Stuck, with nowhere to turn

I am getting old. At this writing, I am 54 years of age, middle-aged, and in good health, but very much at a point where I need to worry—a great deal, in fact—about my old age, about that not insignificant possibility that there will be a day when I can no longer work in a society that has eviscerated its social safety net.[1] I am also at a point where I have exhausted some sources of funding and no longer have enough income to reasonably get by.

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  1. [1]Kristina Cooke, David Rohde, and Ryan McNeill, “The Undeserving Poor,” Atlantic, December 20, 2012,; Bryce Covert, “Clinton Touts Welfare Reform. Here’s How It Failed,” Nation, September 6, 2012,; Bryce Covert, “This Is What Happens When You Rip a Hole in the Safety Net,” Nation, March 28, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “As Lawmakers Target Food Stamp Funding, New Report Finds 1 in 6 in U.S. Are Going Hungry,” May 30, 2013,; Peter Edelman, “The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done,” Atlantic, March, 1997,; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011).

Open season

Reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin seems to have cleaved largely along two lines. The first, most obvious, and most predictable reaction was among racists, conservatives, and gun rights advocates who have backed Zimmerman from the beginning, who saw Zimmerman as acting in a way that they wish to preserve for themselves a right to imitate, and who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Zimmerman’s defense, to say nothing of the millions of dollars they have invested in creating a legal climate in Florida and in other states that favors a shooter.[1] I will not address myself to this group in this posting.

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  1. [1]Lizette Alvarez, “New Bond of $1 Million in Trayvon Martin Killing,” New York Times, July 5, 2012,; Lizette Alvarez, “Zimmerman Not Guilty in Killing of Trayvon Martin,” New York Times, July 13, 2013,; Charles M. Blow, “The Whole System Failed,” New York Times, July 15, 2013,; Audra D.S. Burch, Evan S. Benn and David Ovalle, “George Zimmerman not guilty in murder of Trayvon Martin,” Miami Herald, July 13, 2013,; Liam O’Donoghue, “Most disgusting reactions to Zimmerman acquittal,” Salon, July 13, 2013,; Adam Weinstein, “How the NRA and Its Allies Helped Spread a Radical Gun Law Nationwide,” Mother Jones, June 7, 2012,

Time to leave the airport

“I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me,” Edward Snowden told Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras. “I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”[1] It’s been over a month now since the Guardian, at Snowden’s request, exposed him as the leaker of—at the time, three bombshell stories about National Security Agency domestic spying. There have been many more stories since, and it is abundantly and increasingly clear, although there was very good reason to suspect before, that the National Security Agency and its partners—even including the United States Postal Service—are collecting all the information they can on everybody;[2] that the news media have been reporting it unimaginatively and repetitively as one huge and growing story; that ever more people all around the world may be outraged that their communications, too, have been swept up; that the story is beginning to sound like a rerun even with each new revelation. That leaves the saga of how Snowden escapes Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to reach a friendly country—Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua have all offered asylum—assuming he’s even at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.[3]

