Daily Archives: July 17, 2013

It would appear that “Putty Put” (as George W. Bush calls him) has reached the end of his tether

Hey Glennzilla, tell Lola Montes to catch a clue from Jessica Rabbit

And now the REAL Story

“Over” Surveillance or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the “Red Squad”


“Hey, let’s rush ‘em!” somebody said. It was a typical autumn afternoon in 1961 on the Morningside Heights campus of New York’s High School of Music and Art, and a group of kids were engaged in a hallowed “prank.” They ran up to the unmarked police car that was invariably parked in front of the school building, yelling at the out-of-uniform cops inside of it. This would cause said cops to gun the engine and hurriedly take off – much to our amusement. Roughly 15 to 20 minutes later these same cops would be back – parked in a different spot to resume their activities – which consisted of taking pictures of the students as they came and went from the building. The “Red Squad,” as they were (un)lovingly known, was permanent fixture in our lives – and my first exposure to the brand of surveillance that a government –contracted cyber-spy named Edward Snowden has recently made a major “Mainstream” news story.
Why were our pictures being taken? Because the student body was rife with the offspring of radical American leftists; the so-called “Red Diaper Babies.” One of our number, Mike Zagarell went on to run for Vice President in 1968 on the Communist Party ticket. Mike was a familiar figure on the M&A campus, always running around with leaflets devoted to one left-wing cause or another – the most memorable of them warning about the coming U.S. invasion of Vietnam. Some of us were interested in what Mike had to say. Most of us weren’t. We were all about culture. This was “The High School of Music and Art” after all. But we were students at what the great late 60’s comedy troupe “The Firesign Theater” would lovingly refer to as “Communist Martyrs High” and therefore “fair game” for government surveillance. What happened to these pictures? They doubtless went into the files that were being created for us by the FBI under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover. We were all “subversives” that needed “looking after.” When the Vietnam war began – the mini-sized protests Mike Zagarell instigated soon metastasizing into a massive protest movement involving hundreds of thousands of young American who prior to this had never been involved with politics before, things changed radically. M&A students had no fear the “Red Squad” would physically assault us. But the same couldn’t be said of those who witnessed the violence the Chicago police unleashed on anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic Party convention, and when on May 4, 1970 when the Ohio National Guard fired on unarmed student protesters at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine others (one of who suffered permanent physical paralysis.) This horror had its sequel on May 14 in a similar massacre at the African-American dominated Jackson State College in Jackson Mississippi where two were killed and twelve were injured. Happily such government-sponsored killings didn’t become the rule, stateside. In other countries we had our army to do the dirty work – or the “death squads” of our “allies” (particularly in Latin America.) For the most part Americans were safe on their home turf – with a few exceptions.

Back in the early 1990s I was hauled off an RTD bus in broad daylight, handcuffed and thrown to the ground with a revolver placed against my temple by a pair of police officers who (as I later learned from a local news broadcast) had apparently “mistaken” me for a much shorter, much darker man. I had been observed by a police helicopter, which unlike the M&A “Red Squad” wasn’t operating close enough to do its job without error. Errors of another sort popped up a few years later when Secret Service agents, accompanied by members of the LAPD (guns drawn) came knocking at my door. They were inquiring about threats they said I had allegedly made to then President George W. Bush. Mystified by the charge, as I had done no such thing, I discovered in our resultant doorway conversation (I refused to allow these people access to my apartment) that they were referring to a comment I had made in an internet chat room that was reported to them by the “wingnut” website “Free Republic.” It was a quotation form Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II “Remove their head and let them preach upon poles for trespass to their tongues.” I was referring not to President Bush but the “Mainstream” media. Once my antagonists were informed of that fact, and who Christopher Marlowe was, they went away. But that was what we refer to as “real life.” According to Edward Snowden and his newly self-appointed business manager, Glenn Greenwald, things are supposedly different in cyberspace, where presumably (pace Alien) everyone can hear you scream.

Everyone, it seems, except Frank Rich, who in New York magazine recently observed “Snowden’s flair for self-dramatization, and that of his fans in the news media and politics, should not be confused with the somewhat more mundane reality of this whole incident. His main civic contribution thus far is — in the words of President Obama and countless others — to open up a debate about the state of privacy in America. I fear that debate will not survive August.” And the reason for this is that the American people are long familiar with “privacy” invasions on the internet, what with all their “personal information” easily accessed by commercial concerns whose pop-up ads and sinister “spywear” links encourage the unwary to buy all manner of goods of questionable value on-line. The value of the “goods” Snowden is hawking would appear to be rather limited. Telling the word that the NSA is combing through our cellphone and internet records in the hope of snagging terrorists (the “New Improved” Communists) scarcely reached the level of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. In fact an argument can be made that it scarcely merits mention in the fast “Whistleblowing” scheme of things. For prior to the arrival of the Snowden showboat there was the case of Bradley Manning, the gay 26-year old U.S. Army Private, whose disenchantment with the military (“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was still in operation when he joined) coupled with his antipathy to U.S. foreign policy led to his rendering unto “Wikileaks” the clandestine “Whistleblowing” org (soon to be a major motion picture),



a wealth of material including videos of the July 12, 2007 Bagdad airstrikes, the 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan, 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cable, and 5000,000 army reports that came to be known as the “Iraq and Afghan War Logs.” Kept in solitary confinement for 11 months, Manning is presently being court-marshaled in a trial that could well result in his permanent imprisonment. Snowden would appear to be rather small potatoes by contrast. But Manning doesn’t have a pole-dancing girlfriend or Glenn Greenwald for a publicist.
As for the rest of us, the mass public panic that Snowden-Greenwald Inc. expected from the public has yet to materialize, few being subject to indignities of a police interrogation (save for African-Americans, ritually targeted for “stop and frisk” in New York) or a Secret Service “drop in.” The “Red Squad,” meanwhile has moved on the harassment of New York’s Muslim community (apparently search for Al Queda acolytes) and has been far more resistant to anyone questioning its methods than the NSA.
Oh for the “simpler days” of the unmarked cars at Communist Martyrs High!

Ah yes “a more innocent time”

Steely Dan will sing us out