Saturday, January 14, 2006

The tortured banality of evil: the more things change the more they remain the same

A couple pieces that caught my attention:
Individually, the new "dots" supplied by revelations about the Iraq war in James Risen's State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration are not very surprising. Collectively, though, they provide valuable insight into the peculiar way in which President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared to launch an unprovoked war - shades of Germany and Quisling Austria two generations ago. Needed: power-intoxicated leaders, court functionaries to serve them, and obedient military leaders able to subordinate conscience to career requirements.

Risen's book throws new light on just how Bush and Blair led their countries into war. It is a case study of the pitfalls in marginalizing foreign policy bureaucracies in favor of sycophants one level down. That part of his book is as revealing as Risen's now-famous disclosures of illegal eavesdropping on Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA). Cumulatively, the "dots" furnished by Risen illuminate US-UK plotting and planning in 2002 - a year that will live in infamy.

Nerdified Link
Burgdorf, Switzerland - A Swiss investigator said on Friday European governments had been complicit in illegal CIA activities in the "war on terror," after reports that the Americans ran secret prisons in Europe.

Swiss senator Dick Marty, investigating the allegations for the 46-nation rights group Council of Europe, said he was personally convinced of the existence of the detention centers but had yet to come up with concrete proof.

"It's not possible to transport people from one place to another in such a manner without the secret services knowing about it," he said. "What was shocking was the passivity with which we all, in Europe, have welcomed these things."

Marty is to present a preliminary report to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on January 23 over reports the Americans ran centers in eastern Europe where suspects where interrogated, tortured or transported to other countries in a process Washington calls "rendition."

"Europeans should be less hypocritical and not turn a blind eye," he said at a news briefing. "There are those who do the dirty work abroad but there are also those who know when they should close their eyes when that dirty work is being done."

Nerdified Link


Who Are We Killing? And Is Anyone Counting?

Imagine a regular day. It's winter so it's cold. Other than that, it's a regular day. Your children are running around. The little one is still coughing so you make sure he puts his hat on. You worry about how to keep the house warm. You go about your business.

Except some people in the other side of the planet have sent a personless machine to kill you and your childern. And that's that.

Read the rest at Under the Same Sun. A related perspective from Lenin's Tomb:
Meanwhile! The United States kills 18 people in a terrorist attack on Pakistan, claiming initially to have killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in the raid. It is now clear that he was not there. That is not the reason why this was a crime, of course. In that case, the only crime would be poor intelligence. And it is not just that the US was insufficiently solicitous with the Pakistani authorities before launching the strike. State sovereignty is important, especially when the alternative is unrestrained imperialist rule, but the weak client-state in Pakistan has long been a surrogate of US power in the region. It is that the US assumed the right to drop a bomb in a civilian area on the assumption that someone they want is there, regardless of how many are murdered in the process. And further, they must stand upon this right because they calculate that if he is not there, such an attack would certainly terrify anyone thinking of supporting or 'harbouring' the enemy. Were Iran to launch such an attack on a neighbouring state, one would hear 'bloody murder' hallooed from every cathode tube. Instead, the news tonight restrains itself to the thought that the US will have to admit to itself that Zawahiri is still on the wanted list: the story, then, is about the US government and the putative psychological drama it undergoes in facing up to a mistake, not about those it has murdered and not about when it will be brought before the UN and faced with sanctions.
My emphasis added.

Some thoughts for this weekend:

Courtesy of Lenin's Tomb: Genocide and the West.
If one thing compels itself with brutal clarity, it is that we are not entitled to consider genocide as something pathologically external or alien: it is absolutely part of the rule of capitalism and its system of competing nation-states. The word should haunt the discourse of liberal imperialists, who happily use it to describe the actions of official enemies, yet miss it when it is right in front of them.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Some tentative thoughts on genocide and torture: Part Two

This is a continuation of Part One from yesterday. We'll start with a brief description of the General Aggression Model that guides my thinking, and then give a brief overview of some of the distal risk factors involved in torture. Part Three will cover proximate causes of torture. Subsequent installments will focus on genocide.

