The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

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The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Dan74 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:59 am

I guess this board is predominantly left-leaning, but I am interested in the full spectrum of views, so any conservatives/republicans - please feel welcome to contribute.

What caught me by surprise in this saga was the willingness of European governments to cowtow to the US and first obstruct Bolivian presidential plane in violation of diplomatic norms and then fall over each other in denying Snowden asylum.

I think the pejorative "imperialist" has been used quite frequently and I am surprised just how far the US influence extends. It seems that the powerplay between the three countries involved in this saga, namely the US, China and Russia, has been brought in sharp relief by these events. Europe seems to have come out as a US vassal, much to my surprise and possibly many of its citizens.

The other aspect is how far are the governments going to go to pursue inconvenient citizens like Snowden, Assange, Manning, etc? How many conventions and human rights are going to be trampled on, how much intimidation goes on behind the scenes and what of sovereignty of smaller powers?

I'd be interested in comments because I am still quite puzzled by it all.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:45 am

What caught me by surprise in this saga was the willingness of European governments to cowtow to the US and first obstruct Bolivian presidential plane in violation of diplomatic norms and then fall over each other in denying Snowden asylum.

I think the pejorative "imperialist" has been used quite frequently and I am surprised just how far the US influence extends. It seems that the powerplay between the three countries involved in this saga, namely the US, China and Russia, has been brought in sharp relief by these events. Europe seems to have come out as a US vassal, much to my surprise and possibly many of its citizens.
I'm not surprised at all. Ideals are dead today in the higher levels, it's all about money, sex, and power (in various orders). Unlike with Assange, the American gov't seems enraged about Snowden. No doubt they're passing money and promises of money under the table to Europe. Ecuador (where Snowden wanted to go) is playing along because of a trade agreement with the U.S. that the U.S. might cancel.

Russia is being somewhat cooperative. Which was a surprise to me. Maybe it has something to do with Russia's oil exports.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:15 am

Human societies solve problems with increased complexity. As stress increases, there are increased resources invested in policing and legitimization. After September 11th, the US and NATO invested in increased forms of internal and external surveillance, which did not exist on the same scale earlier by any means. Likewise, the internet is a complex machine and a lot of threats can be detected ahead of time by monitoring it, so logically the powers that be would be interested in watching it for signs of trouble.

If I was in charge, I'd do the same thing.

However, it was only a matter of time before certain elements in the system defected.

The thing is is that China is no better than the US in this respect. They censor, police and monitor the internet. If Snowden ends up in China, it would be a convenient defection from one power to another, rather than his just actions somehow being vindicated by a nobler nation. Likewise, Russia is a convenient enemy of the USA. Your enemy's enemy is your friend, or so the thinking naturally goes. After the leak such a country would be the logical destination, even though, again, it is not necessarily any better than Snowden's homeland.

It is in the interests of the USA to pursue defectors and make an example of them. Letting them go would set a precedent. Anyone else with similar inclinations could proceed and flee the country, largely unworried about the consequences as they get some cosy arrangements in a foreign nation.

We need only keep in mind that turncoats are nothing new.

I think what the Snowden crisis illustrates though is an increasing delegitimization of American power. A lot of Americans clearly don't believe in their nation or its global ambitions any longer. It has lost a lot of its cultural charisma. Half a century of failed wars, brutal massacres of civilians, crooked government and pseudo-democracy will do that in a country that purports to be a benevolent democracy.

This is all convenient for China and Russia because the weaker the US becomes, the more ground opens up for them. China is probably helping behind the scenes in various ways to foster feelings of disenchantment and disillusionment amongst Americans. The internet is the logical place to spark such sentiments over the long-term. You don't bring down the US through force, but internally erode her legitimacy.

Then it just takes a simple crisis for the whole thing to collapse.