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  1. [1]Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras, “Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations,” Guardian, June 9, 2013,
  2. [2]James Bamford, “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say),” Wired, March 15, 2012,; Sven Becker, Thomas Darnstädt, Jens Glüsing, Hubert Gude, Fritz Habekuss, Konstantin von Hammerstein, Marc Hujer, Dirk Kurbjuweit, Mathieu von Rohr, Marcel Rosenbach, Matthias Schepp, Jörg Schindler, Gregor Peter Schmitz, Christoph Schult, and Holger Stark, “Indispensible Exchange: Germany Cooperates Closely with NSA,” Spiegel, July 8, 2013,; Dashiell Bennett, “Obama Administration Defends Its Right to Take All Your Phone Records,” Atlantic Wire, June 6, 2013,; Max Blumenthal, “Obama and His Allies Say the Govt Doesn’t Listen to Your Phone Calls — But the FBI Begs to Differ,” Alternet, June 16, 2013,; Alexander Bolton, “Senators: NSA phone sweeping has been going on since 2007,” Hill, June 6, 2013,; Stephen Braun, Anne Flaherty, Jack Gillum, and Matt Apuzzo, “Secret to Prism program: Even bigger data seizure,” Associated Press, June 15, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “Exposed: Inside the NSA’s Largest and Most Expansive Secret Domestic Spy Center in Bluffdale, Utah,” March 21, 2012,; Democracy Now!, “National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance,” April 20, 2012,; Democracy Now!, “Whistleblower: The NSA Is Lying–U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails,” April 20, 2012,; Democracy Now!, “NSA Whistleblowers: “All U.S. Citizens” Targeted by Surveillance Program, Not Just Verizon Customers,” June 6, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “Glenn Greenwald on How NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Helped Expose a ‘Massive Surveillance Apparatus’,” June 10, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “‘On a Slippery Slope to a Totalitarian State’: NSA Whistleblower Rejects Gov’t Defense of Spying,” June 10, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “‘You’re Being Watched’: Edward Snowden Emerges as Source Behind Explosive Revelations of NSA Spying,” June 10, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “More Intrusive Than Eavesdropping? NSA Collection of Metadata Hands Gov’t Sweeping Personal Info,” June 12, 2013,; “Edward Snowden Q&A: Dick Cheney traitor charge is ‘the highest honor’,” Guardian, June 17, 2013,; “Edward Snowden Interview: The NSA and Its Willing Helpers,” by Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras, Spiegel, July 8, 2013,; Peter Eisler and Susan Page, “3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so,” USA Today, June 16, 2013,; Conor Friedersdorf, “3 Former NSA Employees Praise Edward Snowden, Corroborate Key Claims,” Atlantic, June 18, 2013,; Ryan Gallagher, “Details Revealed on Secret U.S. ‘Ragtime’ Domestic Surveillance Program,” Slate, February 28, 2013,; Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, “U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program,” Washington Post, June 6, 2013, Gordon, “Hints surface that NSA building massive, pervasive surveillance capability,” McClatchy, July 2, 2013,; Glenn Greenwald, “Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?” Guardian, March 4, 2013, Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, “NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama,” Guardian, June 27, 2013,; Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, “Edward Snowden: US surveillance ‘not something I’m willing to live under’,”Guardian, July 8, 2013,; Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, “NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others,” Guardian, June 6, 2013,; Claus Hecking and Stefan Schultz, “Spying ‘Out of Control’: EU Official Questions Trade Negotiations,” Spiegel, June 30, 2013,; Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey, “Obama administration defends phone record collection,” Reuters, June 6, 2013,; Lana Lam, “Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years,” South China Morning Post, June 13, 2013,; Natasha Lennard, “‘Now we are all persons of interest’,” Salon, June 6, 2013,; Natasha Lennard, “Revealed: “Boundless Informant,” NSA’s powerful datamining tool,” Salon, June 9, 2013,; Niels Lesniewski, “Durbin Predicted NSA, Verizon Controversy in 2009,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, June 6, 2013,; Eric Lichtblau, “In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.,” New York Times, July 6, 2013,; Ewen MacAskill, Julian Borger, Nick Hopkins, Nick Davies and James Ball, “GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications,” Guardian, June 21, 2013,; Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger and James Ball, “GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits,” Guardian, June 16, 2013,; Declan McCullagh, “DOJ: We don’t need warrants for e-mail, Facebook chats,” CNET News, May 8, 2013,; Declan McCullagh, “NSA spying flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls,” CNet News, June 16, 2013,; Claire Cain Miller, “Tech Companies Concede to Surveillance Program,” New York Times, June 7, 2013,; Ron Nixon, “U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement,” New York Times, July 3, 2013,; Alex Pareene, “The government has all your info,” Salon, June 6, 2013,; Tony Paterson, “NSA ‘in bed’ with German intelligence says US whistleblower Edward Snowden – and GCHQ operates a ‘full take’ data monitoring system,” Independent, July 7, 2013,–and-gchq-operates-a-full-take-data-monitoring-system-8693793.html; Bill Quigley, “Twenty Examples of the Obama Administration’s Assault on Domestic Civil Liberties,” Truthout, December 7, 2011,; Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman, “US intelligence outlines checks it says validate surveillance,” Guardian, June 15, 2013,; Larry Rohter, “Brazil Voices ‘Deep Concern’ Over Gathering of Data by U.S.,” New York Times, July 7, 2013,; Steven Rosenfeld, “How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare,” Alternet, April 18, 2012,; Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt, “U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls,” New York Times, June 5, 2013,; Bruce Schneier, “What We Don’t Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know,” Atlantic< June 6, 2013,; Matthew Schofield, “European anger growing over extent of alleged U.S. electronic surveillance,” McClatchy, July 2, 2013,; South China Morning Post, “Edward Snowden: Classified US data shows Hong Kong hacking targets,” June 15, 2013,; Christian Stöcker, “The Power of Britain’s Data Vacuum,” Spiegel, July 7, 2013,; WashingtonsBlog, “Americans Are The Most Spied On People In World History,” December 5, 2012,; Christian Stöcker, “The Power of Britain’s Data Vacuum,” Spiegel, July 7, 2013,; Shaun Waterman, “Whistleblower’s NSA warning: ‘Just the tip of the iceberg’,” Washington Times, June 7, 2013,; Rachel Weiner, “Mark Udall: I tried to expose NSA program,” Washington Post, June 6, 2013,
  3. [3]Hannah Allam and Matt Schofield, “Trapped: An air escape from Moscow unlikely for NSA leaker Snowden,” McClatchy, July 10, 2013,; Alex Halperin, “Where on Earth is Edward Snowden?,” Salon, June 24, 2013,; Mercopress, “Evo Morales’ plane rerouted on suspicion Snowden on board,” July 3, 2013,; J. Dana Stuster, “5 ways Edward Snowden can smuggle himself out of the Moscow airport,” Foreign Policy, July 2, 2013,; Shaun Walker and Heather Saul, “Edward Snowden saga: Bolivia accuses Europe of ‘kidnapping’ Bolivian president in forcing Evo Morales’ plane to land in Vienna,” Independent, July 3, 2013,; Jordy Yager and Jeremy Herb, “Obama administration set to make NSA leaker Snowden’s trip tough,” The Hill, July 9, 2013,

