So, this morning, I tweeted the following quip:

Immediately thereafter, @GrimestTrigger tweeted this post that he'd written on his blog, Hints And Hunches.

I've read a lot of Ayn Rand debunkers in my time, many of them quite good, but many others grossly overwrought with tortured liberal prose trying to impress the reader with a smug condescension toward all those wayward 9th graders who are still in impressed by the objectivist queen of mean.

Grimest has avoided all of that, yet still nailed the essence of the fallacies in her world view, which has transcended its meager literary beginnings by poking a big stick in the eye of her linchpin character, John Galt, from her annoyingly popular novel, "Atlas Shrugged."  Over the past 50 years, with no small help from conservative book buying clubs and foundations trying to force her convenient beliefs on an intellectually sloppy planet, Shrugged, and her other greedy epistles, like The Fountainhead, have mushroomed into a religion of rancorous rhetoric that underpins that culture of selfishness that is subsuming America's politics, and perhaps the very future of our planet as well. 

Please show it every 9th grader you know, and everyone still thinking like one. It's another example of the kinds of primers I feel that liberals must make a conscious effort to share more of as widely as possible. It took conservatives half a century to teach Americans to think like they do, with no small help from false prophets like Ayn Rand.  It will take us at least that long to help teach a more just and sustainable world view for the human race to live by.

Note: I've been collecting these kinds of works,and plan to share them very soon in an interesting new way. If you have some Rand debunkers or interesting essays about her works or influence, please share them in the comments and I will consider them for possible inclusion in my compendium when it drops!
 

The Myth of John Galt

by Patrick Doyle (@GrimestTrigger)


“We never think entirely alone: we think in company, in a vast collaboration; we work with the workers of the past and of the present. [Across] the whole intellectual world, each one finds in those about him the initiation, help, verification, [and] encouragement that he needs”

Antoine Sertillanges, La vie intellectuelle, 1920
 
 
No one knows who it was that first discovered iron, but legend has it that a man named Magnes who lived in an area of Greece called Magnesia was the first to notice the phenomena of magnetism. His dog was probably named ‘Maggie’.
 
Less legendary are the writings of Lucretius and Pliny the Elder[i]. Later, it was Hans Oersted who showed that magnetism was related to electricity, and it was left to Maxwell to codify the phenomena and establish the basis for the electromagnetic theory.
 
From there, it was a whole cast of actors, over many years, each making their own contribution, that lead to the innovation of the electric motor[ii]. John Galt, hero of Ayn Rand’s second-rate work of fiction, Atlas Shrugged, ‘took’ these ideas and incorporated them into his ‘static motor’.
 
The same dynamic occurred with respect to machine bearings, without which any motor would be worthless.
 
Henry Timken is credited with the invention of the roller bearing, and was awarded patent number 606635 by the United States patent office[iii]. But roller bearings were actually invented thousands of years before Timken was even a twinkle in his mother’s eyes.
 
The first use of roller bearings was by the ancient Egyptians, to build the pyramids. And even they couldn't’t have made use of the idea without the invention of trees, and there’s no consensus who invented them.
 
One can now extrapolate this theme of continuity to the invention of Reardenite.
 
The point of all this is that no one stands alone in space and time, no solitary figure changes the course of history. And, when there is a need, someone will step in to fill that need.
 
Rand, who claims to espouse values that can only be derived through logic and observation, fails to notice the continuity of the innovative dynamic: one person improves upon another’s work; one person sees the possibilities that others overlook, or one person combines the work of several others and ends up with an entirely new product.
 
In each case, as it is in reality, one adds to what’s already there, made possible only because that previous person did the same thing. Collectively (that word!) this is called history, which is a function of reality, unlike Galt, which is not.
 
None of this would matter if not for the many acolytes of this fantasy. Too many of our current policy makers and influencer's read the silliness that is Atlas Shrugged (usually while at a young age, more susceptible flights of fancy) and decided that she’s right. And worse. Among many of Ayn’s acolytes are those who cherry-pick aspects of her worldview, discarding the very threads of logic that would otherwise make it whole. 
 
In the same way that the flu spreads from one person to another, so has Rand’s self-defeating philosophy spread, and the result is that today we have many people in our society who fancy themselves as clones of Galt, who espouse her philosophy.
 
