Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup: Alaska Blogs and the Snowden-Greenwald Smear Circus

Progressive Alaskan blogs - September 2009.  Click to enlarge.
I.  Progressive Alaska used to carry a weekly feature, titled Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup.  I dropped it about three years ago.  As part of my new approach to this blog, I've decided to bring the feature back.

The "new approach" means far fewer articles than I used to write.  Since April, the number of articles I've actually written here has dropped off considerably.  There have been a number of reasons for this, not least of which have been: my work, musical composition and public volunteer activity schedules.  Here's an enumeration of Progressive Alaska articles per year, since PA started in early November, 2007:

2007:      78 articles --- 1.35 per day
2008:    924 articles --- 2.52 per day
2009: 1,006 articles --- 2.76 per day
2010:    786 articles --- 2.15 per day
2011:    712 articles --- 1.95 per day
2012:    576 articles --- 1.58 per day
2013:    178 articles ---   .99 per day

I'm re-thinking what my blogging and writing mean, over the course of this summer.  While composing six new works (a piece for narrator, chorus and orchestra, about Elizabeth Peratrovich (in collaboration with Diane Benson), a trumpet concerto, a song cycle, some short a capella pieces, my 5th Symphony, and transcriptions for brass quintet of several madrigals by Don Carlo Gesualdo),  I'm also preparing notes for a book about the Alaska I've been lucky enough to have known, experienced and taken a small part in shaping.

Writing hundreds of articles over the past six years at PA, and at firedoglake has helped me to become a better writer.  I appreciate that.

Although I hope to concentrate most centrally here in the future on environmental issues concerning Alaskans, I view the startling, seemingly unchecked growth of the national surveillance state as an existential threat to American democracy, and to the framework of our constitution and its bill of rights.  Hence, my longstanding coverage here of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and - recently - Edward Snowden.

In one of the last Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundups I posted here, I described my take on the evolution of these outlets over the course of two years or so.  Since that September, 2009 post, the Alaska progressive blogging community has diffused in interesting ways.  I'll get back to that next Saturday.  (hopefully .....)

II.  Most of the coverage of the flight and revelations of former CIA and NSA techie, Edward Snowden, has been pretty much confined to three Alaska blogs:  Stonekettle Station, The Immoral Minority, and PA.  I'll look at the coverage in that order:

Stonekettle Station:  I met Stonekettle's host, Jim Wright a couple of months ago, when he addressed our monthly Mat-Su Democrats' Egan Dinner.  Although Wright is somewhat affable and an excellent public speaker, he is an intense authoritarian.

His talk was about the insanity of the ways we deal with gun control and the 2nd Amendment in public life and lawmaking.  On the subjects of gun violence and gun fetishes, I was pretty much in agreement with Wright.  However, in his talk, and responding to audience questions afterward, his worldview struck me as somewhat warped by his military background and present business, in which he "occasionally consult[s] for the military."

His strange naivety about process might be illustrated in his sole essay so far on the subject of the role of the National Security Agency, in which he writes:
In the horrific aftermath of 9-11, we, as a nation, we Americans demanded that those who protect this country be right every single time, no matter the cost.  
We demanded that the enemy, whoever he was, could not get lucky, even once. 
No matter what the consequences.  
And so we changed the rules.
Wright claims, and I trust his veracity on this, that he fought against and objected to all the "stupid" in what "we" changed:
These programs began a long, long time ago, and right after 9-11 they were ramped up to full throttle and the safeties were removed and they’ve been running that way ever since.

And there were plenty of those who raised the alarm, including yours truly right here on this blog, plenty who protested – on both sides of the political aisle. They were ignored. They were dismissed as alarmists, denounced as cowards and traitors and enemies of America (and in fact if you go back and read the comments under certain posts here on Stonekettle Station, you’ll find accusations of exactly that. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been called a traitor by supposed patriots).
I've been fighting against our relentless, needless wars since the last few months of my U.S. Army service, back in the mid-60s, when Wright was probably in elementary school.  Wright describes, as a postscript to his article how close he was to NSA [emphases added]:

