Thursday, August 29, 2013

Overdue Revolution 

Greetings, Audiophiles!

While everyone else is having kittens over Miley's MTV Video Music Award "performance", I was much more disturbed by the dubious overall quality of the musical guests as a whole.  Here's a list of the acts that performed live last Sunday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York:  

Miley Cyrus
Robin Thicke
2 Chainz
  Kendrick Lamar
Kanye West
Justin Timberlake
N Sync
Ryan Lewis
Mary Lambert
Jennifer Hudson
Katy Perry
And just for comparison's sake, here's the roster from back in 1992:
Black Crowes
Bobby Brown
Def Leppard
Elton John
Pearl Jam
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Michael Jackson
Bryan Adams
En Vogue
Eric Clapton
Guns N' Roses 

From this I'd like to derive a few conclusions...
  1. Although pop and R&B music was reasonable represented in 1992 by Bobby Brown, Def Leppard, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams and En Vogue we also had blues rock (The Black Crowes), alternative rock (U2, Pearl Jam), punk (Nirvana), rap-rock funk (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), classic rock (Eric Clapton) and metal (Guns N' Roses).  Okay, so Axel Rose warbling "November Rain" along side Elton John isn't exactly metal, but you know what I mean.  There's some variety here.   
  2. Not all of the pop music was disposable crap.  Well, except maybe for Bobby Brown.  And Def Leppard.  And Elton John.  And Bryan Adams.  Seriously, does anyone listen to shmaltz like this anymore? 
  3. Elton John was forty-five years old at the time and Eric Clapton was forty seven.  They don't exactly appeal to the optimal consumer demographic, do they?      
So, I hear you asking, how did our musical options become so hideously curtailed?  Actually the better question to ask is: how in Lemmy's name did bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Tool manage to chart back then in the first place?

The music industry may be a blatantly mercenary enterprise but they're also supposed to cater to public demand.  Right away that puts them in a very precarious position.  Although they want us to unquestionably consume the safe, polite, non-threatening, marketable gruel they manufacture for us, sometimes we turn up our collective noses and push the wooden bowl aside. 

For example, in the Seventies, the radio was chock-a-block with cornball easy listening crap, soulless disco, prog rock wankery and in-bred southern rock.  But then a coupla D.J's who still had a semblance of autonomy made the bold choice to play this:

Were the Sex Pistols the first punk band ever?  No.  Credit for that probably belongs to MC5 and / or Iggy Pop and The Stooges.  But an entire generation of disenfranchised kids who were railing against the mediocrity foisted on them by the music industry heard "Anarchy In The U.K." one time and their ears immediately perked up.  They wanted to hear it again and again.  They wanted to own (or steal) a copy of Never Mind the Bollocks.  They wanted to hear more bands like the Sex Pistols.   

Horrified by this unexpected blip of rebellion, the corporate pinheads scrambled to cater to this grassroots movement whilst and at the same time, attempting to steer public opinion back towards something that was much easier to produce, package and sell.  After all, who wants to see their investments go rogue during a press junket and end up narrowing their commercial appeal?

Aren't those interview clips gloriously awkward and sweat-inducing?  Well, guess what, kids?  That's what rock n' roll is all about.  It's about danger, passion and an outward contempt for the status quo.  It's about rebellion and horrifying your parents.  It's about giving the younger generation a chance to say "F#@k, yeah! Tell those oblivious reporters where they can cram their microphones!"      

Regardless of punk's groundswell popularity, music was safety back within its industry-approved box by the time the mid-to-late 80's rolled around.  Once again radio stations and music videos channels were awash with sappy ballads, nauseating pop pablum, shitty glam metal and aging irrelevancies.  But then, in September of 1991 a few remaining D.J.'s and V.J's who hadn't yet been neutered started playing this:

So was Nirvana the first alternative band to create a buzz around that time?  Nope.  Early innovators include R.E.M., Jane's Addiction, Violent Femmes, Fishbone, Faith No More, Hüsker Dü, The Cure, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bauhaus, The Tragically Hip, Guided By Voices and, by my estimation, about a hojillion other bands.  But, much to Kurt Cobain's chagrin, Nirvana was in the right place at the right time and they became the de factor spearhead for a musical coup d'état.