Paul Ryan fits this bill. This man is in a position to affect every person in the country, yet demonstrates no abilities that would legitimately place him there. Sure, he’s graduated college, but he parasitically used his father’s Social Security benefits to so. And, true, he has managed to get himself elected to congress. So did Gopher, from The Love Boat. So, no bragging allowed.
 
The personal independence that the philosophy embraces would not be possible without the sacrifices and hard work of those who came before, in many cases the sacrifice of others was a product of altruism, a despised activity in her constructed universe.
 
Never mind that many of these same people have never accomplished anything on their own, at the time the book was read by them, and therefore had no real-life experience to compare the fiction to. For someone such as Ayn Rand, who repudiates the philosophy she’s invented through the sheer implausibility of the notion of the ‘independent man’, to inspire others to a pretended state of independence, the irony of it all is invisible and therefore unreal.
 
Just like John Galt.

The Original Text 

Related

 

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to every one who is striking at the root."
Henry David Thoreau

Purpose

This document is meant to provide an overview and reference links concerning "The Lewis Powell Memoradum." Few documents in American history have had its kind of root influence over contemporary everyday American lives, and I felt there should be one document on the web that makes it easier to find and peruse some of the better discussion and commentary about it, and later on, when I can find the time, perhaps the fallout and carnage that has resulted from it, as well. Since I couldn't find one, I created this one.  As a result, with one single link (shoqvalue.com/powellmemo), you can now educate others about this legendary and ruinous conservative manifesto more easily. I hope you will.

Introduction

The Powell Memo At A Glance (72 seconds of a history that may take at least 72 years to undo.)

Probably no other document has shaped the  contemporary American political landscape quite like the now infamous memorandum from Lewis F. Powell, now widely referred to as "The Powell Memoradum."  It was a call-to-arms for American corporations that was written by a future U.S. Supreme Court justice, to his neighbor working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It would summon them to enjoin a battle against a creeping liberalism and its infernal regulations and philosophies that threatened their status, profits, and corporate conversative sensibilities, if not their very existence.

The Powell Memo — sometimes called The Powell Manifesto — has directly and indirectly led to the rise of conservative think tanks, groups, and far-right media organizations and personalities that have over the past 40+ years collectively remade American democracy in an image more suitable to a radical conservative's world view.  When you see or hear those attractive and skilled pundits spouting conservative dogma on TV or radio, you can thank the Powell Memo.  It's a vital document to understand, and one that in my view still needs a well organized push-back from the American Left.

The memo has served to empower thousands of conservative pundits, broadcasters, educators and activists in a polemical language and set of strategies that have been used to bring American democracy to the hyper-partisan, uber-gridlocked dysfunctionalism that paralyzes it to this day. If you love our 21st century plutocracracy, so dominated by souless billionaires like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess, Phillip Anschutz, and the tangled web of malevalent organizations and political machinations which they have spawned, then you'll just love the Powell Memo. With their money and influence, the legacy of the Powell memo has spawned organizations like Cato Insitute, Heritage FoundationAmerican Enterprise Institute, Media Research Center, Competitive Research Institute, Family Research Council, Heartland Institiute, and perhaps the most significant of them all, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

These and countless other right wing organizations and their operatives and propaganda are routinely paraded before the American public every day on Fox News CNN, and other mainstream media outlets. The influence and policy prescriptions of these entities has infested the American political landscape like a virulent cancer, affecting everything from voting rights, to business regulations, to energy and climage change legislation, and nearly every corporate, social, or cultural issue between and among them.  And despite decades or knowing all of this, the American left remains largely powerless to offset this influence with any voter and corporate education efforts of its own.

Powell Memo Resources

The Powell Memo is no secret.  There are countless articles about it, and references to it that can be found all over the Internet. But there are also a lot of bad ones.  So I thought I would create a little knowledge hub to keep track of the better ones, and make it easier for people to pass them on their coworkers, friends and family.  Each has some little fact or dimension that the other lacks, so I advise reading all of them if you really want to be fluent when discussing this dangerous screed and the wreckage that it has left behind. Please share them widely.

Backgrounders on the Memorandum

Commentary On Specifics Of The Memo

Research And Related Resources

Related Works

Below are my two cents, posted as a comment on Spandan (@thePeoplesView)'s excellent post about the Emotarian left's contribution to the great government shutdown of 2013.