I believe this is actually what's happening right now.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:54 am

A columnist pointed out yesterday that when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did so knowing full well he could face trial. He did, and the charges were dismissed. I respect that. As for Snowden, I don't respect him in the least. He signed a contract which said 'I agree not to do X' - then broke his word and fled the country. If he had resigned his position and campaigned against the NSA, I would have supported it entirely. But he didn't do that. Instead he broke his contract and fled the country taking a lot of information that he was not authorized to disclose. I don't respect that.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:58 am

Indrajala wrote:China is probably helping behind the scenes in various ways to foster feelings of disenchantment and disillusionment amongst Americans. The internet is the logical place to spark such sentiments over the long-term. You don't bring down the US through force, but internally erode her legitimacy.

Then it just takes a simple crisis for the whole thing to collapse.

I believe this is actually what's happening right now.
The Soviets were doing the same thing

Short
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeMZGGQ0ERk
(ignore the extras in the beginning and end)

Long
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3qkf3bajd4
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Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 04, 2013 4:01 am

Furthermore I think the US security services are scary, creepy and over-bearing, but consider the alternatives. China is still a one-party state and basically an autocracy, which you are not allowed to criticize because at home they have secret police, and abroad, everyone is scared of insulting them because of their financial power. In the USA, I can stand on a street corner and preach communism, I can start a political party to overthrow the CIA, or whatever I want, so long as I don't break the laws, which are enforced by the courts, not by the Government. In China you can be imprisoned for carrying a photograph of the Dalai Lama. Russia is perhaps not quite as oppressive but don't forget, 4 women were recently jailed for playing rock music in a church. We ought to carefully consider who the real enemies of freedom are.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 4:47 am

jeeprs wrote:Russia is perhaps not quite as oppressive but don't forget, 4 women were recently jailed for playing rock music in a church. We ought to carefully consider who the real enemies of freedom are.
No.

Sorry, but I have to disagree.

They sung a song about the virgin mary being a whore during mass. This is the same group who had one of their members steal a frozen chicken from a supermarket by sticking it up her vagina while on camera. One of the singers also had sex with several men while being eight months pregnant while on camera.

This organization has published footage of all of these three acts on the internet.

If that is freedom, I'd rather be a slave.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:00 am

We ought to carefully consider who the real enemies of freedom are.


Freedom is overrated.

Here in India people have their freedom, but only 44% of the population has a toilet and plenty of people starve to death. Sanitation, education, decent policing and labour rights only seem to exist for a small portion of the population. India is an extremely dysfunctional, filthy, hypocritical, corrupt and incompetent nation. It has democracy, sure, and freedom of speech, but so much of the population lives with preventable diseases. So many people are exploited in ruthless and horrible ways. Trafficking of women and even slavery are common.

Since independence the Republic of India has not really accomplished much. Delhi doesn't have 24/7 electricity, despite the nation possessing nuclear weapons. The streets are covered in filth, homeless are everywhere and basic services are never fully functional. The government is full of thieves. At partition millions of people died in the brutal massacres committed by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims.

So, all things considered, democracy hasn't worked out so well for India. Gandhi, Nehru and the others were ignorant idealists and maybe even hungry for power themselves. The British did a better job of running the subcontinent through an undemocratic colonial government than a native democracy ever managed. They screwed up plenty of times, sure, but they kept things together. They built solid well-engineered infrastructure and proper cities. The massacres of partition wouldn't have occurred if the British had maintained control for a few more decades.

That says something. Do you want freedom or do you want a decent standard of living and measure of safety?

In some cultures freedom comes with a lower standard of living, inept government and corruption on a level that infringes on people's basic necessities.

Elsewhere in Asia you can see how firm undemocratic governments and restricted freedoms were able to produce much stabler, healthier and safer countries: Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and even Japan (post-WWII Japan was not really democratic). Even China is commendable in some ways because you can walk down the street in Beijing and not have to worry about getting raped or having to wade through human faeces, unlike Delhi.

This is why I've come to think "freedom" and democracy don't apply everywhere.

