Critique: New York Times- Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

May 29, 2012

So, I just finished reading the eight page exposé in the New York Times about the Obama administration drone program.  From my interpretation of the piece, it seems like the writers were trying to be unbiased, but it came off near the end as if they were in support of the administration’s drone strike program:

Aides say that Mr. Obama’s choices, though, are not surprising. The president’s reliance on strikes, said Mr. Leiter, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, “is far from a lurid fascination with covert action and special forces. It’s much more practical. He’s the president. He faces a post-Abdulmutallab situation, where he’s being told people might attack the United States tomorrow.”

I feel the overwhelming majority of people that were quoted were either a) members of the administration, b) supporters of the program, or c) people who seemed critical for a brief moment, but then ended up rationalizing the choices of Obama and his administration.

A colleague to the U.S. ambassador said that “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.”  If only this was talked about more.  The writers just went on the discuss the moral dilemma that Obama was facing and to be honest, made him look like the victim trying to minimize war by only focusing on knocking out Al-Qaeda members and suspected militants and trying to avoid looking soft on terrorism to the Republican party.  I personally cannot rationalize this victimization.

Mr. Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. “It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”

But Mr. Blair’s dissent puts him in a small minority of security experts.

First of all, that quote from Mr. Blair does not make it sound like he harbors any dissent towards the program.  If anything, it sounds like he admires it.  Second, it was the sentence I bolded that really threw me for a loop.  I think it’s interesting that the writers say “small minority” when both words can be used for the same purpose.  They just doubled up on two similar words to overemphasize that a very small number of “security experts” are critical of the drone program. 

In eight pages of a seemingly in-depth look at the Obama administration’s counterterrorism program, did I miss who these dissenters are?  I know they exist, but it looks as if they were conveniently left out.  Better yet, the writers acknowledge that these dissenters exist, but there are just very few of them and they are not worth mentioning or interviewing.

People quoted in the New York Times exposé:

  • President Barack Obama
  • Thomas E. Donilon, the president’s national security adviser
  • John O. Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser
  • A colleague of Cameron P. Munter, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan
  • Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani American who attempted the May 1, 2010, Times Square car bombing
  • Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence (fired in May 2010)
  • William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff in 2011
  • John A. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s top lawyer
  • former Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Jeh C. Johnson, a campaign adviser and now general counsel of the Defense Department
  • "a top White House adviser"
  • Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush
  • "one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program"
  • an unnamed administration official
  • Gen. James L. Jones, former Obama national security adviser
  • an unnamed participant of the video conferences run by the Pentagon
  • Mitt Romney
  • Harold H. Koh, for instance, as dean of Yale Law School
  • Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia
  • Mr. Johnson, the Pentagon’s chief lawyer
  • Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General
  • Michael E. Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center
  • Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
  • John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration


April 26, 2012

Proceeds from the purchase of this shirt go to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Suck it Rush. Buy one here!

Naturally, I was attracted to this shirt, but needed to first find out what brand makes the t-shirt.  My suspicions were right— American Apparel.  Never mind that American Apparel practices sexism, exploitation, and elitism which greatly contradict the message being conveyed with this t-shirt.
Reasons why American Apparel is disgusting:
No “ugly people” are allowed to work for the company
Its exploitative and sexist business model
CEO Dov Charney’s multiple sexual harassment lawsuits
and more lawsuits including bad practices in their shops
So, while it may feel empowering to wear this shirt when you’re making a deposit at the bank, you’re also representing a brand that oppresses people which is the very thing you are “fighting against.”


Proceeds from the purchase of this shirt go to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Suck it Rush. Buy one here!

Naturally, I was attracted to this shirt, but needed to first find out what brand makes the t-shirt.  My suspicions were right— American Apparel.  Never mind that American Apparel practices sexism, exploitation, and elitism which greatly contradict the message being conveyed with this t-shirt.

Reasons why American Apparel is disgusting:

No “ugly people” are allowed to work for the company

Its exploitative and sexist business model

CEO Dov Charney’s multiple sexual harassment lawsuits

and more lawsuits including bad practices in their shops

So, while it may feel empowering to wear this shirt when you’re making a deposit at the bank, you’re also representing a brand that oppresses people which is the very thing you are “fighting against.”

(via seriouslyamerica)


April 26, 2012

Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, “those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach gym.” And the worst part of philosophy is the philosophy of science; the only people, as far as I can tell, that read work by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science. It has no impact on physics what so ever, and I doubt that other philosophers read it because it’s fairly technical. And so it’s really hard to understand what justifies it. And so I’d say that this tension occurs because people in philosophy feel threatened, and they have every right to feel threatened, because science progresses and philosophy doesn’t.


Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and Director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University, said in a story with The Atlantic, Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

That last statement is pretty bold. I think that philosophy exists within all areas of thought. One could argue that science is a philosophy, so to say that philosophy is obsolete or doesn’t progress is to say that there will be no further advancements in science.


What Work Is

April 24, 2012

By Philip Levin

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.