Since I originally coined Emotarian as a replacement for the more imprecise and awkward-sounding "Emoprogressive (often shortened to the ghastlier sounding "Emoprog")," which I once co-defined with Joy-Ann Reid (before trying to repace it with Puritopian, which never really took off), I felt it appropiate to contribute to the comment stream. So I did.

Thank you, Spandan, for this eloquent summation of what really ails us. Conservatives are doing what they have always done; rationalizing and institutionalizing greed. But they've taken 40 years to learn how to message in a way that resonates with low-information voters well enough to seize state houses, and through their issues and redistricting, control Congress as well.

And rather than focusing on ways to counter that messaging, progressives have acquiesced to a climate of cynicism and mistrust, fueled by a massive industry of these poutragers who are given a louder and louder voice by what I call the Liberal Industrial Complex; an economy of fundraising establishments role-playing as progressive activists.

Together with its counterpart of the right, the Conservative Entertainment Complex, they've combined to thoroughly obfuscate the real problem: finding enough critical mass and focus to overpower the right's dominance of local politics, elections, and thus, our Congress and national policy.

Until we stop squandering emotion and resources on the issues at the margins such as the NSA, Gitmo, and drones, which only serve to feed the liberal industrial fundraising beast, we will never build coalitions powerful and motivated enough to change the elected legislators who could fix those problems in a matter of weeks.

But our national priorities are not the same as those careerist bloggers, pundits and slacktivists who would have no audience at all, if not for their ginning-up easy outrage about exaggerated crimes they can routinely pin on sincere presidents and other public servants who are doing their level best to tread water in a conservative cesspool until Progressivism grows up and learns how to fucking swim.

@Shoq

Read the original post

 

Related

Criticism from the left by @root_e via Krebscycle

 

 

All too slowly, the mainstream media is learning the value of the explainer.  But any progress is good progress.  In this article, Washington Post's Max Fisher does a very good job of explaining the tangled web of past and present histories that can easily muddle anyone's process when trying to understand just what the Syrian conflict is all about. At the same time, he illuminates just what a thankless job President Obama has in trying to mitigate the worst of the possible outcomes.

For me, the money graf was this one:

So why would Obama bother with strikes that no one expects to actually solve anything?

OK, you’re asking here about the Obama administration’s not-so-subtle signals that it wants to launch some cruise missiles at Syria, maybe with the United Kingdom, which it says would be punishment for Assad’s strongly suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.

It’s true that basically no one believes that this will turn the tide of the Syrian war. But this is important: it’s not supposed to. The strikes wouldn't’t be meant to shape the course of the war or to topple Assad, which Obama thinks would just make things worse anyway. They would be meant to punish Assad for (allegedly) using chemical weapons and to deter him, or any future military leader in any future war, from using them again.

Yes, the goal of Obama's proposed air strikes is not to influence the outcome of this conflict. It is to make it very expensive, politically and economically, for regimes and their generals to use these gruesome weapons, which the world has been more unanimous about opposing—and signed more treaties to prevent—than almost anything else on the global stage.  It's not rocket science. This proposed action is about destroying several billion dollars of offensive and defensive weapons, and the massive command and control networks they require. It is absolutely not an "invasion," nor a "war."

Precision targeting of facilities and weapons is a deterrent measure that telegraphs to these vile regimes that using these horrific weapons will generate immediate and costly blow back from the rest of the "civilized" world (loosely speaking). Militaries hate having their toys destroyed. Especially when they need them to kill civilians the old fashioned way—with bombs, bullets, and other sorts of conventional bloodletting that has stood the test of time in man's overwhelmingly persistent inhumanity to man.

It's all feels very embarrassing to me. Not because Obama wants to do something about it, but because so many nations and their peoples, whose parents and grandparents had been previously dedicated to doing so, now posture that they do not.

Read the story

Then pass it around. This chemical weapons problem won't go away. I personally feel it's one of the few places we can put our foot down and draw a definitive line against evil.  Obama wasn't wrong to lay down the line. He was wrong to forget that strong moral positions make for even stronger political targets for people more concerned with political rather than moral imperatives.

