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7/14/2008
THE CONSERVATIVE’S SHAMEFUL DEFENSE OF GRAMM

The cluelessness demonstrated by many conservatives regarding the comments made by now former McCain economic adviser and surrogate Phil Gramm has been a revelation of sorts. I have discovered that my own brand of conservatism is probably as irrelevant to the mainstream of conservative thought as classical liberalism is to mainstream thinking on the left. There doesn’t seem to be any room in either ideology these days for much in the way of independent thinking and nuance.

If you stray from the merciless orthodoxy imposed by political necessity and a diseased kind of group-think prevalent on both sides, you leave yourself open to the most withering kind of criticism and the ultimate disapprobation shown by your erstwhile ideological allies; you are accused of being the enemy.

No matter. I realize that my take on the Phil Gramm controversy does not comport with that of most conservatives. And the defense of Gramm’s remarks by the likes of George Will and economic historian Amity Shlaes (in the Washington Post no less) show an even greater divide between what I used to think mainstream conservatism represented and my own views. What this bodes for the future, I cannot say. All I know is that this dust-up over Gramm’s remarks has me at odds with most people I considered my ideological allies.

Forget that Gramm’s remarks about America being in a “mental recession” and that our fellow countrymen are a “nation of whiners” were insensitive, crass, stupid, and abominably ill-timed. They were just plain bad politics and trying to justify them as “true” in any sense whatsoever is the heighth of political ignorance.

To chastise your fellow countrymen who are genuinely worried about the way the world seems to be giving way underneath their feet as change and uncertainty sweeps across the country in the form of ever rising energy costs and a housing crisis to which there doesn’t seem to be any bottoming out bespeaks an obliviousness to the political realities of what is happening beyond your own small corner of the world. Your appeal to an economic Darwinism as a model for the American people to follow is as outmoded as it is despicable.

“Shut up and take it” seems to be the message most conservatives want to send to the American people. That and the fact that “technically” we are not in a recession because we haven’t had two full quarters of negative economic growth. This is not only a suicidal political strategy, it shows conservatives with as much empathy for their fellow countrymen as that of a three toed sloth.

Telling people who are genuinely hurting that they are essentially imagining the fact that they are having problems making ends meet because energy costs have doubled or that the idea that we are bleeding jobs in this country shouldn’t cause them any concern, or that affordable health insurance for them and their families is a pipe dream so you better not get sick, or saving for their kid’s college education is an impossibility so plan to go into hock up to your eyeballs, is idiotic. And then accusing them of being spoiled brats for voicing their concerns is so politically tone deaf as to be beyond belief.

No, we are not in a depression and our economic situation is not as dire as it was in 1980. But consider the following and then tell me that the 80% of people in this country who make up the middle and lower classes are imagining how times are tough.

* Payrolls contracted for the 6th straight month in June despite the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.5%

* Wages have grown only 2.8% this year - below the 4% rate of inflation. And you wonder why people are worried about falling behind?

* We have lost 578,000 non government jobs - down every month - since last November. The rate of job loss has increased each of the last three months.

* Decelerating wage increases coupled with a rising rate of inflation reveal a weak bargaining position not only for unions but for most others who count on that pay raise every year to maintain their standard of living.

* 345,000 jobs lost this year in residential construction with another 51,000 lost among non-residential builders. No one has a clue when or where this housing meltdown will end. With a government bailout of secondary mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now a foregone conclusion, things may get even tighter in the housing markets.

* Another 33,000 manufacturing jobs lost. That makes 24 straight months of losses in the industrial sector.

* The number of underemployed workers has skyrocketed; 9.9% of the total workforce is now considered underemployed. Most of these people are part timers who would rather be working full time. The total number of underemployed workers has increased over the last year from 4.3 million to 5.4 million.

* “June’s 5.5% unemployment rate represents a 1.1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate since March 2007, and an addition of 1.76 million to the unemployment rolls.”

* “Workers paychecks are under attack from three sides: diminished jobs and hours, slower hourly wage growth, and faster price growth. Moreover, most workers lack the bargaining power necessary to fend off these attacks.”

(Source: Economic Policy Institute. Quotes are direct from this report)

These numbers are not made up by the New York Times. They are not hatched in the basement of the Democratic National Committee. They are available at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to anyone who wishes to delve into the details of our faltering economy.