April 24, 2012

I’ve always doubted that the socialists had a leg to stand on intellectually. They have improved their argument somehow, but once you begin to understand that prices are an instrument of communication and guidance which embody more information than we directly have, the whole idea that you can bring about the same order based on the division of labor by simple direction falls to the ground. Similarly, the idea [that] you can arrange for distributions of incomes which correspond to some conception of merit or need. If you need prices, including the prices of labor, to direct people to go where they are needed, you cannot have another distribution except the one from the market principle. I think that intellectually there is just nothing left of socialism.


F. A. Hayek interviewed by Thomas W. Hazlett, in May of 1977, as published in “The Road to Serfdom, Forseeing the Fall”, in Reason magazine (July 1992)

I love how he begins with an insult. 

Luckily, in terms of Marxism, socialism transitions to communism where money doesn’t exist.  Hayek also wasn’t thinking about de-colonizaation or de-growth which would ideally take place after capitalism so many of his arguments don’t suffice (in my opinion).  I say that because I believe that socialism and communism would work better within smaller autonomous populations, so of course it is hard to imagine them working on the mass creature that is America and that is the mistake I think Hayek and many make.


American values outline Steve-O and Elisabetta Canalis split

April 23, 2012

Amidst the increasing number of American drone strikes in Yemen and young black men joining the prison ranks for marijuana possession, Steve-O dumped Italian “actress” Elisabetta Canalis.  Looking past the shallow foundations of this story, there is some value to be found amongst the genius literary accounts of this end-all break up.

So it goes: Steve-O “is extremely serious about his sobriety and did not want to be dating anyone who could jeopardise that.”  Who would jeopardize his road to recovery?  Elisabetta of course with her crazy, partying ways.  

First, Steve-O does deserve some credit for attempting to maintain his sobriety because we all know how difficult that much be after years of excessive, self-inflicted brain damage.  It must be so hard for him to find love in the hopeless place that is the entertainment industry with coke lining the bathroom sinks and drinks being handed to you constantly.  He tried, admitted his weakness, and moved on.  Good for him.  One must try to maintain whatever integrity they have after stapling their scrotum to their leg. Check out this comment from MaryJane ChupasMom Alexander-Himmelstein:

How about congratulations to Steve-O for putting his sobriety first. I’m proud of him and applaud him for knowing his weakness and staying out of a situation that would be detrimental to his health & life. (source)

On the other hand, just mere days after their split, Elisabetta is back on the street dating another man!  Does girlfriend need to slow down?  Does she need to take a sabbatical from her many nights at the club and promiscuous ways?  The answer is no and if you thought it was anything other than that: shame on you.  As one could read in the comments of the hundreds of stories about the split, Elisabetta is not receiving rave reviews.

In a Radar Online cover of this gut wrenching tale, a commenter with the alias of Blackjack (presumably he’s the Minister of Morality) writes:

Didn’t Clooney dump her azz because she is a big-time coke addict? Sounds like it just might be true. How much of a ho-bag can you be to get dumped by Steve-O? Go back to Italy’re DONE here!

Few people stop to think about how comments like Blackjack’s negatively affects the psyche of entertainment figures in ways that make their unappealing life choices more exaggerated.  What does Elisabetta have to do to get popular feedback like that from MaryJane ChupasMom Alexander-Himmelstein?  Does she, like Steve-O, need to fall deep down into the rabbit’s hole and trying to find a way out a couple years from now?

This split between Elisabetta and Steve-O is just another example showing the inconsistencies in contemporary American values.  Americans have a fascination with taking things, people, points in time they once liked and manipulating them until they are almost an entirely different entity.  Only until what made that thing was it was is destroyed, then there is a strong desire to get it back to its original state.  We treat them as products, break them down, shame them, destroy them, and force them to build themselves back up to entertain us again.  One could argue that free will is no longer a luxury for those we put through this process.  We are the puppeteers to the lives of people like Steve-O and Elisabetta and the next chapter in the tale is what we choose to make it.


Note: I don’t normally comment on celebrity gossip.  This was written for job application purposes, so I found a way to relate it back to what I know best.

Update: The photo of Elisabetta and her “new guy” is from before her relationship with Steve-O.  Ignore everything I say.  I am a liar.  But seriously, whether she is really dating someone right after Steve-O or not makes no difference here.


Tupac™ Gets Remixed Within Cultural Capitalism

April 23, 2012
“They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor.”

-Tupac Shakur; Is it just me, or is that pretty anti-capitalist?

As I watched the Coachella video of “Tupac’s” performance, I was mesmerized, but at the same time, very disgusted.  It just reminds me of how much I despise cultural capitalism.  A dead man (read: conspiracy) was projected as a strikingly life-like hologram for the Hipstamatic masses and while it is amazing to see how technology is advancing, this man, Tupac literally became a commodity right before our eyes.  He is no longer a human commodity living and breathing while selling his skills to survive like most humans; he is now an actual commodity.  If it wasn’t disgraceful before to use dead people to promote consumerism and reiterate the shallowness of our society, then I would hope it is now, but the cheers heard in the video dissuade me from believing that.  Tupac spent much of his career educating people about the effects and existence of poverty and it would be disgusting if he was turned into a piece of non-human entertainment for the bourgeois class.

