Tuesday Reads: Trump’s Most Insane, Out of Control Meltdown YetPosted: April 14, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Fauci, coronavirus "briefings", Covid-19, Donald Trump, insanity, John Yoo, meltdown, narcissism, propaganda, Tenth Amendment 30 Comments
Yesterday Trump had an epic meltdown at his “coronavirus briefing,” Yes, I know he has meltdowns all the time, but this was the worst one yet. It included screaming, yelling, attacks on the press, a North Korea style propaganda video, and claims of dictatorial power. There was almost no mention of a federal response to the pandemic.
He began the performance by bringing Dr. Anthony Fauci to the podium to explain why what he said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday wasn’t a criticism of Trump. USA Today: Anthony Fauci says he used a ‘poor choice of words’ in discussing Trump administration’s coronavirus response.
Anthony Fauci, the health care policy expert under fire from allies of President Donald Trump, said Monday he used a “poor choice of words” when he suggested lives could have been saved had the Trump administration put in place coronavirus restrictions earlier in the year.
“Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty,” Fauci said during a unique statement delivered amid reports that Trump was thinking of firing him.
In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci was asked if lives could have been saved had social distancing been imposed during the third week of February instead of mid-March. Fauci said, “It’s very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that.”
Fauci said, “What goes into those kinds of decisions is – is complicated. But you’re right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”
Trump, who on Sunday re-tweeted a supporters’ statement that Fauci should be fired, called the epidemic expert to the podium early in the briefing, an unusual move.
A reporter asked Fauci if he had been forced to make the statement, and he claimed it was “voluntary.” Raise your had if you believe him. It looks like Fauci has become just another Trump sycophant. We. are. so. fucked.
Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: The Me President: Trump uses pandemic briefing to focus on himself.
“Everything we did was right,” Trump said, during a sometimes hostile 2½ -hour news conference in which he offered a live version of an enemies list, brooking no criticism and repeatedly snapping at reporters who dared to challenge his version of events.
Trump has always had a me-me-me ethos, an uncanny ability to insert himself into the center of just about any situation. But Monday’s coronavirus briefing offered a particularly stark portrait of a president seeming unable to grasp the magnitude of the crisis — and saying little to address the suffering across the country he was elected to lead.
At one point — after praising himself for implementing travel restrictions on China at the end of January and griping about being “brutalized” by the press — Trump paused to boast with a half-smirk, “But I guess I’m doing okay because, to the best of my knowledge, I’m the president of the United States, despite the things that are said.”
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that he and he alone–not governors of states–has the authority to “reopen” their economies.
Then during the briefing, Trump claimed that he and he alone has the power to open businesses, etc. in individual states. He has no understanding of the Constitution, much less the Tenth Amendment, which reserves police powers for the states.
Rick Wilson at The Daily Beast: Trump the Narcissistic Authoritarian Statist Declares He Has ‘Total’ Authority.
If you watched President Donald Trump’s daily press briefing Monday, you know that even by his abysmal standards this was the loudest siren yet, a warning that the man occupying the Oval Office is more suited to a very long, involuntary stay in an inpatient mental-health facility than the presidency of the United States.
It wasn’t presidential leadership. It wasn’t executive power made manifest. It wasn’t a grown-ass adult facing a serious crisis. It was an angry, needy man not looking outward to the needs of a nation in crisis but inward, and downward.
Anyone—and I mean anyone—who tells you Monday’s presser was anything other than a complete meltdown shitshow on the top of the dumpster fire at the peak of Burning-Tire Mountain is a liar.
It was a manic, gibbering, squint-eyed ragefest by America’s Worst President, a petty display by a failed man who long ago passed the limits of his competence and knowledge. It left little to cling to for even his most fervent lackeys but the grunting media animus that replaced conservatism as the motivating force of the Republican Party.
There was no there there when it came to facing the most consequential national crisis in generations. Even the parts about actions by the government were just mummery to frame his desperate desire for more stroking of his delicate feels. Everything is incidental to his delicate feelings and ego. Everything—and, more importantly, everyone else—is incidental.
Trump just gave the nation a performance that was so manic, so furious, and so utterly unhinged that anyone watching it walked away thinking the 25th Amendment has been too long unexercised and the proof is behind the podium every damn day.
Even John Yoo, the torture advocate says Trump can’t force states to “reopen.”
