Karen’s Greenberg’s “Rogue Justice” Review

The fine folks at Just Security were kind enough to ask me to review Karen Greenberg’s excellent Rogue Justice, about how we transformed into a security state following 9/11. It’s a great read, and persuasively argued (the book, not my review). One of her key insights, beside the great reporting, is that the decisions made after the attacks fundmentally changed our relationship with the government, in ways we didn’t realize, and that I think will affect the national character for decades.

I’ll have more on the book later on, a few longer essays on some of the themes. In the meantime, here’s the review. Thanks to Just Security, especially for keeping the Huck Finn theme throughout.


This complicity came from careerists worried about rocking the boat, politicians in both parties worried about being painted as weak on terror (with notable and noble exceptions), and to an uncomfortable extent, the general public. The terrorist attacks in 2001 made everyone realize that anyone could be a target, but we didn’t see — or didn’t want to see — that in a very real way, we also became a target of the government. Many of the policies enacted in the wake of 9/11 made everyone a suspect as much as a target. Through official secrecy aided by general indifference, we allowed ourselves to be passively dragooned into being on both sides of a war.

“Blacks? They Love Me. Blacks All Love Trump.”

Consolidating the African-American vote.*

Trump, to O’Reilly:

Asked what he would say to African Americans who feel as though the system was biased against them, Trump drew an analogy with his own campaign.

“Well, I’ve been saying, even against me the system is rigged,” Trump told O’Reilly. “When I ran for president I could see what is going on with the system, and the system is rigged.

“I can really relate it very much to myself.”

So sayeth the man who has been bailed out of every spectacular failure, every collassoal money loss, and who has used every trick available only to the rich to stay our of debtor’s prison and, indeed, make even more money. The system is rigged against him. He can relate.

In other news, Trump is polling at 1% with African-Americans.  And that’s Trump-outlier Quinnipiac, which has him at 33% of Hispanics, which is…not generally considered accurate. So I’m guessing 1% was as low as they could go, after getting a thumbs-up from Dennis Rodman, who wasn’t even asked. He just showed up.

It gets better!

Donald Trump is wildly unpopular among young adults, in particular young people of color, and nearly two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 believe the presumptive Republican nominee is racist.

Of course, as Twitter has shown us time and time again, believing someone is racist and believing that’s a bad thing are not always hand-in-hand, even distressingly among younger people.  Still, it doesn’t seem like there are enough.

That’s (note: above quote) the finding of a new GenForward poll that also found just 19 percent of young people have a favorable opinion of Trump compared to the three-quarters of young adults who hold a dim view of the New York billionaire.

S that’s reassuring at least. It’s sort of like when Adlai Stevenson was told he had the support of “all thinking people”, and he replied that while that was great, he needed a majority (how did he not win, again?). Except it’s the opposite, and can make us all feel a little better.


*Dennis Rodman is one of my favorite basketball players of all time. No disrespect intended.

Trump’s “Moment of Silence” Lies on Dallas Shooter: Race Baiting Coming Loose and Dangerous


Not Bobby Kennedy

On April 4th, 1968, Bobby Kennedy was set to give a speech in Indianapolis, to a largely black crowd, most of whom had not yet heard that Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down earlier that evening, shattering the last dreams of peace. If you listen to the speech, you can hear the shock and anger and despair billowing through the crowd as he breaks the news. He goes on the speak of love and anger, of violence and forgiveness. To quote him that night:

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

And now Trump, last night, in nearby Westfield, to a crowd that was, I am assuming, not mostly black.

“The other night you had 11 cities potentially in a blow-up stage,” he said. “Marches all over the United States—and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac! And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer!”

There’s a lot going on there. Look at how he conflates the Black Lives Matter marches, post-Dallas, with the killed. They were “started by a maniac”. This is more than just saying that BLM should stop all activity in the face of the slaughter, as if injustice went away. That’s a common tactic. He’s not even saying that Micah Johnson was inspired by BLM: he’s saying BLM was further inspired by him.

That’s dangerous. Just as dangerous is his entirely bullshit claim that some people asked for a moment of silence for the killer. As TPM explains, this wasn’t even the only time he said it that day. He mentioned it to O’Reilly as well.

