading force among the rebels and will come out on top if Assad is overthrown.
Does Obama know he’s fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda? by Robert Fisk in The Independent.
The United States and its allies have overwhelming military force compared to the government of Syria. But that doesn’t mean an attack on Syria or an invasion could be carried out without consequences.
For a good chunk of Tuesday, website administrators at Twitter, The New York Times, and other high-profile media outlets appeared to be locked in a high-stakes battle with self-proclaimed Syrian hackers for control of their Internet domains.
Just as quickly as twitter.co.uk, nytimes.com, and other domains were returned to their rightful owners, Internet records showed they’d be seized all over again and made to point to a Russian Web host known to cater to purveyors of drive-by malware exploits and other online nasties
via Ars Technica.
Whether or not these hackers really were Syrians, the incident shows that small countries have ways of retaliating that don’t involve armed force or violent terrorism.
Twitter and New York Times clash with hackers for control of their sites by Dan Goodin for Ars Technica.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, went to Russia last month to negotiate a Mideast peace settlement with President Vladimir Putin. He reportedly offered big purchases of Russian military equipment and cooperation on oil policy in return for Russia agreeing to regime change in Syria and sanctions against Iran.
Prince Bandar reportedly told Putin that the United States would stand by anything that the two of them agreed to. Putin replied that Russia will not abandon its Syrian and Iranian allies. Bandar warned of an escalation of conflict in the Middle East.
This is all from an English translation of an article in As-Safir, an Arabic language newspaper in Lebanon, based on information leaked to Russian newspapers. I know about it from reading Pepe Escobar’s most recent column in Asia Times.
According to As-Safir, Prince Bandar said:
Putin reportedly replied that Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of Chechen terrorists is inconsistent with the purported desire for peace. He said he is open to cooperation on oil policy, but that the Assad regime is best for Syria and Iran has a right to develop peaceful nuclear power. He said he wants good relations with the current Egyptian government, but worries about Egypt sliding into civil war.
What this article describes is a conflict has nothing to do with any war on terror. Rather it is a conflict between rival imperialists who manipulate jihadist terrorists for their own purposes. It is little bit like the Cold War between the USA and the old Soviet Union and a lot like the Great Game between the rival British and Russian empires.
Click on Russian President, Saudi Spy Chief Discussed Syria, Egypt for the complete As-Safir article as translated by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news service.
Max Fisher of the Washington Post has compiled 40 interesting maps that do throw a lot of light on what’s going on in the world. I linked to some of them in my posts on country comparisons of religion and IQ and racism and diversity.
You can click on 40 maps to see them all, starting with a geopolitical map of world powers as of 200 A.D. and ending with an interactive time-lapse map of the earth as seen from space over 12 months.
Many of the maps have links to accompanying Washington Post article. If the video link above doesn’t work, you should be able to see the same video on the 40 maps link.
Shortly after being sentenced to military prison, Pvt. Manning announced a new identity as a woman named Chelsea Manning, and asked friends to use the new name and the feminine pronoun.
This is obviously not a spur of the moment decision, as Manning’s e-mail dialogue with the informer, Adrian Lamo, reproduced in the above video, shows.
Given the great service Manning has performed, by letting me know what my government has been doing behind my back. the least I can do is to refer to Chelsea Manning by her preferred name. It costs me nothing. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
I don’t know why Manning thinks of herself as Chelsea instead of Bradley. Maybe sometimes somebody’s neurological wiring doesn’t match their gross anatomy, and, when someone says they are a woman in a man’s body (or vice versa), they are speaking the literal truth. But these are deeper waters than I know enough to swim in.
What is plain is that no sane person about to begin a long sentence in a men’s prison would announce that they were a woman in a man’s body unless they had a compelling reason to do so.
I knew of reports that Manning thought of herself as female long before the public announcement. I never mentioned it in my posts about Manning because I thought that Manning’s whistle-blowing about crimes committed by the U.S. government was an issue I wanted to keep separate from Manning’s desire to change sexual identity.
But maybe these are not two separate things. Maybe they are two aspects of the same thing—the desire to live in truth.
Over the weekend my friend Daniel Brandt e-mailed me a link to an article by Julian Assange wrote for The Stringer, an on-line Australian newspaper, about how Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, works hand in glove with Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, performed covert missions for State Department.
