Trump’s power is shakier than American democracy

by Corey Robin on January 13, 2018

“As soon as Trump became a serious contender for the presidency, journalists and historians began analogizing him to Hitler. Even the formulator of Godwin’s Law, which was meant to put a check on the reductio ad Hitlerumsaid: ‘Go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump.’ After Trump’s election, the comparisons mounted, for understandable reasons.

{ 142 comments… read them below or add one }

1

PGD 01.13.18 at 2:46 pm

Had my disagreements with Corey over the years, but I really respect how he has stood up to the flood of irrational propaganda-laden hot takes on Trump — Trump is Hitler and represents the coming of fascism to America, Trump is a Manchurian candidate for Putin (he hasn’t even dignified this one with a response), etc. In this piece he can barely hide his exasperation. But the Hitler-talk sticks around because it serves a purpose, and that’s to divert anti-Trump energies from genuine reform of the institutions that are so rotten that a grotesque con man like Trump was able to come to power. It keeps people magnetically focused on the infinitely entertaining, infinitely enraging Trump show and ignoring the various mis-managers behind the curtain. This vote is revealing because, as Corey says, it shows that the insiders know that Trump has been safely screened away from the real levers of power.

Trump is a crisis not in the real systems of American power, which hum on in many ways as before, but in the way that power is legitimated and presented to the world.

2

steven t johnson 01.13.18 at 3:13 pm

Trump is a slow learner but he has already enacted a sea change in US politics in regard to the role of the military, delegating them a political role more like imperial Japan than even Eisenhower’s Cold War “McCarthyism,” or Nixon’s crypto-Ruritanian White House. The generals’ reluctance to risk delivering victories does I think play an unspoken importance in the current situation.

All the Trump normalizers in my opinion are still falsifying the issues with the Trump presidency, by highlighting the continuities with previous Republican and Democratic administrations. Why would anyone expect Trump to be creative? Of course he’s mostly going to be copying, especially since he doesn’t really have a party base. Things that are different about Trump: Again, the open militarization of the administration; the extension of the old tactic of starving social programs in order to label them failed, to a strategy of denying any political interference by trashing government administration itself; open and direct personal threats against other political elites in the best style, copied from the decline of the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic; the open reliance on threats of nuclear genocide. From Harvey Weinstein to Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Clinton…Maureen Dowd, Ross Douthat and Jacobin have already sketched out the path to reversing Clinton’s acquittal. There are three more years to go, how could any but a fool or a liar be sure that Trump won’t live down to his tweets.

It is now commonplace to rehabilitate Nixon as a liberal, whose fall was apparently some sort of weirdly pointless exercise in hysteria. The OP has rediscovered how untrue this is, but I am not at all clear on why anyone would require that Trump be more openly victorious in one year than Nixon was. The defeat of the voting commission for instance, is not necessarily a Republican party repudiation of Trump. There are pre-existing laws about the release of voting data that stood in the way. Most of all, who says this is the final defeat?

Look, as far as the Nixon precedent goes, when the “McCarthyite” purges that created Nixon and others took place, prudent minds thought then the raving about fascism was hysteria, Chicken Littles crying about the falling sky. But, the savage turn to the right marked by the Cold War, the start of a murderous crusade that killed millions worldwide and permanently excised the Left from mass politics in the US, may not have aped Nazis. There’s not a reason why it should. Unlike Weimar Germany, the Col Warriors were operating from victory, not defeat. Makes a big, big difference. But it was good enough for government work.

This sea change in the US introduced a political logic, momentum for a post-democratic order. The phrase “there is a lot of ruin in a country” is popular around here, not least because it’s true. Nixon tried to carry the program further, but got slapped down. Trump is carrying out an updated program, but instead of getting slapped down, only criticism from the right is acceptable. I think it’s because the real powers want a strong man to save their empire from threats. An exclusive focus on domestic politics is wrong, a diversion from the complete picture. The OP’s implicit premise that Trump would need to imitate Hitler would be baffling otherwise.

Again, of course Trump is politically “weak,” because he conducted a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, because he’s not doing customary politics, because it takes time to undermine the old government. I think all this could easily be expected to change if Trump’s generals deliver an easy victory that Makes America Great Again. And they could change even worse if the generals’ can’t deliver, if people think they should be fighting a rerun of Adolf Hitler.

3

PGD 01.13.18 at 4:05 pm

Talk of “normalizing” Trump is in some ways a distraction. The U.S. presidency is a highly abnormal and powerful institution and presidencies are never “normal”. By the nature of the beast every presidency involves significant evolutions, progressions, or shifts in how power is exercised. But in a policy sense Trump is not far from what might have been expected from any other Republican winning the office. What is definitively “abnormal” about Trump is his personal conduct in office, his violations of numerous norms of civility that serve to legitimize the office and validate its power. What is disturbingly “normal”, or well in line with previous trends, are his policy positions in most areas (less so I guess in immigration policy, where he is crueler than a replacement-level Republican might have been expected to be).

In terms of militarization of foreign policy, it’s true that the foreign policy context leads to the greatest fear that Trump’s erratic personal conduct could spill over into bad decisionmaking, because the President’s personal authority is strongest there. But handing power over to the generals is not so different from what Bush did in handing power over to the neocons. Under another Republican it’s more likely that nominally civilian but nevertheless bloodthirsty “defense intellectuals” from the think tank wing of the party would have exercised more power relative to the generals themselves, but one can hardly be confident that they would have made better decisions. The latest issue of the impeccably establishment journal Foreign Policy features one of these characters urging Trump to bomb North Korea.

4

Ed 01.13.18 at 4:43 pm

Don’t Donk partisans always compare the leading GOP politician of the day to Hitler? I’ll swear I read nearly identical pieces on this very site twelve years ago.

5

Anarcissie 01.13.18 at 4:50 pm

One of the differences between the progress of the Hitler thing and the progress of the Trump thing is that Hitler had a private army, and Trump doesn’t — yet. That difference derives from their different histories — Hitler and company were working toward a seizure of power and a totalitarian state for a much longer time and in a much more focused way than Trump and company. That is why, after a year, Hitler had his opponents dead or in concentration camps and Trump seems to be floundering. But, folks, Trump does mean what he says, just as Hitler did, there are many people who support his principles if not his act, and the resistance to him has so far been weak, stylistic and superficial. The deep surveillance, the militarization of the police and the civilian government, the excitement of racial and religious animosity — all that’s still going on. His majesty’s loyal opposition opposes only most loyally.

6

Layman 01.13.18 at 5:51 pm

PGD: “But the Hitler-talk sticks around because it serves a purpose, and that’s to divert anti-Trump energies from genuine reform of the institutions that are so rotten that a grotesque con man like Trump was able to come to power.”

The Hitler-talk sticks around because it is true. Arguing that Trump won’t be able to effectively act on or succeed in his authoritarian anti-democratic impulses doesn’t mean those impulses aren’t real or that he isn’t trying to carry them out. If there is a secret conspiracy to falsely argue that Trump is a would-be dictator, for the purposes of keeping the masses enslaved to the status quo, somehow I never got the memo, so you’ll have to fill me in on the dress code and the secret handshake.

Anarcissie: “But, folks, Trump does mean what he says, just as Hitler did, there are many people who support his principles if not his act, and the resistance to him has so far been weak, stylistic and superficial. ”

I agree with this, including the point about the weakness of the resistance, given that his party does not resist him and his party controls all the institutions of power. For those of you in the ‘he can’t or won’t succeed because the institutions constrain him’ camp, please describe for me the thing or things he might do that will be too much for the Republicans in the House or Senate, and cause them to rein him in or stop him. I can’t think of anything offhand – they seem determined to let him do what he wants as long as he signs the bills he sends them.

7

Ian Maitland 01.13.18 at 6:21 pm

Another irony is that Donald Trump appears to have originally been favorable to the legislation to limit his ability to spy on American citizens. It took vigorous lobbying by Paul Ryan and others to get him on board.

As you said, I don’t know what to conclude.

8

LFC 01.13.18 at 7:24 pm

Re the epilogue: The Dems who voted to re-authorize FISA Section 702 (or whatever the number is) did so b/c they were persuaded that the intel agencies ‘need’ it in its current form, i.e. that it is crucial to their being able to carry out one of their missions, namely detection of terrorist plots. Whether that is correct is a separate question, but if X is persuaded of that, X cd also be persuaded that Trump is a blankety-blank-blank, and there is no necessary contradiction between the two positions. (Though there may be some tension.)

9

steven t johnson 01.13.18 at 9:08 pm

Alternatively, re the epilogue: The owners who gave one of their own (Trump) so much free publicity in the campaign also see old democratic norms as increasingly irrelevant. Thus, their longstanding minions in the Congress will support such measures on a bipartisan basis. Where the people who count agree, things go smoothly, quickly.

There is no opposition to Trump among the owners, “merely” rivalry. Surveillance is not an issue between Trump and the Kochs or Mercers or Bezos, et al. The police powers to go beyond chanting “lock her up!” to actually locking her (and others) up can be used against rivals. Riding roughshod over all the laws in the vote commission threatens existing mechanisms of power, thus can be used against rivals. Etc. Etc. Issues where those who count do not agree take more work.

10

Omega Centauri 01.13.18 at 10:25 pm

LFC
“b/c they were persuaded that the intel agencies ‘need’ it in its current form”

I’d give them a little situational awareness than that. They know its bunk, or at least that the trade off between safety and liberty is lopsided. But, they also “know” that if they don’t support it their political enemies will paint them as terrorist enablers. So they grit their teeth and vote for it anyway.

11

Tom West 01.13.18 at 11:52 pm

> The Dems who voted to re-authorize FISA Section 702 (or whatever the number is) did so b/c they were persuaded that the intel agencies ‘need’ it in its current form

Really, because if I was a Dem, I’d be thinking that it doesn’t matter if it reduces the danger of an attack by 0%. What matters is that if a major terrorist attack succeeds, then we will be blamed and we’ll be looking at a Republican house, senate and presidency for the next 12 years.

12

Glen Tomkins 01.14.18 at 1:46 am

Trump is closer to Hindenburg than Hitler.

Okay, Hindenburg without the history of past accomplishments. Those accomplishments were probably mostly Ludendorf’s anyway, so maybe it is a good analogy.

13

faustusnotes 01.14.18 at 2:03 am

A few points about the FISA section 702 part of this post …

1. Glenn Greenwald’s mob at the Intercept cashed in a whistleblower to the FBI last year, and she now faces several years of jail time. My personal belief is that they did this to punish her for leaking anti-Russian material, but regardless of your personal level of distaste at Greenwald’s transparent Putin fluffing, it should be obvious to everyone that you should not cite or trust the work of this crew, because they are dangerous amateurs who deliberately destroyed the life of a selfless whistleblower, and they cannot be trusted and on a moral level they should be excluded from all discourse for what they did.
2. Although Section 702 has been around for years, I have yet to see anyone from the Intercept, Human Rights Watch or the Electronic Frontiers Foundation identify a single domestic victim of the program. EFF has some court cases pending but there are no victims identified in those cases and some of them are likely to be thrown out due to lack of standing. Has the FSA dragnet actually led to a single domestic victim, and if so how and under what circumstances?
3. If you think that Trump’s authoritarian instincts are not a threat because American political institutions are a robust defense against authoritarianism, then section 702 should not bother you (since American institutions are a robust defense). If on the other hand you think section 702 should be a big issue because America’s political institutions only offer a weak bulwark against authoritarianism, then the specific authoritarian impulses of the person in charge should be a matter of importance to you. You can’t have it both ways – either the US is a functioning liberal democracy with robust protections of individual rights, or it’s not.

It’s patently obvious to me, an outsider looking in, that America has no robust defenses of personal freedom and is a corrupt autocracy at every level (county, state, and federal). Your president has unique and special powers compared to the leaders of other, actually functioning democracies, and your police have unique and extreme powers that make them especially fascist and especially vulnerable to capture by powerful individual leaders. To my mind the only defense against dictatorship that America has is the sheer number of political institutions that need to be taken over (e.g. police are managed at county level so you need to take over every local police force in order to fully control the organs of state power), and the unique incompetence of American political leaders. So in this sense the authoritarian impulses of your leaders are particularly important, and as someone mentioned above the only reason Trump isn’t a dictator in all but name is that he was too incompetent to set up a proper organization to run the joint. But his functionaries are certainly trying to turn ICE into an agent of ethnic cleansing and he is doing everything he can to signal to local police forces that they can act with impunity, provided they do so in the interests of his political views. To an outsider looking in this is an obviously unique and dangerous point in American history and pretending that you have the institutional bulwarks to prevent a hostile takeover in your uniquely weak and undemocratic state is a stupid, blind and dangerous approach. If you pull out of this because your Republican enemies were uniquely incompetent then you were lucky, but you still have a lot of lessons to learn and reforms to make if you want to avoid it happening in the future.

14

Glen Tomkins 01.14.18 at 2:32 am

Trump is pretty clearly a place-holder in a power vacuum. It becomes more and more clear that he doesn’t really control anything, that he signs whatever his handlers put in front of him. Big talk, at least in part as compensation for really small action.

So far, there doesn’t seem to be much court intrigue over who gets to put pieces of paper in front of him to sign. The Congressional Rs don’t really want to do much beyond lower the taxes the owners pay, and that’s been done already. No faction has emerged within the WH that seems to be trying for control of Trump for any purpose other than self-preservation, keeping Trump from further shooting himself and his administration in the foot and landing them all in jail. If that pattern holds, his tenure in office will not be very eventful.

If we do see a faction emerge trying or succeeding at using control of Trump as their path to power, they would almost certainly have to be fascists. Trump could probably not be controlled in the limited support he has to provide (signing things and occasional public appearances under controlled conditions) by a faction that wants to use his presidency to get anything done but a fascist program. They would need Fox and Friends mainlining praise into Trump 24/7 to keep him signing things, and Fox and Friends isn’t going to get jacked enough to hype squad for any other sort of program.

Trump doesn’t have talent, work ethic or attention to politics and public policy sufficient to be a Hitler. But he does sit on a power vacuum, and could be used by people who have those qualities, to embark on a fascist project.

15

Meredith Hoppin 01.14.18 at 6:44 am

I hope you’re right.

16

rogergathmann 01.14.18 at 8:27 am

I usually think of the comparison with Hitler in the context of American politics as a denial mechanism. It shifts the viewpoint from America’s own rich history of genocide and apartheid, projects it on a monster other country, and lets the U.S. slide. Instead of Hitler, how about comparison with Bush and the Bush culture? Which is much more pertinent. I was struck, during the discussion of Trump’s shithole nation remark, that nobody seemed to draw the parallel to similar remarks that popped up during the Bush attempt to get the U.N. to endorse the U.S. invading Iraq. Here, for instance, is a Krauthammer piece which in effect says what are AFRICAN nations doing telling us what to do? It is the very same idea. And it has governed U.S. foreign policy since, well, forever. Trump, as H. Rap Brown might say, is as American as apple pie. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/2003/02/28/a-costly-charade-at-the-un/eedaede7-017e-4d89-9a9d-c18099744076/?utm_term=.bac1e12e755b

17

SusanC 01.14.18 at 3:12 pm

The “Russian Hacking” thread of the Trump scandal could be read as an example of the dangers of a surveillance state, to wit:

The Russian incarnation of the hacker/surveillance state — which is currently significantly worse than its American cousin — has, so the theory alleges, used computer hacking to obtain documents from the Democrats, as a means of getting its puppet Trump into position as the US President. This alleged Russian puppet President then used his powers to change the head of the FBI etc. According to Simpson’s testimony, he and Steele became so concerned about the FBI that they were no longer prepared to work with them. The implication is that Steele and Simpson think the FBI is infiltrated by Russian agents who are then getting Steele’s sources murdered.

If you buy into this conspiracy theory that the Russian hacker state has just managed a takeover of the American hacker state … do you really want to give those guys more ability to hack into computers?

18

Lee A. Arnold 01.14.18 at 3:31 pm

I think we should distinguish between fascism and authoritarianism.

The U.S. and maybe the whole world is sliding slowly into a stronger secret security apparatus in response to violent threats foreign and domestic, real and imagined. This has been going on for decades and of course it can be used for authoritarian purposes.

Fascism on the other hand is a spontaneous emotional “move” in response to a widespread failure of the market economy. It comes from within individuals spontaneously, and turns into a political regime. There isn’t necessarily a big vanguard. This is Karl Polanyi’s definition (replete with real world examples) from chapter 20 of The Great Transformation (1944).

The U.S. has avoided fascism this time, because the economy is visibly getting better. It is still sliding into authoritarianism along with the rest of the world.

But the vehemence of the Trump voters shows that the U.S. democracy is not immune to an emotion which might sweep away institutional constraints. It just didn’t happen this time. Who knows about next time?

19

Lee A. Arnold 01.14.18 at 3:36 pm

The next general economic turmoil may come sooner than we expect, and be largely a U.S. phenomenon, and a political danger.

The dollar has been dropping against the yuan and the euro since the election of Trump. This ought to make U.S. exports more competitive in world markets — but, on a different course, Trump is tearing up multilateral trade deals, raising the possibility of foreigners’ tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation. Worse, U.S. goods and brands are stigmatized in a global revulsion to Trump and his supporters.