“It’s getting more and more obvious and it’s very sad, very sad,” Trump went on. “When somebody called for a moment of silence to this maniac that shot the five police, you just see what’s going on. It’s a very, very sad situation.”

So this isn’t an accident. TPM said “There were no media reports about anyone calling for a moment of silence for gunman Micah Johnson, though groups from Congress to the New York Stock Exchange held moments of silence for the victims of last Thursday’s mass shooting. Searches on social media for people making such calls also came up short.”

Now, maybe someone somewhere said something that only Trump was privy to, but even so, why bring this up? What purpose does this serve except to further stoke white anger and the law-and-order backlash? It seems likely that it is made up, like his “thousands of Muslims” celebrating 9/11, and it is cut from that same cloth. It is meant to stir up racial hatred and anger, and he knows that facts won’t matter. It’s a lie that can be repeated. And if someone dredges up some dark corner of the internet or some random tweet that makes it seem almost plausible, well, all the better for him. If they can’t, no big deal. It’s already out there.

There is no way to overestimate how dangerous this kind of rhetoric is. It’s not even a dog whistle. It’s pure division (while of course decrying division). It’s absolute race-mongering, and would make George Wallace proud. It’s appealing to the darkest heart of America. It’s jamming a knife in a suppurating wound, just to see what will happen.

You can’t get further away from Bobby Kennedy, and not just due to Kennedy’s eloquence and Trump’s monosyllabic turnip-truck pratter. (“Aeschylus? Good poet. Not great. Not classy.”) One man speaks to the best of America hoping to be worthy of it. The other speaks to the worst, hoping to drag us down daily into his despair, hoping to forever lost wisdom under the vengeful eye of a graceless god.

Ding Ding Ding! Dow, S&P 500 At Record Highs: Economy Totally Great!

Twitter Goes Public On The New York Stock Exchange

The problem with capitalism isn’t so much that it has winners and losers. That’s a problem, of course, but with a strong social safety net, and an eye toward social, economic, and environmental justice, it’s most ill-effects can be negated. That this is more common in the breach than in practice doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

The problem with modern capitalism isn’t even that there is a sector of it controlled entirely by the skittery greed of hyperactive man-children who do nothing but make and lose money by swapping paper. In any society, you can have a clique of gamblers.

No, the problem is that so much of the economy revolves around, and is in fact dominated by, this skittery greed, this reckless gambling, this enormous creative and computative power dedicated toward gaming the system, boosting the fortunes of a small number of shareholders, and powering stock at the cost of any workers. It’s a problem because the markets have a deep impact on the way the economy is perceived, and the way it acts.

Look at right now: the DJIA and S&P 500 are both at record highs, and that’s good. It’s amazing it can happen with an anti-business socialist in the White House, you know? The problem is thinking that this in and of itself is the indicator of a sound or sustainable economy, or a just one.

The soundness is evident by the market fluctuations. A few weeks ago, things seemed bleak, as reactions to Brexit sent the market into panic. But now it has rebounded, or, as CNBC said, “as fears eased over Brexit and Japan signaled more economic stimulus.” Many are crediting the new stability in Great Britain, as Theresa May is today becoming the new Prime Minister.

Now…did the markets think that wouldn’t happen? That they would be without a Prime Minister forever? Conversely, do they think that the worst of Brexit is over, just because they’ve gotten over the initial yips, even though the impact has barely begun? Do they know that a object still exists when it leaves their line of vision?

That’s sort of the point. “Markets were shaken today following turmoil in the Middle East, sun rising in east.”  It’s not the market isn’t reacting to real things. It is (oil prices, company losses, etc). It’s that it is reacting often insanely, with short-term thinking, and in a way that impacts the broader economy. The problem isn’t that the market reacts; it is that we react to it.

Our economy is tied up inextricably with gamblers who are concerned with short-term profit, and so many businesses are geared toward appeasing them. You could lose your job to make a shareholder another buck. If a mouse sprints across the trading floor you could lose your pension. It’s an insane economy, and the more you think about how precarious it is, the more terrifying it gets. I won’t pop champagne to celebrate new highs, but I might drink it to be able to sleep.