General Aggression Model

The General Aggression Model (GAM) is a social-cognitive model that includes situational, individual, and biological factors that interact to produce a variety of cognitive, emotional, physiological and behavioral outcomes (Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Anderson & Carnagey, 2004). In any individual act of aggression, there are two basic classes of input variables: situational and individual. The former may include such stimuli as provocations (e.g., insults, frustrations) or cognitive cues (e.g., the presence of firearms). The latter may include individual variation in terms of personality and attitudes and in biological makeup. These input variables interact to prime three routes to aggression: cognitive (e.g., aggression-related scripts or schemas; see, e.g., Huesmann, 1998), affective (e.g., hostile feelings, expressive motor responses), and physiological (e.g., increases in heart rate or blood pressure). Variables traversing these routes in turn influence a person’s immediate appraisal of the situation. This immediate appraisal occurs automatically (e.g., outside of consciousness and control), and includes an interpretation of the situation (e.g., the potential for harm, malicious intentions of target person) and an interpretation and experience of affect (e.g., anger at target person). Once an immediate appraisal of the situation has been made, reappraisal may occur. Reappraisal is a thoughtful, effortful, and conscious process in which the individual considers additional information concerning the situation, alternative behavioral responses to the situation, feasibility of the various alternatives, and consequences of carrying out the various alternative behavioral responses. Because reappraisal is an effortful process, it is undertaken only when the individual has sufficient cognitive resources available. The immediate appraisal and reappraisal stages are analogous to the stages of social inference described by Anderson, Krull, & Weiner (1996) and Krull & Erikson (1995). At the final stage in the model, there is a behavioral outcome in which the individual acts in an aggressive or non-aggressive manner.

In our efforts to understand phenomena such as torture and genocide, it is important to stress the role played by input variables that are both distal and proximate. Distal variables are ones that are part of the perpetrators’ social background over a long period of time, which will influence their readiness to behave violently (Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Anderson & Carnagey, 2004). Distal factors that are most salient for our purposes include cultural norms that support violence, group conflicts, difficult life conditions, deprivation, diffusion of responsibility, lack of bystander intervention in violent encounters, exposure to violent media and propaganda, and past victimization experiences (Anderson & Carnagey, 2004). Proximate risk factors include those situational and individual variables that are present in the current social episode. Proximate situational variables that are salient for our present purposes include the presence of social stressors, physical and verbal threats, media violence, the presence of weapons, and pain and discomfort. Proximate individual variables include trait aggressiveness, attitudes toward violence, acceptance of cultural stereotypes, self-efficacy beliefs about violent behavior, and aggressive and violent behavioral scripts stored in long-term memory.

Figure from Anderson and Carnagey (2004).

Distal Causes of Torture

1.) Cultural norms. In examining distal precursors to torture, we must certainly include cultural norms that support violence. For example, there is little doubt that prior to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the United States showed widespread societal acceptance of excessive military force and torture (Chomsky, 2004; Churchill, 2003; Zinn, 1995). America’s history is replete with violent lynchings and genocide domestically and excessive violence internationally (see, e.g., Churchill, 2003; Graham & Gurr, 1979; Zinn, 1995) along with a pattern of bending – if not outright breaking Constitutional and international laws and treaties in order to carry out said violence (Churchill, 2003). In fact, for a “nation of peace” hardly a year has gone by in which there hasn’t been at least some military action carried out either domestically or internationally (Churchill, 2003). That history is coupled with a sort of cultural myopia – sometimes referred to as “American exceptionalism” (see Churchill, 2003) – in which America’s treatment of others in the developing world is perceived to be based on the most noble of intentions and in which human rights abuses, when they do occur, are looked at as merely isolated exceptions contrary to otherwise “benign” policies and practices (Chomsky, 2004; Churchill, 2003). Add to that a tendency to consider those belonging to nations in the developing world as “children” in need of discipline – a metaphor that appears often in the spoken and written words of many of America’s political and military leaders, both past and present (Chomsky, 2004; see also Lakoff, 2002 for a detailed treatment of the metaphor underlying this view). From such a vantage point, it is perhaps quite unsurprising that human rights abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, occur routinely as the culture of the military system (itself a microcosm of the nation it serves) invites soldiers to perceive themselves as “strict fathers” providing stern discipline to “wayward children” (Lakoff, 2002).