Short-termers take notice of these things. Consequently as U.S. investors get their tax cuts, they may get that money OUT OF THE DOLLAR, into currencies of countries that offer a higher immediate R.O.I. in global trade including the emerging markets. The result would be a further weakening dollar, — which means less buying of U.S. gov’t debt (Treasuries), — which means higher U.S. interest rates. So then, rates will go higher on credit cards, adjustable mortgages, etc. Happening just as the U.S. is depending upon another credit binge to make it look like all is well.

I wrote the above scenario in comments here, a year ago.

Wall Street Journal headline, one hour ago:

“Dollar Gets the Cold Shoulder in Global Economic Boom — The promise of accelerating economic growth overseas is propelling investor funds into the yen, euro and many emerging-market currencies, intensifying a yearlong siege on the U.S. dollar…”

Thus it is that President Shithole could be a turning-point that ensures future fascism.

20

Whirrlaway 01.14.18 at 4:11 pm

The national security state isn’t at all the same thing as Trump, and not so much like the Hitler movement either. More like the Bakufu in pre-Meiji Japan in intention, but not yet so accomplished. Everybody thinks it’s ok to be actively vigilant against external threats; the thought here seems to be that it’s costly but possible to create an island where greater moral purity can prevail: law, order, and a reasonable profit margin. It worked for the daimyo for a long time. 250 years!

Trump could have had his Brownshirts. They were demonstrating right here in town, rolling coal at Resisters and whatnot. He chose not to call them out, which was probably self-preservative, and I think that danger has passed. Instead he chose to act as a Billionaire. Hitler wasn’t in it for the money, and it seems he was made of tougher stuff. Bannon or Somebody would have taken the wheel and it would have got real bad. A fun counterfactual is what Trump would have done had he lost.

21

Yan 01.14.18 at 4:21 pm

We’re really in a bizarro world when in a discussion of worries about Fascism, Greenwald—whose biggest fault is being too much of a liberal of the prioritize free speech and civil rights over all else variety—is raised as an example of Hitler enabler, in indirect defense of a party that just enabled sweeping surveillance powers for the man they claim is Hitler incarnate.

Bizarro isn’t the word. It’s Orwellian. “Liberals” aren’t just enabling the surveillance state and attacking the the very concept of democracy (https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/01/trump-exceptionalism-will-kill-every-last-one-of-your-brain-cells), they’re actively promoting corporate and state media control and censorship on supposedly anti-authoritarian grounds.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/arts/youtube-broadcasters-algorithm-ads.html
And it’s not just in the US:
https://theintercept.com/2018/01/10/first-france-now-brazil-unveils-plans-to-empower-the-government-to-censure-the-internet-in-the-name-of-stopping-fake-news/

22

Chip Daniels 01.14.18 at 9:15 pm

Trump can’t be understood as a conventional politician who has a coherent vision of a policy which is accessible to all citizens, the way the idealized forms of liberalism and conservatism are.
Instead his entire appeal is white cultural identity, like Coates termed him , the first president for whom whiteness is his overriding identity.

Ethnic resentment doesn’t have an economic program, a foreign policy other than fear and rage, and can’t offer any set of suggestions for the nuts and bolts of governance such as the legal system or physical infrastructure.
Which is why the Republican Party used white resentment as a tool to mask their actual political program of reaction.

When liberals ask why Kansans vote against their interests, we get the question wrong. They aren’t voting against their interest- enshrining white culture as supreme IS their interest; suffering the predations of the oligarchy is just the price they are willing to pay.

23

nastywoman 01.15.18 at 12:21 am

– and I’m genuinely unsure what conclusions to draw from this… this… I don’t know how to call it? – that a lot of ”Germans” are truly worried about all of these… let’s call them… ”Fans of Hitler” everywhere – and not only in the US – but then there are mysteriously some… friends who are not ”Germans” and they feel this need to tell US that Trump is not Hitler?

and I’m ”really” genuinely unsure what conclusions to draw from this?

24

politicalfootball 01.15.18 at 1:59 am

Contrary to the media and academic discourse, there’s more precarity to Trump’s regime than there is to American democracy.

Sure, the betting odds are that American democracy will outlive Trump — something uncontradicted by Yglesias or Chait. But I’m glad people understand that just because democracy has powerful and effective defenders doesn’t mean we ought not worry.

When you point out that Trump is not identical to Hitler, you seem to be engaged in an elementary misreading of Yglesias et al. Nothing in Yglesias’ piece suggests that he thinks the first concentration camps have opened, or that the US has imported German conditions circa 1934 — or that he is unaware of those conditions. Even taken out of context, the quote you supply is crystal clear that Yglesias doesn’t find the US in 2018 the equivalent of Germany then. (What other possible reading is there of the word “even” in “even Hitler?”)

Chait’s view — even the view that you quote out of context — is unrebutted in your piece. Chait says: ” “I read ‘How Democracies Die.’ It convinced me our democracy is more precarious than it looks.”

Is Chait predicting that American democracy will die? That it’s death is more likely than not? That Trump is already Hitler, or that he is likely to become Hitler?

No. This is a new iteration of the same problem you had during the election. You found Trump’s election impossible, and encouraged people to worry instead about matters that you found more interesting.

It is one thing to say that Trump’s election is extremely unlikely. Many people — most people, I’d guess — who were extraordinarily worried about Trump believed that he was likely to lose.

You seem to think that your error was in underestimating Trump’s odds. That’s not it. The error was not recognizing the task at hand, which was to make sure Hillary was elected. You expended a lot of energy trying to persuade people that they were worried about the wrong thing, just because that thing probably wasn’t going to happen.

And you do it again here.

25

Alan White 01.15.18 at 2:31 am

I wrote a letter published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a few months ago to the effect that we now actually live in a Vonnegut novel–utter senselessness collectively that we as individuals can only manage to sometimes reflectively lament (the MJS editor cleverly titled my letter “A Novel Approach”). Since Trump I have lost all hope for our collective future–he is Vonnegut’s most dour visions reified. And he was right in Galapagos–our brains are just big enough to destroy us–not bright enough to save us.

26

sapaterson 01.15.18 at 3:55 am

First off let me praise Corey Robin on his excellent article in the Guardian as well as this post at Crooked Timber. I see parallels of Hitler – like fascism in Trump to much less an extent than he does, but there are parallels in behaviors. My understanding of Hitler was that he was addicted to methamphetamine or whatever speed was called back then – benzedrine, dexedrine, amphetamine; my freshman psychology class in college warned us of the destructive properties of these drugs on the outer cerebral cortex. DT is in the early stages of dementia from Alzheimer’s. The dendrites that are the cells of the brain that stretch out to neighboring cells instead curl up into little balls, detached from the rest of the brain. The body lives on, relying on the brain stem and other primitive neural structures we have in common with our animal ancestors. DT is relying on his lizard brain to make executive decisions. Anger, uncontrolled racism as well as other lack of impulse control are symptoms. I just lived through years of it in a family member.

And like the Pres**tent, Capitalism itself is going through it’s dying phase, relying on it’s lizard brain as the rest of us drop out or are excluded from the economy. Capitalism tries on it’s fascist suit when it pleases the wealthy to scare the masses or threaten them with war. But we’ve had sixteen years of it and we won’t tolerate much more. So even though Trump wants to be a fascist he hasn’t the brains nor the infrastructure in place to do so. Steven Miller is no Joseph Goebbels. He’s more like Pauley Shore.

The infrastructure for fascism operates independently from the DT. So when the press gets the okay to link one with the other the press is not looking in the mirror to see it’s own culpability. Here’s a way to see if your source of news is a propaganda device: is there a forum for an exchange of ideas, or is it just a one direction thing. If it’s the latter it is a house of cards based on shaky ideology that crumbles in the critical eye. No Truth-in? No Truth-out. The Daily Beast is a caged animal to be observed and pitied like a lion in a zoo. And places that censor POV shouldn’t have the name democratic in their handle, DU.

27

Evan 01.15.18 at 4:02 am

#21:
Greenwald is in fact a right-winger. Who de facto supported Trump in 2016. But then, so did the NYT, without any coherent ideological reason.
https://newrepublic.com/article/116253/edward-snowden-glenn-greenwald-julian-assange-what-they-believe

Factually, most Democrats opposed the surveillance reauthorization, and most Republicans supported it. But the political cost of its reauthorization is being borne by Democrats. Which is how Republicans continue to fail upwards.

Re the original post:

Trump is plainly not Hitler. Totalitarianism is very rare in this century.

But 21st-century television authoritarianism does exist, and usually takes some time to consolidate. Erdogan, Putin, Chavez – they did not consolidate authoritarian power in a year. On the other hand, they were initially popular.

Trump’s partial defeats so far come from 1. his unpopularity 2. his incompetence and 2. precisely the alarmist response that Corey Robin keeps trying to debunk. His continued unpopularity and eventual defeat cannot be taken for granted. And the authoritarianism of the Republican Party will continue to be a threat.

The Republican Party has not always been like this. OTOH, the Dixiecrats ran authoritarian state governments in the South from 1877 to 1965 or so, and they’ve now entered and largely set the tone for the Republican Party.

28

Kurt Schuler 01.15.18 at 4:16 am

Let’s see. Adolf Hitler: father was a minor bureaucrat and farmer; unsuccessful artist; fought in World War I; one of the earliest members of the Nazi Party; attempted a putsch; sent to prison; wrote Mein Kampf, a political tract; party had a violent paramilitary wing; chosen chancellor by the legislature; shut down the free press; centralized control of the economy in the government through many regulations; had millions of Jews murdered.

Donald Trump: father was a real estate mogul; businessman and reality TV star; avoided the Vietnam War era draft; member of the Democratic Party and later the Republican Party, two of the oldest political parties in the world; donor to Democratic and Republican politicians alike; litigious; had The Art of the Deal, a business and personal memoir, ghostwritten for him; elected president by voters through the Electoral College; gripes about the press on Twitter; has reduced regulations in a number of areas of the economy; one of his closest advisers is his Jewish son-in-law.

Yep, the parallels are ominous.

29

Raven Onthill 01.15.18 at 5:17 am

“The people who say that Hitler is Antichrist, or alternatively, the Holy Ghost, are nearer an understanding of the truth than the intellectuals who for ten dreadful years have kept it up that he is merely a figure out of comic opera, not worth taking seriously […] Wells is too sane to understand the modern world.” – George Orwell, 1941.

Yes, Trump personally is not a strong figure (but then, Hitler was not as strong as our modern imagination makes him, either) and the Resistance has proven more powerful than anyone believed possible. But the mass deportations have started, and when Trump falls, the Dominionists are waiting to found the Kingdom of Gilead – apparently masculinity doubt is a primary motivation here. Who knew? – and the fascists are waiting to start a war with Iran. Yemen is bleeding. Syria is bleeding. And there is no-one to calm the troubled waters, neither to fight nor yet to bring peace.

30

Orange Watch 01.15.18 at 6:40 am

fastusnotes@:

2. Although Section 702 has been around for years, I have yet to see anyone from the Intercept, Human Rights Watch or the Electronic Frontiers Foundation identify a single domestic victim of the program. EFF has some court cases pending but there are no victims identified in those cases and some of them are likely to be thrown out due to lack of standing. Has the FSA dragnet actually led to a single domestic victim, and if so how and under what circumstances?

How would we know? Parallel construction has been specifically practiced to conceal that sort of thing, and its past use (and completely plausible future (or recent past) classified resumption) makes clear that the responsible agencies are entirely willing to omit reporting use of 702, regardless of the administration in office.

31

faustusnotes 01.15.18 at 8:22 am

Yan, Greenwald’s mob shopping in a whistleblower to the FBI is common knowledge. He’s a stool pigeon. That’s not bizarro world, it’s what he did, and the woman who is now facing several years in jail because of it probably thinks it’s a good example of how fascist America is becoming. After all, she handed what she thought was crucial information to someone she thought was a staunch defender of civil liberties, and he handed the documents over to the NSA for checking, with all the original identifying information in them, so that the FBI could arrest her at her desk the very next day.

Your youtube link complaining about PewDiePie not getting enough ad revenue is hilarious. One of his ilk just went to Japan and filmed a suicide, then took multiple other films of himself breaking traffic laws, public decency laws, and committing acts of vandalism on city streets. Do you think people should be able to make money from this kind of thing? If so I’m sure you’ll have no problem with nazis putting up videos of themselves beating up non-white people for money. Right?

32

nastywoman 01.15.18 at 10:23 am

– and as a German-American -(with jewish relatives) – this pointing out that Trump is ”no Hitler” really bothers me – and it bothers me even more that when I point to it – that such a comment gets deleted on Crooked Timber – and nearly all funny nonsense I post stays?

What is happening with you guys?

33

nastywoman 01.15.18 at 10:54 am

– and as my first comments might have sounded a bit nonsensical – let me clarify:

If Greenwald is blaming ”liberals and Democrats” for being given the opportunity to rein in a presidency they’ve deemed the most authoritarian in American history and then 125 Democrats went for it – but 55 of them did not – and then in reality it was NOT the 55 Dems who were ”thereby sinking the bill”. It was the majority of Republicans who sank the bill.

But somebody like Greenwald insist it was the 55 who thereby sinking the bill.

Such a way to redefine reality got to stop.
And this very unusual (American?) way of looking at ”politics” – where ”the losers” get blamed – because they didn’t put up enough resistance – or the wrong type of resistance against ”the winner” – could be considered even more silly than the nonsense I usually like to post.

34

Procopius 01.15.18 at 12:13 pm

I hate when people distort internet traditions. Godwin’s Law said, “As any thread on the internet continues, the probability that Nazis will be mentioned approaches 1.” It was a simple observation about the nature of internet discussions. It was not “meant to put a check on the reductio ad Hitlerum.” It did not say that calling somebody a Nazi was bad. It just said, “Hey, I notice that the longer any thread goes on the more likely it is that somebody is going to refer to Nazis.”

35

Z 01.15.18 at 1:59 pm

That there’s a lack of seriousness to the discourse of authoritarianism, not just at the highest reaches of the Democratic Party but also in the media, which hasn’t focused nearly the attention on this that it has on tweets and other forms of “norm erosion”?

In the thread on the Mueller investigation, I tentatively argued something like this, to which Layman (whom I find a very valuable commenter of the CT community) answered “Norm erosion is not, by and large, a bipartisan effort – it is almost entirely the province of the right.” I admit that left me quite speechless. Something about the speck of dust in the Republican’s eye and the bipartisan log comes to mind (and then again, mass surveillance is still not the worse exemple of bipartisan norm erosion, and if you’re American and it still takes you more than a second to figure what I’m referring to, that is precisely the problem).

36

mpowell 01.15.18 at 5:57 pm

I’m not sure how much the two sides on the left are even engaging each other in this discussion anymore. At this point these arguments are maybe just an indicator of the speaker’s viewpoint and not much more. Corey Robin didn’t think Trump was abnormal for a Republican (or just represented a linear progression from Goldwater) and doesn’t think he’s unusual now. But I hold almost the opposite viewpoint. Trump’s style of management is to install people personally loyal to himself. That’s the only criteria that matters. The only limitation is his ability to find capable such people to install in executive offices and his personal staff. But over time this is the general trend. It leads to a more and more vulnerable democracy over time. Trump didn’t come out of nowhere (one way to view it is he is the Fox News president), but he does represent a stark difference from even the Bush presidency to my view. The Republican congress has shown no interest in checking Trump’s administrative preferences. No doubt they think they can control him and get the legislation they wanted. Reference to Hitler are not helpful because of how much rhetorical weight they carry. But this is a very dangerous path the federal government is following. If the Dems don’t retake either Senate or House in 2018, the republic could be in a lot of trouble. And saying Trump’s political fortunes are shakier than democracy in America… that’s pretty cold comfort! What, I should rejoice because it’s not a coin toss? Every presidency ends eventually –
democracy has to survive each and every administration. That we are even talking about the strength of American democracy at this stage is a sign of the danger.

37

Sebastian H 01.15.18 at 6:41 pm

Faustusnotes:

Although Section 702 has been around for years, I have yet to see anyone from the Intercept, Human Rights Watch or the Electronic Frontiers Foundation identify a single domestic victim of the program. EFF has some court cases pending but there are no victims identified in those cases and some of them are likely to be thrown out due to lack of standing. Has the FSA dragnet actually led to a single domestic victim, and if so how and under what circumstances?

I can’t tell if you’re being lawyerly or just misinformed. You’re technically correct in the bolded section, but the impression you are giving is wrong. No particular defendant has been identified because the police are instructed to dummy up a “parallel construction” for the evidence so they don’t have to admit that it came from such a source. There is a good Washington Post article on it that is behind the paywall, but a similar one from Rueters is here. So the system is intentionally set up to frustrate the ability of tracking specifically identifiable victims of the practice.

But you don’t get to use the lack of specifically identifiable victims at the end of a process that intentionally destroys the evidentiary trail as proof that there is no problem. It is similar to the problem that Gosnell created for the abortion debate in the US. The official line was that no woman would ever abort a viable fetus for non-health reasons, SO any attempt to collect statistics on it was deliberately made difficult (going so far in California for example as to not even require notice of a late term abortion to be given to any overseeing medical body or statistics gathering body). But the discovery of Gosnell showed that for a single doctor in Pennsylvania–more than a hundred fully viable fetuses were aborted. Until Gosnell, the carefully crafted situation where evidence was specifically not to be collected was used as an argument that no important cases needed to be monitored.

If you specifically design a system to erase evidence, you don’t get to use the difficulty of obtaining that evidence as proof that there is no problem.

38

Layman 01.15.18 at 11:44 pm

Z: “ I admit that left me quite speechless.”