I used to work for NSA. As a uniformed member of the US Naval Security Group and its successor organization, I spent more than twenty years in and around the agency. Unlike Edward Snowden, I take my oath very, very seriously indeed and therefore I will not discuss my duties in any fashion whatsoever. Suffice it to say that I am intimately familiar with the National Security Agency and while I may be biased, I have very good reason to believe in the organization’s professionalism and regard for the rights and liberties of all Americans. I don’t expect you to take my word for it, but I will say this: unless you’ve been inside, everything you think you know is wrong.  
Here’s what I know for certain, based on my personal and professional experience: The folks at NSA are dedicated professionals who hold their oath to the nation above all else. No one is more aware of the power they wield and the potential for abuse than they are – because they, my friends, are Americans too. They were set a task and authorized to carry it out and they will do so with the utmost dedication – until they’re told to turn it off. If you, as a nation, want it turned off, really want it turned off, then you need to hold your elected representatives to account. I’ll offer this caution however: think very carefully before you command the Djinni, think it all the way through.  
Regarding Edward Snowden: He was a contractor IT dweeb, not an operator, not an analyst, and certainly not a policy maker and you should regard anything he says from that perspective. The programs he revealed are legal under our current laws and as I said in the article they should have been a surprise to nobody. Snowden claims that he can’t get a fair trial in the United States, boo hoo, he’s got nobody to blame but himself. He betrayed his oath, he broke the terms of his contract, he purposely violated the provisions of his security clearance. If he had concerns, he could have availed himself of any of a dozen avenues of address, including contacting members of Congress directly, instead he chose to make himself into a martyr and so now he can suffer the consequences.
It actually hasn't been positively ascertained whether or not Snowden, as an employee of a private contractor, took any sort of "oath."  When I was Whittier Harbormaster and Fire Chief, I was a sworn officer of the city and state, and took an oath.  When I was Director of Allvest's Cordova Center, the state's largest halfway house, and with more control over peoples' destinies than I ever had in my Whittier service, I took no oath, as I was an employee in the private sector.  While with Allvest, I had to watch as my employer, Bill Weimer, routinely violated his contracts with the State of Alaska.  I have a hunch Snowden had similar experiences.

Wright's essay on the National Security Agency is quite good in some respects, but he minimizes the implications of many of Snowden's revelations, particularly about the extent of of our spying, eavesdropping and tapping of governments, institutions and individuals around the world, often in violation of treaties our country has solemnly obliged to honor.  And that authoritarian streak in Wright seems to throttle and hold him back every time he's about to break on through to the other side.

Additionally, the commenting community at Wright's blog, though sometimes confrontative, can be knowledgeable and informative.

The Immoral Minority:  Jesse Griffin has written a few posts on Snowden's flight and its implications.  At first Gryph was agnostic or non-commital, writing:
Okay I am not going to prejudice any discussion by telling all of you what I am thinking about this whole thing right now, though I ma thinking quite a lot actually, and instead open up the floor to discussion on whether you think Snowden a hero, a criminal, a dupe, or a facade for others to hide behind. 
I will weigh in with one opinion however. I saw Glenn Greenwald on MTP today, and he came off as a complete asshole. Not that assholes can't be right, but he did not do himself too many favors with his attitude and arrogance. 
I disagreed with Jesse's assessment of Greenwald's confrontation with David Gregory, commenting at IM:
My diary on Snowden's move from Hong Kong to a Moscow airport at firedoglake.  
It is probably too early to tell who Edward Snowden really is, but I disagree strongly that Mr. Greenwald "was a complete asshole" on CNN Sunday morning. He could have answered Gregory's question implicating Greenwald in possible criminal activity better, but few here in the comments have chosen to delve into Gregory's continuing accommodation to USG talking points, without questioning their veracity.
My appearance as a commenter at IM infuriated someone:
Why the fuck are you promoting your far left wing bullshit on Jesse's blog. I thought Jesse had banned you? WTF Jesse, why do we have to be subjected to this asshole's garbage comments again? WTF? He doesn't add anything of value except bashing Obama and the US. WTF Jesse? WHY IS HE HERE AGAIN????????
and it infuriated someone else, too [even more - emphasis added]:
Greenwald is not only a complete asshole, he is a despicable, smarmy traitor to this country, along with Snowden.  
As I see, Munger is sucking on Greewald's dick again, as he has done for years. 
Guess birds of a feather flock together, eh? It 's a pity that Gryphen has caved to let you back on the blog, you're a disgrace to this country. And now you're already attacking people on this blog. WTF is wrong with you? 
It's very disturbing that you found some way to twist Gryphen's arm and allow you to putrify the comment sections of his blog.
In spite of this uncharitable person's assertion, I haven't twisted Jesse's arm.

