hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013
Susie Madrak - Suburban Guerilla

Mr. Snowden is the seventh person to be accused by the Obama administration of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by leaking secrets to the news media, compared with three such cases under all previous presidents.
Our nation's prosecutors have become addicted to jailing people for non-violent offenses. Even the initial attempt to focus on terrorism has turned out to mostly jail non-violent offenders, as the words "conspiracy" and "material support" have been stretched to their breaking point.

Michael Hastings (Buzzfeed) - Jacob Appplebaum, Barrett Brown, Thomas Drake, James Rosen, John Kirakou, Bradley Manning

I'm not able to understand the gushing eulogies for Michael Hastings, alongside the apparent belief that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are worse than rapists, worse than most murderers, worse than the perpetrators of Abu Graibh, worse than the officers who burned Pat Tillman's uniform and diary, in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of his death.

And I don't believe the treatment of Manning and Snowden can simply be explained by excessive devotion to the rule of law, an administration unable to tell the difference between a good prosecutor and a Javert, though that would be bad enough.  If the Obama administration really was motivated by the rule of law, they would, amongst other things, be prosecuting James Clapper for making false statements to Congress (note: I do not support such a prosecution), and they would be investigating how Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old boy completely innocent of terrorism, wound up on the kill list (I do support such an investigation).

Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) - “What “Not Specifically Targeted” Means for Abdulrahman al-Awlaki”
John Brennan, at the time President Obama’s senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, “suspected that the kid had been killed intentionally and ordered a review. I don’t know what happened with the review.

next post: 12/31/2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Susie Madrak - Suburban Guerilla

Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

Gary Farber - Amygdala


My email to TPM, in response to this post:

"I think you're overlooking the main issue re: Manning. It's not outrageous that political elites believe low-level leakers deserve punishment. It is outrageous that they try to portray low-level leaking as a near-capital crime. In particular, I believe that if Manning gets a sentence harsher than Charles Graner's, then America's moral credibility is basically finished. People will still fear American explosions, respect American logistics, but truth and justice will no longer have anything to do with the American way."

I'm a bit ashamed at my vehemence. Nevertheless, I find the prospect of America treating prisoners of conscience more harshly than they treat rapists or most murderers appalling, and it suggests something has gone very wrong with the American state. The analogy that seems appropriate to me is prosecutions in Islamic states for blasphemy and apostasy. And the more obvious it becomes that overly harsh treatment of Manning and Snowden is not appropriate, the deeper into unreason the American state goes, hardening its heart and doubling down on its folly.

I wouldn't like living in a religious theocracy, a state that claimed to know the will of God. But I would like even less living in a military theocracy, a state that claims to know which citizens have aided the enemy, even when those citizens had absolutely no contact with America's enemies, and no intention of helping them. By the logic of the Bradley Manning prosecution, it seems very clear that Winston Churchill could have been prosecuted for aiding the enemy, when he leaked stories of British military weakness to the public, including to the Germans.

Think about this: Until Manning leaked those documents, there had not been one single publicly released estimate or study by the US government of the number of people killed in the Iraq or Afghan wars. If the fundamental task of an American citizen in this time period was to determine whether  the death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan was "worth it", the US government was making it impossible for American citizens to carry out their duties, by hiding those numbers, and the reality behind those numbers, from them. If the US government refuses to tell us roughly who it is killing, and why, how are we supposed to evaluate that killing? By pictures of kids getting candy, or schools being painted?

I think if you look at my blog posts from 2002-2005, I was very trusting, and respectful, of the national security establishment. It was only after iteration and iteration of "6 more months, 6 more months", that gradually it dawned on me that these people might not be telling the truth. Partly in honor of the troops who have died and suffered. Partly because they had no idea what the truth was, and were operating on the principle of "fake it till you make it". And partly, it must be said, because of the money and the contracts.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation
There seems to be this mentality in Washington that as soon as they stamp TOP SECRET on something they've done we're all supposed to quiver and allow them to do whatever they want without transparency or accountability under its banner. These endless investigations and prosecutions and threats are designed to bolster that fear-driven dynamic. 
Among the documents Pfc. Manning allegedly leaked are the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, secret diplomatic communications, and a video of US soldiers firing at Iraqi civilians and journalists from the air. . ."This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare,” Pfc. Manning is alleged to have written of the footage.
“When you look at the offense of aiding the enemy and take it out of this case and simply say, ‘If you can possibly aid the enemy by giving information to the press with no intent that that information land in the hands of the enemy, and by that mere action alone you could be found to have aided the enemy,’ that’s a scary proposition,” said Coombs. “Right there that would silence a lot of critics of our government, and that’s what makes our government great, in that we foster that criticism and often times when its deserved, we make changes. “ 

 Irin Carmon (Salon) - Laura Poitras and the NSA story

Chase Madar (Nation) - Bradley Manning aided the American people, not the enemy

Gary Younge (Guardian) - the Bradley Manning trial

Younge's article is a must-read, IMO.

next post: 12/17/2013