Perhaps it was overstated. It’s a reaction to the (near-constant) chatter to the effect that both sides are the same. They aren’t. One side trumps up intelligence to build a fraudulent case to invade Iraq, and the other doesn’t. One side seeks relentlessly to disenfranchise voters, and the other doesn’t. One side is committed to destroying the social welfare state, and the other isn’t. One side bends the rules in the Senate to get what they want, or prevent what they don’t want, and the other doesn’t. One side runs on an openly racist platform, and the other doesn’t. I can see the problems with the Democratic Party, but they are not the same.

39

Faustusnotes 01.16.18 at 12:12 am

Sebastian the link is broken, could you repost it? (And the wapo one).

Regarding your abortion example, what are you talking about? 49 states and territories report abortion data and the CDC provides regular reports. Gosnells area is one of the reporting areas and his clinic was investigated repeatedly by Pennsylvania authorities. What happened with Gosnell is a failure of regulatory authorities to properly prevent criminal activity, not a reporting failure. The us has a pretty good idea how many abortions are happening. As far as I can tell the only issue is the lack of federal requirements for reporting but all but three states require it and all those states provide the data to federal authorities. The CDC reports on late term abortions, and on deaths of pregnant women during legal induced abortions. Perhaps you need to find a better example?

40

F. Foundling 01.16.18 at 1:18 am

@ OP
>As I said, I don’t know what to conclude.

I’ll be the one to say it, then. The Dem establishment, especially those ‘resisters’ who are most vehement about the whole Russia-Trump thing, are loyal spokespersons of the US imperial establishment and deep ‘national security state’; far from being opposed to authoritarianism, they are actually adherents of it, as long as the right people are the ones in authority, and their problem with Trump is mostly that he is: a. a political competitor (unlike Obama), and, probably, b. differs from them in his precise level of commitment to anti-Russian foreign policy (unlike the neocons). They also prioritise the general principle of authoritarian curtailment of the civil liberties of their own people via the security apparatus even over the fight against temporary political competitors who are less committed to anti-Russian foreign policy. This is also partly due to the fact that they judge them to be weak and not much of a threat. That those engaging in scaremongering about Russia are not concerned with civil liberties is confirmed by the fact that, as Yan points out, in other countries, the hysteria about Russian propaganda and ‘fake news’ is used directly to curtail civil liberties, enact censorship and silence viewpoints opposed to the *mainstream*, dominant propaganda of the establishments of these countries. All of which is not to say that the Russian establishment and its propagandists aren’t authoritarian, reactionary, cynical and murderous scum in their own right. The world would be too nice a place if they weren’t.

Of course, Dems’ belief that Trump is weak and a negligible threat is not proof that he really is. Those who allowed or actively helped the Nazi monster to grow because of their anti-Communist priorities didn’t expect it to get out of hand either. Still, the situation and the immediate future perspectives just don’t seem very dramatic. Trump is partly a somewhat more extreme Republican and partly a disgraceful cleptocrat. As far as symbols are concerned, I suppose he has normalised racism further (which may contribute to a climate where more clearcut fascist phenomena might emerge at a later point), but the fertile ground for such things is present, he is just one symptom of the disease. As for what he is doing *in practice*, most of the worst things that he is doing would have been done by any of the other viable Republican candidates. After the truly massive encroachments and horrors of the Bush Jr era, this panicking reminds me of ‘first as a tragedy, then as a farce’. Bush Jr was farcical, too, but he was of the establishment, and there was real and terrible stuff going on behind the comedic front; so far (knock on wood) there seems to be little beyond the farce and some rather mundane business as usual in Trump’s case. Republicans gonna Republican; the decisive thing was really the way Obama’s 8 years in-between the two GOP clowns played out.

41

sapaterson 01.16.18 at 2:19 am

“God Bless You Mr. Rosewater” comes to mind. Mr. Rosewater controls everything about almost every local economy except for worm farming.

42

Dr. Hilarius 01.16.18 at 2:44 am

Contra Prof. Robin, Trump’s first year in office has done much to illuminate how dependent American democracy is upon unwritten norms of political conduct.

No law requires a candidate or the president to release their income tax records. Apart from the vague and toothless Emoluments Clause there are few formal restraints on using the White House for self dealing and personal enrichment. Judicial nominees have been expected to have some actual intellectual capability and at least a pretense of honoring precedent. No formal prohibition prevents Trump’s administration from purging scientists from regulatory agencies and replacing them with shills from regulated industries. The Republican party’s willingness to abandon all principles and norms renders democracy impotent. The people can petition, march and protest freely but to what audience, to what effect? Even when laws and regulations exist they are not self-enforcing; someone in power needs to bring an action.

Trump himself has no ideology other than self gratification, a characteristic shared by many of his family, advisors and appointees. Why pretend to political norms when their only interest is in looting the country? The reality of their actions means nothing to Trump supporters who now simply deny reality, eliminating another check upon administration actions.

I am not yet to the point of some friends who believe the American experiment in democracy is coming to an end but I do fear it is badly damaged. The 2018 elections will say a lot about whether we are headed for recovery or life support.

43

J-D 01.16.18 at 2:52 am

mpowell

At this point these arguments are maybe just an indicator of the speaker’s viewpoint and not much more.

If somebody in Queanbeyan says that Sydney and Canberra are far apart and somebody in Christmas Island says that Sydney and Canberra are close together, neither statement is inaccurate and they aren’t substantively contradicting each other; but neither one is conveying much information about the distance between Sydney and Canberra. However, intentionally or not, they are conveying some information about their own positions relative to Sydney and Canberra.

In the same way, if one person says that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party (for example; or Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; or Donald Trump and George W Bush) are close together politically, and another person says that they are far apart politically, it’s possible that they’re not substantively contradicting each other and that neither is making an inaccurate statement; but they’re both conveying more about their own political positions than they are about the ostensible subjects of discussion.

On the other hand, a discussion of whether the difference in political positions between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon is greater or less than the difference in political positions between Richard Nixon and Warren Harding might be revealing; and so might a discussion of whether the difference in political positions between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is greater or less than the difference in political positions between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. If I assert that the difference between the ALP and the Coalition is greater than the difference between the CDU and the CSU but less than the difference between the DDP and the NSDAP, I think my statement has some meaning independent of any signalling of my own political position.

44

nastywoman 01.16.18 at 6:49 am

– and about ”a deeper analysis of the surveillance state”?
That is desperately needed – as the superficial ”Analyse” to see in ”governmental surveillance” the major problem and NOT in the state of surveillance by something ”ironiously” called ”social media” – and ”the machine” I’m currently typing these words – while Crooked Timber is surveilling where I’m typing them from – and could – with a few hacker-tricks tell the whole wide world -(and not just a few bored ”surveillers” in ”the homeland”) that I had steak with potato-gratin in the Hexenküche on sunday…

45

nastywoman 01.16.18 at 9:07 am

@140
”I’ll be the one to say it, then. ”

Fellow Americans who believe that:
”The Dem establishment, especially those ‘resisters’ who are most vehement about the whole Russia-Trump thing, are loyal spokespersons of the US imperial establishment and deep ‘national security state” might (finally) want to notice that ”our problem” -(a YUUUGE part of the ”female” US population) is NOT about some ”political competitor”
or all the other ”problems” some Fellow Americans like to believe in.

And this is also partly due to the fact that WE judge him… NOT ”as a somewhat more extreme Republican and partly a disgraceful cleptocrat” but as a major threat –
(above ALL these considerations of ”the whole Russia-Trump thing or some US imperial establishment… thing)

And as WE must be allowed to prioritize too – it is NOT ”a fact – as Yan points out, that in other countries, the hysteria about Russian propaganda and ‘fake news’ is used directly to curtail civil liberties, enact censorship and silence viewpoints opposed to the *mainstream*, dominant propaganda of the establishments of these countries.”

It is a fact – that most countries, who had and have bad experiences with Russian Propaganda and ”fake news” don’t need such s…t at all ”to curtail civil liberties, enact censorship and silence viewpoints” – as there are more and more ”anti-mainstreamer” in such countries – who already have voluntarily called for ”some censorship” of the ”fascistic threatening hate speech” of somebody like Trump –
or his Fans –
or the Fans of Hitler – have truly shaken ”our” democracies!

46

Z 01.16.18 at 12:37 pm

mpowell @36 but [Trump] does represent a stark difference from even the Bush presidency to my view.

How so? (Honest question, really, I would like you to spell it out).

The way I see it, there is not much political difference either in style, practice or theory between Tump’s presidency and Bush’s, especially when it comes to appointing hacks and pretending horrendous mismanagements were triumphs (Mission accomplished anyone? Exceptional rendition anyone? Harriet Miers anyone?). However, and here I think my analysis disagrees with Corey Robin’s, I think the American society has changed, so that comparable political behaviors don’t have quite the same effects. Bush’s presidency could be thought of as the usual R/D alternance whereas the Trump presidency is the first one to very visibly emanate from the populist/nativist side of John Quiggin’s three party system. So it feels different, and it could indeed be a different social phenomena. But politically, perhaps not so much.

Dr. Hilarius @42 I am not yet to the point of some friends who believe the American experiment in democracy is coming to an end

The American experiment in democracy is long dead. Is the will of the people the basis of government? Are citizens equal before the law or endowed with equal political power? Is the government representative of the people? Even the questions sound like sick jokes. Retrospectively, I would put the time of death at December 12, 2000 but in 2018, I don’t see how can one still speak of American democracy as something that exists.

47

steven t johnson 01.16.18 at 1:50 pm

Perhaps it would be helpful if people were a little more clear about what they believe fascism to be. Nazi chic strikes me as a kind of sexual kink. It’s not my thing, so I can’t be sure, but I don’t believe anyone ever dressed up as a commissar to have sex.

But if you move beyond screenings of Triumph of the Will, I think you could make a reasonable case for fascism being a mobilization of as much of the entire society as possible by non-democratic means to either restore the empire, or to create one. In pursuit of the empire, the haute bourgeoisie (and/or other traditional leading classes like planters or aristocrats) submit to a regime that polices their rivalries, while dividing the lower classes by de jure and de facto discrimination and violence against designated national “enemies.” The use of illegal methods, violence, threats of violence and ad hoc diktats are the whips essential to driving the “nation.” The national crusade is justified by appeals to abstract patriotic values, instead of professing the open defense of the ruling classes. Traditional democratic values of formal equality are subordinated to the exigencies of the national struggle, which of course are simultaneously purely defensive, against the demonic enemy du jour, and heroically proactive. The commitment to irrationalism found in fascist thought is I think primarily functional, as a way to rule out whole categories of criticism of the project. A state religion is one of the historically most important forms of public commitments to irrationalism, a point often overlooked I think, but an irrationalist ideology may be pressed into service.

Obviously, unlike Arendt and other theorists of “totalitarianism,” I see fascism as having deep roots in the US, with its slavery/democracy hybrid with slave patrols, or later Jim Crow/lynching, though it does lack some sort of official faith. And in Russia, with its Cossacks, the Pale and its Black Hundreds, and its Orthodoxy. Tsardom wasn’t much into nationalism, favoring personalism naturally. But the old view of the time that Japan shared features with European fascism was I think correct. State Shinto instead of Alfred Rosenberg, assassination instead of street fighting, Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere instead of chatter about lebensraum for the different races, not quite superficial differences, but the expressions of a different heritage under convergent evolution.

Trumpery I think ignores these deep roots and long-standing continuities, to focus on more historically specific features. Trump’s continuity with the US past does not acquit him of being a fascist, especially the continuity with the Cold Warriors. One undervalued personal connection I think is Roy Cohn. But then, in a sense, most people the US are McCarthyists of one kind of another, so this is easy to ignore, as a mere detail.

So, comparisons of Trump to fascism: Mobilization of the “nation” in defense of empire? As much as economic decline and the generals’ caution allows, I think. Disavowal of democratic methods of governance in pursuit of same? Generals, generals, generals and trashing the idea that government actually provides services? See Puerto Rico. De jure discrimination? Immigrants think so, I believe. De facto discrimination? Also perceived to be real, I think. Use of illegal methods, etc.? Although drone killing counts, the effort to actually lock up the Clintons counts too. The removal of a US senator is ominous as well. Public commitment to irrationalism? Thy name is Trump. For what it’s worth, Pence is a pretty good example of an alternative commitment to an overbearing public religiosity, Christianity/Christian Zionism run amok. Trump is not in a position to deliver empty promises of a Volkswagon or full employment, hence his excessive reliance on threats against enemies. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to “unite” the greater part of the nation against supposed enemies. For ulterior aims, to be sure.

Contra Trumpery, Trump’s continuity doesn’t acquit him of fascist tendencies, it makes them congenital. Contra Trumpery, the innovations in Trump thus far do tend towards fulfilling the evil promise of the American heritage. Contra Trumpery, foreign policy is domestic policy, and vice versa. Contra Trumpery, Clinton was a status quo candidate.

The only real case to make that Trump is actually different yet not still another step toward the fulfillment of the American nightmare, rests on seeing him as some sort of tribune of the little rich, promoting reindustrialization by strengthening the middle class and chasing out the banksters and Wall Street sharks. That image of Trump really totally destroyed by the obvious continuity between Trump and the Republicans. It’s also totally destroyed by the equally obvious continuity between Trump and the Democrats. The obvious ineffectiveness of Trump in carrying out a positive program refutes it too. But, does anyone really believe that’s who Trump wants to be? If the program is to blow up politics, to cripple government as a provider of actual services, then trumpery about his failure to deliver a positive program are useful diversions, for him.

48

mpowell 01.16.18 at 9:01 pm

J-D, what you say is certainly true, but I think there is something else going on in this case. From a legislative perspective Trump is fairly ordinary. But policy is not one-dimensional nor is it limited to tax and spend legislation. I will just come back to the point that if you think democracy still has better than even odds against Trump’s administration and therefore nothing unusual – you are setting the bar too low (or concerned about the wrong things).

49

Mario 01.16.18 at 9:45 pm

Kurt Schuler,

Thank you, that is a useful comment. Someone needed to point out the real nature of the trouble that we are in and you did it brilliantly.

50

SusanC 01.16.18 at 11:21 pm

Hitler analogies are notoriously overused, and in this case don’t fit very well.

But surely in this case we should be thinking of Stalin?

Not that Trump is like Stalin, but rather that the Stalin-era surveillance machinery outlived the fall of the Soviet Union, with the KGB being replaced with the FSB et al, until the time came when they came within a whisker of taking over the US by stealth.

Trump’s role in this is what they used to call a “useful idiot”.

51

Orange Watch 01.17.18 at 3:50 am

Z@46:
The way I see it, there is not much political difference either in style, practice or theory between Tump’s presidency and Bush’s, especially when it comes to appointing hacks and pretending horrendous mismanagements were triumphs (Mission accomplished anyone? Exceptional rendition anyone? Harriet Miers anyone?).

The biggest difference I see off that list was that the appointed hacks were hackish cronies under Bush. Under Trump, the appointed hacks are hackish young ideologues. Specifically using youth as a qualifying criteria is a bit of a norm violation in and of itself.

52

Jerry Vinokurov 01.17.18 at 4:43 am

The problem with the Trump/Hitler analogies comes down, in my view, to the fact that the fascists are not just the people that this administration has installed in positions of power; the fascists are the entirety of the Republican party, and have been for some time. A Ted Cruz or a Marco Rubio or, god forbid, a Tom Cotton would do everything that Trump is doing, but they’d do it wearing a well-fitting suit and speaking in complete sentences. Cotton in particular is a dead-eyed psychopath champing at the bit to murder millions of Iranians, but because he went to Harvard, he’s considered “normal.”

Trump is just the person who has been able to ride a particular wave that brought together white resentment and petit bourgeois class anxiety just long enough to get himself elected. It turns out that you can just say the quiet parts loud now; a Rubio or a Cruz didn’t know you could do that (they’re evil but unimaginative dullards), but Trump didn’t care. But it turns out that most Republicans don’t care either; that’s why they’re Republicans, after all. Trump couldn’t have won had all of these upstanding citizens, who no doubt see themselves as decent people, actually had the courage of their convictions, but it turns out that the vague promise of tax cuts and the less-vague (and now being fulfilled) promises of ethnic cleansing are more than enough to get your average boomer to sign over their children’s future to a gang of looters.

It’s too early to judge whether democratic institutions can survive the wholesale takeover of the federal government by, effectively, a minority right-wing party. I suspect a dismantling of this caliber will, to paraphrase Hemingway, happen very slowly and then all at once. Maybe it won’t happen at all, we should be so lucky, but the damage being done right now by the installation of conservative judges, the incipient sell-off of public lands, and the dismantling of regulations both environmental and financial, just to pick a few examples, is real and lasting. Maybe we can recover from that, but it’s going to be like recovering from a recession.

Separately, I want to briefly address the commenters here who are incredulous at the idea that we should hold Democrats responsible for collaborating with e.g. the security state. Here I’ll take up the specific example of the 55 Democrats did who voted against the USA Rights amendment to the FISA reauthorization bill, but we could just as well talk about how Democrats are collaborating to loosen banking regulations. See, here’s the thing about that: Republicans are evil, and we know that; we can of course condemn the evil, but at a certain point it just becomes a waste of time and energy. Does anyone expect them to do anything differently? Do you expect the comic book villain to not engage in comic book villainy? I should hope not. Democrats are, at least ostensibly, the liberal party; therefore, the aim should be to make them actually act like it. Voting for the garbage above stands in direct contradiction to all the things that the party claims to be for (and, importantly, what a lot of the electorate actually wants), and the odds are better that you’ll be able to pressure someone into doing the right thing than they are that you can change anything by pointing at the bad people and yelling about how bad they are.

