Hey! iPhone fanboys! Over here!

This is a really good question:

I don’t understand why Apple made the iPhone deal with AT&T, since AT&T is – and I’m just going to say this [-] the company rightly most notorious for giving the worst people in the federal government an extra-legal spinal tap into our communications systems as part of project so massively unconstitutional and, almost certainly, abused, that lawsuits by the ACLU and EFF can’t even penetrate the protective layers of paranoia that protect it from disclosure. …

AT&T won’t see another dollar in my life unless it’s drawn involuntarily from me. But I’m obviously not in good company. How many people have contributed to EFF and bought an iPhone? How can the early adopters, the people how are most eager to see the future, see the beauty in the gadget and not the ugliness inherent in their purchase? How can people camp out, looking forward to a product that won’t happen, and not see what happens when privacy comes at only at the discretion of the least ethical credentialed federal agent? How can you spend money to be guaranteed that your every communication through that device is being monitored?

Yeah! (pumps fists)

Updating the list

I note, in the wake of Monday’s carnage, that there are a number of things the Blogosphere has magically become an expert on:

  • Wound ballistics
  • Weapon performance
  • Urban/close-quarters battle tactics
  • Unarmed self-defense against armed maniacs

Will wonders never cease? I have this image in my head of Dick Cheney having another jammer and the merits of the various treatment options suddenly becoming politicized and everyone having an opinion on whether primary PCI is better than facilitated PCI is better than a thrombolytic strategy alone, with certain blogs who shall remain unidentified talking about the economics of each and..

Oh, screw it. This makes my head hurt.

On related notes:

  1. Anyone who says that a .22 is a nothing gun

    And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren’t bad.

    — is a total idiot and knows absolutely nothing about wound ballistics. I know that the .22 LR is not anything near a sexy round, nor does it possess anything close to the ideal amount of that mythical thing called stopping power, but unless you’ve had to chase one of those projectiles around the body, you don’t get to say that “your chances aren’t bad.” A .22 that gets into the body is in there for the grand tour, unlike a 9mm that’s likely to mushroom and expand, or a rifle round that’s going to go flying through leaving a nice, clean wound track. Projectiles are projectiles — throw it fast enough and it’s dangerous. Guess what, kids? .22 is plenty dangerous. (I should hope that the fact that a .22 needs to find something important to do damage crossed with the fact that the round is in there for the grand tour is not something you would take solace in, but that’s just me.)

    I’m going to totally ignore the rest of that masturbatory post. The crack about the .22 is enough.

  2. The comments from Old Jarhead need to be tattooed on everyone’s eyelids. I like guns. I’ve owned guns. I’ve fired a lot of rounds in my life. I feel very comfortable around firearms. I do not want a concealed carry permit and I do not want a firearm for defensive purposes in my house because of this fundamental truth: I am not 100% convinced I could drop the hammer. That makes me a liability, not an asset, when it comes to dealing with armed maniacs. It’s not manly of me, but it is who I am, and I’m not willing to lie to myself to say otherwise. What’s the point? We all want to be Rambo; almost none of us are. There’s no shame in this.
  3. I think the whole gun issue would be a lot saner and less idiotic if the people who were seriously trying to argue one position or the other had been to the Lethal Force Institute, or at least read about Massad Ayoob. Chris Wright wrote a fantastic article about LFI and Ayoob for the Boston Phoenix a few years back, and some of Ayoob’s ideas about guns and self defense seem far too rational to come from this world:

    The 51-year-old Ayoob is something of a celebrity in the gun community. In 1980, he published In the Gravest Extreme, a book that quickly came to be known as the definitive study on the tactical, legal, and ethical issues surrounding the use of lethal force by civilians. Twenty years after its publication, the book has sold about 300,000 copies.

    In all, Ayoob has written a dozen books — The Truth About Self-Protection, Stressfire, Hit the White Part — plus countless articles for gun periodicals. He has been an expert witness in about 70 criminal trials. He has taught in Switzerland and South America, England and Africa. He has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the National Enquirer. He has appeared on Frontline, 20/20, and the Today show.

    “He’s a celebrity among thinking gun owners,” says Miami criminal-defense lawyer Jeffrey Weiner, former president of the National Association of Criminal Lawyers and an LFI grad. “He’s not a celebrity among macho types.” …

    Following another burst of laughter, Ayoob’s deadly serious again. “There are no first-place winners in a shooting situation,” he warns us. “When it’s over, believe me, you haven’t won. Deterrence is the only victory.”