 

The Supreme Court has just flipped America the finger. Their Voting Rights Act ruling was a last straw rubbing up against my last nerve.  I have just had it with them, and with the entire radical conservative agenda. Something has to start changing, and I'd like to do anything I can think of to nudge that change along. I think recent events show that it's way past time for running down the hall with our hair on fire. We all need to do something, and soon, because things really are that bad. And they're getting worse.

I have a very simple idea that could prove useful in getting people off their butts and into voting booths where they can help vote these venal obstructists out of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

The project needs a research volunteer to help compile a few key voting facts and statistics. These will help tell a story on the project's website and motivate people to participate. It shouldn't be more than a few hours of work for anyone with modest research skills.

If you'd like to help me out with this, please email me using my Contact form.

If I don't know you, please give me a little background on you and your skills. As happened when I assembed the team behind StopRush.net, these kinds of crowd projects can swell pretty fast. And if it doesn't need you now, it probably will later if the idea catches, so having your name around will save time down when and if it needs more human resource.

Thank you.

 

We now know that Issa asked for very results the Inspector General gave him. The IG was asked to look for "Teaparty" targeting, but no one tells us until now that IRS had been looking for "Progressive" and "Occupy" groups all along, too. Issa just didn't ask for those. This entire "scandal" was a god damn hoax. We were played. Perfectly and completely. 

Considered alongside today's Voting Rights atrocity in the Supreme Court, I can't even quite articulate the level of disgust I feel for my country right now. We should bill that fucking car thief even if he does apologize.

Salon:  Darrell Issa’s credibility is over

Now it’s clear Issa played us this whole time, thanks to new documents that show the IRS also targeted “progressive” and “Occupy” groups, in addition to Tea Party ones. And if it targeted groups on both sides, it wasn’t really singling anyone out (the only group actually denied tax-exempt status was a progressive one, after all) and the whole scandal falls apart.

HuffingtonPost/Sam Stein: IRS Targeted Progressive Groups, Too, Documents Reveal

The Morning Plum: Darrell Issa backtracks on IRS scandal

The news that progressive groups were also targeted by the IRS should, in theory at least, prompt reporters to press leading Republicans on a simple question: Do you still stand by your insinuations that the White House or Obama campaign were somehow behind the politically motivated targeting of conservatives?

Glenn Greenwald's daily fixation about the perils and abuses of executive power have always been widely supported and promoted by the Cato Institute, the libertarian "think tank" founded by the now infamous right-wing industrialists known now as simply "The Koch Brothers." Glenn's latest number one fan on Twitter is Cato's (and Reason Magazine's) Julian Sanchez (@normative). The two of them have recently been the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb of the NSA/Snowden outrage machine, gleefully trading-off with and echoing each other's efforts to keep the topics of the NSA, Ed Snowden and Bradley Manning in the forefront of the media's attention span.  And the Kochs just couldn't be happier.

This paragraph will help you understand why:

From:  The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right by Lee Fang

Perhaps the most insidious strategy of the Koch brothers has been their ability to co-opt social liberals. The Cato Institute is known for its promotion of gay marriage and support for immigrant rights. In fact, a small number of libertarian fronts that receive funding from Koch charitable foundations do not toe the orthodox conservative line when it comes to issues like evolution or even drug policy. But these otherwise laudable causes are mostly a ruse. While the Koch brothers fund seemingly reasonable social libertarians with one hand, they finance a set of vicious social conservatives with the other. Peggy Venable, a longtime Koch operative, helped mastermind the crusade to rewrite the history textbooks in Texas to promote antigay bigots and to censor references to immigrant civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez.6 Americans for Prosperity spent considerable resources promoting Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce and Colorado’s Tom Tancredo, two of the leading anti-immigrant politicians in America. Koch also gives heavily to antigay groups like the Heritage Foundation. In fact, Charles attends meetings of the Council for National Policy, the nation’s largest meeting group for far right social conservative donors, and in a speech posted on the group’s website, pledged an “alliance” with the social right to change American society. Essentially, Koch will fund both conservatives and liberals when it comes to social policy. Because for them, social initiatives are more often a Trojan horse for imposing their radical economic views.

[bold emphasis added]

Like most of the Right's calculated maneuverings, organizations like Cato are fond of any effort that attacks any institution of power which far right authoritarians like the Koch's don't now control. For decades, they have paid for an orchestrated effort to destroy the American people's respect for goverment, and thus, any authority that can pass social legislation aimed at greater wealth equality and social justice, which are both outcomes vehemently opposed by the Kochs and their plutocratic brethren. It is not an accident that Progressive civil libertarians and socially-regressive Ron and Rand Paul supporters have come together to noisily protest the evils of the "surveillance state," as Greenwald so lovingly refers to it. It's a strategy long in coming.