2.) Violent media and propaganda. As part of the cultural Zeitgeist in states that sanction torture, we will find evidence of widespread exposure to propaganda designed to demonize and dehumanize the victims. In the United States, for example, Muslims have been portrayed in the mass media for decades as backward savages who have no respect for international law and who pose a threat to Western civilization. The Greek torturers studied by Haritos-Fatouros (2003) had certainly been exposed to various forms of anti-communist and university student propaganda prior to joining the Greek military. Individuals exposed to media violence become more prone to behave violently due to two factors. First, exposure to media violence (e.g., films, video games, music, literature) is linked to increased levels of aggressive behavior in both lab experiments and field studies. Longitudinal research also shows that the effects of media violence exposure can linger for decades. Huesmann (1998) contends that exposure to media violence leads to the storage of violent behavioral scripts in long-term memory which may be invoked at a later time. The more exposure that individuals have to media violence, the more they rehearse those behavioral scripts, thus making those behavioral scripts increasingly automatic. Second, exposure to media violence serves to desensitize individuals to violence. Individuals become less likely to notice violent behavior and less likely to intervene if they do notice.

If you favor Roe, you must vote no

That would be my simple advice to those Democrats and the handful of so-called moderate Republicans in the Senate regarding Alito. Steve Gilliard has this to say:
The Dems big problem is not Alito or Roe, but the unwillingness to fight for anything, anywhere. Harry Reid has reversed that, but too many Dems use this bullshit excuse "oh, this will hurt us". Well it may, but not nearly as much as not fighting at all. There are other, even more importanrt fights coming up, but if you can't fight on principle now, when the choice is clear, by the time you decide to fight, it will be too late. No one will trust your guts or heart. I think the Dems have done a good job in the minority in the last year, but to change the Congress, you need a sense that electing Democrats will create change, that they will stand up for average voters.
If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Said it before and I'll say it again. I'm a bit less sanguine than is Steve regarding the job the Dems have done as a minority party since the beginning of 2005. That said, I do agree that when you have a nominee for SCOTUS who has a sufficient paper trail that shows his true colors, the choice is clear. Whether it's Roe or granting the President even more unchecked power, Alito is on the wrong side. My challenge to Dems (and to so-called moderate Repubs alike) is to do the right thing by the Constitution and block this nominee. In that regard, Arlen Specter has already failed the test. Who else will fail their constituents?


24 should not be seen as a simple popular depiction of the sort of problematic methods the US resorts to in its "war on terror". Much more is at stake. Recall the lesson of Apocalypse Now. The figure of Kurtz is not a remnant of some barbaric past. He was the perfect soldier but, through his over-identification with the military, he turned into the embodiment of the system's excess and threatened the system itself.

The problem for those in power is how to get people do the dirty work without turning them into monsters. This was Heinrich Himmler's dilemma. When confronted with the task of killing the Jews of Europe, the SS chief adopted the attitude of "somebody has to do the dirty job". In Hannah Arendt's book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, the philosopher describes how Nazi executioners endured the horrible acts they performed. Most were well aware that they were doing things that brought humiliation, suffering and death to their victims. The way out of this predicament was that, instead of saying "What horrible things I did to people!" they would say "What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!" In this way, they were able to turn around the logic of resisting temptation: the temptation to be resisted was pity and sympathy in the presence of human suffering, the temptation not to murder, torture and humiliate.

There was a further "ethical problem" for Himmler: how to make sure that the executioners, while performing these terrible acts, remained human and dignified. His answer was Krishna's message to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita (Himmler always had in his pocket a leather-bound edition): act with inner distance; do not get fully involved.