To have stood on the deck of the Titanic and pointed to the one half of the ship that was still above water and proclaim that the ship had not sunk yet would have, I’m sure, given absolutely no comfort to the passengers. And yet conservatives have rallied around Phil Gramm, clapping him on the back for “telling the truth” regarding our weak kneed countrymen who just don’t know how good they’ve got it.

Perception is what matters in this case. And regardless of where you believe the American people got their ideas about the economy being in trouble - a biased media, the evil Democrats, or even their own personal experience - telling them they are imagining their economic plight and that if they open their mouths to complain about the doubling of gas prices or the slow torture of watching food prices rise every week at the grocery store that they are akin to blubbering babies only shows that Republicans not only deserve to lose, they must lose for the good of the country.

The American people don’t want handouts. They don’t want government to give them a job or secure their futures. They want to know someone is listening to their concerns and understands their problems. The health insurance crisis is real. It keeps real people awake at nights worrying about their loved ones and their future. Now I don’t truck with a purely government solution to this problem and neither does McCain. But unless we understand how fundamental this concern is to the vast majority of the American people, conservatives deserve to be consigned to the back benches of power until they are educated about what affects the real lives of real people.

What defending Gramm shows is that conservatives live in an opaque bubble where they can only see shadows and undefined shapes outside of their little cocoon. They know that the people are out there but they have no insight into what their dreams and desires might be. They don’t have a clue about what moves them, what causes them concern, what worries they have about their children’s future. They are oblivious to their fears. And to top it off, they appear to be uncaring if they suffer.

Does this sound like an ideology you would vote for? Is this the recipe for conservative victory at the polls?

To demonstrate such ignorance and then be proud of it bespeaks a monstrous disconnect between political reality and the way conservatives have taken values like self-reliance, prudence, independence, and thrift and turned them into a club to beat their fellow countrymen over the head. There are ways to encourage people to practice these values without disrespecting their perception of their own personal economic situation.

Gramm and his defenders have failed to do that and have instead substituted a gross economic “survival of the fittest” critique that demonstrates a singular soullessness when it comes to lecturing their fellow citizens about how conservatives have gleaned the “true” economic conditions in the country and that any other theory that contradicts this revealed truth is evidence of mental disease.

This is not the conservatism of Reagan or anyone I am familiar with. One needn’t disconnect the brain from the heart to be a conservative. But for the defenders of Gramm, there appears to be some faulty wiring that has not only led to turgid logic but also a misfiring of the empathy gene.

Not a good combination if you’re a conservative and expect success at the polls.

By: Rick Moran at 1:00 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (31)

7/12/2008
THE GREAT SETI DEBATE
CATEGORY: Science, Space

Greetings from the frontiers of science! Today’s assignment is a thought experiment involving “Active SETI” (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) which entails beaming powerful radio signals containing unmistakable proof that they emanate from an intelligent civilization out into the great void of space. The point of the exercise? To light earth up like a Christmas tree across the Milky Way galaxy so that any technological civilizations out there would have no trouble seeing us.

This method of actively seeking out intelligent life in our galactic neighborhood is the opposite of our SETI efforts to date where we use “Passive SETI” to try and listen for a message or beacon from another civilization. These passive programs date back to the 1970’s and have benefited from massive increases in our abilities to scan the radio spectrum for hints of life. Multi-channel spectrum analysis that allows us to listen to millions of “channels” from specific stars at one time has dramatically increased the chances of success - someday.

Alas, to date there has been no indications that anyone in the cosmos is interested in communicating with anyone else. We have found no beacon, no messages inviting us to make contact. And we haven’t stumbled across any inter-planetary communications networks that would prove the existence of alien life beyond earth.

But take heart. We have explored only a small piece of the sky so far and there are several good reasons why we may have even missed a message in past sweeps. We may not be technologically advanced enough to decode it. We may lack the imagination to recognize a message even though it’s been right in front of us. But the most likely reason we have yet to achieve success in our SETI efforts is that there just aren’t that many civilizations transmitting.