53

Sebastian H 01.17.18 at 6:27 am

Faustusnotes “49 states and territories report abortion data and the CDC provides regular reports.”

Again you are very lawyerly. Technically correct but gives a false impression. ‘Reports abortion data’ is not the same as something like ‘reports if the fetus was viable’ or ‘reports if there was a threat to maternal health’.

Only 6 states require a report of fetal (non) viability. Only 10 require documentation of danger to the mothers health for a late term abortion.

I also notice that you have completely dodged the parallel construction discussion.

Here are the links without trying to make them clickable.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/05/the-nsa-is-giving-your-phone-records-to-the-dea-and-the-dea-is-covering-it-up/

https://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-idUSBRE97409R20130805

54

nastywoman 01.17.18 at 8:44 am

@49
”Kurt Schuler,

Thank you, that is a useful comment. Someone needed to point out the real nature of the trouble that we are in and you did it brilliantly”

Not as ”brilliantly” as the famous American Philosopher Jon Stewart who suggested that ”Von Clownstick” should embrace ”his heritage” – and I’m also able to pick all kind of non-similarities and similarities between Hitler and Von Clownstick including the point that Hitler never was a ”Von” like a Count ”von Stauffenberg” who tried to kill Hitler –
but anyhoo the ”brilliant” advice to embrace ”FF von Clownsticks heritage” always said it all – not only with Trump – supposedly embracing the heritage from the beginning with loving Hitlers ”Mein Kampf”.

And that’s ”the thing” – actually also ”the very good thing” – as Trumps ”power” had grown so much that it created the perfect backlash to the ”Von Clownsticks” – at least firstly in Europe and now – how it looks like – also in my ”Heimatland” the US.

55

Collin Street 01.17.18 at 8:47 am

The biggest difference I see off that list was that the appointed hacks were hackish cronies under Bush. Under Trump, the appointed hacks are hackish young ideologues.

Tragedy/farce.

When things are done the first time they’re done as an adaptive response to the situation by people willing to try new paths. When things are done the second time they’re done out of rote, without regard to the nuances of the situation, by people who lack the imagination to be innovative.

It is to politics what monty python quotes are to comedy.

56

J-D 01.17.18 at 11:25 am

mpowell
As far as I can tell, you and I are writing about different and unrelated topics. In your comment you refer to what Trump is like from a legislative perspective. I wrote nothing about what Trump is like from a legislative perspective. In your comment you wrote about policy. I made no reference to policy. You refer to democracy’s odds against Trump’s administration; I wrote nothing about democracy. And yet uou frame your comment as if it is supposed to be a response to mine; I’m blessed if I understand how it can be.

57

Layman 01.17.18 at 11:27 am

“Separately, I want to briefly address the commenters here who are incredulous at the idea that we should hold Democrats responsible for collaborating with e.g. the security state. ”

Are there any commenters here who are incredulous at the idea that we should hold Democrats responsible for collaborating with e.g. the security state? I’m not; unless you mean by ‘hold responsible’ that we should help Republicans get elected instead.

58

nastywoman 01.17.18 at 12:41 pm

– and in conclusion –
couldn’t we be honest? –
that this idea that ”Trump’s power is shakier than American democracy” is kind of an… ”excuse”? for… let’s call it – ”tolerating” Trump – because some of US – when Trump pretended to be ”anti-establishment” or ”anti-mainstream” – or even funnier:
When some of the ”naivest” among US – believed that the FF was ”fighting some ”surveillance” or ”deep state” – and he actually was ready to surveil and fight everybody of US who wouldn’t agree with him just the way regular ”fascists” like to do it.

And the fact that he actually can’t do what he probably read in ”Mein Kampf” to US –
BE-cause ”our” democracy is far less shakier than his power is – doesn’t excuse – with pointing to the fact that he isn’t Hitler – the belief – that he in any way or any time couldn’t be the ”FF von Clownstick” he always was and always will be.

59

alfredlordbleep 01.17.18 at 1:17 pm

Jerry Vinokurov @52 gets the major objections right, and that’s what needs saying often and powerfully. (I make the exception of omitting any attempt to characterize what is a fascist or a fascist party). There’s a lot more to say, of course, in details and tweaks. But the attack can be built out from there.

Bravo!

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J-D 01.17.18 at 7:06 pm

Z

The American experiment in democracy is long dead. Is the will of the people the basis of government? Are citizens equal before the law or endowed with equal political power? Is the government representative of the people? Even the questions sound like sick jokes. Retrospectively, I would put the time of death at December 12, 2000 but in 2018, I don’t see how can one still speak of American democracy as something that exists.

If somebody says that none of the following things are true in America today: the will of the people is the basis of government; citizens are equal before the law and are endowed with equal political power; the government is representative of the people — then I think I understand what is meant. But if you believe those things are not true now, then I don’t understand what would lead you to believe that they were true in some period before December 12, 2000. The way it appears to me, if those things were ever true, they’re still true now; but if they’re not true now, then they never were. There’s a limited sense in which it’s accurate to say that the United States was a democracy, but in that limited sense it still is one; on the other hand, there’s a more expansive sense of the word in which the United States is not a democracy, but in that sense it never was. What I can’t figure out a case for is the idea that the United States was once a democracy but isn’t any more. To make out a case for that idea, you need to validate not just one historical evaluation, but two: (i) that the country is not a democracy now; (ii) that the country was a democracy at some period in the past. I think the only way that can be done is by the fallacy of equivocation, using two different definitions of democracy for parts (i) and (ii).

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Collin Street 01.17.18 at 8:15 pm

‘reports if the fetus was viable’

What’s the point of having all posts moderated if this sort of shit gets through? Seriously, people.

[it’s a hobbyhorse. Sebastian is clearly more comfortable talking about abortion and why it’s bad than about Trump’s criminality and the structural problems in the US constitution, and is taking every opportunity he can to talk about the things he’d rather talk about. Because conversations have limited bandwidth, if he’s permitted his preferences the ability of others to talk about non-abortion things is diminished; the whole point of moderation is to make smooth and productive conversation happen, and letting posts through like these works directly against those aims.]

62

Heliopause 01.18.18 at 1:31 am

@46
“But politically, perhaps not so much.”

Leaving aside the style issues that people seem so obsessed with, everything Trump’s done in the real world is virtually indistinguishable from what any other GOP POTUS would have done. Biggest one was the tax cut, of course. Appointed a standard issue conservative to Scalia’s seat. Made a show of attempting to repeal Obamacare. Talked tough on North Korea. Lobbed some cruise missiles into Syria on the thinnest of pretexts. Ironically, the one consequential thing he’s done that another Republican might not have is the embassy move to Jerusalem, ironic because almost everybody in both parties was on record as being in favor of it.

I don’t agree with people who say that Trump is a fascist because the GOP has long been fascist, for reasons Corey Robin touched on in his Guardian piece, but they are at least being consistent.

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F. Foundling 01.18.18 at 1:32 am

@Layman 01.17.18 at 11:27 am
>Are there any commenters here who are incredulous at the idea that we should hold Democrats responsible for collaborating with e.g. the security state?

See Evan 01.15.18 at 4:02 am 27, nastywoman 01.15.18 at 10:54 am 33

@Layman 01.15.18 at 11:44 pm
>One side trumps up intelligence to build a fraudulent case to invade Iraq, and the other doesn’t.

One word: Libya.

@Raven Onthill 01.15.18 at 5:17 am
> the fascists are waiting to start a war with Iran. … Yemen is bleeding. Syria is bleeding. And there is no-one to calm the troubled waters, neither to fight nor yet to bring peace.

This is very … nuanced. In two consecutive sentences, a US attack and the absence of a US attack seem to be bemoaned. Apparently, it is lamentable that in Syria, while ISIS has been destroyed, there is no-one to save the local Al Qaida offshoot from Assad, as a nicer pres like HRC would do with her gentle, salvatory, motherly, peace-bringing bombs. In Yemen, too, she could have intervened and, well, I suppose, assisted the Saudis against the Iranian-backed rebels instead of letting them do the job of devastating the country alone. If, on the other hand, *’the fascists’* attack Iran *itself*, that will be bad. All in all, the picture is very complicated.

@SusanC 01.14.18 at 3:12 pm, 01.16.18 at 11:21 pm

Yes, I suppose that one imaginable way of finally persuading the majority of Americans of the noxiousness of anti-consitutional mass surveillance might be to convince them that it is a Russian ploy invented and designed in order to take over America – as is plutocratic capture of democracy (see here: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/12/15/putins-proxies-helped-funnel-millions-gop-campaigns). ‘Citizens United’ was, unbeknownst to everybody, a cunning KGB plot all along. Hell, why not Russian-bait capitalism itself? I’d say that the result would be worth it if it were to work (as long as the resulting hostility between nations and ethnicities doesn’t produce some, umm, excessive side effects). All very well, except that, you know, it just *won’t* work.

@ nastywoman 01.16.18 at 9:07 am

>Fellow Americans who believe that…

I’m afraid that I see no way of addressing the rest of your comment in a productive way, but, just for the record, in case there is a misunderstanding, I want to declare explicitly that I am *not* American either by origin, by citizenship or by current residence. I’m from Eastern Europe, as I’ve stated here on quite a few occasions before (my screen name may be taken as an indication of a number of things, but ethnicity is not one of them).

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nastywoman 01.18.18 at 4:25 am

@63
”See… nastywoman 01.15.18 at 10:54 am 33”

Pointing out that US Republicans sank the bill with their majority and NOT Dems is NOT being ”incredulous at the idea that we should hold Democrats responsible for collaborating with e.g. the security state”?

And about NOT being a ”Fellow American”.

My bad – and let me correct:

Commenters who believe that ”The Dem establishment, especially those ‘resisters’ who are most vehement about the whole Russia-Trump thing, are loyal spokespersons of the US imperial establishment and deep ‘national security state” might (finally) want to notice that ”our problem” -(a YUUUGE part of the ”female” US population) is NOT about some ”political competitor” or all the other ”problems” some Commenters from Eastern Europe (might) like to believe in.

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J-D 01.18.18 at 4:42 am

F. Foundling

@Layman 01.17.18 at 11:27 am
>Are there any commenters here who are incredulous at the idea that we should hold Democrats responsible for collaborating with e.g. the security state?

See Evan 01.15.18 at 4:02 am 27, nastywoman 01.15.18 at 10:54 am 33

I may have misunderstood, but as far as I can figure out Evan and nastywoman are both commenting on the suggestion that only Democrats should be deemed responsible and that Republicans should not be. I’m not sure whether anybody is actually making that suggestion, but that (or so it seems to me) is the suggestion they’re commenting on, and ‘only Democrats are responsible and Republicans are not’ is not equivalent to ‘Democrats have a share in the responsibility’. Rejecting the former is compatible with accepting the latter.

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nastywoman 01.18.18 at 4:47 am

and this:

”I don’t agree with people who say that Trump is a fascist because the GOP has long been fascist…”

– is kind of… confusing? –
as when you believe the GOP ”has long been ”fascist” and Trump was running as a GOP candidate –
doesn’t that imply – that you also should believe that ”Trump is a fascist”? –
and if the confusion is based on ideas that Trump also believes other ”stuff” – than all ”the stuff”… which is by definition ”Fascistic”… isn’t that where this whole… confusion comes from?

As I already mentioned – that some of our Fellow? Americans might have overlooked his ”Fascism” BE-cause he at the same time pretended also to be ”ant-mainstream” and ”anti-establishment”?

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Z 01.18.18 at 10:49 am

J-D The way it appears to me, if those things were ever true, they’re still true now

The statement “the outcomes of a political system reflects the will of the people” can never be absolutely true or false, so I take it as a given that all statements along these lines will be relative. In first approximation (a rough approximation but this is a blog comment, after all), a system is then relatively more democratic if, all else being equal, the subset of people able to significantly shape political outcomes is larger, the people’s ability to shape said outcomes is greater and the distribution of the capability to change political outcomes is more equal. This hopefully makes the statement “the American political system was more democratic in 1975 than in 2018” meaningful.

As for its truth-value, I believe that two generations of entrenched first educative then material inequalities have dramatically worsen all three variables compared with the 1970s, so that I do consider it quite obviously true myself, but you are entitled to your own evaluation of course (other time frames, for instance the 1945-1970 period, appear much more ambiguous to me as all variables might not vary in the same direction).

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casmilus 01.18.18 at 10:53 am

Just before Trump’s inauguration, I read a trashy old 80s thriller called “Ikon” by Graham Masterton. In amongst all the sex scenes and shoot-outs, we get a plot in which American patriots circa 1983 suddenly realise their country lost the Cuban Missile Crisis and has been secretly controlled by a KGB branch in DC ever since.

It’s a book whose time has come. Get it while copies are still available for 1p on Amazon Marketplace.

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faustusnotes 01.18.18 at 11:13 am

Sebastian_H, I asked for examples of innocent people affected by this warrantless surveillance and you give me two articles about … drug dealers. Unless I’m mistaken about how this program works, for these people to be caught up by the DEA they must have been in contact with a known overseas terror or drug dealing contact, and as a result their information was sent to the DEA. Do you really think these people are innocent victims of this program? Presumably you agree that people who commit crimes should be caught, but in this case you seem to be implying that if people import drugs into the USA, and the NSA finds out they are importing drugs through a wiretap of an overseas drug trafficker, it should not inform local law enforcement?

I know some people here are in favour of completely ending the war on drugs, so let’s choose another example. If an NSA wiretap of an overseas criminal uncovers an American who is abusing children and selling the film, should the NSA not inform the FBI or local police? So the paedophile can operate with impunity until he makes a mistake local police can find? This doesn’t seem credible and in any other country a failure of a federal body to immediately inform local police would be seen as a grievous dereliction of duty. The Australian government routinely does this – gets information from investigations of overseas paedophile networks and feeds them back to local law enforcement to grab the local agents. Unless I’m mistaken, you seem to be arguing that this is an excessive level of surveillance?

I want to know how it affects innocent people, not criminals.

Regarding abortion, you are completely and thoroughly wrong, in a disgusting way. There are only two ways an abortion gets reported: either as a procedure, or a death. Doctors report procedures all the time to various bodies (e.g. insurance claims bodies), but they don’t usually have to provide any evidence of their clinical justification for those procedures when they do so. A doctor who reports a knee reconstruction doesn’t have to provide proof that the knee in question was wrecked. The only reason you think that an abortion provider should have to provide this proof is that you believe doctors are routinely breaching medical ethics and killing viable late term foetuses. Do you believe this? Because if you do you should take a long hard look at yourself.

The other way an abortion is reported is as a death. But there is no reason for the prior medical procedures to be reported – this is not required for any death reporting. So why require it for abortion?

There is no parallel construction here. Abortions are reported under the same rules and guidelines as other procedures. You think there is parallel construction because you think that obstetricians and gynaecologists are deliberately killing viable late term foetuses without reason, on the whim of the mother, and making up a reason (which btw doesn’t make sense since you also admit that they don’t have to report any evidence of non-viability, so why would they bother making up information?). This is a disgusting thing to believe with no basis in fact, and you should be ashamed of yourself for believing it.

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Layman 01.18.18 at 2:05 pm

F. Foundling: “One word: Libya.”

I’m afraid I can’t grast your point when you use only one word. You’ll have to say more about how Libya is / was like Iraq. Trumped-up evidence? The claim that Libya was responsible for 9/11? An invasion by US forces designed to destroy the stable government and usher in chaos? An armed occupation married to no occupation plan at all? The desire to punish Iraq for embarrassing the President’s father once upon a time? None of those seem to fit, so I’m guessing you mean something else. Something of the form ‘Iraq was a bad decision, and Libya was a bad decision, therefore Iraq and Libya were identical situations which led to identically bad decisions undertaken for identically bad reasons’. Is that really what you mean to say?

“See Evan 01.15.18 at 4:02 am 27, nastywoman 01.15.18 at 10:54 am 33”

I did, but when I read #27, I don’t find any expression of incredulity at the idea that Democrats should be held accountable for collaborating with the security state. Similarly, #33 simply points to the flaw in Greenwald’s argument about a particular example he uses to blame the Democrats rather than the Republicans for the failure of a particular bill, in order to show how bad that argument is. You do agree it was a bad example for the argument, right?

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Sergio Lopez-Luna 01.18.18 at 7:05 pm

Not being a leftist intellectual, I’m trying to understand how whatever atrocity the GOP commits, its always the Democrat’s fault.

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Guano 01.18.18 at 7:07 pm

Not all problems are Hitler-shaped, so it is often a waste of time to argue whether about similarities between Trump and Hitler.

The worrying features of Trump are the use of an unfocused resentment as a political tool and the lack of agreement about basic facts among the electorate.

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J-D 01.18.18 at 9:47 pm

Sebastian H

The official line was …

You have not made clear what you mean by ‘official’ in this context. Where is the official statement of this line?

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Suzanne 01.18.18 at 11:36 pm

@52: I don’t know if you actually read the article to which you linked, but it indicates that Democrats largely oppose the loosening of the rules. The minority of Democrats who have signed on in support of the Senate’s version are mostly (not all) red-state Democrats who are up for re-election this year. They have, however, supported their party on recent big votes. Will matters be improved if those red state Democratic seats go Republican?