The best thing about this: the record industry was completely blindsided.  They didn't see this coming, at all.  A few autonomous souls had the balls to spin "Teen Spirit", kids heard it, dug it, adopted it as their generation's anthem and then demanded to hear more music like it.  The industry weasels scrambled to feed this rogue demand, signing any flannel-clad band that could simultaneously scream and produce feedback.

I'm convinced that Kurt Cobain could see the writing on the wall from day one.  Even though alternative music had been dragged kicking and screaming out into the mainstream, Kurt knew that it was only a matter of time before corporate morons got their mitts on alternative music and ruined it forever.  As influential as Nirvana and their contemporaries were, they couldn't halt the inevitable.

Terrified that he'd eventually become a part of the problem, Kurt decided to opt out in the most permanent and tragic manner possible.  Even after his death, decent music lingered in the charts for a few more years.  For example, here's what the MuchMusic Top 30 Countdown looked back in 1995.

But slowly, inexorably, things started to swing back towards homogenized, manufactured mediocrity. And thank goodness, too!  How are you supposed to market a band when they act like they have Asbergers during interviews?

By the late 90's the charts were once again choked with detritus.  And this time, the suits made sure that there wouldn't be any more nasty, unexploitable surprises.  They lobbied the government for sweeping deregulation and thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 we went from having thousands of independent sources for music to about around eight.  And as we all well know, he who controls the medium controls the message.

Thanks to bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand there was a whiff of garage rock rebellion back in the early 2000's but it was largely ignored by the mainstream media.  Instead, the Big Four record companies continued to jam our collective noses down into the trough of their choosing.  As such, here's what the Much Music Top 30 Countdown looks like today.

Granted, it's not all dire.  Serena Rider's "What I Wouldn't Do" exhibits genuine passion.  Tegan and Sara are great but I'm genuinely distressed by their poppy and overproduced turn.  And although I'm loathe to stroke Kanye West's already-inflated ego, he does exhibit signs of inspired brilliance from time to time.  The balance of the chart, however, is pretty fugly.  It includes Simon Cowell's latest musical swindle, Hannah Montana's desperate attempt to create an anthem and Alan Thicke's creepy, nearly forty-year old son delivering the rapiest-sounding "song of the summer" I've ever heard.

Most of all I feel sorry for kids today.  They deserve to have a legacy band that they can be proud of, not a bunch of garbage they'll want to purge from iPod as soon as they turn twenty.   

I'll leave you with a positive story, one which serves as a perfect parable for this entire post.  For years the city of Halifax suffered under a blight of terrible radio stations.  If kids turned on the radio they had two choices: either classic rock like AC/DC, the Allman Brothers and Steve Miller or pop diva droppings from Beyonce, Brittany, J-Lo, X-Tina and the like.  Naturally, if you grow up thinking that these are your only two options, you tend to pick the lesser of two evils and then grudgingly apply your selection to the soundtrack of your existence.

But a few years ago Live 105 decided to roll the dice and offer a modern rock / alternative music format.  For the first time ever, Haligonians could finally hear The Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Talent, Arcade Fire and Queens of the Stone Age on the radio.  And, go figure, they responded very positively.

So well in fact that the other dinosaur rock stations had to contend with the horrifying possibility that young people aren't particularly interested in Fleetwood Mac.  After years of playing the same tired 70's and 80's music, Kool 96.5 changed their format this past week to "honest and real" singer-songwriter type music like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons.  Now, I know I'm probably not going to hear something like The National or Band of Horses on this station any time soon, but at least it's an incremental move in the right direction.

My point is: the music industry has to stop acting like the tail that's desperately determined to wag the dog.  Why not put a little bit of everything out there?  Why not let people choose what they like and then cater to them?  Stop trying to convince people that rock attained perfection in 1974 or that autotune is a legitimate musical instrument or that bubble gum is the only flavor of ice cream.    