I urge you to read Lee Fang's book and understand just how systemic the plutocratic influence has become in America, and why it is leading to what George Packer calls "The Great Unwinding" of the American way of life. It is not that the strident voices like Glenn Greenwald's are not discussing matters important to liberals. They are. After all, Progressives—or at least, those claiming to be progressives—are his market and drive his income. But it is the way they are discussed that is working at cross-purposes with the larger goals of the American left. They rely on a ginned-up outrage directed mostly at mere tokens of authority, such as black Presidents like Barack Obama, and not at the true causes of our problems: the plutocratic elites like the Koch's who are only too happy to promote and pay for this distracting, hyperbolic antipathy toward elected representation and executive power. 

Does Glenn Greenwald openly work with The Cato Institute? No. At least not from any evidence I've seen.  But he has been paid to write for them in the past, and they eagerly stoke the outrage he so easily manifests with his daily writing. Outrage which an army of Julian Sanchez cohorts can get behind and push, helping to steer it in ways more directly in-line with Cato's ultimate goal of dismantling the Progressive agenda on behalf the Kochs and their many right wing friends in the energy, finance, cattle, and agricultural industries.

It is an informal convergence of interests that makes Greenwald their proverbial useful idiot who helps to drive the narratives that they want to see driven. Just as far and as fast as he can drive them.  And since he creates more disaffected progressives with every article he writes; people who often shriek that they are "done with voting","done with democrats," and "done with false hopes and promises," he is helping to drive the American Left right over a cliff and straight into the waiting arms of the quasi-fascist, quasi-theocratic plutocratic elites like the Koch family. The very forces of darkness who have spent at least 75 years trying to become the true fascist authoritarians that Greenwald professes to fear. Revealingly, he almost never actually writes about those fears, choosing instead to write passionately in favor of things like the Citizens United ruling on electioneering, which actually serve to stoke the causes of those fears. Handsomely.

If America, as we once knew it is to survive, the agenda of the Kochs and their elite partners must be stopped. But getting outraged at the latest Glenn Greenwald trope won't do that.  It will only add more fuel to the raging inferno of hate and disillusionment which will ultimately assists the ultra-far right with their ambition to seize total control of the United States. As articles like this demonstrate, they're already almost there. 

For better or worse, and regardless of their motivations or tactics, Greenwald and the Washington Post have helped to bring the NSA security debate to the front of the public discussion.  But now more mainstream journalists, advocates, and elected officials have to step-up and translate all this legitimate concern, and yes, even outrage into effective public policy prescription and legislation that can balance the security vs. liberty scale in a way that most Americans can support. That is an outcome that the Kochs are hoping Greenwald and friends will impede by promoting so much rage, distrust and rancor that only a dysfunctional national apathy remains. And again, we're nearly there.

I feel this entire NSA issue is far to complicated to be solved by any knee-jerk outrage about "civil liberties" and "respecting the fourth amendment."  It's just one more intricate problem that only responsible governance can address. A governance deriving its power from the consent of the governed. A governance with a real and potent authority that Libertarian industrialists, and the pseudo-Libertarian actors like Greenwald simply detest.

Update#1

Now that he's been shamefully "Pulitzer-recognized" for his famously shoddy work on the Snowden/NSA stories, Greenwald is less and less ashamed of demonstrating his frequent willingness to support the Koch cabal's transparent efforts to suck in the gullible on the left.  Here's the latest example: 
 


 

And not to be outdone, Glenn's frequent partner in these things, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has dropped any and all pretense of caring about any issue but  their hyperbolic hysteria over the "surveillance state." Here, we see their "senior activist" essentially providing an endorsement of the Tea Party because of the empty Liberty Now! rhetoric that EFF helped them refine over the past year.  They suggest not the slightest concern for the well tread fact that Koch/Cato and the Teaparty often use this simplistic civil liberties dogma in precisely the same way that conservatives have always used race*: to seduce voters motivated by narrowly focused, single issue, dogwhistle politics.
 