Google and the NSA: Who’s holding the ‘shit-bag’ now? by Julian Assange for The Stringer.
Assange wrote that once, when Wikileaks tried to communicate with Hillary Clinton at the U.S. State Department, the caller was transferred to people at successively higher levels of the State Deparment until someone promised a call-back.
The call was returned, however, not by a State Department employee, but by Lisa Shields, who was Eric Schmidt’s girl friend. The fact that she was Hillary Clinton’s chosen back channel of communication shows how tight are the top people in Google and the government.
Jared Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, was recently in Azerbaijan performing secret missions for the State Department. According to a leaked e-mail from Stratfor, an important U.S. intelligence contractor, Cohen was doing things that the CIA could not do and that he was likely to get caught. The e-mail said exposing the operation might not be a bad thing because the U.S. government could disavow it and Google would be left “holding the shit-bag.” There’s more in the article, but these are the high points.
Assange is amazing. Here he is, a fugitive from the U.S. legal system, unable to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and he still is leading Wikileaks (with the help of others), revealing new information, helping Edward Snowden in Moscow and running for the Australian Senate as the candidate of a Wikileaks Party.
Julian Assange interviewed on what the Wikileaks Party will mean to the Aboriginal peoples by Gerry Georgatos for The Stringer.
Assange seems well-informed about Aborigines and their current plight, considering how long he’s been away from his native Australia and considering how many other things he has to think about.
StratforLeaks: Google Ideas Director Involved in ‘Regime Change’ by Yazan al-Saadi for Al Akhbar English, in 2012. [Added 8/28/13]
NSA Domestic Spying: Mathematicians Should Speak Out by Charles Siefe for Slate. Hat tip to Jack Clontz.
Charles Siefe, a mathematician who worked for the National Security Agency briefly in the 1990s, wrote that in those days the nation’s top mathematicians flocked to the NSA out of patriotism and the desire to do challenging and important work. In those days, he wrote, the NSA in those days respected the legal limits of its mission and also was untroubled by leaks.
It’s possible that both the excesses and the leaks in those days were more than Siefe was aware. Still, I do think there is a connection between a government agency respecting the law and its employees being loyal to the agency.
Is the NSA Actually Aware of All Internet Traditions? Some Thoughts on Incompetency by Mike the Mad Biologist. The U.S. tradeoff of freedom for security hasn’t produced much security.
Alex Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University, pointed out that the market value of Microsoft increased by $18 billion Friday when CEO Steve Ballmer announced his retirement. Tabarrok made an interesting argument that if the choice of a CEO really changes the value of a company by $18 billion, then it isn’t unreasonable to pay the CEO an eight-figure salary.
Of course if you valued corporate employees by the damage they could potentially do, many of us would be paid more than we are. When I was a newspaper reporter, I saved my company millions of dollars by not writing anything that was libelous, but I don’t think that ever was reflected in my paycheck.
One of Ballmer’s bad innovations was “stack ranking,” which meant ranking employees in order of some performance standard and firing the ones at the bottom. One thing wrong with that is that it gave the employees an incentive to undermine each other rather than working together to make Microsoft a good corporation. The other is that, as W. Edwards Deming noted, rank order is meaningless. What counts is whether your performance meets or exceeds the desired standard.
Click on The Value of a CEO for Alex Tabarrok’s post on Marginal Revolution.
Click on How Microsoft lost its way for my earlier post on Microsoft and stack ranking.
I don’t usually think of spiders as being cute, but I make an exception for these spiders with raindrops on their heads. Spiders don’t actually wear raindrops as hats because the raindrops only stay on their heads for less than a minute. The photographer had to be quick and alert to catch them.
When I was of college age, back in the 1950s, it was possible for middle-class American families to save enough money to send their children through college, and for poor but ambitious students to work their way through college. It also was possible for a hard-working person without a college education to earn a decent living.
Now a college diploma is a prerequisite for a decent job, much as a high school diploma was 60 years ago, and for many students, a college education is out of reach without taking on a burdensome level of debt. It is a high stakes gamble. If the college diploma is a ticket to a good job, the gamble pays off. If it isn’t, then the borrower faces the possibility of a lifetime of debt servitude.