I’m currently reading The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern 1983-1998 by Fredric Jameson and his essay titled “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” rings so true as I think about the hologram more and more.

Jameson talks about how “pastiche eclipses parody” and I think this is an event of the pastiche.  He says,

Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language: but it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without parody’s ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared with which what is being imitated is rather comic.  Pastiche is blank parody, parody that has lost its sense of humour.

The way I am interpreting this is that though there is no intertextuality of an actual text being used, we’ll just say that the hologram is the “text” in this case.  The hologram isn’t a parody of who Tupac actually was because it isn’t satirical or funny in the least.  What makes it more along the lines of pastiche is that the hologram is serious.  And what I find to be dangerous about that is how it might manage to blur the lines between who Tupac really was and who Tupac the Hologram is thus making it very simple to commodify and disgrace him.

I have this idea of pseudo-individualism that is also part of the problem at hand.  While we are hyper-individualistic within our capitalist culture, we do not recognize that others are truly individuals as well.  We are disconnected from our communities more than ever and do not see people as more than an Instagram photo, a few words on someone’s blog, or the exchange of dollar bills at the grocery store register.  We do not see people as people.  Jameson’s declaration that the subject, or the individual has died also simplifies the process of commdifying (new word) of Tupac.

Finally, Jameson discusses “the nostalgia mode” that we are perpetually in in a postmodern capitalist society.  He makes the example of the film American Graffiti of how it takes place in then present 1973, but has the stylings of the 1950s.  By doing this, the film “updates” the 1950s and reinvents it.  This is something we see all the time and reminds us that everything is a remix.  What I find to be particularly disturbing is that Tupac may become a style of the past like the 1950s and by using holographic technology, one can “improve” on Tupac.  The next thing we know: Tupac 2.0 will release a new song, he’ll have a slightly more stereotypical “black male” voice, and he won’t own any t-shirts.  Tupac died 16 years ago and our culture is still holding onto him and showing no sign of letting go.  

What would Freud say about this inability to let go, to move on?  I know— he would attribute it to some kind of attachment issues with one’s parents when they were a child.  This goes beyond childhood issues.  With YOLO (You Only Live Once) trending worldwide, our society is revealing its obsession with and fear of death.  It seems that we may be having a collective existential crisis and by reproducing a product over and over, we don’t have to face death.  All the while this is happening, someone is making a profit off our fears.



April 23, 2012

My laptop was stolen somewhat recently and it has thrown off my routine.  This would explain the serious lack of posts.  I’m trying to get back into the swing of things without a laptop of my own for a while.

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March 21, 2012

Currently watching Cloverfield, a.k.a. the Million Hoodie March in NYC for Trayvon Martin.

In other protest-for-Trayvon-Martin-news, there is a rally taking place at 1pm tomorrow at the Sanford Police Department.


Noam Chomsky on John Dewey, interviewed May 28, 2003, Stony Brook University:

March 21, 2012

Interviewer: We only have just a minute left, unfortunately, but one of the quotes that you refer to is John Dewey in your miseducation book and I’ll just read it: “The ultimate aim of production is not production of goods, but the production of free human beings associated with one another on terms of equality.” Could you just maybe end with a few comments about that.

Chomsky: Well, John Dewey was the leading American social philosopher was also by our standards pretty radical. I mean, he, I think his position is correct that Bertrand Russell took very similar positions and yes a decent education ought to be creating free, independent, creative human beings. It doesn’t have to be developing them it has to be allowing them to follow those natural instincts; those are natural among children—the educational system has to beat it out of them and make them obedient and subordinate and so on. But a decent educational system would allow these natural aspects of human nature to flourish and encourage them. And it would be part of developing a free and democratic society of real participation. But of course that runs counter to elite interests. It’s worth remembering that the United States was not founded to be a democratic society and elites do not want it to be a democratic society. It’s supposed to be what political scientists sometimes call a “polyarchy,” a system basically of elite decision and public ratification. And if you had the kind of educational system that Dewey spent his life committed to, you wouldn’t be able to sustain that. People would become active, involved, engaged, and would try to create a truly functioning democratic society which would, as Dewey also pointed out, require an industrial democracy. That means democratizing production, commerce, and so on, which means eliminating the whole structure of capitalist hierarchy. His positions were, well, he’s very, uh, real “Mainstreeet America” but radical from the point of view of prevailing doctrine. And I think he’s quite right about that. In fact just to go to politics, Dewey also pointed out that until that’s done, unless that’s done, politics will remain what he called the shadow cast by business over society and the educational system will be a system of indoctrination and control. I was lucky as a kid to be sent to a Deweyite school it was quite, quite an exciting experience.

Interviewer: On that note we have to wrap up but thank you very much. [Applause]