 

I will let Bob Cesca from the Daily Banter explain this farce to you:

"It’s difficult to find a more ridiculous whitewashing of the tea party outside of the tea party itself. The legacy of the founders? Wow. First of all, the tea party doesn’t even understand the actual Boston Tea Party, much less the intent of the founders. Yet the heretofore respected EFF has bedazzled the tea party with the gilded legacy of the almighty founders. As for the leaders the tea party has elected, is there one — just one — who’s not completely nuts or totally unqualified for the post?"

Here's Bob's entire post. Don't miss it ? Electronic Frontier Foundation Praises the Tea Party, FreedomWorks and Birther Larry Klayman

* Note: On using race and similarly incendiary issues to hang entire political strategies upon, Brian Beutler of the New Republic wrote a great paragraph today in his piece, The Right's Racial Blinders What really explains the politics of the Obama era.  The entire piece is excellent, but this is the money graf for my purposes:
 

See how it works?  The plutocracy will use race, civil liberties, environment, or any other issue they can that will—or might—lure gullible populations into their sphere of influence. They will achieve their selfish agenda by any means necessary.   But then, the same is largely  true of Greenwald. He hung his career on civil liberties, and always had libertarian leanings (to put it nicely) which never much cared for progressive politics or helping progressive causes.  As a result, ginning-up the importance of Koch projects, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, the Teaparty, or any other tool that supports or extends his hyperbolic surveillance state narrative seems a perfectly rational thing for him to do. 

But as more and more journalists and pundits discover him, post-Pulitzer, and finally-tune into his past and tactics, I wonder if he will be so cavalier about being this revealing of himself in the future. It was one thing when he was a nobody, and Tim Jacob Wise wrote a piece like this:

Of Broken Clocks, Presidential Candidates, and the Confusion of Certain White Liberals

But it will be quite another now that he's a Pulitzer Prize contributing author, Glenn Greenwald.

Stay tuned.

Update #2

A far more intellectual dissection of this very problem has just been published. I urge you to read: Cyberlibertarians’ Digital Deletion of the Left

Related

When computers are involved, otherwise brilliant leftists who carefully examine the political commitments of most everyone they side with suddenly throw their lot in with libertarians — even when those libertarians explicitly disavow Left principles in their work.

"Few people have done more in-depth research, reporting, and writing on the post-Obama conservative movement than Lee Fang. The Machine goes beyond the headlines and explores exactly how this ideological movement operates."
—Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter, The Huffington Post

After the 2008 and 2012 elections, we all thought the country was shifting toward liberal values. The right wing saw it too, so they warmed up their machine built over 30 years, stretching from Capitol Hill to local school boards. Think tanks and lobby houses, new media and old, consultants and old-time party hacks all fell into line to rev up The Machine against the newly-elected moderate Democrat named Barack Obama.

Yes, Hillary Clinton, there was and still is a vast right wing conspiracy. Luckily for us, Lee Fang has written the story of the conspiracy in the Clinton years and following right up to the 2012 election. Names, dates, and secret meetings are all in one compact book, where Lee's narrative proves what we all know: A small handful of billionaires and corporations drive politicians, the news, and day-to-day political discourse in this country.

 

And the graphic Greenwald wants you to look at is a fake — an altered version of a Think Progress graphic showing Norwegian anti-Muslim terrorist Anders Breivik’s citations of US bloggers in his “manifesto.” The altered graphic, to which they added my name in a very deceptive manner, with a bright green bar to make sure you didn’t miss it:

Once again, as he did with the Bradley Manning saga, Glenn Greenwald has sensationalized and distorted a complicated story, doing the best he can to glue the very worst possible interpretations onto important facts in order to further is now-routine Libertarian attacks on Obama—and most institutions of legitimate government. I assume his new monetization scheme he introduced the day before he broke the story has benefited from all the noise he's created. But now the rest of the media, and all of us, have to sort out the relevant facts, something Glenn is rarely very interested in because they clutter up his angry stick-it-to-the-man (or at least Obama) libertarian narratives.

To be sure, violations of our privacy can be a threat to our democratic principles and ideals. But as recent events have demonstrated, so too can terrorism. The balancing act we must do will be discussed for generations to come (if we last that long). I think it's essential that we discuss them fairly, and demand that our journalists do too.