You would also read that the House bill, which would “among other things, remove the prohibition against using federally insured funds for risky lending and gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” has no chance in the Senate. Why? Because Democrats won’t support it.

You’ll say that Dodd-Frank itself didn’t go far enough and I’ll agree with you. But right now that big Democratic minority in the Senate is all that’s holding the Republicans back.

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J-D 01.19.18 at 4:15 am

Z
Thank you. The clarification is appreciated. If you are suggesting that the US is less democratic now than it was in the 1970s, I agree that the statement has substantive meaning and I do understand what might lead you to that conclusion.

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SusanC 01.19.18 at 8:51 am

@casmilus. My mother was recently rewatching All the President’s Men and commented that the Nixon character sometimes acts in implausible ways, but this isn’t Alan J Pakula’s fault because Nixon really did those things (i.e. The implausible bits are historically true, and are not stuff that was made up for the movie).

The Trump movie will presumably have an even bigger “you couldn’t make this stuff up” problem. What? Your plot premise is that the American people vite for this Trump guy? Come on, noone will believe that. Stephen King’s The Dead Zone had a President that was at least superficially acceptable.

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Layman 01.19.18 at 10:09 am

Faustusnotes @ 69, the gist of your argument here is that any law enforcement activity* is permissible so long as, ultimately, it is only used to prosecute or otherwise harm criminals. Thus not only should warrantless eavesdropping of foreign persons be permitted, but warrantless eavesdropping of US persons should also be permitted. Why not? As long as the law ignores what innocent people say, and only acts on the things that obvious criminals say, where’s the harm? Furthermore, why shouldn’t warrantless physical searches be permitted? After all, innocent people have nothing to fear from a warrantless search, do they?

It should be obvious that such a regime will surely lead to abuse, even if you can’t be convinced that the regime itself is abusive even when it works perfectly and never leads to any wrongful persecution of any relative innocent.

[*] As supporters of the FISA process will surely opine that it is an anti-terror activity, part of a ‘war’, I should make it explicitly clear that I reject that argument. Terrorism is in my view a law enforcement matter, and has always been so, and the effort to treat it like it is a war is the principle cause of most of the security state and foreign policy abuses of the last 17 or so years. You can’t end terrorism by bombing people in other countries; you only create more terror. You can’t treat terrorists like enemy combatants, because there is no enemy state you can defeat to end the ‘war’, and the result is endless low-intensity violence to no actual purpose. This is aside from the fact that treating them like enemy combatants creates the problem of what to do with them when you’ve apprehended them. Trying them as criminals is problematic and, as we’ve seen, doing so fairly is more or less impossible. Holding them forever as prisoners of war is problematic, and probably not politically sustainable.

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Faustusnotes 01.19.18 at 12:50 pm

I don’t think so Layman. We’re discussing foreign surveillance here, not domestic. No government required warrants for foreign surveillance. The idea that they would then ignore information obtained on domestic criminals from such overseas surveillance is ludicrous. Also the idea that they should need a warrant to intercept it is weird – if they had reason to know they were going to intercept comms from domestic actors they could simply seek a warrant for more extensive domestic surveillance. This is specifically designed to enable them to act on information obtained from completely normal overseas surveillance.

Note too that most of the objections to this program given above concern its use on Americans not foreigners. The us eof foreign surveillance is not disputed. Now you might have an issue with any surveillance of foreign nationals without a warrant but a) good luck with that and b) I think in the fight against child porn and drug trafficking it’s essential.

So I’ll extend the question to you: if the Australian Federal police identify a local child abuser through overseas surveillance, should they not be allowed to notify police in that person’s home state? And even worse, should Australian Federal police be required to seek a warrant for every act of surveillance of foreign nationals outsidr Australia who are trading pictures of the abuse of Australian children?

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Layman 01.19.18 at 1:55 pm

Faustusnotes: “I don’t think so Layman. We’re discussing foreign surveillance here, not domestic.”

I don’t think you can dismiss my argument with ‘I don’t think so.’ I know we’re discussing what you call ‘foreign surveillance’ but it is a fact that this activity surveils domestic persons. I know that conventional warrants aren’t required for it but that’s what I’m objecting to, because it is a fact that the activity surveils domestic persons. Activities that surveil domestic persons should require conventional warrants subject to conventional judicial scrutiny and, ultimately, public scrutiny.

What are your objections to my extending your argument to conventional warrants? Why should they be required if surveillance is harmless to innocent persons?

The question you extend to me is meaningless in the context of my argument. The
Australian Federal Police should have needed a warrant for the foreign surveillance in the first place. If they had sufficient evidence of criminal activity to justify that warrant, then getting a warrant is not an impediment to fighting the crime. If they didn’t have sufficient evidence of a crime to justify a warrant, they should not have been permitted to engage in fishing expeditions just because one of the parties was a foreign person. And if they got the warrant, and they obtained the information implicating domestic persons as a result of that warrant, then I have no objection to them acting on that information and letting a court sort it out.

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nastywoman 01.19.18 at 2:47 pm

– and after watching today – of all people – a so called conservative ”Joe” – coming up with comparing Trump to Hitler in such an… ”old-fashioned conservative way” – that he firstly made sure – that one can’t compare the two – because of the obvious reasons also Mr. Robin mentioned -(the number of people Hitler killed) – and as Trump hasn’t killed anybody – this so called ”conservative” made such a… let me call it ”human” and ”honorable” comparison – between two so terrible disgusting, lying, sick ……. (add anything despicable thing you like) – that I – as probably being just as blond as ”Stormy Daniels how in this world – and on this planet – and in this ”homeland” off mine could have any ”American” – any… anybody – EVER voted for this F…face??!

How was that possible?

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Anarcissie 01.19.18 at 2:47 pm

Sergio Lopez-Luna 01.18.18 at 7:05 pm @ 71 —
He said ‘responsible for collaborating’, not ‘is the Democrats’ fault’. It is possible to be dissatisfied with the Democratic Party’s responses to Trump without fully assigning all of the current atrocities to them.

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Jerry Vinokurov 01.19.18 at 3:15 pm

I don’t know if you actually read the article to which you linked, but it indicates that Democrats largely oppose the loosening of the rules. The minority of Democrats who have signed on in support of the Senate’s version are mostly (not all) red-state Democrats who are up for re-election this year.

So, let me ask you this: is your theory then that red-state Democrats are voting for this because they think it will help their re-election chances? (What’s Mark Warner’s excuse?) While that might be the case (I cannot read Joe Donnelly’s mind), I have to ask on what grounds you, or they, believe that this will work, especially with this piece of legislation. No one particularly likes banks, not even in the red states, and… Heidi Heitkamp’s theory is that she’s going to help her re-election chances by selling out her constituents? How does that even work? What makes anyone think that anything other than the letter D next to her name is going to matter in the election, or that the average North Dakotan is going to delve deep into the details of a banking regulation bill and sagely come to the conclusion that actually, Heitkamp is good because she voted for this.

Either the “moderate” Dems truly believe this theory, in which case they’re stupid, or they’re just cynically voting to make their constituents’ lives worse. I’m not sure which is worse.

They have, however, supported their party on recent big votes. Will matters be improved if those red state Democratic seats go Republican?

No, of course not. But you actually have to show that any of the above strongly reduces the chances of those seats going to Republicans. I don’t think it does; I don’t think it matters because today nothing other than partisanship and turnout matters. Making concessions to Republicans on the grounds that it might improve your election chances is a fool’s game, it doesn’t work even on its own merits. And the reason why it doesn’t work is contained entirely in your reply: they supported the party on the “big votes,” therefore, they have to go (according to their Republican challengers). That they “crossed the aisle” for something relatively obscure (but, I would still say, big) isn’t going to get them any brownie points. That’s deluded centrist logic.

You would also read that the House bill, which would “among other things, remove the prohibition against using federally insured funds for risky lending and gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” has no chance in the Senate. Why? Because Democrats won’t support it.

So what? They support one bad thing but they won’t support this other, even worse thing? Anyway, all Trump has to do to cripple the CFPB is to put a director in charge who is going to basically shut down all the Bureau’s activities. You know, the way it’s literally happening right now.

You’ll say that Dodd-Frank itself didn’t go far enough and I’ll agree with you. But right now that big Democratic minority in the Senate is all that’s holding the Republicans back.

This is true but also irrelevant. There’s absolutely no reason to collaborate with Republicans on anything. There is literally zero value to be gained from it electorally or from a policy standpoint, but a few Democrats are still going to keep doing it because they have brain parasites.

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nastywoman 01.19.18 at 3:50 pm

@82
”There is literally zero value to be gained from it electorally or from a policy standpoint, but a few Democrats are still going to keep doing it because they have brain parasites.”

And there is literally less than zero value to be gained from it electorally or from a policy standpoint, that ”a few” Democrats have brain parasites.

Especially if such a lot of Democrats don’t.

And I think I mentioned it before – how is it possible with the current… and now let me quote ”BRAIN PARASITE” -(ruling our ”homeland”) – to constantly come up with… and now let me quote Monty Python:
”And Now To Something Completely Else”

Whassup with:
”FOCUS”!!

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novakant 01.19.18 at 3:59 pm

You’ll have to say more about how Libya is / was like Iraq.

The US turned a functioning state into a disaster zone, many lives were lost and the future of these countries, which aren’t really countries anymore, looks very bleak.

Nobody involved gives a damn about Dem/GOP differences or purported good intentions.

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Yan 01.19.18 at 5:05 pm

“Sergio Lopez-Luna 01.18.18 at 7:05 pm
Not being a leftist intellectual, I’m trying to understand how whatever atrocity the GOP commits, its always the Democrat’s fault.”

Not being a fan of avoiding logical fallacies, I’m trying to understand why my straw man keeps disagreeing with me.

Not understanding how boxing or politics works, I’m trying to understand how when someone gets their clock cleaned, it’s the losing boxer’s fault.

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Sebastian H 01.19.18 at 5:48 pm

Faustusnotes, “Sebastian_H, I asked for examples of innocent people affected by this warrantless surveillance and you give me two articles about … drug dealers. “

How do you know they aren’t innocent? You admit that the government is willing to create FALSE methods of ‘discovery’ and create FALSE evidence justifying that ‘discovery’. While you are already authorizing FALSE EVIDENCE creation to nail someone in court why are you so certain that it stops exactly there? How is that all the false evidence creation stops at exactly the point where you’re ok with it? Why aren’t you the slightest bit worried that additional false evidence creation might continue when “they know it is the right guy”? We can’t have the court system investigate this, because we don’t know when it is happening. The reason we don’t when it is happening is because the government is creating FALSE evidentiary trails. So your certainty about their lack of innocence is undermined by your support of systemically frustrating the ability to validate the reality of the evidence.

“If an NSA wiretap of an overseas criminal uncovers an American who is abusing children and selling the film, should the NSA not inform the FBI or local police?”

Sure they should. And when the case comes forward the FBI should say “we got this from a legal NSA wiretap”. And then we can investigate whether or not it was actually a legal NSA wiretap. We already know the NSA wiretaps all sorts of foreign nationals so that isn’t a secret. If it is of national security interest that some PARTICULAR foreign national is wiretapped such that it would be a threat to national security, you wait until it isn’t a threat to national security. What you don’t do is create FALSE EVIDENCE and submit that to the court. Choose one or the other.

And that is all assuming that the NSA isn’t tapping domestic wires and just lying to us about it. They absolutely did that with emails before the Snowden revelations so it isn’t exactly above them to lie about that either.

“You think there is parallel construction because you think that obstetricians and gynaecologists are deliberately killing viable late term foetuses without reason, on the whim of the mother, and making up a reason (which btw doesn’t make sense since you also admit that they don’t have to report any evidence of non-viability, so why would they bother making up information?). This is a disgusting thing to believe with no basis in fact, and you should be ashamed of yourself for believing it.”

This is a pre-Gosnell argument. You don’t get to pretend there is no basis in fact anymore. The investigations into Gosnell showed that more than a hundred viable fetuses were aborted by him. He didn’t kidnap a hundred women with viable fetuses and abort the fetuses against their will. You can’t use the argument that “no gynecologist would do such an abortion” because he did, and you can’t use the argument that “it is very unlikely that a woman would seek such an abortion” because at least a hundred did in a couple of years in a minor state.

Colin Street, you of all people complaining about threadjacking is a bit rich don’t you think? If you don’t like the analogy, fine. It is an equally valid instance of the law deliberately being crafted in such a way as to avoid oversight for publically agreed policy goals and to obscure violations. If you don’t want to argue the particulars of the analogous situation, feel free not to do so.

I thought the main reason for moderation was the view that certain women were getting attacked in the threads, but I don’t remember clearly enough to be sure.

“…and why it’s bad than about Trump’s criminality and the structural problems in the US constitution” The main point we are talking about here [the government creating false evidence to obscure questionably legal wiretapping] isn’t Trumps’ criminality. Its is Bush II and Obama’s criminality too. Just to be clear.

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Suzanne 01.19.18 at 6:05 pm

81: “Making concessions to Republicans on the grounds that it might improve your election chances is a fool’s game, it doesn’t work even on its own merits.”

You should communicate that insight to McCaskill, Tester, Manchin, et al. I’m sure they have no idea what’s going on in their home states or which vote is or isn’t likely to hurt them in November.

Heitkamp is probably the most vulnerable of the red state Democrats. She comes from one of the whitest states in the Union, where Trump won by 36 points (and it’s not a very diverse set of white folks – mostly old, rural, evangelical). She won her seat narrowly by localizing the race and distancing herself from the national Democratic Party. She can’t be seen as unwilling to work with Republicans.

When Trump leaves office, a Democratic president can fill positions at the CFBP with someone who will actually do the job. In the meantime, if Democrats do well in 2018 and are able to maintain or increase levels of resistance, the powers of the agency (which aren’t powerful enough IMO) will be preserved even if the Trumpistas refuse to use them for their intended purpose.

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Ben 01.19.18 at 6:55 pm

They could also not want to piss off large donors right before a tough election.

But there’s another structural reason for these kinds of votes.

The internal model of the Democratic Party which makes the most sense is: a top-heavy national apparatus that is a mix of neoliberal ideologues (“brain-dead parasites”) and grifters (Mook, Shrum etc.) riding herd on more-or-less progressive activists that are siloed within states.

The ideologues / grifters provide political relationships, money, media expertise and competent political staff; activists provide bodies

State-level fights between these two are *vicious*

The activists have enough power to occasionally shake things up (Sanders, Lemont) but they have their own grifters (Levine) and lack infrastructure that carries over between elections

Some senior politicians (Warren, Gilibrand) are trying to create an alternative national power base outside of the grifter parasites. They will fail. They need to build institutions, which need careerists, who even if they believe in changing the party are also concerned about their own security. Everyone sells out if the price is right, and the pocketbooks of the grifter parasites are functionally bottomless.

Hence the surveillance vote. Another word for “Senator” is “an office filled with people who will have their future prospects crater if the grifter parasite faction shuts them out”.

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Layman 01.19.18 at 7:55 pm

novakant: “The US turned a functioning state into a disaster zone, many lives were lost and the future of these countries, which aren’t really countries anymore, looks very bleak.”

Charity requires that I consider the possibility that you’re simply ignorant of the state of affairs in Libya in March of 2011. I’ll admit that’s not my first choice.

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J-D 01.19.18 at 8:04 pm

Sebastian H

This is a pre-Gosnell argument. You don’t get to pretend there is no basis in fact anymore. The investigations into Gosnell showed that more than a hundred viable fetuses were aborted by him. He didn’t kidnap a hundred women with viable fetuses and abort the fetuses against their will. You can’t use the argument that “no gynecologist would do such an abortion” because he did, and you can’t use the argument that “it is very unlikely that a woman would seek such an abortion” because at least a hundred did in a couple of years in a minor state.

If somebody who is pregnant wants to terminate that pregnancy, it should not be a crime to do so.

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Collin Street 01.19.18 at 9:16 pm

Colin Street, you of all people complaining about threadjacking is a bit rich don’t you think? If you don’t like the analogy, fine. It is an equally valid instance of the law deliberately being crafted in such a way as to avoid oversight for publically agreed policy goals and to obscure violations. If you don’t want to argue the particulars of the analogous situation, feel free not to do so.

Sebastian: how does a person tell when they’ve misunderstood the implications of something and their conclusions are in error?

[specifically: how does a person discover that something they thought relevant is in fact irrelevant, and the conclusions they’ve drawn from the thing in error?]

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Faustusnotes 01.20.18 at 12:08 am

Layman we are discussing foreign surveillance because that’s what the Greenwald article and the vote was about. We aren’t discussing domestic surveillance because that’s not what Robin is talking about. I don’t think the Australian security agencies require warrants to surveil overseas parties, so I’m not sure your response makes sense. But if they do it still leaves us in the same pickle: if they discover communication between the foreign party and an Australian national should they not be allowed to inform local police to act on it? If they do then they have by definition surveilled the local without a warrant. If they don’t they have allowed a crime to continue.