As time goes on and western democracies fail economically, I suspect a lot of people will feel likewise and might become favourable to enemy powers like China (I'm not saying I am, though I concede they get some things right). Just as the Great Depression led to fascism in Europe, so too will the west's unrepayable debts lead to depression and ultimately new Caesars who fix a lot of problems yet embark on dangerous campaigns of conquest to secure resources. Spengler predicted this would happen and it is uncomfortably unfolding as he thought it would.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:16 am

Indrajala wrote:As time goes on and western democracies fail economically, I suspect a lot of people will feel likewise and might become favourable to enemy powers like China (I'm not saying I am, though I concede they get some things right). Just as the Great Depression led to fascism in Europe, so too will the west's unrepayable debts lead to depression and ultimately new Caesars who fix a lot of problems yet embark on dangerous campaigns of conquest to secure resources. Spengler predicted this would happen and it is uncomfortably unfolding as he thought it would.
Polybius as well. Another way to think of it is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Food and safety is more important than freedom, equality, or democracy.
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-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:26 am

Indrajala wrote:Freedom is overrated.


Forgive me but I think that is rather Orwellian. Besides, I don't think it is overrated - it is more that it is abused and misunderstood. I would hope that democratic freedom would provide people with the opportunity to pursue spiritual freedom. The problem is that few people even have a clue as to what that consists of. They don't even understand what it is that they don't understand. If they did understand it, then knowing that we all sink or swim together would be a part of it. But they would use their economic freedom to pursue spiritual truth. The fact that the West has turned against its own spiritual tradition doesn't help at all in that regard.

Besides, India has actually done a lot better than many would have dreamed of in the 1960's. The standard of living has overall increased since then, notwithstanding the general level of poverty that still exists. I wonder how they would have fared under Communism? I think, probably, far worse.

And as soon as you start talking in terms of trading off freedom for something else - economic advantage, or whatever - you're basically heading down the road to totalitarianism.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:30 am

Konchog1 wrote:Polybius as well. Another way to think of it is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Food and safety is more important than freedom, equality, or democracy.


Secular Cycles by Turchin and Nefedov is a study worth reading. I made an outline of their model for another purpose. I'll post the points here:

    - The cycle is broadly divided into "integrative" and "disintegrative" phases.

    Integrative secular trends:

    Expansion phase (growth)
    Stagflation phase (compression)

    Disintegrative secular trends:

    Crisis phase (state breakdown)
    Depression/intercycle

    - The integrative phase sees a centralizing tendency, unified elites and strong state conducive to internal stability and order. Internal cohesion is gained through wars of conquest which acquires new wealth while expanding state territories.

    - The disintegrative phrase sees the opposite decentralizing tendency, a weak state, divided elites and internal disorder that may result in civil wars. Wars of conquest become increasingly difficult during this phase to carry out. If they do, it is weak neighbours that are attacked, though more often than that external forces descend on the declining power. This in turn sees a loss of territory and wealth, both of which are necessary for maintaining the infrastructure, bureaucracy and elite privileges that had been established during the integrative phase.

    - During the integrative phase the population increases while declining or stagnating following the onset of disintegration. Various factors can interrupt population growth short-term (climate, disease, external enemies, etc.), but population growth restarts when the crisis is resolved.

    - The disintegrative phase is characterized by population loss that is not regained through population regrowth, even when much below the carrying capacity and Malthusian forces are suspended (epidemics, famines, war, etc.).

    Integrative and disintegrative periods are further divided into subphases:

    - Rapid population growth in the integrative period is characteritized as an expansion phase, during which time there is stable prices and little real wage decline. At this point there are few though unified elites.