Because most of my friends and readers don't have the time to parse all this stuff, I am going to present here some simple descriptions of what PRISM, and related NSA snooping projects actually do, without all the agenda-hawking hyperbole being baked into so many accounts. None of these programs are some wholesale sweep of private data and communications that Greenwald and others have tried to suggest. I will update this page as more or better pieces become available. My personal thoughts on Greenwald and this drama appear at the end.

Overviews if PRISM

U.S., company officials: Internet surveillance does not indiscriminately mine data

According to a more precise description contained in a classified NSA inspector general’s report, also obtained by The Post, PRISM allows “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” rather than directly to company servers. The companies cannot see the queries that are sent from the NSA to the systems installed on their premises, according to sources familiar with the PRISM process.

Crucial aspects about the mechanisms of data transfer remain publicly unknown. Several industry officials told The Post that the system pushes requested data from company servers to classified computers at FBI facilities at Quantico. The information is then shared with the NSA or other authorized intelligence agencies.

According to slides describing the mechanics of the system, PRISM works as follows: NSA employees engage the system by typing queries from their desks. For queries involving stored communications, the queries pass first through the FBI’s electronic communications surveillance unit, which reviews the search terms to ensure there are no U.S. citizens named as targets.

That unit then sends the query to the FBI’s data intercept technology unit, which connects to equipment at the Internet company and passes the results to the NSA.

The system is most often used for e-mails, but it handles chat, video, images, documents and other files as well.

“The server is controlled by the FBI,” an official with one of the companies said. “We do not offer a download feature from our server.”

Another industry official said, “No one wants the bureau logging into the company server.”

What is Prism (by Kevin Drum (Motherjones)

Obviously this is still a little fuzzy, but the picture that's developing is substantially different from the initial reporting. If tech companies have agreed only to build more secure ways of passing along data in response to individual FISA warrants, that explains why they've never heard of PRISM and why they deny being part of any program that allowed the government direct access to their data.

Technically speaking, this also makes a lot more sense. The process described by the Times sounds quite plausible, in contrast to the "direct access" story. Further reporting might clear this up even more, for example by explaining just how automated this system is and when human intervention is necessary.

Through a PRISM darkly: Tracking the ongoing NSA surveillance story
I'm a huge fan of tech journalist, Mathew Ingram. But while I very much disagree with some of his takes on this story and feel he's far too trusting of Greenwald (something others have learned not to do),  he's very good at presenting the more ominous side of the story without some of Greenwald's dishonest and distorting reporting.  So in the interests of presenting some balance, I include his summation of some of the technical reporting he's seen. Keep in mind, this was early on, and many new facts are coming to light daily which sap some of the "big brother" hyperbole and drama from this story as he's written about it here.

This story is moving so quickly that it is hard to keep a handle on all of the developments, not to mention trying to follow the denials and non-denials from those who are allegedly involved, and the threads that tie this particular story to the long and sordid history of the U.S. government’s surveillance of its own citizens. So we thought it would be useful to try and collect what we know so far in a single post, which will be updated as often as possible with new information.

Note: Ingram is a Canadian, so as a targeted "foreigner" in the NSA's crosshair, I feel he can and should be rightfully concerned about just how far these NSA programs can go. I personally feel most of these fears are grossly exaggerated, but I respect anyone's right to have and report on them as they see fit.

Critical Overviews of Recent NSA Revelations

NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate (by Bob Cesca)

It turns out, the NSA PRISM story isn’t quite the bombshell that everyone said it was. Yes, there continues to be a serious cause for concern when it comes to government spying and overreach with its counter-terrorism efforts. But the reporting from Glenn Greenwald and the Washington Post has been shoddy and misleading.

FISA 702 or PATRIOT Act 215? Questions on the Guardian/Wapo surveillance scoops (by @MSNBC contributor, Joy Ann Reid)

In other words, is this about domestic surveillance or foreign surveillance? You could argue that either way, the government colluding with phone or Internet companies to sweep up “metadata” is hellafied creepy either way. But in the interests of accuracy, the reports should get the law right.