Go figure, you may actually end up making some filthy lucre in the process.

EPIC DOC  Before the Music Dies is a powerful examination of the devolution and homogenization of the music industry.  Highly recommended. 

EPIC PERFORMANCE  Nirvana at the MTV MVA's back in 1992.  I love how they start by playing a few bars of the verboten "Rape Me" just freak out the sensors.  Bonus points: bassist Krist Novoselic beans himself with his own bass, drummer Dave Grohl cat-calls Axel Rose and some crazy mother-f#@kers decide to indulge in some prime-time stage diving.  Honestly, when's the last time you saw someone stage dive at the VMA's?  Bring back the danger!!!      

EPIC DEBATE  A few month ago a bunch of us got together to listen to the Billboard Hot Top Ten.  This was the inevitable result

FAILURE OF PERSPECTIVE  ♪♫ "Just don't look, just don't look..." ♪♫

FAIL-ING TOO HARD  Some people have compared Miley's VMA performance to some of Madonna's live television appearances over the years.  Now, I'm no Madonna fan but even I know the difference between making a public statement about sexual morays, religion or female empowerment and trying to stir up controversy by going your best Gene Simmons impersonation and then using a forty year old douchebag as a stripper pole.  Unlike all of you pearl-clutchers out there, her act didn't shock or scandalize me.  I won't join you in a round of self-righteous "slut shaming".  I just feel embarrassed and kinda sad for Miley.  Obviously this is the only way she thinks she can get our attention and that's as sad a comment about us as it is about her.     

Monday, August 19, 2013

From Hero To Pariah

Greetings, Vigilant Ones!

In a previous post, I dared to ask "Who Watches The Watchmen?" and now I can confidently identify at least one rarefied group of individuals who are still at the vanguard of truth.  Collectively, these people are known as "whistleblowers".

In this age of mutable digital information it's probably even easier to expose crooked politicians and evil corporations.  All you really need is a certain amount of tenure, a flash drive, an email account and a healthy dose of conscience and courage.  Imagine if this sort of data fluidity and ease of transmission was available back around 1938.

In November of that year, during the terrifying events of Kristallnacht, at least ninety Jews were killed and another thirty-thousand were summarily rounded up and interred in concentration camps.  Although this pogrom was widely reported by foreign journalists at the time it still didn't galvanize the entire world against the Nazis.

But surely there must have been a few well-placed Germans who were horrified what they'd seen.  Decent citizens who saw the homes and businesses of innocent people vandalized.  Good Germans who watched as their Jewish neighbors were forced to immigrate en masse to North America or the U.K. in order to avoid further persecution.  Surely there must have been a small klatch of high-ranking German officials who were alarmed by the overnight disappearance of their neighbors and whispers about a "Final Solution" to the "Jewish Problem".

What if a rogue German officer, sympathetic to the plight of the Jews became privy to sensitive documents which foreshadowed the Holocaust?  If this shocking information could have been disseminated all over the world perhaps history would have played out differently.  Nazi appeasement might have been curtailed, a World War might have been avoided and six million European Jews might have been spared.

In lieu of a healthy climate of investigative journalism, the stones of conspiracy and abuse can only be lifted by whistleblowers.  Historically, these brave and self-sacrificing people have been viewed as ballsy, socially-conscious heroes who risk their reputations, careers and even their lives in order to expose the hidden truth.

Now that mainstream media has been reduced to a house organ for political and corporate interests, only whistleblowers remain as the last resolute guardians of our democracy.  Unfortunately, the powers that be also know this and they're doing their darnedest to demonize these people as "traitors" and "spies".

In order to get a feel for this we need to look at how whistleblowers were treated back when the press was still independent and how they're cast in the public eye now.