    - As population density approaches and even exceeds the limits of carrying capacity, there are price increases and declines in real wages. This is called the stagflation phase. Overpopulation leads to an interest in colonization of borderlands. Commoners undergo increasing economic hardships as a result of overpopulation while the elites enjoy prosperity and their desires and numbers increase. This happens as a result of several factors. Lesser elites benefit from the economic hardships of rural farmers who during economic hardships have to sell their land or starve. They then indenture themselves as tenet farmers to their landlords who profit handsomely from such arrangements. Labourers having to live with decreased wages and competition owing to overpopulation will also sell their labour cheaply to elites. At least a few commoners will also benefit from all this and convert their newly acquired wealth into elite status. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, during which time elites are in a position to acquire additional luxuries they otherwise could not have afforded before and thereafter become accustomed to them. They and their descendants are often unwilling to sacrifice a lifestyle they feel entitled to.

    - The stagflation subphase is followed by a general crisis. The transition period between the two is often abrupt. Crisis might be heralded by pandemics, famines or state collapse and civil war. Crisis here is understood as an extended period possibly lasting a human generation or longer.

    - Population decline during the crisis period does not halt disintegration as elite overproduction from before and the related elite aspirants compete for a limited share of resources, thus leading to sustained internal disorder.

    - The crisis subphases is followed by a depression face, characterized by constant civil war.

    - The depression phase ends when the elites are eliminated through internal conflict sufficient enough that the disintegrative trend can reverse itself and a new secular cycle begins.

    - If no capable state can move forward then said depression subphase is followed by an "intercycle" of an indeterminate length.

Given the economic and social realities of much of the west these days, I'd say we're nearing the end of the stagflation phase and will be in crisis mode in the coming decades. The elites are under increasing pressure to maintain their power and positions while a lot of people at the bottom of western societies feel increasingly alienated, excluded and downright repressed by the system. Think of all the youth graduating with enormous debts and no job prospects. In the years to come if an alternative power system becomes available, promising them a better and more meaningful life, they'll probably pursue it.

That's why I think in the years to come you'll see increasing numbers of westerners defecting to China's sphere of power (assuming it doesn't collapse) or even Islam (that's already happening - think of the Canadian kids who participated in the Algerian gas plant attack).
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:37 am

Konchog1 wrote:
jeeprs wrote:Russia is perhaps not quite as oppressive but don't forget, 4 women were recently jailed for playing rock music in a church. We ought to carefully consider who the real enemies of freedom are.
No.

Sorry, but I have to disagree.

They sung a song about the virgin mary being a whore during mass.


Wikipedia wrote:On February 21, 2012, five members of the group staged a performance on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video entitled "Punk Prayer - Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!"


I personally disklike 'punk rock' and have no interest in, or time for, these kinds of anarchist antics, but the point still stands - all they did was 'offend the authorities', for which they are sent to jail. On the other hand we are talking about an individual who illegally releases gigabytes of classified information, which he was under contract not to reveal.

Personally I am far more sympathetic to 'Pussy Riot' than to Edward Snowden.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:37 am

Indrajala wrote:Freedom is overrated.


Sentiments such as these are precursors to Fascism. Similarly, Obama's suggestion that we must weigh security against privacy, etc., are also such precursors.

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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:43 am

Konchog1 wrote:If that is freedom, I'd rather be a slave.


People often prefer their own slavery if it comes at the expense of the liberty of others of whom they disapprove.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:44 am

jeeprs wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
jeeprs wrote:Russia is perhaps not quite as oppressive but don't forget, 4 women were recently jailed for playing rock music in a church. We ought to carefully consider who the real enemies of freedom are.
No.

Sorry, but I have to disagree.

They sung a song about the virgin mary being a whore during mass.


Wikipedia wrote:On February 21, 2012, five members of the group staged a performance on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video entitled "Punk Prayer - Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!"


I personally disklike 'punk rock' and have no interest in, or time for, these kinds of anarchist antics, but the point still stands - all they did was 'offend the authorities', for which they are sent to jail. On the other hand we are talking about an individual who illegally releases gigabytes of classified information, which he was under contract not to reveal.