Therein also resides the lie of 24: that it is not only possible to retain human dignity in performing acts of terror, but that if an honest person performs such an act as a grave duty, it confers on him a tragic-ethical grandeur. The parallel between the agents' and the terrorists' behaviour serves this lie.

But what if such a distance is possible? What if people do commit terrible acts as part of their job while being loving husbands, good parents and close friends? As Arendt says, the fact that they are able to retain any normality while committing such acts is the ultimate confirmation of moral depravity.

Nerdified Link

Hat tip to The Angry Arab News Service.

Mickey Z reminds us

that "the COINTELPRO era was a detailed preview of what was to come."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Some tentative thoughts on genocide and torture: Part One


The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Punishment or Treatment (UN General Assembly, 1984) defines torture as: "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” Acts that would be considered torture under the above definition include a variety of methods: severe beatings, electric shock, sexual abuse and rape, prolonged solitary confinement, hard labor, near drowning, near suffocation, mutilation, hanging for prolonged periods, deprivation of basic biological needs (e.g., sleep, food, water), subjection to forced constant standing or crouching, and excessive continuous noise. Torture may also include actions inducing psychological suffering such as threats against the victim’s family or loved ones.


Arguably the best definition of genocide is that of Raphael Lemkin (1944, p. 79). The origins of the term genocide come from the Greek root genos (meaning "type" - think along the lines of tribe or race) and the Latin word cide (meaning "killing"; Lemkin, 1944; see also Churchill, 1997). Lemkin describes genocide as having “has two phases: destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and colonization of the area by the oppressor's own nationals." Lemkin states further that, “genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves (even if all individuals within the dissolved group physically survive). The objectives of such a plan would be a disintegration of political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed at the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed at individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group" (p. 79). Genocide could thus be seen to include a wide array of actions that contribute to the annihilation of a target group, including destruction of the target group’s crops (e.g., via fire or chemical agents), destruction of the target group’s infrastructure, the mass murder of women of child-bearing age and children, forced sterilization of members of the group, indoctrination into the dominant group’s cultural practices at the expense of the target group’s own traditions, forbidding the target group from engaging in its traditional religious and cultural practices, etc. (Churchill, 1997, 2003, 2004; Sartre, 1974). From the above definition, a number of events can be labeled genocide, including Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, the annihilation of numerous indigenous societies in the Americas by European colonialists and later the US government, the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians, the mass killings of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and the US government’s combination of wars and sanctions aimed at the Iraqi population, to name but a few (Chomsky, 2004; Churchill, 1997, 2003, 2004; Friedberg, 2000; Sartre, 1974; Stannard, 1992).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Quotable: Hunter S. Thompson

The late HST was one of those cats I've dug for more years than I would care to count. Cynical rage wrapped in dark humor is something I deeply relate to, as I imagine many others do in these bleak times. He knew the edge - both in a psychological and a social sense - arguably better than anyone else of his generation.

A little something I stumbled upon via a blog called Road to Bitchville (good blog, btw):
"Dear Charley:
If you ever get the feeling that you've lost touch with everyday John Doe reality, go out and do what I did today. Look for a job. Not a TV slot or anything where you already have leverage, but just any job that several thousand people in the immediate vicinity can do just as well as you can. It is a truly humbling experience. I haven't done it in five years, and then only for a few months in New York, which is different. But jesus! I didn't realize until today why so many people re-enlist in the army. I also used to think "dehumanizing" was a New York liberal cliche. My treatment at the hands of various clerks and receptionists reminded me of the old Nazi theory about giving little people just enough power to let them feel big. [...]

My situation today was like that of a man whose job has been croaked forever by automation. Assuming that was his only real skill, he can't compete in any other job market -- so he gets in line for whatever comes up for grabs. Down in the ditch, scrambling for the high ground, elbows churning. This may be a white cousin of the Harlem syndrome: degradation leading to frustration leading to violence. If so, rape and mugging will soon be passe. The new thing will be senseless violence, an outburst of supposedly normal people running amok in the streets with tire irons and butcher knives. At the end of the afternoon I came home and kicked the dog. And that was only one day.