Sebastian, is your argument about parallel construction that the warrantless surveillance of domestic persons’ overseas contacts would be acceptable if it were admitted in court? Because I think that a) your real objection is to the surveillance itself not the way it is presented to courts and b) it’s a very convenient way for you to avoid showing me any actual victims of FISA. For example I am not interested in parallel construction if the people being parallel constructed into court were raided and discovered to have kiddy porn on their computers. In that case the foreign surveillance worked. I was hoping you would show me examples of people who have been charged on completely weak evidence from a foreign wiretap, or people whose political activities have landed them in hot water through surveillance. You know, the chilling effect of the surveillance state. Instead you are showing me some murky law enforcement techniques. Heads up: American cops kill a lot of people and steal innocent people’s money. Murky law enforcement is a perfectly normal domestic issue in the USA and not a special consequence of FISA. See also: planting evidence. I am trying to find out if FISA actually contributes to the chilling effect of the surveillance state – why surveillance of foreign nationals without a warrant is bad – not see more evidence of why us domestic police are shonky. If they really want to get person X they can just kill him. Why is FISA the issue here?

I absolutely can make the argument about abortion doctors because Gosnell was not a doctor. He was not registered to practice and he was a vicious criminal. On the basis of the actions of a vicious criminal not registered to practice, who broke every rule of modern medical ethics, you are pretending that non criminal registered doctors, properly regulated by their professional and medical authorities, routinely break the law to murder viable late term fetuses on the mother’s whim and then lie about it. As I said, that’s a disgusting thing to claim and you should be ashamed of yourself.

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Layman 01.20.18 at 1:01 am

Faustusnotes: “Layman we are discussing foreign surveillance because that’s what the Greenwald article and the vote was about.”

It’s hard to believe you’re not being deliberately obtuse here. When intelligence agencies surveil foreign communications, they very often end up surveilling the communications of domestic persons, because that’s who the foreign persons are communicating with. That was the entire point of the amendment offered and defeated that Greenwald wrote about, to limit the government’s ability to surveil domestic persons using this roundabout mechanism.

Whenever an intelligence agency gets a FISA warrant to surveil a foreign person, there’s a very real chance they’ll end up surveilling a domestic person as result. For that reason, I think they should be required to get real warrants, not rubber-stamped FISA ones. You don’t think so, and you think that if they find evidence of criminal activity by citizens as a result of a FISA warrant directed at a foreign person then they should be able to act on that evidence; because, you say, only criminals can be harmed by that process.

Hopefully I’ve recapped where we are, and now I will ask the same question one more time: If only criminals are harmed by surveillance, why require warrants at all? If only criminals are harmed by searches, why require probable cause and search warrants? If only criminals are harmed by answering questions without legal representation, why require that suspects have legal representation when they’re questioned? Why can’t your argument about FISA warrants be extended to the entire apparatus of legal rights we enjoy?

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Orange Watch 01.20.18 at 1:59 am

Faustusnotes@78:

In addition to what Layman ably points out above, there’s another huge problem with your argument here. The premise you’re advancing is that sigint gathered on foreign nationals is gathered actively; it’s like you’re arguing for agents sitting in a dark room listening to a live feed of bad guy’s phones. That cartoonish caricature is the only interpretation that makes sense with everything you’ve argued, anyway, unless you truly have no idea how parallel construction was used in practice. It was not perforce agents working on foreign intelligence or law enforcement matters discovering crimes while they were actively monitoring the sigint. Suggesting that is… naive at best. The US intelligence apparatuses collect more raw intelligence than they can thoroughly process. Info sharing with domestic agencies included letting domestics go keyword-fishing in archived intelligence for persons of interest that they had no warrant to wiretap, and then if they found something interesting, engaging in parallel construction to superficially decontaminate the fruits of the poisonous tree.

Parallel construction is not a matter of foreign LEOs seeing some crime and passing along a tip. It is as much a matter of domestic LEOs scouring inadmissible foreign surveillance data to detect objectionable activity on US citizens, and then illegally concealing their constitutional violations from both oversight bodies and the courts. Your objection that it is only harming criminals might be arguable (though still glaringly unconstitutional) if it were strictly using processed intel that had been forwarded to domestic agencies upon discovery of wrongdoing by humans in the loop. That is not, however, how it was historically used; domestic agencies would be the processing agents who discovered it, retained it, decided to act on it, and then concealed its provenance. Given this, Layman is quite right to suggest that it follows from your logic that all warrants could be done away, so long as the LEOs promise to only target bad hombres…

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Faustusnotes 01.20.18 at 2:09 am

Layman the domestic police will still have to follow due process in pursuing the investigation. The same thing applies to domestic surveillance, surely? The police get a warrant to surveil person X and discover person Y is preparing to commit a crime. What should they do? I think they should act. You, presumably, don’t. Why?

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Jerry Vinokurov 01.20.18 at 2:18 am

And there is literally less than zero value to be gained from it electorally or from a policy standpoint, that ”a few” Democrats have brain parasites.

Especially if such a lot of Democrats don’t.

I’m sure my comments on Crooked Timber, a blog that is notably read by voters nationwide, will totally have a negative effect on the electoral chances of Democrats. If “a lot” of Democrats do the right thing, well, that’s great and good; I’m talking about the ones who do not, and who form a substantial faction within the party and particularly within the party leadership.

You should communicate that insight to McCaskill, Tester, Manchin, et al. I’m sure they have no idea what’s going on in their home states or which vote is or isn’t likely to hurt them in November.

Tragically, none of the above have solicited my opinions.

Heitkamp is probably the most vulnerable of the red state Democrats. She comes from one of the whitest states in the Union, where Trump won by 36 points (and it’s not a very diverse set of white folks – mostly old, rural, evangelical). She won her seat narrowly by localizing the race and distancing herself from the national Democratic Party. She can’t be seen as unwilling to work with Republicans.

Yes, she is, and it is, and she did. But you still haven’t explained how supporting Republican legislation to damage her own constituents is supposed to get her re-elected. Just saying “I worked with Republicans on a bank bill” is going to draw a bunch of blank stares; no one is going to care about this at all. The Republican playbook, as performed by, most recently, the Gillespie campaign in Virginia, is to make everything about racial and cultural anxiety. Voting for this garbage isn’t going to help her or Manchin or Tester fight that battle. I don’t have any problem with her “localizing” the race, but it should be done in such a way that offers her constituents tangible benefits, instead of selling them down the river for the thinnest veneer of “bipartisanship,” which no one will pay attention to.

When Trump leaves office, a Democratic president can fill positions at the CFBP with someone who will actually do the job. In the meantime, if Democrats do well in 2018 and are able to maintain or increase levels of resistance, the powers of the agency (which aren’t powerful enough IMO) will be preserved even if the Trumpistas refuse to use them for their intended purpose.

What federal agencies do actually matters, a lot. Putting Scott Pruitt in charge at the EPA, for example, is going to damage the agency in many ways that are going to be hard to recover from. Incidentally, which Democrats voted to confirm him? Why, it’s none other than our brave heroes Manchin and Heitkamp; I’m sure Joe is going to endlessly tout his vote for the guy who wants to allow fracking companies to poison West Virginia water, right? That’s totally going to bail him out against whichever deranged mouth-foamer will spend the campaign howling about how Joe Manchin personally brought MS-13 to America to abort non-gay babies.

Agencies can be damaged a lot because when the people who lead them are opposed to the agency’s mission, the rank and file quit. Infrastructure degrades, institutional expertise is lost, caseloads grow without resolution, etc. Cleaning up that mess is never as easy as simply putting a good person in charge, because destruction is easier than creation. Heitkamp and Manchin literally voted to ruin their constituents’ lives for a pathetic line that will probably get two uses before November. Great politics, everyone!

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Jerry Vinokurov 01.20.18 at 2:25 am

For example I am not interested in parallel construction if the people being parallel constructed into court were raided and discovered to have kiddy porn on their computers.

You’re basically saying that you’re fine with warrantless surveillance as long as it’s used to catch the right sort of people. There’s a reason why we have concepts like “the rule of law” and also “the exclusionary rule.” If there’s anything we don’t need in America, it’s making the prosecutors’ jobs easier.

I was hoping you would show me examples of people who have been charged on completely weak evidence from a foreign wiretap, or people whose political activities have landed them in hot water through surveillance.

This is an entirely disingenuous request for reasons that have already been explained to you and which you steadfastly refuse to acknowledge. Even if such evidence existed, it would be impossible to obtain precisely due to the parallel constructions outlined above. These maneuvers lock critics into a Catch-22, where they have to show that someone was harmed to challenge the legislation, but the legislation itself prevents you from finding out whether anyone was harmed. I would hope that anyone who calls themselves a liberal would understand the problem with this.

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J-D 01.20.18 at 4:15 am

Faustusnotes

Sebastian, is your argument about parallel construction that the warrantless surveillance of domestic persons’ overseas contacts would be acceptable if it were admitted in court? Because I think that a) your real objection is to the surveillance itself not the way it is presented to courts and b) it’s a very convenient way for you to avoid showing me any actual victims of FISA.

In the Reuters article that Sebastian H linked to, several people are quoted directly in ways which suggest very strongly that their primary objection is not to law enforcement officers using this material but rather to the fact that law enforcements officers are lying about what they are doing, repeatedly, in court cases, to both the defence and the prosecution. Now, it is possible, as you seem to be suggesting, that this is not really the primary objection for Sebastian H; and, taking your suggestion further, possibly this is also true of all the people quoted in the Reuters article. However, if it is in itself a valid and weighty objection, it doesn’t become any less valid or less weighty even if it is true that some people are using it as a cloak for their real objections. Do you think it is a bad thing if law enforcement officers get into the habit of lying to the courts? I do. I think it’s a bad thing if law enforcement officers get into the habit of lying to the courts, even if they do so in pursuit of convictions of the genuinely guilty. If you think it’s an acceptable price to pay, in order to get guilty people convicted, for law enforcement officers to get into the habit (not just in a rare egregious case but repeatedly, with standing advice for how to do it) of lying to the courts, then I’d like you to explain your case in favour of that conclusion, because I can’t figure it out.

You also wrote this:

Layman the domestic police will still have to follow due process in pursuing the investigation. The same thing applies to domestic surveillance, surely? The police get a warrant to surveil person X and discover person Y is preparing to commit a crime. What should they do? I think they should act. You, presumably, don’t. Why?

I don’t know the thoughts of Layman as an individual, but I do know that thinking that the police should act in a case such as this is fully compatible with thinking that they should not deceive the courts about what they have done.

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nastywoman 01.20.18 at 6:24 am

– and the power of Trump seems to be powerful enough to do what he was elected for -(by a lot of Americans) – to shut the whole thing down in order that the discussion who is responsible for ”what”? get’s even more absurd.

As – was it ”the few” Republicans who voted with the Democrats and would that ”ignite” a absurd discussion about who forms ”a substantial faction within the party and particularly within the party leadership”.

But at least the discussion will be back on track -(hey that rhymed!) – and not about ”surveillance” anymore as there is for sure a lot less ”surveillance” if the government is shut down?

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nastywoman 01.20.18 at 6:59 am

– or we could make the government shutdown about ”surveillance” too – as if the U.S. surveillance apparatus would have leaked some pictures of Trumps Golden Shower instead of the Russian Surveillers holding them back – would that have stopped comparisons between Hitler and Trump – as Hitler probably never did such… stuff -(and he loved his ”dogs” too) – and in conclusion would that have stopped enough of our fellow Americans NOT to vote for a… a… Von Clownstick – who doesn’t respect the most basic civilized American… ”rules” for cleanliness?!

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Layman 01.20.18 at 8:27 am

Faustusnotes: “Layman the domestic police will still have to follow due process in pursuing the investigation.“

You mean they’ll have to pretend they didn’t discover your crime through foreign surveillance, and then pursue you using legal investigative techniques? Yes, that’s what ‘parallel construction’ means! If you’re ok with that, then (one more time) are you OK with them discovering your crime with a warrantless domestic wiretap, or a warrantless search, and only afterward ‘following due process’ to pursue the investigation? If not, why not?

“The same thing applies to domestic surveillance, surely?”

Almost. In domestic surveillance, they had to start with a real warrant, one subject to judicial scrutiny and ultimately to public scrutiny, where they would have had to show probable cause of a crime in order to be granted that warrant. In foreign surveillance, all of that is secret and, in practice, FISA judges grant virtually every request. I have already said this, you know; why do you keep dodging the questing and, instead, raising the same issues I’ve already dealt with?

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Faustusnotes 01.20.18 at 9:59 am

Layman I’m not dodging then, I think the case is that I genuinely don’t understand them. Putting aside parallel construction, I want to know how an innocent person can be affected by these laws. I want to know how a warrantless foreign search would lead to a warrantless domestic intervention. If a doemstic agent does a search of this database of foreign contacts and then asks for a warrant based on the info obtained and tells the judge that the foreign search is the reason for the domestic warrant application, what has been done wrong? The domestic judge approves the warrant on the basis of the law, surely? If the Constitution doesn’t say it’s wrong to do warrantless overseas searches then this is not unconstitutional, surely? One argument above seems to be that this is bad because it’s a keyword search but how can it be unconstitutional? The people who wrote the Constitution didn’t know about the existence of keyword searches. Of there is a database of constitutionally obtained information and a police officer does a keyword search for child porn and finds some evidence how is this unconstitutional? Should police be barred from entering any legally obtained information into a database because then they could do a keyword search? What exactly is the underlying principle behind not making the prosecutor’s job easier, as mentioned above? Should they also be required to stand at their desk? Is the principle that the rapist should get a head start? I completely understand if you think overseas targets should also require a warrant – that’s very solid . But he explicit position of Greenwald is that overseas warrantless searches are okay but using info on domestic targets obtained from those searches is not. I want to understand how that makes any sense and how it hurts innocent people domestically. Instead I’m offered that it makes it easier to catch criminals and this is a bad thing (we don’t want to make the prosecutor’s job easier). I think three unrelated issues are being conflated and one of these appears to be that information obtained overseas pointing to domestic crimes simply should not be used.

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Layman 01.20.18 at 10:45 am

Faustusnotes: “Layman I’m not dodging then…”

Then answer them. If surveillance is harmless for innocent people, then why require warrants for domestic surveillance at all? Would you approve of a change in the law which would permit domestic law enforcement agencies to surveil domestic persons without warrants? If not, why not?

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nastywoman 01.20.18 at 1:32 pm

– and sometimes I think this whole ”Comparison Lunacy” had not really started when some Americans had compared Bush to Hitler – as it seems to be this American… ”custom”? to compare anything to Hitler – and one of the best responses to this lunacy has to be given -(again!) to another famous American Philosopher with the name of Seinfeld who invented the Soup Nazi – NO! – the real ”Comparison Lunacy” probably started when Americans compared Obama to Bush and tried to tell the world ”they are just the same” – BE-cause there were ”some”… let’s call them ”traditional American policies” – a truly ”patriotic American” like Obama just couldn’t… let’s say – ”ignore”? without risking even more to be called… ”a Fascist” – by Americans who confused ”Nationalsozialisten” with some ”Left Wing Sozialisten” or Crazy ”Libertarians” with something which could be considered to be to ”the left” – just because some Crazy US ”Libertarians” shared the same aversion against any type of surveillance as some to ”the Left”.

And now a F…face – who got labeled by some ”truly conservative” to be ”a Democrat” – and ran for a party which calls itself ”Republican” or ”conservative” is the new ”Not Hitler” of our ”Homeland”?

Armes Heimatland!!

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Cranky Observer 01.20.18 at 2:24 pm

= = = Faustusnotes @ 9:59 am Layman I’m not dodging then, I think the case is that I genuinely don’t understand them. Putting aside parallel construction, I want to know how an innocent person can be affected by these laws.= = =

Whereas for my part I am genuinely puzzled by your (Faustnotes’) line of argument here, at least as it relates to the United States. The tactics and weapons in use by the three letter agencies are not new, right down to opening of personal mail, codebreaking, warrantless searches, illegal breaking and entering by police agencies, disappearance, rendition, and torture: they were all in widespread use by governmental and quasi-governmental authorities in the 1600-1750 period in England and its American colonies. The United States Constitution of 1787, the Articles of Confederation, and the Declaration of Independence were all specifically written to prohibit those practices. People being drawn to law enforcement being what they are those strong prohibitions have been whittled away over the years (chopped away starting in The Great War years) but they were put in place for a reason. If you want to change that, fine, run for the US Senate on a platform of amendments to give government unchecked star chamber power and let me know how that works out for you.

If it is still not clear, take all your examples and replace “child abuser” with “Black Lives Matter supporter”. E.g. ‘f an NSA wiretap of an overseas criminal uncovers an American who is financially supporting Black Lives Matter, openly laughing at Attorney General Sessions, and selling the film, should the NSA not inform the FBI or local police? ‘

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novakant 01.20.18 at 3:03 pm

Layman @89

Invective aside, what does that even mean? “We no choice but to pursue regime change?” It was a “tragedy” , “mistakes were made”, “we had no idea…”, “it’s their own fault”, “there’s only so much we can do”, “oopsy daisy, but hey we meant well” ?

Please spell it out.

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Yan 01.20.18 at 6:25 pm

As for “what to conclude,” we should do what we rightly do when Trump says or does something stupid and evil: take them at their word. The right conclusion is that the Democratic establishment does not want democracy. They want a benevolent technocratic neoliberal world oligarchy, and they want to dismantle any privacy and speech protections inconvenient to that end.