Griffin returned to Snowden about the time the organized slime campaign against the fleeing whistleblower emerged:
I have been asked my opinion on Mr. Snowden and here it is.

While I think learning about these programs and recognizing that our government, and yes that includes President Obama, lied to us is an important and necessary thing to learn, I do not think that how Edward Snowden went about this is defensible, nor do I trust his motives.

As for Glenn Greenwald, I am not a fan and believe that if a better journalist had been the one to break this story Snowden would not be gallivanting around the country dropping our personal information, and top Secret data, all over the world like a tipsy businessman into the ear of a $200 streetwalker.
Griffin seemed to back away a bit in his next post on Snowden:
The problem with the information that Snowden revealed is that it hit us in the face with information that most liberals either did not think about or actively hoped was not true. And that was that the apparatus put into place by the Bush administration, the same apparatus that infuriated liberals all over the country, was now being used by an administration that we desperately wanted to trust and support.

Now we can agree that Snowden is no angel, and in fact might even be considered a traitor. But the information that he revealed, well that is another matter altogether.  
But here's the thing. We also learned through Snowden's documents, that Britain has a similar program. As does Israel. And I think it goes without saying that China, Russia, most Middle Eastern countries, and possibly the majority of European countries have programs that are quite similar.
I doubt that "the majority of European countries" or "most Middle Eastern countries" have anything remotely resembling what has come to light.

Jesse has continued to write on this subject:

Edward Snowden might find himself stranded as Ecuador cools to the idea of allowing him into the country. Update!

An interesting aspect of Griffin's articles on Snowden is that commenters defending Snowden (and Glenn Greenwald) are almost universally respectful and on topic, but are often attacked with the same vitriolic enthusiasm as I was there.

Progressive Alaska:  Most of my articles on Snowden and the issues raised by his flight and disclosures have been mere cut-and-pastes of videos I wanted to post because they appeared to be important.  The firedoglake version of my article on Snowden's move from Hong Kong to Moscow elicited 274 comments there, while the version of it at Progressive Alaska received two.

In the course of twitter interaction over my article, I Call the White House Regarding the Edward Snowden "We the People" Petition, I was able to interact and communicate with prominent liberartian thinker, writer and blogger, Justin Raimondo, founder of, whose work I've been following since the beginning of the century.

If other Alaska progressive blogs have covered Edward Snowden, I've somehow missed it.

I'll conclude with an interview Thom Hartmann conducted on RT TV with Pentagon Papers revealer, Daniel Ellsberg, to whom Edward Snowden has often been compared:


Anonymous said...

Mr Phil i had no doubt you had a full plate.

Jim Wright was someone i followed, till i could see the militant streak that i know so well in my own family. Sadly i only read him every so often. Has a gift for writing! His turning skills i could spend time talking with him about.

IM is not worth my time, gave that up a few years ago. Wonder if i am still banned?

Yes Alaska blogs have sure changed. Waiting to see your next Saturday spawnup--Heh had to try that. AKjah,homeroid

Anonymous said...

Despite Wright’s authoritarian streak I find him interesting. He does seem a bit removed from real life though. I often wonder if it is because he is military - or typical of a personality that is drawn to the military? On the base near my home I also notice all the televisions are set on Fox News. Is this a case of intentional indoctrination or are military types drawn to Fox?

Anonymous said...

As to Wright being a bit removed — I am referring to his being involved still in the NSA. That involvement does imply he feels separate from we mere civilians. And this is the crux of the problem with NSA: We citizens feel at a disadvantage and scared that our military/government is spying on us. Our military is supposed to be apolitical and this does not bode well in maintaining that very important wall.

Celia Harrison said...

The response to the Snowden leaked information from many on the left all over the country has stunned me. The attack on Glenn Greenwald has been revealing. Many on the left are just as controlled by propaganda from the MSM as the right is. One reason for the attacks against him are his shining excellence in telling the truth while the news media works with and is controlled by the government. He makes them look bad, so they are attacking him in a personal way. Isn't it also surprising to realize there are so many authoritarians on the left?

clark said...

Really surprising! The drone program alone makes me question all my previous assumptions about this president -- not to mention Guantanamo, Assange, Manning and Snowden. What kind of belief are people following? "If the President does it, it is not illegal"? Where have we heard that before?