President Obama has proposed a plan for student debt relief, which is to give financial incentives to colleges with affordable tuition and good graduation rates. Like his heath care form plan, it is complicated, offers opportunities to game the system and may or may not do some good in the long run.
I think the solution is for state universities to provide a good education with free or low tuition to everyone who is capable of doing college work, and for community colleges to provide free or remedial education and job training. The federal government could provide support to enable them to afford to be able to do this.
I also think the federal government should buy up existing student debt and provide refinancing at a nominal interest rate. This is part of the larger world debt situation: People and nations owe more than they ever can repay and there needs to be some means of writing down this debt.
President John F. Kennedy famously said in 1962: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” His words, if not his actions, were wise and inspiring, and I thought of them in connection with the Arab Spring and the Egyptian coup.
Thousands and thousands of Egyptians conducted peaceful—relatively peaceful—demonstrations in order to replace the dictatorship of President Mubarak with a democratically elected government.
The result has been set aside by the Egyptian military, which receives more than $1 billion a year from the U.S. government to buy military equipment which has been used mainly against Egypt’s own people. In return the U.S. Air Force gets to use Egyptian air space and the Navy gets to use the Suez Canal.
If the U.S. government were genuinely interested in promoting democracy and helping the Egyptian people, and winning their good will, we would spend $1 billion a year to help Egypt pay down its external debt and to import food and the other necessities.
Instead we have empowered General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the leader of the Egyptian military, to make peaceful revolution impossible and violent revolution inevitable.
Reason has its martyrs, just as faith does.
Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, a brave rationalist who devoted his life to exposing fake faith healers and miracle workers in India, was murdered Tuesday.
His organization, the Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Association, offered a prize of 500,000 rupees to any diviner who could prove he or she could summon spirits.
At the time of his death, he was pushing for a law in Maharashtra state outlawing the practice of black magic. My own belief is that rationalists should restrict themselves to the rational method, and not try to enforce their beliefs through government power. There is a subtle but important difference between outlawing fraud and outlawing beliefs and practices which can be a mask for fraud.
Dabholkar didn’t see it that way. He said his proposed law never mentioned God or religion, and did not touch the doctrines of Hinduism or any other religion. Whatever the merits of that argument, it can be said that he never went outside the law or threatened his opponents with death.
And it also is true that religious believers in India have used the law to suppress rationalist criticism. Sanal Edamaruku, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association, fled India to escape arrest for blasphemy because he investigated a weeping statue of Jesus in a Catholic church in Mumbai and concluded it was the result of a plumbing problem.
Dabholkar’s proposed anti-magic law, which was opposed by conservative Hindus, was in fact enacted a few days after his death, but needs approval of Parliament before it can become law.
Here are links to articles I found interesting and you might find interesting, too.
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber for Britain’s Strike! magazine.
Some 80 years ago the great economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that advances in technology would make it possible to do all the necessary work of society without people having to work long hours at low pay.
David Graeber said that this, in fact, has happened, but the necessary work of society is being crowded out by unnecessary work. He knows people who say frankly that their work serves no useful purpose, and they do it only to earn an income.
How do you distinguish between necessary and unnecessary work? Simply imagine what would happen if all the people doing a particular job went on strike? Society would be seriously inconvenienced if nobody taught school or staffed fast-food restaurants. But if all tele-marketers ceased work, most people would be glad.
Graeber wrote that it is the people who are doing the meaningful work—teachers, factory workers, health care workers—who are under attack in the current economic struggle, and that they are targets of resentment by people trapped in meaningless work. This is a good instrument of social control, he thinks.
An Open Letter to President Barack Obama by Ani McHugh, a high school English teacher in New Jersey.
Ani McHugh appealed to President Obama to abandon corporate school “reform” which, she says, prevents teachers from doing their jobs. She would be an example of people with meaningful and important jobs who are under attack.
How to Become a Part-Time Worker Without Really Trying by Barbara Garson for TomDispatch.
The trend to part-time work is not just a result of fewer factories and more fast-food restaurants. Barbara Garson described how companies are switching from full-time to part-time work, with the same work requiring the same skills and sometimes by the same people, but with less pay, fewer benefits and no job security.
The following is a transcript of the statement made by Pfc. Bradley Manning as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday after an Army judge sentenced Manning to up to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information. I think it is worth reading and putting on record.
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity.