Threats to public safety

As a society, we lock people away because we believe they have violated the law. This law is presumed to be largely just. We do not generally assume that it is the product of a privileged group of mostly wealthy, white men aiming at anyone who is not wealthy, white, and male. And we make these assumptions despite the fact that the U.S. locks away a larger proportion of its population—and a greater number in aggregate—than any other country in the world, including China,[1] which has a population roughly four times as large. Even though these statistics have been widely publicized,[2] the criminal injustice system rarely faces serious challenge.

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  1. [1]King’s College London, “World Prison Population List (8th edition),” January 26, 2009,
  2. [2]see, for example, Adam Liptak, “U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations,” New York Times, April 23, 2008,

Moral bankruptcy

Sometimes, it’s time to take a step back.

On September 11, 2001, three planes, apparently hijacked by al Qaeda, crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and into the Pentagon. A fourth plane, hijacked, but re-taken by its passengers, crashed into an open field. Some 3,000 people died on that day, in that tragedy.

Since then, the United States has launched two wars—not counting secret operations in numerous countries[1]—and is still fighting one of them. The death toll in these wars has far outweighed the 3,000 killed on that day. And we’ll probably never know for sure how many innocent people have died.[2]

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  1. [1]Chalmers Johnson, “America’s Empire of Bases,” TomDispatch, January 15, 2004,; Greg Miller, “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing,” Washington Post, December 13, 2011,; Jeremy Scahill, “Obama’s Expanding Covert Wars,” Nation, June 4, 2010,; Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Robert F. Worth, “Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents,” New York Times, August 14, 2010,; Nick Turse, “A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon’s New Power Elite,” TomDispatch, August 3, 2011,; Nick Turse, “The New Obama Doctrine, A Six-Point Plan for Global War: Special Ops, Drones, Spy Games, Civilian Soldiers, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare,” TomDispatch, June 14, 2012,
  2. [2]Noah Shachtman, “Not Even the White House Knows the Drones’ Body Count,” Wired, September 29, 2012,