I see that my unnerved state has prevented me from fully explaining what I undertook today. Not much, really. Very simple: I offered myself on the labor market, claiming experience in just about everything but journalism. And I suppose that 20 or so days of the same brutal seeking might lead to employment of some kind, but at the end of 20 days I'd be reduced to jelly. You ought to try it sometime, especially if you ever hear yourself deploring the public's taste for escapist entertainment. If what I got today was a valid taste of the workaday world I can easily understand why the poor bastards who never get out of it don't want documentaries on Vietnam or "problem dramas" when they get home at night.

Anyway, I gave up. Or maybe not, but if I try again it will have to be something physical. Right now I'm hustling on a short story that should sell, interrupting the novel I've been wrestling with ever since you left. I'm writing somewhat desperately of late, but fiction doesn't depress me like journalism. It's harder, but much more human work.

[...] At times I think I've drifted all the way past communism, to a stance of violent anarchy. I have a definite suspicion that most minds in this country's power structure view the poor as Mistah Kurtz, in "Heart of Darkness," viewed the Congo natives: "Exterminate the brutes!" Which would not bother me so much were it not that I'm one of the poor. In this light I can see Oswald's act as a massive achievement, a sort of ultimate retaliation. Warped reasoning, no doubt, but in Oswald's mind it must have seemed beautiful. You don't just belt a fat-face clerk at some employment agency or write letters to the editor or march on some violent picket line, but flip completely out of the framework of conventional protest and go for the holy jugular. Aside from being a fantastic shot, the man had a hell of an imagination. What will they do with the money he accumulated in his social security account?

Another story I want to work on ASAP concerns the reaction of the press corps to the president's decision to grow a beard. First a rumor, then a planned leak by desperate staffers, and finally a nightmarish appearance before a joint session of Congress. But no mention of the beard, no explanation, no official comment. How does it strike you? Could I sell it to Friendly? Would Eric Sevareid buy it?

This is the sort of thing that doomed me with the Observer. Anyway, let me know if you think a TV version has possibilities. We could do it like the Orson Welles Martian thing -- pull it off as a newscast, follow it day by day, interviews with Cabinet men and pundits. The meaning of it sir? Is the president quite mad? How to prepare the public for it?

Well, I see I sound a bit drunk here, but I'm not. I think it's the shock of coming in contact with the job market after a long absence. God help us when this Beatle generation begins to feel the screws tightening on them; that will be the time to move to Montana for real. [...]


Have that feeling you might have missed something?

Check out If you knew...1/9/06 for a round-up of some news items deserving wider circulation. In today's increasingly fascist society, remember the establishment's motto: "what you don't know helps us to hurt you."

Monday, January 9, 2006

Yes, I live in the state that sent this nut to the Senate:

Tom Coburn today as the Alito SCOTUS nomination hearings begin:
COBURN: You know, how is it that we have sodomy protected under that due process but prostitution unprotected? It's schizophrenic. And the reason it's schizophrenic is there's no foundation for it whatsoever other than a falsely created foundation that is in error.. I don't know if we'll ever change that. It's a measure of our society.

But the fact is that you can't claim, in this Senate hearing, to care for those that are underprivileged, to those that are at risk, to those that are vulnerable, to those that are weak, to those that suffer and, at the same time, say I don't care about those who have been ripped from the wombs of women and the complications that have come about throughout that.

So, the debate, for the American public -- and the real debate here is about Roe.