We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
For background, click on Bradley Manning to request pardon from Obama over 35-year jail sentence by Paul Lewis for The Guardian. The article explained that Manning will get credit for time served, and an additional reduction for the abuse he suffered while awaiting trial. The remainder of the sentence could be reduced by as much as two-thirds for good behavior. But to my mind, that doesn’t mean he is getting off lightly.
Hat tip to Laura Bruno’s Blog.
There are many people who think that Edward Snowden did a public service in revealing lying and abuse of power by the National Security Agency, but still think he should be punished for revealing secret information.
Kevin Drum, who writes for Mother Jones, argued the other day that no government can afford to tolerate the workings of its secret espionage organizations being made public. On the other hand, he wrote, Snowden has revealed a lot of things that are important for the public to know and this information never would have been made public otherwise.
I believe that 30-year-old contractors shouldn’t be the ones who decide which secrets to keep and which ones to reveal. I also believe that, overall, Snowden has been fairly careful about what he’s disclosed and has prompted a valuable public conversation.
So how do you prevent an epidemic of Snowdens while still allowing the salubrious sunlight of the occasional Snowden? The answer to the former is that intelligence workers need to be afraid of prosecution if they reveal classified documents. I t can’t be a casual act, but a deeply considered one that’s worth going to prison for. The answer to the latter is that prosecution needs to be judicious.
There’s no question in my mind that Snowden should be prosecuted for what he did. That’s the price of his actions. But he shouldn’t be facing a lifetime in a Supermax cell. The charge against him shouldn’t be espionage, it should be misappropriation of government property or something similar. Something that’s likely to net him a year or three in a medium-security penitentiary.
via Mother Jones.
This reasoning would make more sense to me if, in fact, the U.S. government did systematically prosecute people who leak classified information. But in fact classified information is leaked all the time—the latest example being how the U.S. government detected the al Qaeda plot to attack U.S. embassies (assuming that the leaked information was not an attempt to mislead). Leaking sensitive information that makes the government look good is common and accepted. Only the leakers who make the government look bad are prosecuted.
Robert Zubrin, writing for National Review, had a much better idea: Offer Edward Snowden immunity from prosecution in return for testimony before a congressional committee. He reasoned that if Snowden has all this vital secret knowledge, it is better from the standpoint of national security to have him under U.S. jurisdiction than Russian jurisdiction.
There are two important kinds of information that Snowden might reveal. The first is information of value to America’s adversaries in operations against the United States, its armed forces, and its intelligence agencies. The second is information of value to Congress and the American public in assessing the NSA’s domestic operations and in taking action, if necessary, to uphold the Constitution and stop NSA malfeasance.
In Moscow, Snowden is well situated to provide the first type of information to our enemies and poorly situated to provide the second to us. If he were here, on the other hand, he would be well positioned to provide Americans with the second kind of information, and his opportunities to provide our nation’s foreign adversaries with the first kind would be most limited.
So we need to get Snowden back, and the only way to get him back is to set forth terms that induce him to return voluntarily. […]
One must therefore ask the conductors of the chorus chanting “Death to Snowden” why they prefer to have the analyst talking to Russia, Iran, and North Korea rather than to Congress. Is it because the NSA regards the holders of America’s purse strings as the greater threat? If so, it would appear that the agency’s leadership has misplaced its priorities.
On the other hand, Snowden may be lying, or grossly exaggerating, in his accusations of deeply subversive anti-constitutional actions by the NSA. If so, he has done real harm to American freedom by chilling the public with unnecessary fear of a nonexistent panopticon state. Such falsehoods therefore need to be refuted.
The NSA has issued denials. Unfortunately, however, because the agency previously lied to Congress and the public about the very existence of the domestic-spying program, those denials have no credibility. If the NSA is now being truthful, it needs to establish that by taking Snowden on in open confrontation.
And maybe after Snowden gets finished testifying to Congress, he should testify to a special prosecutor and a grand jury. I would think there would be a rich field for investigation just of financial corruption, given the lack of supervision of the vast sums that the secret surveillance agencies handle.
The problem with voter ID laws and all the other laws intended to restrict voter registration is that they will be selectively enforced. Republicans in voter-suppression states will not try to disqualify every married woman whose married name does not fit her identification documents. Rather they will have this available as a tool to disqualify someone whom they wish to disqualify for other reasons.