Here's the before:

Smedley Butler 

A highly decorated veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp, Major General Smedley Butler was approached by Wall Street thugs who wanted to shit-can President Roosevelt and his "socialist" New Deal and then install a fascist-leaning government in his place.  Although a New York Times editorial tried to write this off as a "gigantic hoax", the paper was forced to support Butler after a two-month investigation proved "that General Butler's story of a Fascist march on Washington was alarmingly true".

This open coup failed because these corporate criminals picked the wrong man to confide in.  To their surprise, after Butler told them to go kick rocks, he went public with their treasonous offer and his shocking allegations were upheld.  Although the conspirators were never ferreted out, the General was vindicated by the press when all the evidence finally came out.

A year later, in a effort to clear his heavy conscience, General Butler went public about his own role in military war profiteering.  Here's his most damning statement, made in an issue of the magazine Common Sense:

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.  I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.  I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916.  I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903.  In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.  Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.  The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts.  I operated on three continents."

Pretty meaty stuff.  Unfortunately, in the long run, America was still co-opted by corporate interests.  In much the same way Hitler gained power slowly and methodically through political channels after his abortive Beer Hall Putsch, the white collar gangsters eventually got their way.

W. Mark Felt

Until he went public in 2005, Mr. Felt was better known as the pornographically-dubbed "Deep Throat".  Felt leaked information regarding President Nixon's close ties to the Watergate Affair to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post.  Nowadays, such a story would probably be deep-sixed by corporate and political wrangling or ignored by a distracted public, but back in 1972 that shit went viral.  The press latched onto the story like a pack of rabid wolverines, Nixon eventually resigned in disgrace and and investigative journalism scored a major win.


I really do believe that the effectiveness of the media in this case prompted future governments to sponsor deregulation, encourage mass mergers, and defang the press.  Trust me when I say this: there have been many Presidents since Nixon who have concealed lies that are just as big and destructive as Watergate.  For example, Reagan had Iran/Contra, Obama's got the whole NSA (see below)  / Fast and Furious / IRS / Benghazi / drone thing rockin' and honestly, George W. Bush's rap sheet is waaaaay too long to catalog here.  If the media was as tenacious and as rogue as it was back in the early Seventies all of these clowns would have been driven out of Washington with torches and pitchforks.

And, yes, I'm fully aware that Bill Clinton lied under oath about a certain oral-happy intern, but at least no one died over that one.   

Speaking of dying...

Dr. Jeffrey Wigand

A few years after Dr. Wigand became the R&D Vice President for tobacco giant Brown & Williamson in 1989 he discovered that the company's executives had given their blessing to add addictive and carcinogenic properties to their cigarettes.  When the higher-ups discovered that Wigand was in the know they promptly sacked him.  Three years later he appeared on the venerable new program 60 Minutes and his story shocked the nation.

Although Wigand was harassed and threatened with legal retribution and physical harm, the still-autonomous media rallied behind him and by 2004 Brown & Williamson had shriveled up into R.J. Reynold's body cavity like a cancerous testicle.

And here's the after:

Julian Assange

Although Assange is more of a facilitator and less of an actual whistleblower, he's done more to inform a blissfully ignorant public about serious issues then mainstream media has done in the past two decades.  A former computer hacker and programmer, Assange has since become a vocal activist for free speech, government transparency and Lois Lane-style journalism.  In 2006 Assange launched WikiLeaks, a global, internet-based, cabal intent on disseminating concealed and classified information from anonymous donors.

Notwithstanding the explosive information provided by Bradley Manning (see below), WikiLeaks has shed some much-needed light on the following dodgy subjects:
  • The War in Afghanistan.  Over the course of 91,000 separate documents, the general public finally got to see a "devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighboring Pakistan and Iran are fueling the insurgency".   
  • The War in Iraq.  This time close to 400,000 reports entered the public domain, confirming the death of 66,081 Iraqi non-combatants.  It also details how "US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers" while under their watch.  
  • Gitmo.  In April of 2011 WikiLeaks dropped 779 insider documents about the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp.  Under the guise of safeguarding Americans from dangerous militants, the reports revealed that most of the prisoners in the camp were expressly there for the purpose of information extraction, torture was endemic and many were suffering from some sort of mental illness.  
And those are just the three big ones.  To date, WikiLeaks has provided some tantalizing exposés on such diverse topics as Scientology, crooked climate science and Sarah Palin's oblivious usage of personal email to conduct state correspondence.  Through it all, the corporate shill media has barely focused on the content of these leaks and have instead seized upon the lascivious sexual assault charges that conveniently targeted Assange about around the same time that the Iraq War Diaries were released.