Five Quirks

Man Eegee tagged me to reveal five quirks or odd habits, so here goes - and yeah, I'm pretty quirky:
  • I’m a not-quite-recovering packrat. It’s safe to say that I have more useless junk than I’d care to admit. Old documents get stored in various locations around the house and office under the pretense that they might be useful some day. I still have old calendars that I have yet to throw away, as well as lecture notes dating back to my undergrad days.
  • I have a huge collection of coffee mugs, most of which never get used. The ones I do use get rinsed out on a regular basis. The others either reside in a cupboard at home or on one of the book shelves in my office.
  • I’m a bit of a walking encyclopedia of trivia, especially of pop culture. Let’s just say that I can recite the one known verse of Vogon poetry at the drop of a hat.
  • I used to require a separate plate for each food item during dinner – I would get squeamish if food items got mixed together. I’ve since outgrown that (well, mostly outgrown that).
  • When I get tired, I wipe my face with my left hand. My wife noticed that our children (including our baby girl) tend to do the same thing. We're not sure if this is some sort of inherited trait or if the kids just picked it up from watching me.
Whom to tag? Decisions, decisions. Let's see...Wanda, Iggy, Lil, Rainbow Demon, Tim.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Shorter Dean:

It's a GOP scandal. They can have it:

BLITZER: Should Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, who has now pleaded guilty to bribery charges, among other charges, a Republican lobbyist in Washington, should the Democrat who took money from him give that money to charity or give it back?

DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true.

BLITZER: But through various Abramoff-related organizations and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff.

DEAN: That's not true either. There's no evidence for that either. There is no evidence...

BLITZER: What about Senator Byron Dorgan?

DEAN: Senator Byron Dorgan and some others took money from Indian tribes. They're not agents of Jack Abramoff. There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth. They have misled the American people. And now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes. The Democrats are not involved in this.

BLITZER: Unfortunately Mr. Chairman, we got to leave it right there.

Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, always speaking out bluntly, candidly.

RIP Ramona

Zapatista leader Ramona dies

Saturday 07 January 2006, 9:35 Makka Time, 6:35 GMT

A Maya Indian rebel leader and women's rights champion who became a Mexican heroine to anti-globalisation activists has died after a battle against cancer.

Comandante Ramona, a diminutive Tzotzil Maya woman and the first Zapatista rebel to appear publicly in Mexico City after a brief but bloody uprising in 1994, died on the way to hospital in the southern state of Chiapas, said Marcos, the Zapatista chief, on Friday.

"Mexico has lost one of those fighters that matter, and a piece of our hearts has been ripped out," Marcos told supporters during a speech in Chiapas.

Marcos left his jungle hideout last Sunday to start a nationwide tour that seeks more support for Indians and the poor before July's presidential election.

Nerdified Link

My kind of ad

Hat tip to Brian Flemming.

Just who's sliding into dictatorship?

Well the Bush administration quashed pictures of incoming coffins at Dover Air Force Base, put the squeeze on Arnett and Bainbridge for criticizing the war and kept out any "dissident" journalists from being embedded in forward military positions.

Today, American journalists cannot travel outside the American-controlled "Green Zone" of Baghdad. As a result, there are almost no independent media investigations in the western press. Casualty figures are released by the military only for those directly killed in combat and do not include those who later died of combat-related injuries.

The American media continues to hammer Russia, saying it is sliding into dictatorship, that it isn't democratic but run by state corporations, that Russia is a police state and that Putin is increasingly authoritarian and much closer to becoming a dictator.

Putin is a dictator? Well Senator Feingold thinks Bush acts like he is king, especially for his recent bypassing of wiretapping laws. A year ago, a book said that the position of American president is as powerful as a monarch.

The United States has the Patriot ACT with library records searching, authorization to spy on ANY American citizen even without probable cause (including legally viewing all your records PLUS "sneak and peek" visits to your home), plus Section 215 which prohibits the library or your bank or any other company from even letting you know you're under surveillance.

The U.S. has warrantless NSA searches and eavesdropping of your phone. The U.S. has American citizens held in detention for years, without charge and without access to lawyers. The U.S. has authorized torture and/or harsh interrogation techniques of prisoners, including those never charged with a crime. The U.S. has the military working with intelligence agencies to spy on and track American citizens.

Remind me again which is supposed to be the police state? Which one is supposed to be "sliding into dictatorship" and "increasingly authoritarian"?

Nerdified Link

See also: Ivy League Imperialism, Our Warfare State, NSA Spying, ad infinitum.