Tag Archives: Glenn Greenwald

Addendum (to Best Best Books 2014)

24 Nov

Ever wonder about the bench marks for making it on to lists that are part of the annual literary clusterfuck? I don’t—but as you may, have a look at LARGE HEARTED BOY’S good work in building a list of ‘Best Books’ lists to judge whether the clusterfuck rubric fits. I do think it might be worth while for one of those sabermetric types to see how many books on the list have been published before August of the current year.There in may lie the answer to why so many lists have the same seven titles.

Given that by nature lists are exclusive, it would seem a natural consequence of making a list to mentally (as in one’s own mind )continue to enlarge past one’s public cutoff point.

So, is this a new list? A new and improved version of the initial list? Think it matters? Anyway. Here’s they are, more great books

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

McSweeney's Issue 46 - Thirteen Crime Stories from Latin America edited by Dave Eggers

McSweeney’s Issue 46 – Thirteen Crime Stories from Latin America edited by Dave Eggers

McSweeney’s Issue 46 Thirteen Crime Stories from Latin America by Dave Eggers (Editor)

Shadow Government   by Tom Engelhardt and Glenn Greenwald

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt and Glenn Greenwald

Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World by Tom Engelhardt and Glenn Greenwald

The Deluge by Adam Tooze

The Deluge by Adam Tooze

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze

In Paradise  by Peter Matthiessen

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

Dirty Wars  by Jeremy Scahill

Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill

Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill

The Divide by  Matt Tiabbi

The Divide by Matt Tiabbi

Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse

Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse

Take This Man: A Memoir by Brando Skyhorse

Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1970s:

Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1970s:

Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1970s: Fifty-Two Pickup / Swag / Unknown Man No. 89 / The Switch: (Library of America #255)by Elmore Leonard, Gregg Sutter (Editor)

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Billy WIlder's Headstone [photographer unknown]

Billy WIlder’s Headstone [photographer unknown]

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Why Do I Still Have a Paper Shredder?

5 Oct
Paper Shredder- Michael Graves Design

Paper Shredder- Michael Graves Design

The other day I took note of the fact that I still have a paper shredder( a Michael Graves design). And for the first time I questioned my need for this appliance. I assume that any paper I might consider shred worthy is in a file somewhere accessible to at least the thousands of employees and contractors of United States security agencies and major technological and financial corporations.So why bother?

I doubt anyone will be writing songs about secrets as the disappearance of privacy seems to be coextensive with the loss of personal secrecy—what music will be played while the Global Security State’s lust for secrecy runs rampant and roughshod—I’m thinking the second movement of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” 7th Symphony would be fitting? Need I expand on the idea that current notions of secrecy dwell in the far simpler past, when one’s privacy was not being actively shredded by the government and technologically savvy enterprises whose methods ranged from aggressive data mining to poaching. Of course there is also rendition and drone bombing but the US government wouldn’t do such to its own citizens. How would we know?

We know because under relentless persecution and ceaseless duress, a number of people have stepped forward to wake the USA’s slumbering citizens to what should alarm many sentient rational beings. You may have heard of US Army intel analyst PFCChelsea Manning* (known as Bradley Manning)or National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden**. Were it not for this pair of loyal Americans, among others, we would still be staring at the cave wall(note my clever reference to Socrates Allegory of the Cave).

Tom Englehardt who publishes Tomdispatch(“A Regular Antidote to the Mainstream Media”), one of a handful of web journals that view US culture and governance with righteously critical eye (with contributions from Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben, Mike Davis, Chalmers Johnson, Michael Klare, Adam Hochschild, Robert Lipsyte, Glenn Greenwald Elizabeth de la Vega and Nick Turse), has just published Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books) which scrutinizes what he terms a burgeoning “Global Security State”:

… You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters. You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities. Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it. Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.

…no one considered it a problem that the country lacked 17 overlapping outfits bent on preventing approximately 400,000 deaths by firearms in the same years; nor 17 interlocked agencies dedicated to safety on our roads, where more than 450,000 Americans have died since 9/11. (An American, it has been calculated, is 1,904 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.) Almost all the money and effort have instead been focused on the microscopic number of terrorist plots — some spurred on by FBI plants.

Shadow Government by Tom Englehardt

Shadow Government by Tom Englehardt


http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175901/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_entering_the_intelligence_labyrinth/

Unknown knowns or Known unknowns?

World Order by Henry Kissinger

World Order by Henry Kissinger

Ninety one year old Herr Professor Kissinger is still at it. The former Nixon henchman, who at the least has shown an indifference to the human carnage wrought by his diplomatic endeavors and at the most may by international law standards be a war criminal, has a new tome, World Order (Penguin Press). Hilary Clinton observes:

When Americans look around the world today, we see one crisis after another….the liberal international order that the United States has worked for generations to build and defend seems to be under pressure from every quarter.

…Henry Kissinger explains the historic scope of this challenge. His analysis, despite some differences over specific policies, largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.

And concludes:

…We need to have an honest conversation together — all of us — about the costs and imperatives of global leadership, and what it really takes to keep our country safe and strong.

We have a lot to talk about. Sometimes we’ll disagree. But that’s what democracy is all about. A real national dialogue is the only way we’re going to rebuild a political consensus to take on the perils and the promise of the 21st century. Henry Kissinger’s book makes a compelling case for why we have to do it and how we can succeed.

Setting aside the question of whether one buys into Kissinger’s realpolitik view of the “liberal international order”, one gasps at the fantasy of “rebuilding a political consensus” through “a real national dialogue.”If somebody could point out to me what political consensus is being rebuilt and when the last “real national dialogue” occurred I can begin to breathe again.

Now though it ought not go unsaid that Henry Kissinger is a competent student of history who echoes centuries (think Count Metternich)of realpolitikspeak the uber-ubiquitous mandarin Walter Issakson bloviates:

…Because he and Nixon failed to weave in the idealism that is ingrained in the American DNA, popular support for their realist edifice was precarious, as if built of bricks without straw. Kissinger was attacked by moral idealists of the left and, more notably, by the nascent neoconservatives and ardent anticommunists on the right.

Kissinger ends his latest book on a different note, one of humility—a trait that for most of his career he was better at humorously feigning than at actually possessing. “Long ago, in youth, I was brash enough to think myself able to pronounce on ‘The Meaning of History,’” he writes. “I now know that history’s meaning is a matter to be discovered, not declared.”

The key to Kissinger’s foreign policy realism, and the theme at the heart of his magisterial new book, is that such humility is important not just for people but also for nations, even the U.S. Making progress toward a world order based on “individual dignity and participatory governance” is a lofty ideal, he notes. “But progress toward it will need to be sustained through a series of intermediate stages.”

“Magisterial” new book? Oh my. Isaakson would be more creditable if he thought to acknowledge that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kissinger’s*** approaches to Vietnam, Iran & Iraq, Chile, East Timor etc. assured the “failure of weaving in the idealism that is ingrained in the American DNA.” One can’t help but wonder what the late, lamented Christopher Hitchens would have made of Kissinger’s latest humble foreign policy decrees.

* The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History by Chase Madar (OR Books)

** No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald (Metropolitan Books)

*** The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens (Verso)

Currently reading Scribe by Bob Ryan (Bloomsbury)

The Thrill Is Gone

8 Jul
Chandler wrote thrillers?

Chandler wrote thrillers?

The term ‘thriller’ was no doubt coined to describe a certain kind of genre fiction when car chases, high body counts and unlikely crimes and perpetrators were the stuff of ‘whodunits’. Roller coaster rides may be thrilling. Fireworks may be thrilling. And there are many pleasures to be derived from reading, thrills are not some that I can identify.’Thriller’ has become a term of art that, it seems to me, has outlived its usefulness.

There is a territory of the fiction landscape that deals with espionage, so-called ‘black ops’ (when did we realize that there were such things?) and cloakroom politics that has given good reason to remove it from under the implicitly deprecating rubric, ‘genre fiction’. No doubt commercial considerations influence the perpetuation of these categories (where, for instance, various titles are displayed at your small but mighty local bookstore) — but no one should be misled about the serious import and value of these narratives.

Our Man In  Havana by Graham Greene

Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (movie directed by John Franken- heimer)

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (movie directed by John Franken- heimer)

Graham Greene (Our Man in Havana and The Comedians) was my first inkling that fiction revealed real truths about the real/practical world. But I came upon his novels after I had been fed a diet of Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate) and Fletcher Knebel (Seven Days in May) and the Terry Southern classic, Dr Strangelove. So the various plot twists and exigent conditions (the US Army drugging its men with hallucinogenics) of these ‘thrillers were improbable fictions.

Harlot's Ghost by Norman Mailer

Harlot’s Ghost by Norman Mailer


Years later when reading Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, Mailer used some purported CIA espionage gambits in his narrative—in Berlin where the US dug a tunnel attempting to intercept Soviet communiques and in Miami where all manner of tricks and games were employed in the US’s anti -Castro vendetta. These things (exploding fountain pens, CIA/Mob collaborations) no longer seemed far fetched.

Our Tailor in Panama by John  le Carre

Our Tailor in Panama by John le Carre

John Le Carre’s Our Tailor in Panama was my introduction to this master novelist (Philip Kerr avers that Le Carre is the one author guaranteed immortality based on his accurate depiction of the dark and spooky world of security and spying agencies). That book is clearly an homage to Greene’s Cuban adventure and it reifies the deluded and self perpetuating nature of the world’s secret services.And it served to change my perspective of some fictional worlds( just as I began to see Gore Vidal’s Empire series as more descriptive of American history than any history texts I had read.)

SHELLEY'S HEART BY  Charles McCarry

SHELLEY’S HEART BY Charles McCarry

Charles McCarry‘s Paul Christopher series and his stand alone Shelley’s Heart (which uncannily portends the debacle of the 2000 presidential election) depicts the tools and strategies of spy-craft as well as highlighting the amorality of spooks of all stripes. I chatted with McCarry ( A former CIA agent) a few years ago:

RB: There is a sense, and it is reiterated in your novels, that the Cold War struggle against the Russians and Communists was very affirmative for the intelligence community and that there was an absolute faith they were on the right side. And after the Soviet Union collapsed there was great self-congratulation. Somewhere in Old Boys you write, “They did a lot of good in the world, little of it except through stupidity and inadvertence.”

CM: I don’t remember saying that. Some of it by inadvertence at least. I never met a stupid person in the agency. Or an assassin. Or a Republican.

RB: No Republicans? [laughs] Are you serious?

CM: I’m serious. They were, at least in the operations side where I was, there were wall-to-wall knee-jerk liberals. And they were befuddled that the left outside the agency regarded them as some sort of right-wing threat. Because they were the absolute opposite, in their own politics.

RB: Isn’t there something about a secret police that is inconsistent with our notions of democracy?

CM: To begin with, they are not secret police.

RB: That’s the perception.

CM: They have no police powers. They can’t arrest anybody. They can’t kidnap people.

RB: They have no domestic jurisdiction.

CM: That’s right. Except in the case of Operation Chaos, which was presidentially mandated, I doubt we have very much unless they were chasing Russians or Chinese. But, of course, the thing that drives our society and has for a long time is a kind of paranoia that everything is a conspiracy. These guys were all nice boys who went to Yale and wouldn’t hurt a fly—in their own view.

RB: Those were not Republicans?

CM: No. I tell you I literally never met a Republican in the CIA.

The Power of The Dog by Don Winslow

The Power of The Dog by Don Winslow

As a culminating moment in my awakening Don Winslow’s magnum opus The Power of The Dog a well wrought tale of the drug war(s) and the complicity of government agencies, the Vatican, multi national corporations, South American revolutionaries in corrupt and illegal practices removed any doubts I had that there were many innocent players in world’s geo political grand opera (except, of course, the People)

So now we are inundated with dramas (Homeland, House of Cards, West Wing, 24 Hours) that simulate perpetual war/security state world. And, if you haven’t seen the excellent BBC 7 episode The State Within you will find a “fictional” treatment of vested interests contriving to bring the USA to war with
Kyrgyzstan in manner closely resembling the Iraq Debacle.

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

Of course there are also books being written, some published, that investigate and explicate the shabby nature of American Exceptionalism. Greenwald’s account of the Snowden case i sone an there is also Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill

Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill

There is also a documentary of the same name that is raises important and legitimate questions to which few journalists are pursuing the answers.

Noam Chomsky, steadfast critic of the American Security State, has the last word here in an essay published at TomsDispatch

… What about the security of the population? It is easy to demonstrate that this is a marginal concern of policy planners. Take two prominent current examples, global warming and nuclear weapons. As any literate person is doubtless aware, these are dire threats to the security of the population. Turning to state policy, we find that it is committed to accelerating each of those threats — in the interests of the primary concerns, protection of state power and of the concentrated private power that largely determines state policy.

Consider global warming. There is now much exuberance in the United States about “100 years of energy independence” as we become “the Saudi Arabia of the next century” — perhaps the final century of human civilization if current policies persist.

That illustrates very clearly the nature of the concern for security, certainly not for the population. It also illustrates the moral calculus of contemporary Anglo-American state capitalism: the fate of our grandchildren counts as nothing when compared with the imperative of higher profits tomorrow.

These conclusions are fortified by a closer look at the propaganda system. There is a huge public relations campaign in the U.S., organized quite openly by Big Energy and the business world, to try to convince the public that global warming is either unreal or not a result of human activity. And it has had some impact. The U.S. ranks lower than other countries in public concern about global warming and the results are stratified: among Republicans, the party more fully dedicated to the interests of wealth and corporate power, it ranks far lower than the global norm

Currently reading Station Eleven by Emma St John Mandel (Knopf)