Oh, and let's not forget the borderline-rabid histrionics from the mouth-breathers over at Fox News or, more recently, Michael Grunwald at Time magazine.  Right-wing conservative nut-jobs are espousing this vitriol based on the false premise that WikiLeaks has put scads of innocent people in harm's way.  But as the Washington Post observes, WikiLeaks "is not about the disclosure of troop movements to al-Qaeda or giving the recipe for the plutonium bomb to North Korea. This is the widespread publication of information that is important in determining the future policy of the United States, that could be very important for people in assessing how well our government is doing its job.”  

Sorry, but American citizens deserve to know how their tax money is spent, especially if it's being used in such a unconscionable manner.  Plus, anything that gives Tourette Syndrome-inflicted talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and Bob Beckel fits can't be all that bad.

Bradley Manning   

The person responsible for giving WikiLeaks some of its biggest scoops is twenty-five-year-old U.S. Army Intelligence Officer Bradley Manning.  In October of 2009, after only a month of training, Manning was shipped off to the "Hammer" Forward Operating Base just outside of  Baghdad.  In this position he was granted inexplicable access to some incredibly sensitive information, including video of two U.S. helicopters  gunning down Iraqi civilians and killing two highly-lauded Reuters journalists in the process.

Be warned this is some pretty disturbing stuff:

Beyond the Iraq and Iran War Logs detailed above, Manning also leaked an equally powerful video of the botched Granai airstrike in 2009 as well as 250,000 US diplomatic cables that range from the moderately embarrassing to the downright scary.  In May of 2010, Manning made the mistake of confiding in former rogue hacker turned corporate firewall Adrian Lamo who promised to be completely confidential.

"I'm a journalist and a minister," Lamo fibbed.  "You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection."

But within a few days, Lamo regurgitated their conversations to the FBI and Manning was arrested on May 27'th, 2010.  The most intriguing piece of trivia in this arrangement is that Lamo himself once made a name for himself by hacking into the confidential computer files of Yahoo!, Microsoft and The New York Times.  Lamo has since said that he wouldn't have turned Manning in "if lives weren't in danger" but Glenn Greenwald of Salon wrote a great article calling "bullshit" on that particular story.

After spending almost a year in conditions that human rights activist Juan E. Mendez described as "cruel, inhuman and degrading", Manning's situation only improved after nearly three-hundred legal scholars and scholars signed a statement which called his treatment "unconstitutional".  In fact, his initial incarceration was so shabby that Manning's attorney described it as "pretrial punishment".

Manning eventually plead guilty to ten of the twenty-two charges leveled against him and on July 30'th he was convicted of seventeen.  Proving that there's some justice still left in the world, he was acquitted of the completely ludicrous charge of "Aiding the Enemy".  During his sentencing hearing on August 14, 2013, Manning made the following contrite statement:

"I am sorry that my actions hurt people.  I'm sorry that they hurt the United States.  I understood what I was doing was wrong but I didn't appreciate the broader effects of my actions.  I only wanted to help people, not hurt people.  At the time of my decisions I was dealing with a lot of issues." 
Julian Assange has since weighed in about the Manning verdict and his subsequent apology, both of which decry the media's shameful complicity in this story.  Again, instead of exploring the content and the implications of the leaks themselves, the press has done nothing but make hay out of  Manning's troubled past or trumpeted his concilatory apology.  But where were they when Manning laid out his original motivations for doing what he did in this under-reported pretrial statement from February 28, 2013?

"I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the [Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan."