    In many ways, LFI isn’t a class in killing people. It’s a class in not killing them. Ayoob finds himself in the curious position of believing the best way to prevent gun violence is to teach people how to commit it. His entire lethal-force philosophy hinges on a single principle: the more prepared you are to kill an assailant, the less likely you are to have to.

    This may sound a bit nutty at first, but perhaps the only way to get to the heart of a matter as complex as gun ownership is through paradox. In an issue that many people view in black-and-white terms, Ayoob’s pacifism-through-violence philosophy has made him as many enemies as it has friends.

    “I’ve found myself caught in the middle of a very polarized debate,” he says. “On one side I’ve got the hard-core anti-gunners. To them I’m a crypto-fascist because I tell women that if a rapist attacks you, killing the son of a bitch is absolutely one of your options — legally and morally. On the other side there’s the hard-core right-wing ultra-gunnies, who consider me a crypto-commie because I tell them, ‘No, as a matter of fact, you don’t have a God-given right to carry a loaded gun in shopping malls where there are kids walking around. It’s a privilege, and you need to be able show society that you know how to use it and when to use it. That you’re not going to shoot at a perpetrator and hit a kid by mistake.’ I think that’s a reasonable request.

    “In the history of polarized debates,” he adds, “anybody in the middle find himself in a very lonely place.” …

    “Civilians chasing criminals are like dogs chasing cars: they have no idea what to do with them when they catch them.” That is: if they run, let them go. If it’s a robbery, give them the money. If you’re armed and someone comes up and spits in your face, walk away. If you hear a noise in your house, hide yourself in a safe room and call the police — never go looking for intruders.

    When in doubt, don’t shoot.

    “I can’t believe I spent $600 for that ugly little Ay-rab to tell me I can’t shoot anyone,” says Ayoob.

    It’s weird and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and yet it makes all kinds of sense. Help me out here.

Roots

From a comment over at this blagh here:

Seriously, I hear Libertarians talk all the time about how they’re socially liberal (so to speak), but it never seems to matter come vote time. In that way, I see no chance of a large “bloc” of Libertarians doing anything that moves the Republican party towards what they claims it the Libertarian agenda. If Libertarians truly had an intellectually consistent bone in their bodies, they’d have stopped voting Republican years ago.

Here’s the thing about libertarians and this US electoral cycle. I know I promised I was going to stop talking about politics (“stop talking about politics! more sad plane videos!”), but I can’t help myself here.

Libertarians are going to have to make a very painful choice here. Specifically, they’re going to have to decide whether or not they want to be rich, or whether they want to be free. If they want to be rich they can keep voting Republican and shut the fuck up about lost civil liberties. Or they can embrace the idea that maybe, just maybe the documents they claim to venerate, and the principles of limited government they claim to hold dear, are worth something — and that you can actually measure that amount in terms of real dollars. If you assume a Democratic Congress is going to cost you more money, and yet might give you some of those personal and social freedoms you hold so dear, you get to decide whether you’d rather have the extra cash or the extra freedom.

The choice is only painful if you’re an idiot. The idea that everything comes down to economics, or that happiness can be expressed solely in terms of money is as brainless when it comes from a libertarian as it does when it comes from a Marxist. I don’t have a lot of patience for people who stamp their feet and argue that, while the Republicans are bad, the Democrats must surely be worse — who the hell are you kidding with that kind of logic? Why, ’cause they’ll undo the tax cuts? Gimme a break. Freedom-fans who argue that the tax cut was more important than, I dunno, the war on drugs, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, fucking habeas corpus… I’m sorry, you’re big on freedom why, precisely?

Jim Henley (who, along with Glenn Greenwald, should start a blahg called “For Good or For Awesome”), wrote way back when:

You don’t like it, my neo friends, and that’s to your credit, but in your small way you helped to bring it about. You did this by imagining that the likes of Robert Fisk were a bigger danger to you than John Poindexter. You did it by imagining that somehow the part you liked about the Bush administration – war on your target of choice – was separate and distinct from the part you didn’t like – HSD, IAO, the brute-force linkage of the War on Drugs to the War on Terror, USA-PATRIOT. You put more energy into refuting “idiotarian” claims that our liberties had already been taken away than into fighting the people who were, right out in front of god and everybody, working to take them away in earnest. You imagined that war and repression somehow don’t go together, even that war could function to inoculate against repression. You forgot or never saw a very important adage of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s:

    Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.

If you imagine yourselves as part of some coalition, ask yourself what you’re getting for your trouble. You lost HSD. You lost USA-PATRIOT. You get IAO. An independent 9/11 commission? Gone. A lot of you favor liberal rules on therapeutic cloning. Think you’ll get that from this Congress? Is there anything whatsoever that neolibertarians favor that the rest of the Republican coalition does not where you have gotten or expect to get your way? Any case where the Administration said “We’ve got to give the libertarians this?” Or where you can imagine them saying it? Remember, the war doesn’t count. The neocons want it and the Christian Coalition wants it. They matter. Ditto for the tax cut. I’m talking about something that neolibertarians hold dear that neocons and/or the Christian Right oppose, where the will of the neolibertarians prevails.

I’m here every day. You can get back to me.

A proposition: Neolibertarians are to the Republican Party what African-Americans are to the Democratic Party – taken for granted because they have nowhere else to go.

We really weren’t kidding, guys. War is the health of the state. It’s time to stop imagining that this government will give you a generation-long war and occupation of however many countries without piling up the internal security measures, time to stop pretending that you have a box over here marked Good! that contains Don and Condi and a box over here marked Bad! that contains Ashcroft and Ridge and Mineta and that you get to pick one and not the other.

That needs to be tattooed on peoples’ necks. I realize it’s a long block of text to tattoo. I’m OK with that. Anybody who doesn’t like they pain they’ll suffer in the experience can complain about the torture they, indirectly, helped to bring about.

I hung my head

If this doesn’t sum up too much of the last five years, I don’t know what else will:

This mindless, authoritarian belief in Presidential Infallibility repeats itself in almost every debate we are having. Those who favor greater protections for accused terrorists for military commissions are labelled by Bush followers as advocating for “terrorist rights” even though the whole point is that we can’t know they are terrorists until we give them a fair trial. But to Bush followers, the Leader’s decision to detain them and accuse them is all we need to know. We can place blind faith in the Leader’s judgment. Thus, to be accused by the Bush administration of terrorism is the same as being a Terrorist. Those detained at Guantanamo, or by the U.S. military, or anyone accused by the President of being an “enemy combatant,” is guilty for that reason alone. And thus anyone who advocates rights for those so accused is, by definition, advocating rights for Terrorists.

The same irrational, zombified mental process dominates the debate over warrantless eavesdropping. According to the administration, it is only eavesdropping on individuals whom it suspects are involved in some way with Terrorists. But to the administration and its followers, to be suspected of terrorism by the administration is to be a Terrorist. Hence, they will say that the Bush administration is only eavesdropping on terrorists because they recognize no distinction between being accused by the administration of terrorism and being a Terrorist. Thus, anyone opposed to warrantless eavesdropping is, to them, opposed to eavesdropping on Terrorists (rather than objecting to the administration’s ability to eavesdrop without first demonstrating that there is reason to believe they are a terrorist).

(On a totally unrelated note, I love Glenn Greenwald and want to have his babies. I think if Glenn Greenwald and Jim Henley started a group blog, they should call it “For Good or For Awesome” because it would either be good, or it would be awesome, or it would be good and awesome, and either way it would kick so much serious ass that it would probably implode upon itself revealing only a pure, dense core of amazing awesome which would probably blast away the outer shell of the blogging universe, which would be ultra-amazing awesome. Ahem.)

Glenn’s right. It is irrational. But can that many people really be crazy? Or is it just that a crazy minority of people have a really loud megaphone? Or is it that a crazy minority of people control all the branches of government in the United States so it doesn’t really mater what the non-crazy majority think? I dunno. But that doesn’t explain why the citizens are so happy to let their government do bad things. So let’s consider the rational reasons:

  1. They genuinely trust the feds. When the government says, “This is a bad person,” they really believe there’s a bad person on the receiving end of the stern look. You have to be very naive to trust the government this completely; you have to not know anyone who has ever been falsely accused of anything, fallen victim to overaggressive cops, or been jacked around by The System. It seems that in order to believe this, your interaction with the government has to be limited to filing a tax return once a year, and it’s imperative that you’re white, middle class, and don’t do anything that attracts undue government attention. Eventually most people grow out of this phase, usually by 25 or so (the first tax audit seems to do it, or the first time you’re asked for ID by a cop for no good reason).
  2. They don’t trust the feds, but they’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this issue. I think most of us inherently suspicious types were in this camp immediately after 9/11, and most of us hopped out once it became painfully apparent (almost as immediately) that the feds were no better at solving this particular problem than they were at solving, say, the drug problem. In order to be in this camp you don’t have to be quite as naive as people in the first camp, but you do need to avoid asking yourself the question, “If the government can’t deliver the fucking mail, what hope in hell do they have of successfully saving my ass from a terrorist attack?”
  3. They’re so scared that they’re willing to pay any price to not be scared. This is the first of the bad camps, exactly the people Franklin warned about in the apocryphal quote everyone’s waving around these days. 9/11 unhinged the yuppies in such a serious way that they lost control of their critical faculties and need to be slapped silly until they settle down. Exhibit A in this instance is James Lileks, who went faaaaar off the deep end after 9/11 even though the odds of his being killed, specifically, are roughly as good as his being crushed by an asteroid. But there are an awful lot of yuppies out there who are shit-scared of this thing, though weirdly they tend to live in places not actually likely to be attacked by terrorists. I note that New Yorkers, as a general rule, are not running to embrace George or his policies, and, lest we forget, they were the ones getting killed on 9/11, not some doofus in Omaha.
  4. They genuinely like dictatorship. This is the scary option. Sara Robinson has written a series of excellent essays about fundamentalist, authoritarian personality types (start here and keep reading; Kung Fu Monkey sums the series up) and though I don’t agree with her completely, there’s a lot to think about in there, and although she’s not speaking specifically to this point I feel it generalizes nicely. There’s always going to be some segment of the population who believe that it’s OK to be brutal and evil to people sufficiently unlike them, and we’re probably not ever going to be able to get away from that. Woe betide those who find themselves on the other side of the fence; it’s exactly like the Christians arguing in favor of the protection of marriage and the establishment of a state religion — what, precisely, makes you think you’re going to be the ones in control for ever?

The problem, unfortunately, is that at the end of the day the delusions — whatever their source — are ultimately self-reinforcing. If there’s no terrorist attack, that proves that whatever Bush is doing works, so we need more of it. If there is another terrorist attack, well, Bush got his hands tied by the Democrats, so we need more of what he was going to do. So either way, we need more. You would think that this bit of logic would tend to nudge people out of one of their delusional camps — two opposite statements lead to the same conclusion? wtf?! — but logic is apparently not most people’s strong suit. If you’re convinced that you’re going to die when Osama sneaks into your bedroom tomorrow night, and that only Bush can save you.. well, there’s a whole host of false premises there and nothing I can do is going to change your mind. We could do ourselves a big favor by lowering the rhetoric over terrorism and stapling James Fallows’ article from the September Atlantic on people’s foreheads, though given the bloodlust in some people with loud megaphones I doubt it would do much good.

Part of me thinks we should just concede defeat on this issue and move on, but then I realize the outcome is going to be so much worse that it probably isn’t worth thinking about. I fear for the United States and I fear for my world. I don’t think George Bush is going to get us all killed (the same way I thought Reagan was going to get us all killed), but I do think he’s doing an excellent job of fucking the shit up and making things about a thousand times worse than they need to be, which is not exactly an original thought but this is my LJ so shut up.

Frink and I have talked about Outer Context Problems, where your frame of reference is so dramatically different that we can’t hope to bridge the gap and have a meaningful conversation. This feels like one of those OCPs — either you believe that we’re all gonna die, or you have your doubts; if you fall into the former camp, nothing someone from the latter camp can do will change your mind. Unfortunately the conditions for leaving the former are very poorly defined indeed, and so I conclude that we’re going to be stuck with this for a long time to come.

And that’s your depressing thought for the morning.

"A very British apocalypse was being prepared for us."

I’ve had this kind of sick fascination with civil defense for quite some time now. What drives this, I think, is my general paranoia and distrust of any kind of “official” government advice when it comes to dealing with things that are manifestly hard to deal with. Given my previously expressed (both professionally and otherwise) stances on emergency preparedness, particularly in this part of the world with regards to earthquakes, this might seem kind of weird, but you have to draw the line somewhere; the line seems to be whether you’re likely to survive the event you’re trying to deal with (nuclear bomb no, earthquake yes) and whether the measures you’re trying to enact would actually be useful (sealing off room to protect from chemical weapon no, stockpiling food and water for a week after an earthquake, yes). Beyond that, fatalism more or less requires me to take the view that we’re all dead, so what difference does it make? “Why prolong it?!”

