Cartel of Defiance

cartel of defiance (noun): 1. In medieval combat, a formal declaration, delivered by herald, of a combatant's intention to fight and refusal to submit. 2. An electronic assemblage of engaged and enraged citizens. 3. An intertextual mode of reading, writing, and thinking that puts the current political, cultural, and personal moment in dialogue with text/art from the past in counterargument to the ahistorical Memory Hole into which America seems to have slipped.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"grub first, then ethics"

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?

(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

--Allen Ginsberg, from "A Supermarket in California," Berkeley 1955

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Be grateful to them which brought you up by hand!"

"And then, dear boy, it was a recompense to me, look'ee here, to know in secret that I was making a gentleman. . . When one of 'em says to another, 'he was a convict, a few years ago, and is a ignorant common fellow now, for all he's lucky,' what do I say? I says to myself, 'If I ain't a gentleman, nor yet ain't got no learning, I'm the owner of such. All on you owns stock and land; which on you owns a brought-up London gentleman?' -- Great Expectations, Chapter 39

Saturday, May 13, 2006

an alliance between government and commerce

In the spring of 1996, at an annual conference organized under the name "Computers, Freedom, and Privacy" (CFP), two science-fiction writers told stories about cyberspace's future. Vernor Vinge spoke about "ubiquitous law enforcement," made possible by "fine-grained distributed systems"; through computer chips linked by the Net to every part of social life, a portion dedicated to the government's use. This architecture was already being built--it was the Internet--and technologists were already describing its extensions. As this network of control became woven into every part of social life, it would be just a matter of time, Vinge siad, before the government claimed its fair share of control. Each new generation of code would increase the power of government. The future would be a world of perfect regulation, and the architecture of distributed computing--the Internet and its attachments--would make that perfection possible.

Tom Maddox followed Vinge. His vision was very similar, though the source of control, different. The government's power would not come just from chips. The real source of power, Maddox argued, was an alliance between government and commerce. Commerce, like government, fares better in a regulated world. Property is more secure, data more easily captured, and disruption is less of a risk. The future would be a pact between these two forces of social order. Code and commerce.

-from the preface of Code and other Laws of Cyberspace © 1999, Lawrence Lessig

The attribute which most singularly defines this administration is its insistence that our Government is based on unilateral and unreviewed Presidential Decree. The President directs the telecom companies to turn over this information and they obey. That’s how our Government works, as they see it. And if the telecom companies are concerned about their legal liability as a result of laws which strongly suggest that they are acting illegally if they comply with the President’s Decree, and thus request a judicial ruling first, that request, too, is denied. There is no need for a judicial ruling once the President speaks. What he orders is, by definition, legal, and nobody can say otherwise, including courts....[snip]

Magically, hordes of brilliant pro-Bush legal scholars have been able to determine instantaneously -- as in, within hours of the program's disclosure -- that the program is completely legal and constitutional (just like so many of them were able confidently to opine within hours of the disclosure of the warrantless eavesdropping program that it, too, was perfectly legal and constitutional). Having said that, there are some generally pro-Bush bloggers expressing serious skepticism over the legality and/or advisability of this program.

-Glenn Greenwald, May, 2006, from his blog. (Follow the link for the complete essay.)

A new Pentagon research office has started designing a global computer-surveillance system to give U.S. counterterrorism officials access to personal information in government and commercial databases around the world.

The Information Awareness Office, run by former national security adviser John M. Poindexter, aims to develop new technologies to sift through "ultra-large" data warehouses and networked computers in search of threatening patterns among everyday transactions, such as credit card purchases and travel reservations, according to interviews and documents....[snip]

"How are we going to find terrorists and preempt them, except by following their trail," said Poindexter, who brought the idea to the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now is beginning to award contracts to high-technology vendors...[snip]

The office already has an emblem that features a variation of the great seal of the United States: An eye looms over a pyramid and appears to scan the world. The motto reads: Scientia Est Potentia, or "knowledge is power.

-Robert O'Harrow Jr., Tuesday, November 12, 2002,
© 2002 The Washington Post Company

House and Senate negotiators included language in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-87, § 8131, 117 Stat. 1054, 1102 (2003) signed into law by President Bush on October 1, 2003), prohibiting the further use of funds for the TIA program. Further, the Joint Explanatory Statement included in the conference committee report specifically directed that the IAO (the program manager for TIA) be terminated immediately (149 Cong. Rec. H8755—H8771 (Sept. 24, 2003). Notwithstanding the defunding of TIA and the closing of the IAO, several TIA projects continued to be funded under the classified annexes to the Defense and the Intelligence appropriation bills in 2003 and subsequently.

For example, several TIA projects were funded through the National Foreign Intelligence Program for foreign counterterrorism intelligence purposes by the National Security Agency as Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) under the classified annex to the 2004 DOD Appropriations Act as contemplated in §8131 thereof. Recent reports suggest that some of this activity is now part of the Disruptive Technology Office (DTO) reporting to the Director of National Intelligence.

-Wikipedia, Information Awareness Office, article current on May 13th, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Slip of the Tongue

"By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out," Mehlman says in his prepared text. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
-- RNC Chief to Say It Was 'Wrong' to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes, Washington Post, July 14 2005

MR. RUSSERT: Headlines in the Capitol Hill paper: “Dems prepare for transition.” Today’s Washington Post: “Confident Dems lay out agenda.” You’re measuring the draperies in the speaker’s office.

REP. PELOSI: No we’re not. No we’re not. The American people would like to know what we would do if we take over.

MR. RUSSERT: Ah, absolutely. If they...

REP. PELOSI: And that’s what...

MR. RUSSERT: ...and let me ask you about that, because you told The Washington Post that there will be investigations if the Democrats regain control of the House. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee would be someone named John Conyers. I went up to his Web site and this is what’s on his Web site: “Stand with Congressman Conyers. Demand an investigation of administration abuses of power and make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.”

REP. PELOSI: Democrats are not about impeachment. Democrats are about bringing the country together. This is what we have to do.

MR. RUSSERT: But that’s the man who would be chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Tim Russert on Meet the Press, May 7 2006


COOPER: It's interesting, though, because Democrats seem to be trying to fire up their base. And I'm wondering if it is going to backfire.

You have Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi telling "The Washington Post" that, if Democrats regain the House, they would launch investigations into energy prices and the war.

When people start hearing about investigating the president, I mean, does that just fire up the Democrats, or does that play into the Republicans' hands?

GERGEN: Terrific question.

I -- it -- it -- when I read that story over the weekend, I thought, you know, this is going to wave a red flag in front of the Republican bulls. They're going to look at this and say, we're not going to spend the next two years with investigations, led by Ron Dellums and others and people who want to impeach the president. We're just not going to get into that.

-- David Gergen on Anderson Cooper 360, May 8 2006

John Conyers is currently the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. Ron Dellums retired from Congress, after 28 years of service, in 1999.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Reliable Source

"You have to have a great deal of confidence to do self-deprecating humor, especially when you're being attacked day in and day out," said Landon Parvin, who helped Bush and Bridges write the jokes contrasting Bush's public voice with his supposed inner thoughts." -- Washington Post, The New Bush Twins: Double Dubya

"Make. Announce. Type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home." -- Colbert

The reviews from the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner are in, and the consensus is that President Bush and Bush impersonator Steve Bridges stole Saturday's show -- and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's cutting satire fell flat because he ignored the cardinal rule of Washington humor: Make fun of yourself, not the other guy. -- Washington Post, The New Bush Twins: Double Dubya

Man (1938)

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