In fact, uploading the information to WikiLeaks seemed to ease his burdened conscience:

"I felt this sense of relief by [WikiLeaks] having [the information]. I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and what I had read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan everyday."

He also clearly unnerved by the so-called "Collateral Murder" video:

"The most alarming aspect of the video to me…was the seemly delightful bloodlust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have.  They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as quote-unquote 'dead bastards', and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers.  At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety.  The individual is seriously wounded.  Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage.  For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

"I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crewmembers.  I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.  After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public who observed the aerial weapons team video.  As I hoped, others were just as troubled—if not more troubled—than me by what they saw."
But perhaps the most important question the mainstream media failed to ask is why a psychologically-fragile twenty-two-year-old kid was given open access to all of this supposedly earth-shattering information in the first place?

Edward Snowden     

Unlike Bradly Manning, Edward Snowden had his shit together.  Working at Booz Allen Hamilton as an Infrastructure System Analyst for the National Security Agency, he was pulling down two-hundred grand a year.  He was living in the tropical paradise of Waipahu, Hawaii.  He had an inexplicably hot and intriguingly flexible girlfriend.   

But during his time with the NSA, Snowden uncovered something so disturbingly Orwellian that he was willing to sacrifice his cushy existence for a lifetime of danger, paranoia, prosecution and scorn.  So, what did he encounter that was so incendiary?  In a nutshell, he discovered that the U.S. and British governments are spying on us.  Not just the suspects among us, I mean, literally, all of us.    


Snowden dished about a slew of charmingly-nosy and clandestine monitoring programs such as:
  • PRISM - The system by which the NSA leeches data from the general populace, via social networking sites like Facebook or personal email accounts such as Gmail.  
  • Boundless Informant - This program can take all of the handy information gleaned by PRISM, extrapolate trends from the data and render the findings into some truly eye-catching graphics. Boundless Informant: it's not just for PowerPoint presentations anymore!
  • MAINWAY - Thanks to our good friends at Verizon, AT&T, SBC, and BellSouth, MAINWAY boasts a stellar collection of our telephone calls.  How many do you ask?  I'll give you a clue: it's somewhere between one and 1.9 trillion.         
  • Tempora - This tea-and-crumpet version of PRISM is said to keep Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in more private information then even the NSA can handle.
To use my own lame acronym, the media is doing S.F.A. to examine the ramifications of these revelations.  Instead we get:

(1)   Senator and Scarlett O'Hara understudy Lindsey Graham parroting the sentiments of Joseph Goebbels:

(2)   Voices of recrimination coming from the most ironic sources imaginable:

(3) Or a pointless obsession over Edward's attractive and imminently bendy girlfriend.  Um, sorry...I
      guess I'm a tad guilty of that, as well.   

Although the concept of Snowden answering to charges of "traitor" from the likes of "Tricky" Dick Cheney is almost laughably funny, he's had several chances for rebuttal.  Here is is, outlying his main motivation via a press conference held at the Moscow airport, which was published in the London Telegraph back in mid-July:

"The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance.  While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair.

"I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: 'Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.'"

And although Obama has pledged to review these uber-creepy surveillance programs, he also recently rescinded any public pledge to safeguard whistleblowers from recriminations.


Public opinion of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden might still be mixed, but I think this is only because they've been completely and totally abandoned by the ombudsman shield of government and the duplicitous media.  Whistleblowers have always had it rough, but at least they were once considered to be trusted and confidential sources during the heyday of investigative journalism.   

We just can't stand idly by and watch this happen.  Whistleblowers are the last bastion of accountability in this screwed-up world and if they're all written off as "spies" or "traitors" our democracy will soon be deader then disco.

EPIC OBSERVATIONS  I need to make up some t-shirts that read "I'm With Noam."  

I'm also a big fan of Chris Hedges.  Here he conveniently encapsulates the theme of this post in just under two minutes:

EPIC ARTICLE  Just to bring everything full-circle...

TRUTH FAIL  Three short months before Ed Snowden dropped his truth bomb, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper blatantly lied under oath to Congress when asked about surveillance: