And the winner is:
Let's face it, nobody aroused more controversy and emotion in 2013 than Edward Snowden, the computer specialist who disclosed classified National Security Agency documents to the media, initiating the NSA leaks that reveal operational details of the global surveillance apparatus run by the NSA. No one touched more raw nerves in the collective American psyche than Snowden; not Barack Obama, not John Boehner, not Hamid Karzai, not Bashar al-Assad, not even Karl Rove, and certainly not Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis; sorry Time Magazine). And no one's name was on more peoples' lips world-wide after the leaks than Snowden's. These facts alone earned Mr. Snowden the Middle Class Working Stiff Person of the Year award.
Now we're not saying whether Snowden is a hero or villain; a traitor or a patriot, or just a glory hound. MCWS refuses to take a side here. We receive enough hate mail as it is, and no matter which side we choose the number of death threats would likely be the same - that's how emotional the subject of Edward Snowden is to everyone.
But consider this: what Snowden did was open the NSA's Pandora's Box to We the People, you know, the ones who are supposed to have the final say as to how this country runs. And while Obama immediately condemned Snowden's actions, he also ordered the Director of National Intelligence to arrange for "a high-level group of outside experts" to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. In December, the task force issued 46 recommendations that, if adopted, would subject the NSA to additional scrutiny by the courts, Congress, and the president, and would strip the NSA of the authority to infiltrate American computer systems. And one panel member said there was no evidence that the bulk collection of phone data had stopped any terrorist attacks. It was Snowden who got our elected officials to get off their collective asses and do the job that the good citizens of this country elected them to do.
In December 2013, a federal judge ruled that the government had "almost certainly" violated the US Constitution by collecting metadata on nearly every phone call within or to the United States. Ten days later, a different federal judge ruled the surveillance program was legal, raising the likelihood that the constitutionality of the program would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. Deciding the legality of the actions of a government agency some consider a rogue player that has gained too much independence from legal scrutiny is something the US courts should have been doing all along; Snowden was the catalyst that forced the government's hand on this.
Beyond our borders, Snowden's leaks spawned a global debate. Before the year ended, a United Nations committee unanimously adopted an anti-spying resolution to "protect the right to privacy against unlawful surveillance" in the wake of reports that 35 foreign leaders were subjects of US eavesdropping. Now the United States is certainly not the only nation that spies on everyone around them. But we seem to have taken it to new and frightening levels that were thought to exist only in futuristic novels before now. Since 911, certain entities in the United States government have been stoking the fires of intense fear in its citizens as an excuse to conduct surveillance that violates the privacy of every one of us, at the same time trying to convince us that they're dong us a favor. Snowden's actions have made us question this logic, as truly it should be questioned.
So it was no contest, Edward Snowden won the MCWS Person of the Year award hands down (sorry Pope Francis, maybe next year).
For more information on Snowden's leaks and the world-wide reaction they caused, visit
Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
When I run outa things to investigate
Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
Hope I don’t find out anything . . . hmm, great God!
Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues, Bob Dylan, 1962
Most of us have been making joyful plans to spend the holidays with loved ones, looking forward to the wonderful experience of spending quality time with the people we most care about. One young woman, 17-year-old Claire Davis of Littleton Colorado, just a girl really, won’t be home for Christmas, and neither will her family. You see, Claire was shot at point blank range by 18-year-old Karl Pierson who came to school one day armed with a shotgun, ammunition, and Molotov cocktails. Apparently Pierson had nothing personal against Claire; Claire just happened to be in his line of fire.
All of the same tired conversations, rhetoric, and opinions will emerge again, just a year since those same conversations happened after the Newtown massacre. The president of the NRA will likely show up on TV again telling us that the problem is too few guns rather than too many, because if everyone is armed to the teeth these things won’t happen. I’m not sure I understand the logic of that opinion, but the fact is Claire and her family won’t be spending Christmas at home; they’ll be spending it in a funeral parlor.
We’ll all participate once again in conversations about the ready availability of guns to youths, the inalienable right of Americans to own weapons, the need for more mental health screening of troubled children, why, how, and if guns should be better regulated, whether some types of weapons should be banned altogether, the effects of violence on TV and in video games in contributing to heinous acts by youths like Karl Pierson, the breakdown of the family in America, all the same conversations we had a year ago. We’ll talk and we’ll talk, and we’ll beat this thing to death again talking about it, because when needless tragedies like this happen, Americans like to talk. And after we wear ourselves out talking, we’ll turn and walk away from it. But the talk doesn’t change anything. And to tell you the truth, all that talk probably doesn’t mean much to the Davis family, because Claire won’t be coming home for Christmas. The presents they thoughtfully bought for her and carefully wrapped and placed under the tree will remain there unopened.
Claire’s death was senseless and sick and it could have been prevented, we all know that. But it’s not Karl Pierson’s sickness. There were plenty of deranged kids when I was a child in the 1950s but none of them took weapons to school and blew away their classmates and teachers. I’m talking about the sickness, cancer really, that is eating away the foundation of American society: consumerism, lust for money, greed, dishonesty, self-centeredness, the death of community, the demise of family values, and ultimately the death of American society and of Claire Davis, and of others like her yet to happen. That’s the sickness that killed Claire and murdered the 26 souls at Newtown. That’s the sickness that’s killing us all. And that’s why Claire Davis won’t be home for Christmas.
So this holiday season, rather than talking and posturing and taking the same stance you took last year when this happened in Connecticut, I urge my fellow Americans to instead sit down with your loved-ones and during that period of prayer or silence just before the meal, for a moment, just a brief moment, ponder in silence the Davis household and what it would be like to be in a family that knows all too painfully that Claire won’t be home this Christmas, or any future Christmas for that matter. For once, sit in silence, open your mind, and let the truth in.
Claire Davis died today, and another small piece of all of us, of America, died with her.
By now I expect everyone’s aware of the next great American Mideast Blunder we are about to undertake. I, like most thinking, feeling humans, feel great compassion for the innocent people who are suffering at the hands of the criminal government in Syria, but at the same time, I can't see where we can do anything positive about it, especially if it involves more killing. It just doesn't work - when are we going to wake up and admit that?
I figure we should either nuke all of the government installations throughout that country – everything, I mean level it, obliterate it, and make those areas uninhabitable for the next 1,000 years, - in one big air strike, and be done with it, I’m sure they’ll get the message. Either that, or stay the hell out of their affairs! Nothing in between will work. And while I’m optimistic that the former option will achieve our intended (short-term) objective, I much prefer the latter. As soon as the government is taken out over there, the new group in power will act the same way, or it will degenerate into total chaos as each rebel faction goes to war against all of the others. That's just the way it is in those countries and there's nothing we can do to change that. Look at Iraq.
You can’t listen to the US government “leaders” in the hope of getting straight facts on the issue, so I urge all of my fellow Americans to watch these two segments from the is latest episode of Moyers & Company:
Phil Donahue is the guest host, and the two guests are military historian Andrew Bacevich:
and Deborah Amos, a Mideast correspondent for NPR who has visited the huge refugee camps in Jordan, and other countries surrounding Syria.
Having read Bacevich’s book The Limits of Power that addresses our Afghanistan and Iraq fiascoes, I find his perspective on America’s involvement in the Mideast probably the most intelligent and well thought out of anyone who has been analyzing it. And Amos’ report on the refugee camps coupled with the likely additional impact a strike by the US will have on the plight of Syrian civilians is something every American needs to listen to in order to realize that we need to stop this fiasco before President Obama goes ahead with it.
It's all been said before, it's all been tried before, but we never seem to learn from any of it.
Nobody's right when everybody's wrong. Buffalo Springfield
Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. The Who
How many deaths does it take 'till he knows that too many people have died? The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind. Bob Dylan.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who probably knows more about international political affairs than all of Washington’s politicians combined, said it clearly in his book Strategic Vision: America must avoid direct intervention in the affairs of Mideast nations and instead use diplomacy and leverage with our allies to seek positive change over there. Sure, it may not work, but I can say definitively that American military action in Syria will certainly not work.
For all the faithful followers of this blog (all four of you), I have to apologize for hanging it up over the past several months. I published my last post on February 28 then dropped out of sight, and I’ll tell you why. For all of January and most of February, I was suffering from a nasty virus that was circulating and I got hit harder than most. This was uncommon for me – I exercise regularly and typically get over such illnesses quickly, but not this time. When I finally did get over the flu or whatever it was, I was left with almost no energy, and this went on for months. I went to every doctor imaginable and underwent a myriad of tests, blood tests, gastrointestinal tests, heart tests, and each showed there was nothing wrong with me. Go figure.
The heart doctor I visited finally told me I was suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is another way of saying “we have no clue what’s wrong with you.” My general practitioner came closest to the truth I believe when he said, “you know, we can’t rule out stress as a causative factor.”
I am one of the lucky middle class workers in this country, I have a steady job, benefits, and a good salary, but there has been a price to pay for this. Through the year running up to my New Year 2013 illness, I, like most Middle Class Working Stiffs, have been overworked in an office that is (perhaps intentionally) understaffed, having to deal with an enormous nit-picky bureaucracy that is generally typical of doing business in today’s world, and a barrage of deadlines that never end and tend to keep everyone in my office on edge. In short, my job burned me out, and I have to conclude that therein lies the culprit of my current health status.
I had to drop a number of activities from my agenda until I regained my strength, and the blog and two books I am trying to complete have been victims of the roll-back. Believing that the perpetual stress I am subject to at work is the root cause of my “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, I have come up with a name for the illness: “Middleclassworkingstiff’s Disease.
Having been pretty much told by my doctors that there was no more they could do to help me, I decided to take matters into my own hands and revved up my bicycling (commuting, weekend errands, etc.), and while I am still fatigued much of the time, my body has become stronger and more toned than ever and I am actually reasonably healthy notwithstanding the fatigue. I decided it was time to get back into the center of the political and social chaos of this great nation of ours by starting up the blog again, if not because I’m feeling all that energized these days, but because with the looming Syrian War we are about engage in, I can’t keep quiet any longer.
So stay tuned, I may not be as consistent as I was back in 2012, but I’ll be posting as much as I can in the coming weeks and months.
Let’s face it, when it comes to America’s finacial matters, our elected officials are like a bunch of roosters strutting across the barnyard hoping to gain points with the chickens. Look at the so-called “fiscal cliff”, and now the “sequestration”, vague terms at best designed to scare the general public and get us to hang on their every word and watch all of their meaningless posturing.
I’ve got news for you, I’m not going for it because Congress’ antics hold no more significance than those roosters strutting across the barnyard saying “Look At Me!!” It’s all showmanship and nothing more. These guys could get together, come to a compromise and do something useful for Americans like me, but instead they’d rather just play make-believe. I’d like to see how long I’d have a job if I pulled that behavior where I work, and I make a whole lot less than they do.
Whenever we’re faced with another one of these concocted crises–and they’ve engineered it so that they pop up continuously one after the other-I‘ve developed the only logical way to deal with it. I don’t pay any attention while it’s playing out and only tune in on the day the axe is scheduled to fall on Middle Class Working Stiffs like me to see how badly I’m going to get screwed.
After all, what else can any of us do? I’m certainly not going to live in fear day after day watching them act out yet another melodrama that’s worse than one of those low-grade B movie that plays on the local TV station at 2AM. They want me to pay attention to them-they live for that-but I’m not going to give them the satisfaction. This whole situation has become so ludicrous that it’s embarrassing to me as an American and insulting to me as a thinking human being.
The next time another fiscal cliff rolls around, and I expect that’s going to be sooner rather than later, someone should consider throwing Congress off a nice tall physical cliff, because the country would be better off without all of their nonsense.