Our elected leaders confront the difficult decision on when to start lifting the lockdowns, even at the risk of a faster spread of COVID-19. Presiding Trump claims that he has the right to determine when businesses open their doors, employees return to work, and consumers shop again. “For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government,” he tweeted earlier today. “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect . . . It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”
But the federal government does not have that power. The Constitution’s grant of limited, enumerated powers to the national government does not include the right to regulate either public health or all business in the land. Congress enjoys the authority to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.” This gives Washington, D.C. an important, yet supporting, role in confronting the pandemic. It can bar those who might be infected from entering the United States or traveling across interstate borders, reduce air and road traffic, and even isolate whole states.
But our federal system reserves the leading role over public health to state governors. States possess the “police power” to regulate virtually all activity within their borders. As the Supreme Court has recognized, safeguarding public health and safety presents the most compelling use of state power. Only the states can impose quarantines, close institutions and businesses, and limit intra-state travel. Democratic governors Gavin Newsom in California, Andrew Cuomo in New York, and J.B. Pritzker Illinois imposed their states’ lockdowns, and only they will decide when the draconian policies will end.
Read more at The National Review.
NBC News: Cuomo warns of constitutional crisis ‘like you haven’t seen in decades’ if Trump tries to reopen New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Tuesday that President Donald Trump should not try to reopen the state against his wishes, saying it would create “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades” and could result in a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases.
“The only ways this situation gets worse is if the president creates a constitutional crisis,” Cuomo said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“If he says to me, ‘I declare it open,’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it,” he said. “And then we will have a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades, where states tell the federal government, ‘We’re not going to follow your order.’ It would be terrible for this country. It would be terrible for this president.”
This morning Trump responded with another insane tweet.
Finally, there was the insane campaign ad that Trump forced the press and his science advisers to watch during the “briefing.”
The Daily Beast: Trump Uses Coronavirus Briefing to Play Batshit Campaign Ad Attacking Press.
President Donald Trump took over Monday’s White House task force briefing to lash out at critics and the press with a bizarre video that amounted to a campaign ad, before later declaring his authority is “total” if governors disagree with him during the coronavirus pandemic.
Monday’s unprecedented press briefing began to go off the rails with the video, but before the end, the president was falsely trumpeting definitive authority during the health-care crisis that has already led to the deaths of more than 23,000 Americans.
The briefing almost immediately devolved into the president airing widespread grievances against his critics, from his likely 2020 general election opponent Joe Biden to governors and reporters who have dared to call his virus response into question over the last few weeks as American life has ground to a halt during the pandemic.
In a mash up of clips and audio that amounted to a campaign ad, Trump lashed out at critics and returned to his favorite pastime of going after reporters. The video began with a white screen saying “the media minimized the risk from the start.” At one point, it showed news clips of different governors giving kind remarks about the president’s response to the pandemic.
An agitated and indignant president pointed at the seated press corps, telling them that while he’d answer some questions after airing his montage of coronavirus praise that maybe “I’ll ask you some questions because you’re so guilty.”
Both CNN and MSNBC, which have wavered between airing the increasingly antagonistic briefings, both cut away during the multi-minute campaign ad. The networks, however, came back to broadcast the performance after a short break.
The highlight of the show was questioning from CBS correspondent Paul Reid. BBC News:
CBS White House correspondent Paula Reid was met with a fiery response when she challenged President Trump during a coronavirus briefing.
Mr Trump touted his ban on travel from China at the end of January as an example of his administration taking decisive action. However, he did not declare a national emergency until 13 March – and public health experts have criticised the response to the outbreak, including early testing failures and a shortage of protective equipment.
The reporter asked Mr Trump what his administration had done in February, “with the time you bought with your travel ban”.
So . . . another crazy day has dawned in America. Will we survive? What stories are you following?
Tuesday Reads: Follow the MoneyPosted: April 7, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Brett Kavanaugh, Chirag Patel, coronavirus, Donald Trump, hydroxychloroquine, Jared Kushner, Ken Fisher, narcissism, Plaquenil, propaganda, Roberto Mignone, Sanofi, SCOTUS, The Big Lie, Trump lies, Wilbur Ross, Wisconsin primary 2020 27 Comments
Just as I suspected, Trump has financial motives for pushing an unproven drug with dangerous side effects during a global pandemic.
The New York Times reported yesterday:
If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine….
Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. A spokesman for Mr. Fisher declined to comment.
Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. Mr. Ross said in a statement Monday that he “was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing” the drug, “nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment.”
As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.
Ashleigh Koss, a Sanofi spokeswoman, said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.
And of course Jared is involved. I wonder if he stands to gain financial from this drug pushing?
Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them.
Mr. Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin Saigal, who used to work for Mr. Mignone and is a friend of Mr. Kushner’s, according to people informed about the discussions.
Mr. Kushner’s team referred him to the White House task force and Mr. Mignone asked for help getting India to ease export restrictions, which have since been relaxed, allowing Teva to bring more pills into the United States. Mr. Mignone, who is also a vice chairman of NYU Langone Health, which is running a clinical study of hydroxychloroquine, confirmed on Monday that he has spoken with the administration about getting more medicine into the country.
Yesterday we also learned that Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacky trade adviser was warning about a pandemic back in January. Axios: Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January.
In late January, President Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.
The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.
Navarro’s grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.
In the first memo, which the New York Times was first to report on, Navarro makes his case for “an immediate travel ban on China.”
The second lays the groundwork for supplemental requests from Congress, with the warning: “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.”
Why it matters: The president quickly restricted travel from China, moved to delay re-entry of American travelers who could be infected, and dispatched his team to work with Congress on stimulus funds.
But Trump was far slower to publicly acknowledge the sort of scenarios Navarro had put in writing.
A couple of interesting psychological analyses of Trump catastrophic performance:
At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior writes: This Is What Happens When a Narcissist Runs a Crisis.
Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.
Enough is enough. As I’ve argued before, an in-person analysis of Donald J. Trump would not reveal any hidden depths — his internal sonar could barely fathom the bottom of a sink — and these are exceptional, urgent times. Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.
But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.
Head over to the NYT to read the rest.
Alternet: Leading psychologists explain how Trump’s self-delusions and narcissism make him uniquely effective at predatory deception.
In practicing the art of lying while retaining a hold on the allegiance of his base, Trump utilizes a propaganda principle—the Big Lie—best explained by Hitler. Now, please note that we are not equating Trump and Hitler; they are very different people. However, like Hitler, Trump is involved in the business of selling himself as an angry, righteous savior to the masses, resulting in a growing number of cultic devotees. So, it may behoove us to consider Hitler’s explanation of why the Big Lie is more successful than mere untruths. Here’s his explanation of the principle in Mein Kampf:
[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.
Consider just two of many possible examples of the Big Lie: Trump’s bizarre claim that the military was out of ammunition when he took office and his equally bizarre claim that the father of Ted Cruz was involved with the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, adding, “It’s horrible.” It is the outrageousness of the Big Lie that a listener normally expects would create self-conscious awkwardness in the liar. In turn, this results in a need for a great liar to hide any nervousness that might give away the fact that he is attempting to deceive his audience. In poker, the failure to hide completely the lie inherent in a bluff is called a “tell,” the subtle behavior unwittingly exhibited when bluffing.
Click the link to read the rest. It’s a really interesting piece.
Republicans in Wisconsin have been working overtime to undermine democracy, and yesterday the Supreme Court gave them a big assist.
Slate: By a 5–4 Vote, SCOTUS L.ets Wisconsin Throw Out Tens of Thousands of Ballots.
On Monday, by a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.
Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. There are more than 3,800 seats on the ballot, and a crucial state Supreme Court race. But the state’s ability to conduct in-person voting is imperiled by COVID-19. Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself in an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.
Because voters are rightfully afraid of COVID-19, Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots. Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won’t get their ballot until after Election Day. And Wisconsin law disqualifies ballots received after that date. In response, last Thursday, a federal district court ordered the state to extend the absentee ballot deadline. It directed officials to count votes mailed after Election Day so long as they were returned by April 13. A conservative appeals court upheld his decision.
Now the Supreme Court has reversed that order. It allowed Wisconsin to throw out ballots postmarked and received after Election Day, even if voters were entirely blameless for the delay. (Thankfully, ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by April 13 still count, because the legislature didn’t challenge that extension.) In an unsigned opinion, the majority cited the Purcell principle, which cautions courts against altering voting laws shortly before an election. It criticized the district court for “fundamentally alter[ing] the nature of the election by permitting voting for six additional days after the election.” And it insisted that the plaintiffs did not actually request that relief—which, as Ginsburg notes in her dissent, is simply false.
Vox: The Supreme Court’s disturbing order to effectively disenfranchise thousands of Wisconsin voters.
PoliticusUSA: Brett Kavanaugh Leads Conservative SCOTUS Majority In Blocking Extended Voting In Wisconsin.
According to the Roberts court, voters should have to choose between voting and possibly dying and protecting their health. And of course the Republican primary is meaningless, so only Democrats have to worry about that.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
Tuesday Reads: The Snowden-Greenwald ShowPosted: June 11, 2013 Filed under: China, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Crime, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bob Cesca, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Hong Kong, Matt Schiavenza, narcissism, NSA, political asylum, Russia, The Q Group, whistleblowers, Willard Foxton 99 Comments
Edward Snowden is still the top news story this morning. It’s starting to look as if he made a mistake by going to Hong Kong, unless his goal was to gain asylum from the Chinese government. Hong Kong is apparently not interested in fighting an extradition request from the U.S. But it’s also possible he saw Hong Kong as a springboard to other places in Asia where he could hide.
Matt Schiavenza writes at The Atlantic:
In a comment about the case published this morning, my colleague James Fallows brought up a salient point about Hong Kong: it isn’t a sovereign country, and remains very much a part of the People’s Republic of China — a country which notably lacks free speech or any right of political dissent. And while Hong Kong has a different currency, political structure, and legal system from the mainland, divisions between the two are actually far murkier than Snowden’s explanation indicates.
Hong Kong is to some extent in control of its own legal decisions
But in the case of Edward Snowden, which is likely to involve an extradition request by the United States, the Basic Law is less clear. Hong Kong, unlike China, has an extradition arrangement with the United States. But China has the right to intercede in an extradition request if Beijing has an interest in “defense or foreign affairs.” In other words, if China wants to detain Snowden as a useful intelligence asset, Hong Kong couldn’t legally do much about it. And that illustrates an important part of Hong Kong’s current situation: its free speech and political dissent really only go as far as Beijing lets it.
According to Schiavenza,
it’s become increasingly clear that Snowden’s decision to go to Hong Kong was a serious miscalculation. The idiosyncratic territory may in some ways be a libertarian paradise of free speech, robust media, and low taxes, but is in no way independent of China. If Snowden’s ultimate goal were to damage the United States government as much as possible, then going to a Chinese territory would make some sense. But this obviously isn’t what he wanted; in The Guardian interview, Snowden disagreed with Glenn Greenwald’s characterization of China as an “enemy” of the United States by stressing the healthy trade relationship between the two countries. Aiding China — whose record of state surveillance and abrogation of civil liberties is inarguably worse than the United States — would go against the entire moral foundation of Snowden’s decision to leak the NSA secrets.
I’m still not convinced yet about Snowden’s motives. One thing I have concluded is that he’s a very narcissistic young man. I can’t believe he chose to leave without even explaining to his girlfriend and his family. He also chose to tell his story to a high narcissistic writer, Glenn Greewald. More on that later.
From USA Today: Edward Snowden’s travel options
HONG KONG — Whether Edward Snowden misjudged the odds of extradition from Hong Kong before revealing his identity here as the man who exposed secret U.S. surveillance programs may be irrelevant.
The National Security Agency contractor may have chosen to surface in the city for the same reason so many companies from the U.S. and other countries choose to use it for a regional base: It’s the best gateway to much of the world’s largest continent….
Hong Kong is connected to 180 cities in dozens of countries by some 850 flights a day. As the city’s investment development agency says on its marketing web site, “Easy and efficient regional travel is key to Hong Kong’s success as a regional centre.” Many of these countries have loose entry requirements for Americans.
He could go to Vietnam, the Phillippines, or any number of other Asian countries. Or perhaps he could go to Russia, which has already offered to consider a request for asylum from him.
USA Today also notes that Snowden has been “contacted by ‘countless people’ offering to pay for ‘anything [he] might need.'”
Meanwhile, an entity called “The Q Group” is trying to hunt Snowden down before he finds a safe harbor. From The Daily Beast:
Even before last week’s revelations by The Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting call records from telecommunications companies and had the ability to mine user data from major U.S. Internet companies, the NSA was already on the trail of the leaker, according to two former U.S. intelligence officers with close ties to the agency….
The people who began chasing Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, according to former U.S. intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The directorate, sometimes known as “the Q Group,” is continuing to track Snowden now that he’s outed himself as The Guardian’s source, according to the intelligence officers….
The security and counterintelligence directorate serves as the NSA’s internal police force, in effect watching the agency’s watchers for behavior that could pose an intelligence risk. It has the authority to interview an NSA contractor or employee’s known associates, and even to activate a digital dragnet capable of finding out where a target travels, what the target has purchased, and the target’s online activity.
Are there more bombshells coming from Snowden? Glenn Greenwald says there are. According to TPM,
According to Greenwald, Snowden has provided the archives of “thousands” of documents and “dozens” are newsworthy. Greenwald has suggested in recent days that more revelations are imminent, saying Monday during an interview on MSNBC that “there’s a lot more coming.”
Dozens of hit out of thousands of documents doesn’t sound like a very good ratio to me, but I’m not a reporter.
On Glenn Greenwald, it seems the general consensus is that people either love him or hate him. Personally, I don’t hate him but I find him annoying and part of my suspicion of Snowden probably stems from my mixed feelings about Greenwald. In my opinion, he cares only about his own pet issues and disdains anyone who cares passionately about, for example, women’s rights, the environment, or the plight of people with less money and fewer choices than he has. I guess he’s a libertarian, but again only in terms of his own pet issues.
Anyway it seems there are lots of Greenwald haters out there. One is Willard Foxton of The Telegraph, who today has a piece called The problem with Glenn Greenwald and the creepy cult that surrounds him. Foxton isn’t quite sure why he can’t stand Greenwald.
Maybe it’s because of the enormous, turgid pieces he writes, complete with 500-word updates when people challenge him. Maybe it’s the run-ins he had with other British journalists while he was fanatically defending Julian Assange.
Maybe it’s the petty stuff, like the fact he insists on special rock-star privileges, like policing the comments beneath his articles himself and his reluctance to let his pieces be edited, prior to the NSA/Prism disclosures. Maybe it’s the things that suggest he’s a little odd, like self-searching his own name so he can pounce on people criticising him, or the accusations he’s used internet sock puppets to go after people anonymously.
Maybe it’s the devotion of his legion of fans who consider him to be the greatest and most fearless journalist on earth, who hate anyone who dares disagree with their idol. The last time I criticised him I got a barrage of online abuse – including memorably a 24-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining how the American security services had “got” to me, and how Greenwald was their number-one target. Maybe, as his adoring public have suggested, I’m either a homophobe or in the pay of the CIA. Perhaps both.
That said, I’m honest enough to admit that maybe it’s because I’m jealous of the success he’s had, and the stories he’s broken. I’m not the only one. You can practically hear the disdain in the New York Times’s tone here, where it describes him as a “blogger” for a “British News Website” (The Guardian).
What I think is more likely is I dislike him because he has built a huge platform with opinion writing, and now he’s blurring the line between opinion pieces and straight reporting. That huge platform he’s built means sources come forward to him from his vast base of followers, with real hard news stories, and then he insists on reporting them.
In line with the “creepy cult” notion, the Guardian actually published this fan-boy article about Greenwald today. Bizarrely, it asks readers to describe how they feel about Greenwald with a fill-in-the-blanks questionnaire! You have to see it to believe it.
Another writer who seems to strongly dislike Greenwald is Bob Cesca, who critiqued Greenwald’s scoop early on. He offered a few more comments on the Snowden/Greenwald story yesterday. Here are three of them.
–Once again, it’s nearly impossible to have a nuanced position these days. I bent over backwards to repeat my ongoing opposition to the growing surveillance state, and made it abundantly clear that my intent with the column was to question some of the problems with the reporting and why there were such glaring omissions and errors. But there’s an increasingly evident overlap between the kneejerking on the far-right and the kneejerking on the far-left (I will make an effort to point it out whenever I can) and too many people tend to blurt things out without reading or grasping what’s being said. Consequently, criticizing Greenwald makes me an Obamabot. End of story. The left is sliding into a very dangerous place right now, and I’ll definitely report back on this one.
–There are some questions emerging regarding Ed Snowden’s story. Why did someone who was disillusioned with Obama’s record on national security continue to work for Obama’s national security apparatus — for more than four years? Why did he escape to Hong Kong when it’s clearly not the free speech haven he claimed it was? If he prefers to seek asylum in Iceland, why didn’t he go there before the story went public? How did he attain the access to be able to “wiretap anyone?” I assume we’ll get answers to some of these questions. Maybe?
–Marc Ambinder wrote a blindly complicated article for The Week in which he explained what PRISM is. It’s essentially a program that analyses data. It doesn’t retrieve the data, it merely compiles it. He also explained that the way the NSA can have “direct access” is via servers that mirror the tech giant servers. So if the NSA requests information from Facebook about an account in Pakistan, Facebook creates a mirror that clones the real time date from that account. But that mirror site has to be hosted on a server and all of the tech giants denied giving the NSA access to their servers. More questions.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Snowden’s revelations are truly groundbreaking or not. But as Cesca writes, the “war on terror” must come to an end. If what’s happening now helps that happen, I’ll certainly cheer loudly. But I suspect the U.S. government will react by simply doubling down on its current policies.
I’ll end there. Now what are you reading and blogging about this morning? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.