Personally I am far more sympathetic to 'Pussy Riot' than to Edward Snowden.
No, it's the church goers who called the cops and are pressing for charges. That group is simply whining about 'oppression' because they imagine they are some kind of heroic freedom fighters. You should follow the trial.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:45 am

jeeprs wrote:I would hope that democratic freedom would provide people with the opportunity to pursue spiritual freedom.


However, you don't need democratic freedom to pursue spiritual freedom. In many cases even feudal arrangements are conducive to organized religion and philosophy as there are no barriers to directly funding such institutions. Just think of Tibet, or even pre-modern Japan, Korea and China, or ancient Rome and Greece.

Even when the Turks invaded India and started enslaving people, there were still sadhus, temples and so forth.

Communism and its anti-religious approach was remarkably successful if only because it had industrial backing. It had the material means to try and purge religion and disagreeable philosophies and institutions.


The standard of living has overall increased since then, notwithstanding the general level of poverty that still exists. I wonder how they would have fared under Communism? I think, probably, far worse.


Who knows. India has received a lot of free handouts from abroad which it squandered or misused.

There were other alternatives of course. You can have an open economy, but firm government and martial law to ensure things operate as they should (like sanitation, education and food distribution). In India asking government employees to do things is problematic. To get a passport here requires bribes (also to the cops who verify your legal address). It is like you need to force people to do the jobs you're paying them to do.

Just the other day I was at Nalanda and a government of India employee tried to intimidate me into giving him money for no apparent reason. He was brandishing a cane with a few of his security guard buddies and cornered me inside a small ruin. I didn't give him anything and instead took their photos before reporting it to the guy nominally in charge at the office. These kind of experiences in India, which are common, lead me to think that even if tourists at international heritage sites can't get by with minimum BS, how does the rest of the country work? Clearly not very well judging from how things look on the ground.


And as soon as you start talking in terms of trading off freedom for something else - economic advantage, or whatever - you're basically heading down the road to totalitarianism.


That's a common platitude from liberal westerners. It doesn't always work like that.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:51 am

Malcolm wrote:Sentiments such as these are precursors to Fascism. Similarly, Obama's suggestion that we must weigh security against privacy, etc., are also such precursors.

M


Fascism is a natural response to failed alternatives. It can only come to exist through enough people supporting it, i.e., the mandate of the people. Saying freedom is overrated is not a catalyst for fascism, not more than saying that certain police powers are necessary for internal security. Caesars come to exist because people are fed up with the way things are and become willing to sacrifice some of their freedoms and rights for a decent standard of living and hope of an acceptable future for their children.

When you can't feed your children and your wife is being assaulted by local thugs, a dictator able to remedy those problems is an appealing alternative to the status quo.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:25 am

Do you really believe that fascism comes about by popular vote? Has that ever happened?

By the way, by far the two largest famines in recent history happened under Joseph Stalin and his 'forced collectivization' and Mao's "Great Leap Forward". Literally tens of millions of people starved to death as a result of those two events. It is still a very delicate subject in China. So the actual history of dictators in that regard does not really lend a lot of support.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby anjali » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:32 am

The whole situation is such a mixed bag, like so many things in this world. What I find interesting is that a person like Snowden had access to such large volumes of damning information. And he is just the latest in a series of cases that have shown the us and abuse of power by the US.

What would be interesting to me at this point is some huge data dump from other countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, etc. Are other countries' security measures really so much better than the US? From one perspective, the US seems to be rather inept at keeping secrets. Other oppressive states, given their long histories of oppression, would seem to have a much tighter grip on classified info. We need more whistle-blowers in other countries. Assuming they would live long enough to get it out on the internet.
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Re: The Hunting of Ed Snowden - the evolving power-play

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:42 am

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Sentiments such as these are precursors to Fascism. Similarly, Obama's suggestion that we must weigh security against privacy, etc., are also such precursors.

M


Fascism is a natural response to failed alternatives. It can only come to exist through enough people supporting it, i.e., the mandate of the people.


No, Fascism never comes about because of a popular mandate.
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