Here are their friends, including a potential D presidential candidate, at work:

Giant corporation to protect democracy by calling true whatever a majority of users believe. This will do wonders for small independent media and journalists:
https://theintercept.com/2018/01/19/facebook-fake-news-trustworthy-zuckerberg/

And then we have Twitter closing accounts declared “Russian linked” where the criteria are literally that Russian = Putin. Sorry Tolstoy, you don’t get to use social media: “if any of the following criteria were present: (1) the account had a Russian email address, mobile number, credit card, or login IP; (2) Russia was the declared country on the account; or (3) Russian language or Cyrillic characters appeared in the account information or name.” (https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/download/10-31-17-edgett-testimony)

And now Twitter is monitoring who you follow and sending creepy emails to anyone who followed a “Russian-linked” account, warning them helpfully that they are spreading Putin propaganda. Again, the correct word is Orwellian:
http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2018/01/twitter-sends-users-creepy-big-brother-email-regarding-secret-russian-influence-online/

(Sorry to link a creepy Trumpist site, but it’s the only linkable image of the letter I could find. Lots of lefties on Twitter have received and are sharing it though. It’s worth reading in full to appreciate its weirdness.)

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Orange Watch 01.20.18 at 7:08 pm

Faustusnotes@102:

If a doemstic agent does a search of this database of foreign contacts and then asks for a warrant based on the info obtained and tells the judge that the foreign search is the reason for the domestic warrant application, what has been done wrong?

The judge would not approve the warrant because of the exclusionary rule. Which is why your fantasy scenario in which the LEO is honest with the courts about accessing inadmissable foreign surveillance for domestic law enforcement never happens, and why parallel construction came to be.

But he explicit position of Greenwald is that overseas warrantless searches are okay but using info on domestic targets obtained from those searches is not.

[…]

I think three unrelated issues are being conflated and one of these appears to be that information obtained overseas pointing to domestic crimes simply should not be used.

You’re again conflating targeted foreign wiretaps with large-scale foreign sigint communication interception. Further, you’re once again trying to sneak an implied notion that the incriminating information has been found before the LEOs enter the picture, when in fact the information would never be seen if the LEOs were not scouring information that they are not permitted to obtain, nor can they use in court. If we actually want LEOs to be doing this, we should have laws in place (to likely include a Constitutional amendment weakening the 4th) to actually allow them to directly monitor communication between US citizens and foreign nationals outside the US w/o warrants, because rule of law is important and because per your other reasoning, catching bad hombres is important so we should be actively seeking them all out rather than merely sweeping up some accidentally. Yet this is not your position. Why not? And since your continual defense is that we can trust nothing nefarious or abusive is done with foreign warrantlessly obtained surveillance data, why shouldn’t we be allowing domestic wiretapping without warrants so long as the LEOs then parallelly construct a superficially untainted source of the illicitly obtained evidence?

What exactly is the underlying principle behind not making the prosecutor’s job easier, as mentioned above?

Maintaining the 4th Amendment as something other than a dead letter. The exclusionary rule exists for precisely this reason; the bad hombres’ rights must be protected so that you still have your rights. Or if that’s too narrow for you, rule of law.

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Sebastian H 01.20.18 at 7:19 pm

“Putting aside parallel construction, I want to know how an innocent person can be affected by these laws. I want to know how a warrantless foreign search would lead to a warrantless domestic intervention. “

You can’t have these two sentences together in a way that makes sense. Parallel construction is law enforcement lying about how they got the information. Lying about how they got the information is ‘necessary’ because it is illegal to domestically use the information gained from warrantless foreign signal interception.

I guess I don’t understand how you think these would come to our attention. Let’s say a misspelled name or transposed number from the NSA causes the wrong house to be raided by a SWAT team. Fortunately no one dies in *this* wrong house SWAT raid. How do you believe we are going to find out that this was an ‘innocent domestic person harmed by misuse of the NSA leaking things back to domestic law enforcement’? There is no general right to sue police departments for having a SWAT raid against you just because they don’t find anything. So already we are at a dead end. But even if you could investigate the warrant somehow, it isn’t going to say “NSA sigint told us you were likely guilty” because the government is lying about the source of the information.

So what if the NSA tells a law enforcement officer that Person WXYZ is a child porno viewer? But oops, it really is Person WXZY. The officer lies to the court in order to get a warrant. He raids Person WXYZs house because he doesn’t know about the character transposition. Person WXYZ gets huffy with the officer when the officer seizes his computer and keeps it for months, which the officer ‘knows’ is a sign of guilt. But when the computer is looked at, all he finds is regular porn. The officer ‘knows’ that WXYZ is guilty because the NSA told him so and because the guy got huffy. The officer has already lied to the court once. Why not just slip in a five or six kiddie porn files? We ‘know’ the guy is guilty anyway.

Every now and then we catch police officers slipping a gun to a suspect or drugs to a suspect to justify their illegal searches. Usually the way we catch them is through some accidental video cam shot that they didn’t know about because they forgot about some check. But that is just super lucky for us. So we know it happens, but it happens much more frequently than we can catch.

Now you seem to want to argue “oh no officers of the law wouldn’t do that, so we don’t need to protect against that.” But we see that sometimes they do in fact plant evidence, so we do in fact need to protect against that. Undermining the warrant process doesn’t help that, and actively encouraging police officers to get in the habit of lying to the court REALLY doesn’t help that.

“I absolutely can make the argument about abortion doctors because Gosnell was not a doctor. He was not registered to practice and he was a vicious criminal.”

What in the world are you talking about? Gosnell absolutely was a doctor. His license to practice wasn’t suspended until Feb 22 2010, the preliminary evidence of his multi-year practice of aborting viable fetuses was given to the grand jury in May of 2010 (two months later), and his trial was almost entirely about his practice before his 2010 suspension. His vicious criminality was primarily in aborting at least a hundred viable fetuses but just like the police planting evidence, that would never have been caught except for the fact that he ADDITIONALY performed a botched late term abortion that almost killed the mother (and additionally yet another one that did kill the mother). So much like the parallel construction case, when the governmental oversight structure is intentionally designed to obscure violations, we don’t find evidence of the violations unless something else happens which accidentally brings it to light. This also used to happen with extreme regularity in prisoner abuse cases. (I don’t want to suggest that I think prisoner abuse has vanished, only that we are somewhat more aware of it than we used to be, and that some of the governmental structures to hide it have been lifted).

“you are pretending that non criminal registered doctors, properly regulated by their professional and medical authorities, routinely break the law to murder viable late term fetuses on the mother’s whim and then lie about it.”

No. I am saying that what you are calling “properly regulated” about late term abortions I am saying is “intentionally obscuring”. I don’t know about ‘routinely’. But I do know that Gosnell managed to murder viable late term fetuses at least a hundred times in Pennsylvania. That is a fact. I do know that he didn’t kidnap 100 women, force them to carry a fetus to viability, and then abort the viable fetus. That isn’t what happened. What happened is that at least a hundred women paid Gosnell to abort fully viable fetuses without a medical necessity to their own health in Pennsylvania. It seems very unlikely that Gosnell found, in Pennsylvania, the only 100 women in the United States who wanted to abort fully viable fetuses. Which means that there is some significant demand for aborting fully viable fetuses. Which isn’t really that shocking. There is some demand for killing people’s parents while they still could live, killing ex lovers, killing people who pissed you off, etc.

Your argument in both cases seems to be “officers of the law wouldn’t railroad an innocent person with NSA information” and “medical doctors wouldn’t abort a viable fetus”. But in both cases we have set up situations where as a practical matter the ‘oversight’ acts to obscure rather than reveal. We only come across the violations by accident because the oversight doesn’t oversee.

“People don’t do bad things”, isn’t an argument that I’m convinced by.

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Collin Street 01.20.18 at 9:58 pm

Putting aside parallel construction, I want to know how an innocent person can be affected by these laws.

This is very much the wrong question, and if you need me to point that out to you then… this is a problem, and it’s your problem, and it’s a big problem.

It’s not a matter of guilt or innocence in isolation. It’s discriminatory effect, and to detect that you need to compare how often “guilt” turns into “conviction” for the two populations, “spied-on” and “non-spied-on”, which means that to understand the situation you can’t just look at “spied-on people convicted”, but also “non-spied-on people convicted”; if population A has resources thrown at them so that 100% of the crimes committed by people in that population are detected, and population B only has 50% of the crimes detected… that’s a problem.

[but seriously this should not be something a person should have to point out to you; it’s the same damned problem as “higher police resources devoted to policing black populations leading to higher black conviction rates”, which is an argument that any semi-credible commentator on US law enforcement should very much already be familiar with.]

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Heliopause 01.21.18 at 12:13 am

@107
Worth reprinting in full:

“Dear _____,

As part of our recent work to understand Russian-linked activities on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency.

Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing you because we have reason to believe that you either followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked content from these accounts during the election period. This is purely for your own information purposes, and is not related to a security concern for your account.

We are sharing this information so that you can learn more about these accounts and the nature of the Russian propaganda effort. You can see examples of content from these suspended accounts on our blog if you’re interested.”

Of course, censoring the accounts of the degenerate slav races, coupled with these polite emailed reminders to citizens to not engage in wrongthink, will only go so far. Some number of citizens will fail to heed the warnings, and then they’ll have to up their game.

112

Layman 01.21.18 at 1:31 am

novakant: “Invective aside, what does that even mean?”

I thought it was pretty clear. If you describe Libya as a ‘functioning state’ in March of 2011, you’re ignorant of the facts. If you think it was the Americans who decided to change the regime, you’re ignorant of the facts. Go read about them, then we can talk. Until you do, it’s a waste of time.

113

J-D 01.21.18 at 2:26 am

Faustusnotes

I asked for examples of innocent people affected by this warrantless surveillance

It’s hard to figure out what the point of such a question could be. I can’t at the moment provide you of any specific examples of innocent people who have been arrested by the police, searched by the police, questioned by the police, or detained by the police, but that’s hardly an adequate basis for concluding that no innocent people have been affected by the police powers to arrest, search, question, and detain; indeed, it’s a practical certainty that there are innocent people among those who have been arrested by the police, those who have been searched by the police, those who have been questioned by the police, and those who have been detained by the police. It is also a practical certainty that if the police are granted powers to conduct surveillance of any kind (not just the specific kind under discussion here), with or without warrants, that some innocent people will be among those affected by those powers. I think perhaps you need to be clearer about which questions you’re asking, and why.

114

J-D 01.21.18 at 2:52 am

Sebastian H

What happened is that at least a hundred women paid Gosnell to abort fully viable fetuses without a medical necessity to their own health in Pennsylvania.

I surmise from context that this is a crime under Pennsylvania law, although I haven’t actually checked. In any case, if it is a crime, in Pennsylvania or anywhere else, it shouldn’t be. If people who are pregnant want to have their own pregnancies terminated, it should not be a crime. You use the expression ‘vicious criminality’; it may be a crime, if that’s what the law says, but there’s nothing vicious about it.

115

nastywoman 01.21.18 at 3:31 am

– and reading all these comments about the ”legalistics of surveillance” and wondering more and more what it has to do with:

”Trump’s power is shakier than American democracy”

it probably should be mentioned that Trumps power has become so… ”awesome” -(is that the right word?) – that ”surveillance” actually won’t matter anymore – at least in any case where the ”Surveilled One” is powerful enough to completely brush of or ignore any results of any surveillance.

And thusly the truly… amazing -(is that the right word?) power of Trump is/was that he not only destroy the US government BUT he also more or less has completely ”deconstructed” -(is that the right word’?) US surveillance apparatus.

I mean – what American still trusts the ”surveillance” of the FBI or CIA anymore?! as the so called ”Right” seems to believe more or less most what the FF tells them about ”the fake news” – the so called ”Left” is -(with a lot of good reasons) are fighting the apparatus for a long time and the Libertarians –
Uuuh ”US Libertarians” built this crazy narrative that ”everything is some Dems fault”.

And so all in all – as ”powerful” the FF has destroyed the US ”gubernment” – he probably has destroyed the US Surveillance Apparatus far more powerful – which doesn’t mean I’m complaining about that one – but
GUYS!!
HELLO!! – as other of our fellow Americans already have mentioned:
If the results of surveillance don’t matter anymore -(or only in the cases of the powerless) – why are all these OT comments are written?
-(and do I have to add that this was NOT a ”serious” question?)

116

Faustusnotes 01.21.18 at 3:56 am

Good now we’re getting somewhere. Someone up above have the example of a BLM activist caught up in these laws. Now, has this happened? THIS is what I’m getting at.

I’m asking these questions because we have two very good previous examples of civil libertarians getting upset about new tech – DNA testing and CCTV- which have proven to be invaluable in protecting the rights of the innocent. So I’m not inclined to agree that this form of surveillance is not ultimately beneficial without good evidenced catching international criminal groups is difficult and important work that requires cooperation between local, national and international agencies. If we can balance this task with the rights of citizens then we’re on good ground.

I should also point out that other examples above (person wxzy found guilty by planting evidence) assume police malfeasance far worse than parallel construction. If you can’t trust your police not to convict innocent people by evidence planting you have bigger problems than FISA laws. Don’t conflated the fact that your police are Nazi thugs with the specific impact of a specific law. And remember your interlocutor may come from a country where police are not Nazi thugs.

117

nastywoman 01.21.18 at 4:32 am

– and this is what I always wanted to ask one of these ”fans of Greenwald”.

Did you know -(like a ”Bannon”) that if you vote for the FF he has the power to ”burn the whole thing down”?

– and probably not in the way a Susan Sarandon was hoping, when she thought it will disgust the American people to such a dimension that – after the ”total destruction” – the ”Better America” finally comes true.

And now as the F…face has shown his ”awesome power” to completely deconstruct every… and I have not the slightest idea how to call it?

Every…? Every ”Every”?!! –
which is truly… weird – as my real ”conservative” grandfather predicted it all – and I never liked ”conservatives” – with the exception of this one… BE-cause he had the F…face down the minute he came out with his racist birther… s and right away knew that such a NONHitler has the power in ”our homeland” to ”burn the whole thing down.

118

Sebastian H 01.21.18 at 5:46 am

“I’m asking these questions because we have two very good previous examples of civil libertarians getting upset about new tech – DNA testing and CCTV- which have proven to be invaluable in protecting the rights of the innocent…”

I want to react vehemently to this comment but I must be misunderstanding you. Are you positing a situation where the NSA is monitoring someone and says “hey you’ve arrested the wrong guy, you should let him go…”. Because if you’ve heard of that, I’m going to be rather surprised.

And you may be misunderstanding libertarian objections. I’ve literally never heard libertarians getting upset over DNA testing by defendants trying to prove their innocence. The upset I hear is over dragnet DNA testing without reasonable suspicion tying it to a particular crime, or DNA testing of all arrestees just because the government has you in their clutches.

119

J-D 01.21.18 at 6:34 am

Faustusnotes

I’m asking these questions because we have two very good previous examples of civil libertarians getting upset about new tech – DNA testing and CCTV- which have proven to be invaluable in protecting the rights of the innocent.

I’m curious to know what leads you to the conclusion that those technologies have been invaluable in protecting the rights of the innocent.

catching international criminal groups is difficult and important work that requires cooperation between local, national and international agencies. If we can balance this task with the rights of citizens then we’re on good ground.

I’m also curious to know how you evaluate whether that balance has been struck well.

I should also point out that other examples above (person wxzy found guilty by planting evidence) assume police malfeasance far worse than parallel construction. If you can’t trust your police not to convict innocent people by evidence planting you have bigger problems than FISA laws. Don’t conflated the fact that your police are Nazi thugs with the specific impact of a specific law. And remember your interlocutor may come from a country where police are not Nazi thugs.

Is there a country, anywhere, where you can be confident that people have not been convicted as a result of being framed by the police? I know very little about the situation in most countries; but from what I do know I wouldn’t be confident in drawing that conclusion about any country. To me it seems that one reasonable way of guarding against the danger of police framing people is to maintain restrictions on police powers. I don’t know enough about the subject to have a view on what those restrictions should be, but you seem very clear that the particular restriction under discussion here is an unreasonable one, and I can’t figure out why.

120

Collin Street 01.21.18 at 6:41 am

Faustusnotes: the nature of “a problem” is not limited to things that you think are problems

Rejecting out-of-hand evidence that doesn’t point to anything you currently regard as “a problem” is essentially acting with complete and unwarranted confidence in your undrstanding.

Like I’ve said before, a person’s conceptual errors are invisible to them.

(Not that you’re guaranteed to be wrong, here… but the fact that you’re refusing to even look, and have presumably been doing so for years, means that the possibility that there’s no substantial errors buried in your thinking is basically zero. And these are problems that introspection can’t lead you out of, only into.)

121

Layman 01.21.18 at 8:40 am

Faustusnotes: “Good now we’re getting somewhere.”

Apparently where we’re getting is response number 6 by you without an answer to my question. If no innocent people are harmed by police surveillance, why require that the police get warrants for surveillance?

122

Peter T 01.21.18 at 9:42 am

I think Faustus is coming at this from a different background to US commenters. The US, legistically oriented, emphasizing process, with fragmented law enforcement, necessarily has difficulty with these issues. The distinction between surveillance and search, for instance, has had oceans of ink spilled on it in the US (can the police watch you? enter your property? take notice of what is visible on your property? respond to signs of an offence? If so, what signs and how far? And so on). This is very ill-suited to intercepting and reading communications over a packet-switched network, and communicating potential evidence to law enforcement. Even the boundary between domestic and foreign is hard to define, given that a phone call from Boston to Chicago can be routed via Toronto or a satellite over the mid-Atlantic.

In short, the problems lie not in the details but in the system.

123

Faustusnotes 01.21.18 at 10:40 am

Layman, I think police should have warrants for surveillance. I think they should get warrants for foreign surveillance. But Greenwald doesnt. He thinks it should be open season on non Americans. I think police should be able to use information “accidentally” obtained in warranted searches for other crimes. If the police get a warrant to search your house for drugs and find you’re a serial killer, they should be able to act accordingly. But the position being presented here appears to be that not only can they not act on this info, they can’t put it in a database for other people to search. This seems to me to be ridiculous. I’m asking for reasons why hear restrictions are needed and I’m getting “the police might plant evidence” or ” the constitution”. In the former case why have police at all? In the latter case, you’re not giving me an explanation but an excuse. I remind you that the constitution also says people should own guns – it’s not a guide to social good.

I’m also uncertain about the excuse that police are doing parallel construction because admitting they got the info from a wiretap of a foreigner would get them in trouble. The whole debate is about a law being reauthorized to allow them to legally do thidm so why are they hiding it with parallel construction?

124

Layman 01.21.18 at 10:56 am

Faustusnotes: “Layman, I think police should have warrants for surveillance.“

Why? You said or implied (in 69) that you were unconcerned that some people were being / might be prosecuted as a result of having been identified as criminals by surveillance for which no domestic warrant was obtained, and you asked how innocent people might be harmed by this. The clear implication is that 1) you don’t think surveillance is harmful to innocent people, and 2) you approve of catching criminals even when by unwarranted surveillance. If I understand your view correctly, why should warrants be required? Innocent people have nothing to fear from them, and catching criminals with unwarranted surveillance is good. Isn’t that what you’re saying?

125

Collin Street 01.21.18 at 12:59 pm

I’m asking for reasons why hear restrictions are needed and I’m getting “the police might plant evidence” or ” the constitution”.

This is simply not true, Faustusnotes: the second paragraph of my #110 contains a detailed explanation of exactly why this is a problem.

Did you:
+ not see it?
+ not read past the first paragraph?
+ not understand it
+ read it, understand it, and decide that lying about the contents was preferable?
Because it’s one of those four and not a damned one reflects well on you.

126

novakant 01.21.18 at 2:56 pm

Layman @112

Libya was a functioning state (and doing comparatively well within the region), there was some unrest which turned into a crisis, the UN decided to impose a no-fly zone ostensibly to protect civilians, the US (mainly at the urging of Clinton) perverted this mandate to pursue regime change and once this was achieved was unable to put the genies it had released back into the bottle and Lybia is now a failed state.

The parallels to Iraq are clear (unsurprisingly there are also differences).

This is getting rather tiresome, so over and out.

127

Layman 01.21.18 at 6:42 pm

“Libya was a functioning state (and doing comparatively well within the region), there was some unrest which turned into a crisis…”

This is a spectacularly understated way to describe a civil war.

“This is getting rather tiresome…”

Indeed it is.

128

J-D 01.22.18 at 12:12 am

Faustusnotes

I’m asking for reasons why hear restrictions are needed and I’m getting “the police might plant evidence” or ” the constitution”. In the former case why have police at all?

Well, how do you answer this question? I can think of three possibilities.
A. You actually don’t think we should have police at all. That seems to be a poor fit with your comments, so probably that’s not it.
B. You are of the view that police never plant evidence. That seems a very strong conclusion that you’d have a hard time justifying.
C. You acknowledge that police might sometimes plant evidence but think that this consideration is outweighed by the benefits of having police. If so, you already have your own answer to the question you’ve posed, so it’s not clear why you’re posing it.

129

F. Foundling 01.22.18 at 1:23 am

@J-D 01.18.18 at 4:42 am

>Evan and nastywoman are both commenting on the suggestion that only Democrats should be deemed responsible … I’m not sure whether anybody is actually making that suggestion … ‘only Democrats are responsible and Republicans are not’ is not equivalent to ‘Democrats have a share in the responsibility’

Context matters in human communication. The only suggestion that anybody (namely Greenwald, cited by Robin) *had* made, and to which Evan’s and nastywoman’s comments could only be interpreted as a response and an objection, was precisely ‘Democrats have a share in the responsibility’. The fact that their argument was also, in addition, false in that it relied on the incorrect equation of ‘Democrats have a share in the responsibility’ and ‘only Democrats are responsible and Republicans are not’ – i.e. it was either a strawman or a false dichotomy – does not change that and it is quite surreal that this should also be used *in their favour*.

@Layman 01.18.18 at 2:05 pm

>Similarly, #33 simply points to the flaw in Greenwald’s argument about a particular example he uses to blame the Democrats rather than the Republicans for the failure of a particular bill, in order to show how bad that argument is. You do agree it was a bad example for the argument, right?

No, I don’t. He didn’t make that argument, and her response was based on the same completely obvious false dichotomy on which yours is. See above.

>You’ll have to say more about how Libya is / was like Iraq.

Novakant is pointing out the various obvious parallels well enough, but since the word used was specifically ‘trumped-up evidence’ – here is this link to a Salon article, which I have posted here previously, in turn containing a link to a UK parliament report, suggesting that the evidence base for the decision was obviously flimsy and exaggerated by Western governments. https://www.salon.com/2016/09/16/u-k-parliament-report-details-how-natos-2011-war-in-libya-was-based-on-lies/

As for other similarities – yes, in both cases there was an illegal intervention designed to overthrow a government. As for stability, well – if it’s stability one is after, I think it clearly makes more sense to expect that in the case of a victory of the long-established government or of some kind of compromise solution; the least ‘stable’ option is clearly its overthrowal, which the US did everything to bring about.

All of these are obvious things. Neither of comments that I have just responded to would have been made if the commenters had been sincerely interested in anything but obstinately arguing/fighting tooth and claw for a certain pre-chosen position. I have neither the time nor the desire to continue such an exchange.

130

faustusnotes 01.22.18 at 8:22 am

Colin street, I’m sorry but when I see your name in a long backlist of comments I skip your comment because I find your penchant for accusing anyone who disagrees with you of having a mental problem to be tiresome and nasty. So the answer is “I didn’t read your comment” and I can’t be bothered going back to find it, especially if it means I might stumble on you calling me autistic or whatever your shtick is.

J-D you have two comments and I’ll reply to both of them. First you say you are unaware of the role of DNA evidence in protecting against inequality. Are you not aware of the wave of death row inmates being exonerated by DNA evidence? Back in the 1990s when DNA was new everyone worried about state intrusiveness and new forms of evidence abuse but in the end the technology really helped poor black inmates in the USA. As for cctv – I know there’s a civil liberties case that there’s something wrong with having cameras in public places but if like me you have lived in a high crime area (London, in my case) you’ll be aware of how valuable they are for self protection. People behave differently when they know they’re being filmed. Remember the newspaper seller who was murdered by a policeman during the g20 demonstrations in London? It wasn’t cctv but it was film that got that guy caught. I have yet to see a case against CCTV that outweighs its benefits for preventing rape and murder, and for catching rapists and murderers.

As for my question “why have police at all?” I was being facetious. The point is that the concerns presented here so far are actually concerns about domestic police practice, not concerns about the use of the intercepts.

Consider for example an Australian intelligence officer who performs surveillance – with a warrant – of an overseas criminal, Crim X, and finds that an Aussie, person Y, has been in regular contact with Crim X to sell Crim X video of children being abused in Australia. The obvious question is, can the officer refer the case of Crim X to state police who can then seek – urgently – a warrant to arrest person Y and search his computer? Or should the intelligence officer, upon finding the existence of this communication – not its content! – have to apply to a judge for a warrant to read it? If so, the judge is presented with only “person Y contacted crim X” and will reject the application, surely. Is this your preference?

If so, how do you think a major child porn investigation like this would proceed? The fact is that police need these kinds of powers in order to do their job and in time-sensitive cases (like this porn website) they can’t always be getting a warrant for every communication, and I think this example makes this point very well.

Sebastian_H, I am completely uninterested in what “libertarians” think of these laws. Libertarians think a company should be able to sack its staff based on their facebook feed. I am interested in what civil libertarians think.

Now I asked for an innocent victim of these laws, and then someone raised the example of a BLM activist being imprisoned on hearsay. When pushed they said we can’t know anything about whether this has happened because of the magical obscuring powers of parallel construction. But we must know if there is a BLM activist out there who has been charged and imprisoned without cause? Or an animal rights activist, or … Now I know there have been some insane charges laid in recent US history but they have been things like breach of the peace for laughing at a senator – there is no secret about how the evidence got there. So are there any examples of this happening? Because if you don’t know of any activists who have been imprisoned on the basis of dodgy info that the police surely couldn’t have got, or just general harassment unrelated to any activism, that could be inferred as due to this FISA shit, then we might know of it, right? Otherwise all I see is “it’s happening but you just have to believe me on this.”

So, where is the evidence?

131

Layman 01.22.18 at 8:48 am

“Novakant is pointing out the various obvious parallels well enough…”

Given that comment, this one

“I have neither the time nor the desire to continue such an exchange.”

…is good news indeed.

132

Layman 01.22.18 at 10:37 am

Faustusnotes, if a number of people are telling you that your argument is incoherent, you should consider the possibility that your argument is incoherent. I followed the link you provided, read the story, and I can’t find any indication in that story that foreign surveillance powers even played a role. Certainly I don’t see any indication of urgency which would have made it unreasonable for anyone to get a conventional warrant – the site in question was actually being operated by the police as a sting operation – and for all I know from the story, conventional warrants were obtained.

Also, too, one more time: Is it your view that innocent people are not harmed by warrantless surveillance and/or searches? If so, why do you believe warrants should be required at all?

133

Peter T 01.22.18 at 10:40 am

Actually, the Australian intelligence officer cited by faustus would not require a warrant to intercept foreign communications (this is, after all, what intercept agencies have done since time immemorial). Should they see involvement of an Australian national, they can notify the Australian Federal Police, who can then request the intelligence, suitably sanitised, as a basis for further investigation. If the investigation turns up enough to apply for a warrant, this is done. Or the AFP can refer the matter to a state force.

All such referrals are reported to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, who reports direct to parliament.

There’s a basic confusion here between intelligence and investigation. The former is the basis for the latter, and only the latter typically involves warrants. Intelligence includes overseas interception but not domestic (in the Australian context), or any observation by or report to the police.

134

Layman 01.22.18 at 2:24 pm

Peter T:

“Actually, the Australian intelligence officer cited by faustus would not require a warrant to intercept foreign communications…”

Yes, I know.

“Should they see involvement of an Australian national, they can notify the Australian Federal Police, who can then request the intelligence, suitably sanitised, as a basis for further investigation.”

Yes, I know.

“If the investigation turns up enough to apply for a warrant, this is done.”

Yes, I know. But thanks for clearing that up.

135

Jerry Vinokurov 01.22.18 at 2:41 pm

As for my question “why have police at all?” I was being facetious.

I’m not. This is actually a question that should be asked. I think the answer is far less obvious than most people think.

136

Suzanne 01.22.18 at 6:12 pm

96: What federal agencies do actually matters, a lot.

Who argues otherwise? Not me. Nor did I say that it would be easy to undo the damage currently being wrought by Trump. To repeat my point – fighting to preserve the powers of the agency is a meaningful fight. The red state Democrats are going to cast votes I don’t agree with. Some of those votes are defensible and some are not, but the those votes are the price you pay for having someone with D behind his or her name holding on to that seat. Look at your own list: Heitkamp and Manchin were the only Dems who voted for Pruitt (who was going to be confirmed anyway no matter how they voted). Other red state Dems voted against. The single Republican to vote against Pruitt, with his appalling record, was Susan Collins.

137

Faustusnotes 01.22.18 at 11:33 pm

Layman, my argument is “where is your evidence?” That’s not incoherent, though the answers certainly are. My question is specifically about this unique situation of incidental intelligence gathered under FISA procedures. You seem to think that my preference for warrants makes my argument incoherent but this is a novel concoction on your part. I’m talking about incidental intelligence. Can you answer my question or not?

The example I cited was time sensitive because the police had to maintain the site after they nabbed its owner, and communicate with many users, without arousing suspicion the site has been cracked (this info is in the article). That included uploading abuse pictures and maintaining smooth communications with existing and new users. Good luck doing that if every time you get communication from a new user you need a warrant just to check their message!

Whether I think warrants are good or not is irrelevant to my question about the FISA situation. But since you ask,it is obvious that warrantless searches can be used for harassment, and police need to be restrained or they inevitably abuse their powers. But this position doesn’t say anything about a) incidental intelligence and b) the FISA situation which all the Americans agree it’s cool to do warrantless surveillance of non Americans.

So now. Where is your evidence?

138

Faustusnotes 01.22.18 at 11:34 pm

Jerry, what is your suggested alternative method for catching rapists and child abusers? Mob justice?

139

Cranky Observer 01.23.18 at 12:53 am

= = = Faustusnotes @ 11:33 pm
Layman, my argument is “where is your evidence?” That’s not incoherent, though the answers certainly are. My question is specifically about this unique situation of incidental intelligence gathered under FISA procedures. You seem to think that my preference for warrants makes my argument incoherent but this is a novel concoction on your part. I’m talking about incidental intelligence. Can you answer my question or not? = = =

Puts me in the mind of the Alfred character in the Batman movie reboot: “You believe your employer, the world’s richest man, is also a vigilante who roams the night beating hardened criminals to a pulp with his bare fists – and your plan is to blackmail him? Let me know how that works out.”

In this case we have three letter agencies who have spent hundreds of billions – possibly trillions – of dollars building highly secret spying systems and the necessary mathematics and procedures to keep the sources of their information secret even when they disseminate their gathered information (the Achilles heel of many WWII intelligence systems), who have both the legal and the de facto power to imprison or simply kill anyone who attempts to break their secrecy, for which federal courts have ruled that the 6th Amendment does not apply, and for which the Justice Dept routinely attempts to prosecute lawyers who try to secure those 6th Amendment rights by obtaining the raw information, and you demand documentation down to the serial numbers of the surveillance equipment used. Let me know how that works out for you; we know how it worked out for the Occupy Wall Street participants and the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors.

That parallel construction exists and is being used in violation of the plain meaning of the 6th Amendment has been thoroughly documented in reports and in court by the ACLU and the EFF. The details of the parallel construction, including the sources and techniques, are being deliberately hidden from the public as was seen in multiple cases IMSI catcher cases where charges were withdrawn in the face of defense discovery requests being upheld. E.g. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/prosecutors-drop-key-evidence-at-trial-to-avoid-explaining-stingray-use/

These issues were all discussed thoroughly during the Constitutional period – none of them being new in 1776 – and tradeoffs between imagined security and lost liberty were explicitly made. If you think those tradeoffs were incorrect, or no longer apply, great! Run for Congress. Good luck with the libertarian faction of the Republican Party.

140

Orange Watch 01.23.18 at 1:33 am

Faustusnotes@137:
You are yet again attempting to conflate domestic LEOs going fishing in uncurated mass data interception explicitly for intelligence purposes where one party was a foreign national, with a very sanitized story of the passing along information understood to be evidence of crimes discovered by concerned humans in the loop. This is tedious.

141

faustusnotes 01.23.18 at 4:11 am

Cranky Observer, you mention three letter intelligence agencies and then give me an example of … a local police force. This is completely irrelevant to my question. But you do mention Occupy Wall Street and the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors. Good! Now what are these examples of foreign surveillance data being used against them? My memory is that the Dakota protestors were moved on by massed military hardware. Did the police need the keyword search of the database of foreign surveillance to find their tanks? Which Occupy/Dakota protesters have been done using this FISA shit, and how did it interfere in the Occupy movement?

I’m not asking for “precise serial numbers,” I am asking for examples of political activists who were victimized by these laws. The only example you have linked to is a suspected robber whose phone was found. The article doesn’t make clear what the relationship is between the phone and the robbery or why the police felt a need to hide their use of the stingray device, and as far as I can tell the target of their weird behavior was not an activist. Now I’ll grant you that American police like to harass – and kill – black people. But I’m not convinced that their harassment gets even one iota easier with these FISA laws. And as I keep saying to you Americans – if you don’t trust your government, change it; if your police are corrupt, fix them. You’re the richest country on the planet with supposedly the best democracy, but you:re somehow incapable of setting up a system that monitors your police or forces them to behave well, so instead you focus on irrelevant shit like surveillance laws. The problem with the linked case is not that the police had a stingray device, it’s that the policeman in question was a corrupt arsehole.

Orange Watch, there are two possibilities here: either the surveillance person at the time identifies the crime and reports it, or someone later goes back to search for it. What’s the difference? Do you think police shouldn’t be able to do keyword searches of evidence? What is the effect of doing a keyword search – who does it harm and how and where is the evidence?

142

faustusnotes 01.23.18 at 5:46 am

I’ll add, for clarity, that there are many areas of police malfeasance or legal loopholes whose impact is clear and easy to find evidence for. For example:

– poor dna handling techniques and cross-contamination lead to false convictions: we can easily find examples, and discuss the implications
– undercover police acting as agents provocateurs leading to activists being convicted for crimes they didn’t commit: we can find lots of examples of this in the UK
– lack of body cameras pro police laws enabling extra judicial killing: plenty of examples of this in the USA
– SWATting leading to the death of innocent people and being used as an instrument of harassment by far right groups against feminists: we can find examples of this and discuss the specific people targeted and how it affected them.

We can find evidence of these things, present examples of the people affected, discuss how the law or practice was used to damage the affected people. But 150 comments in here and no one can do the same for the FISA rules. If you can’t show me how innocent people are affected or how it is creating a chilling environment for activism then maybe, just maybe, this is because it isn’t.

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