Views and Commentary

We Are Shocked, Shocked!  (by "Wired" creator David Simon)

Is it just me or does the entire news media – as well as all the agitators and self-righteous bloviators on both sides of the aisle – not understand even the rudiments of electronic intercepts and the manner in which law enforcement actually uses such intercepts? It would seem so.

http://muckrack.com/link/vBZ0/we-are-shocked-shocked

 

Personal Thoughts About Greenwald And This Story

The day before he started blogging about "leaked" information from the NSA, he announced that his Guardian-based blog would now allow "reader support."  I'll reserve further comment on that amusing coincidence for another post.

Suffice it to say that Glenn is the PT Barnum of libertarian bloggers, and credit must be given to his flair for exciting people enough to throw money at him for distorting very important stories; stories which he may have legitimately broken, for legitimate reasons, before demagoguing right out of them any and all fairness, rationality, and respect for disagreements about what the material facts might mean. As usual, rather than go do the hard work of reporting themselves, most of the mainstream media will just suck up Greenwald's reporting and use it to sell papers.

By the time anyone realizes many of the facts were completely distorted, the popular memes and misconceptions are already out there, and nearly impossible to get back. By then, Karl Rove and the conservative noise machine have been able to recast the anger they generate into weapons they can deploy against democrats and progressives.  Lee Fang's new book goes into how this works.

The result is one more huge and noisy distraction from the larger problem we all face: how to recast a global political system that is completely dysfunctional, and unable to correct the imbalances created by global capitalism run amok. None of us are comfortable knowing corporations or government have such unfettered access to our communications. But I am far more uncomfortable with the lack of focus by progressives who claim they wish to address that crisis.  They are thrilled by these hyperbolic fireworks that people like Greenwald are so good at igniting, without understand that such stories just misinform, distract, and dispirit the very voters we need to fix all these pressing  problems while we still have a habitable planet to host them.

Related

 

I have just read for the fourth time, Sara Robinson's important 2012 essay entitled, "Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America"

It's not long, and one of those reads which I think every 10th grader should be forced to consume, and then be quizzed on again and again until the foundational concepts are ingrained and at least partially understood.  Until such understandings are embedded in each generation's mindshare, each will too easily fall victim to the same forces of plantation economy, aristocracy, and other rank manifestations of predatory capitalism that have soiled the one before.  Free markets have done much for civilization. But only by making them a little less free are we going to be able to constrain their raging excesses and the humanistic failures that have resulted from them.

Below are the last few paragraphs of Sara's post. They make for a tidy list of some of the greater threats posed by this centuries old culture war of inbred and nouveau-greed lording over historically disadvantaged populations of compliant serfs. It's a war threatening not just America, but the entire planetary ecosystem of our delicate species.

 

It's not an overstatement to say that we're now living in Plantation America. As Lind points out: to the horror of his Yankee father, George W. Bush proceeded to run the country exactly like Woodard's description of a Barbadian slavelord. And Barack Obama has done almost nothing to roll this victory back.

We're now living in an America where rampant inequality is accepted, and even celebrated.

Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required.

The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy — without ever being held to account.

The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude.

The military — always a Southern-dominated institution — sucks down 60% of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well.

Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Even liberal cities like Seattle are now home to the kind of local justice that used to be the hallmark of small-town Alabama sheriffs.

Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.

We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation — in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.

Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government's job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.

The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren't just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.

As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we're no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we've always understood them. Instead, we're being treated like serfs on Massa's plantation — and increasingly, we're being granted our liberties only at Massa's pleasure. Welcome to Plantation America.

How do we even begin to unmask and redress these crises of a modernist empire spiraling out of control? Will it be fixed  by carping on the marginal excesses of it, as seen in the issues of drones, national detention controversies and bank bailouts? Or will it be by finding new leadership and policy precepts that replace the ones which are clearly failing to provide for the common good? Ones not motivated by wealth accumulation or careerist ambitions, but rather by a sincere desire to advance our species toward its collective survival and some kind of satisfying intellectual and cultural status quo that endures long enough to reward successive generations without falling victim to them.

I have my ideas for getting there. I am sure you have yours. It's time we started to share them together, and out loud, in hopes of finding a brighter future before we're denied access to one by a dark and aggressively resurgent past. 

Due to my recent cancer surgery, I have lost any natural chance of having my own biological children. But I hope I have at least a few good years left where I might be able to do something to help all the other children on this rotating sphere of cosmic debris we're all traveling on.  We all get only a very brief span of years to do whatever good it is that we're going to do with them. We should probably get started.

Read the entire post. Then tweet me your thoughts.