Still, my fascination with these futile attempts at pacification of the populace remains unchanged. Duck and Cover amuses the hell out of me, and there are a whole host of really good movies from the bad old days that presented this hilariously optimistic view of how to stay alive when the Russians decided to blow the world all to hell. (We’ll ignore, for the moment, the fact that the Americans were vastly more likely to shoot first and the Russians retaliate than the other way around.) Atomic Alert is a great example that most people haven’t seen, and there’s a comment on the site that sorta covers it all:

Reviewer: BWCarver – 5 out of 5 stars – December 10, 2002
Subject: Liars

What strikes me about this video and the others like it (e.g., Duck and Cover) is that they are all made AFTER the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The U.S. government KNEW what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they had the gall to tell people to cover themselves with a coat!?

It’s baffling. If the U.S. had ever been hit by an atomic bomb, people would have learned what a pack of lies they had been told about its likely effects. So, these films express a contradiction. On the one hand the film purports to have the desire of educating people as to the likely effects of an atomic blast, but on the other hand, the film-makers must know that everything they are suggesting is absolutely false and worthless advice.

Recognizing this leads us to look for another motivation for these films. Appeasement? Controlling the fear of a populus with leaders who figure they cannot bear the truth? Something else?

The consensus answer, according to the cynics (hiya!), is that it was probably appeasement. If a majority of people thought they’d survive, they’d be less inclined to support policies that were actually increasing the risk of getting everyone killed. Obviously this didn’t happen, though, and so now we’re left with a collection of material, of varying degrees of creepy, that address many of the more important aspects of emergency preparedness during the Cold War.

One of the creepier public information artifacts was Protect and Survive, the British version of Duck and Cover. And boy, is it ever creepy. It gave people nightmares for a long time and, had I been a kid and seen this stuff, it would have freaked me right out too. We joke about the stupid graphics DHS put together that looked like something out of a particularly stupid aircraft safety card, but the graphics here have no such polish; they’re sparse, to the point, and eerily effective. The film version of Protect and Survive – Action After Warnings is about a thousand times worse; this BBC writeup doesn’t really do it justice — you have to see it for yourself. And then there’s Casualties which, at 1:25, is quite possibly one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen come out of Britain. These were part of a series of 20 films that would have been shown on TV and broadcast over the radio if the UK government ever felt there was a serious risk of an attack — busy work for the people in a crisis, I guess, and the reality is that it probably wouldn’t have worked worth a damn.

(Apparently you can get all 20 films on DVD along with a bunch of other civil defense stuf and part of me really wants to order it. Another part of me, however, thinks that I’ll be up for a month if do.)

But something is better than nothing. And so you got official instructions on how to build a fallout shelter out of books and doors, to help your neighbors in time of war, to listen to the radio, and wait for official instructions. You know, assuming there were official instructions to be issued. It’s roughly the same advice the Americans gave their citizens around the same time and I normally wouldn’t have thought anything of it except that two weeks ago I was in Porthcurno reading a leaflet, “If The Invader Comes,” that the War Office had printed out during WWII encouraging people to stand firm and carry on with their daily lives, even if there were German soldiers traipsing around the countryside and tank battles down the road. And after having been exposed to Protect and Survive in London at the Imperial War Museum, I was primed to notice the similarities between the two plans — both were grim, stiff-upper-lip pieces of work that we would normally associate with British people, and both ultimately downplayed the seriousness of what might happen. Being told to carry on with your normal life would be more or less impossible, whether there was a panzer division in your backyard or a bunch of highly irradiated dust… but that’s what the government wanted British citizens to do. As for what would have happened, that’s anybody’s guess. The UK could be thankful that at least it didn’t have a whole bunch of guns lying around.

It’s easy to picture a scene out of When The Wind Blows where Britons go merrily about preparing for the end of the world and spend most of the time complaining about it. Protect and Survive is frightening to us now because of how effectively it blends optimism and pessimism into one work, but parts of me wonder whether everyone would have seen it that way at the time. Certainly some people did, but is the sequence from When The Wind Blows linked above that hard to imagine? How many people went and built bomb shelters on this continent believing they’d survive? Did they do it with the nagging sense they wouldn’t? Or was there that blind faith in the state that tells us everything’s going to be ok on the theory we won’t be around later to complain it wasn’t? I’m not old enough to remember how those instructions (lies) were received, mostly because I wasn’t alive then.

There’s a scene in Atomic Alert that drives this point home clearly. An attack warning has been issued and the kids go into the fallout shelter in the basement. Boom! Bomb falls on the waterfront, and we cut to a cartoon mushroom cloud blowing up maybe a couple of blocks, and an announcer says that radioactive rain is falling in some places, and that it might be a good idea to avoid radioactive mist. (I’ll get right on that, thanks.) Did people really believe this was how it was going to be?

Ultimately I guess the reason I’m fascinated by this stuff is because it feels like it was part of a huge disinformation campaign by various governments to lie to their citizens about how bad it would really be. Kevin Hall argues, quite persuasively, that Protect and Survive was really about the protection and the survival of the state rather than of the population:

Protect and Survive became a public admission of the change of policy since the abolition of the Civil Defence Corps in 1968. A major change in thinking had taken place and these can be summarised as:

  • Exercises such as Square Leg foresaw a 200mt attack
  • Large scale civil defence efforts were seen as unnecessarily provocative
  • Government policy regarded national survival and survival of the population to be entirely distinct
  • There was little enthusiasm for spending on civil defence
  • Governmental survival was seen as a key priority
  • The Control of internal dissent was seen as a major priority in the run-up to war

That’s.. about par for the course, actually. But there’s more:

Protect and Survive does not state why these preparations were so necessary, particularly in the regard to food. Numerous Home Office Circulars at the time indicated it was government policy not to begin any mass feeding of survivors until at least 14 days had passed since the attack. Officially the reason was that levels of radiation would still be too dangerous. However in civil defence exercises organised by the Home Office one common problem kept repeating itself: during the simulation of the aftermath of nuclear attack not enough people had died. The numbers of survivors meant that the supplies of food available were hopelessly inadequate to feed the population. In fact the best most people could look forward to was a “stew-type meal” per day which provided 800 calories, this would lead to slow starvation of the survivors. …

As far as protection of the public is concerned, the official government line in Protect and Survive was that you would be just as safe in your own home as anywhere else. This has been proven not to be true in any meaningful sense of the word. What Protect and Survive was in fact demonstrating was government was not prepared to maximise the numbers of survivors for a variety of reasons. Firstly was the problem noted above of too many survivors. Second was government policy expressly ruled out a large public bomb shelter plan. Most likely thirdly was looking at the problem of diminishing returns where the implications of saving each life could have been evaluated, possibly leading to the conclusion that small number of survivors press-ganged into forced labour schemes after the attack would have been enough to ensure national survival -— national survival clearly being stated as the Raison d’être of the Protect and Survive policy.

The Protect and Survive policy stood in unique contrast from what was offered in other nations. For example both the USA and USSR had, at the time, a policy of evacuation from major cities. Other nations such as Sweden and Switzerland had regulations which compelled all new homes to have fall-out shelters inside. Britain was put in the position of having neither an evacuation or shelter building programme.

Emphasis his. I encourage you to, as they say, read the whole thing. And it sounds like there’s a book out there I really need to read (Duncan Campbell’s War Plan UK, sadly out of print and now fetching huuuuge $$$ on the used book markets — it’s as bad as Ignition! it’s worse than Ingition!.

Hall’s article digs at the core of the issue: “The U.S. government knew what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they had the gall to tell people to cover themselves with a coat!?” They, the people in charge, couldn’t have believed it it would work — their bunker-building and continuity of government plans (link goes to a BBC story with audio of a creepy nuclear war broadcast from 1970) certainly seem to say so, and Hall and his sources have it pretty meticulously documented — so why would we? And if we didn’t, why’d we keep re-electing the bastards who kept lying to us? Are we as a society capable of deluding ourselves to that degree? Or are we just that gullible?

Either way, the answer depresses the hell out of me. It was a cynical attempt to pacify a populace and convince them to, ahem, “Remain calm! All is well!” There’s some evidence, though, that we didn’t believe it, in the UK at least, and by the time a majority of people stopped believing it was possible to live through something like that (around the time of Reagan and Thatcher) we were well into the 1980s and Cold War paranoia only had a few more years left to run, so ultimately the governments were off the hook. But the lies went on, and I don’t think anyone has ever officially acknowledged how full of shit the civil defense planners were. Then again, when has the government ever acknowledged how full of shit it is?

That depresses the hell out of me, too.

"This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don't use that term lightly."

Are you starting to sense a trend?

This isn’t about the spying, although that’s a major issue in itself. This is about the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search. This is about circumventing a teeny tiny check by the judicial branch, placed there by the legislative branch, placed there 27 years ago — on the last occasion that the executive branch abused its power so broadly.

In defending this secret spying on Americans, Bush said that he relied on his constitutional powers (Article 2) and the joint resolution passed by Congress after 9/11 that led to the war in Iraq. This rationale was spelled out in a memo written by John Yoo, a White House attorney, less than two weeks after the attacks of 9/11. It’s a dense read and a terrifying piece of legal contortionism, but it basically says that the president has unlimited powers to fight terrorism. He can spy on anyone, arrest anyone, and kidnap anyone and ship him to another country … merely on the suspicion that he might be a terrorist. And according to the memo, this power lasts until there is no more terrorism in the world. …

The result is that the president’s wartime powers, with its armies, battles, victories, and congressional declarations, now extend to the rhetorical “War on Terror”: a war with no fronts, no boundaries, no opposing army, and — most ominously — no knowable “victory.” Investigations, arrests, and trials are not tools of war. But according to the Yoo memo, the president can define war however he chooses, and remain “at war” for as long as he chooses.

There’s lots more. As they say, read the whole thing. But it doesn’t matter, because Michael Moore is still fat.

"… and our nation will fall into despotism. I mean that sincerely."

At the risk of channeling my old blog, Perry Metzger hits it out of the park:

The FISC may be worthless at defending civil liberties, but in its
arrogant disregard for even the fig leaf of the FISC, the
administration has actually crossed the line into a crystal clear
felony. The government could have legally conducted such wiretaps
at any time, but the President chose not to do it legally.

Ours is a government of laws, not of men. That means if the President
disagrees with a law or feels that it is insufficient, he still must
obey it. Ignoring the law is illegal, even for the President. The
President may ask Congress to change the law, but meanwhile he must
follow it.

Our President has chosen to declare himself above the law, a dangerous
precedent that could do great harm to our country. However, without
substantial effort on the part of you, and I mean you, every person
reading this, nothing much is going to happen. The rule of law will
continue to decay in our country. Future Presidents will claim even
greater extralegal authority, and our nation will fall into
despotism. I mean that sincerely. For the sake of yourself, your
children and your children’s children, you cannot allow this to stand.

Of course, you might be tempted to think that Perry is shrill and unbalanced, and that he’s got a bee up his ass about cryptography and privacy, and that really, they had to destroy and ignore the constitution in order to preserve, protect, and defend it. You might be tempted to defend this action as being necessary to prosecute the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on pornography, or anything, really. You might be tempted to say that the innocent have nothing to hide, and if you’re feeling uneasy about being spied on, maybe the government should be looking at you. You might be tempted to brush this off, because the prospect of dying in a terrorist attack scares you more than the thought of the National Security Agency listening to your phone call. Anything goes, right?

Does it? Does it really? How far is “anything”? We’ve got arbitrary detention, officially-sanctioned torture, and spying. We’ve got summary conviction on secret evidence, and surveillance without your knowledge. Hundreds of thousands of names are on lists, but no one knows what the lists or for, or how they got on the list, or whether they’re on one at all. To paraphrase , I think we’re well past the slippery slope and have stumbled into the dark pit at the bottom of the slope. And what amazes me is that there are some people — you know who they are — who are still going to defend Worst President Ever, call it “necessary” and “unfortunate” and “justified,” and call the rest of us objectively pro-terrorist, or soemthing.

Fuck that shit.

Perry’s right: Americans need to wake the fuck up to what’s going on here. They need to grow a pair, stop being afraid because Dick Cheney comes out from time to time to go “booga booga!” in an attempt to scare the nation, start demanding some accountability, and run these assholes out of town on a rail. I’m not sure what I’m more upset about: The fact that this desperately needs to happen, or the fact that it probably won’t happen.

This is a scandal, to be sure, but it’s not an impeachable scandal. It’s not like anyone had sex with an intern here.