Does this mean that there are fewer advanced civilizations than we thought? This is a definite possibility. It could very well be that the deck is stacked against any intelligent civilization reaching our level of sophistication. Rouge asteroids or comets, an unstable sun or moon, a nearby supernova not to mention the possibility that the denizens of any technologically advanced society could blow themselves up all make it a distinct possibility that while intelligent life is abundant in the universe, it doesn’t necessarily stand to reason that it survives long enough to reach out and try and touch someone.

Then again, there could be another explanation for our failure to make contact with an alien race. And this reason is at the heart of the debate over the passive vs. active SETI programs.

Perhaps those alien civilizations know something about the neighborhood that we don’t; that calling attention to ourselves by lighting earth up like a flare in the blackness of space might bring unwelcome - indeed catastrophic - attention to our planet.

The question isn’t so much are there evil alien monsters out there bent on death and destruction of any planet luckless enough to come to its attention. The question is why take the chance?

Should it be our position that all alien races are benign and would mean us no harm? The more I think about that the less I agree with it. Not necessarily because aliens would be hostile. They may have the best of intentions. As Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel points out in his book The Third Chimpanzee that any contact with an alien race is likely to resemble the contact made here on earth between advanced civilizations and primitive ones to the catastrophic detriment to the primitives. It may be best that until we have reached a level of technology more equal to our neighbors, we remain passive observers of their civilization.

And beyond that, there is the question of who decides whether escalating our SETI program to include active measures to make contact should be our policy?

Author, lecturer, scientist David Brin has thought about these issues of First Contact and other SETI matters for many years. He serves on a SETI subcommittee of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) charged with developing protocols and policies regarding our SETI efforts. It was this subcommittee that came up with the very First SETI Protocol: “Declaration Of Principles Concerning Activities Following The Detection Of Extraterrestrial Intelligence” - a great read if you are at all interested in this stuff.

This is from a piece Brin wrote two years ago about the controversy of active vs. passive SETI:

With that success behind us, we on the IAA subcommittee turned to a Second Protocol dealing with Transmissions from Planet Earth. The widely accepted draft contained articles asking that all of those controlling radio telescopes forebear from significantly increasing Earth’s visibility with deliberate skyward emanations, until their plans were first discussed before open and widely accepted international fora.

It seemed a modest and reasonable request. Why not present such plans, openly, before a broad and ecumenically interested community of experts in fields like exobiology, sociology, history and biology, at a conference where all matters and concerns could be honestly addressed? If for no other reason, wouldn’t this be common courtesy?

At first, the subcommittee drafting the Second Protocol deemed this to be obvious. Moreover, the core group at the SETI Institute seemed to concur. Indeed, this was not even a new document, but rather a revision of one that the Instituter’s own Jill Tarter presented to the UN six years ago — confirming that they once favored restraint and consultation before transmission. They are the ones who have changed their minds.

But recently… and after a draft appeared ready for submission to the IAA… several members of the IAA SETI Committee, including chairman Seth Shostak, abruptly balked and demanded alterations, abandoning even a collegial and moral call for pre-transmission discussions.

Indeed, suddenly all notions of pre-consultation or discussion — before making Earth dramatically more visible — were derided as paranoid, repressive of free expression and nonsensical. Almost no discussion of the matter was brooked; no questions were answered.

(HT: Instapundit)

I should add here for clarity that most of the scientists at the SETI Institute favor holding discussions on placing more emphasis on active search protocols. The balkers are a group of Russians for the most part who apparently have ideological reasons - among others - for not even allowing a forum for all interested scientists to participate.

Brin points out that the ideology grew out of the old Soviet model. The Russians believe any aliens receiving an active SETI message would be benign because they would be socialists! They figure any advanced intelligence would have developed along the socialist model of governing and would therefore, by definition, be peaceful.

On such stupidities might the fate of the world hang.

As I said, the question of whether or not to engage in active SETI research should hang on erring on the side of caution. This is especially true since what is driving the active SETI movement is impatience at the lack of progress in the passive SETI program. One can certainly understand the desire to reach out and attempt contact. But without examining all the ramifications by failing to invite other scientists and researchers into a debate before starting any active SETI search is not only foolhardy but unscientific.

It reminds me of the global warming debate. Scientists who will brook no opposition to their cherished beliefs vilify their colleagues who think differently. They are simply frozen out of the discussion, marginalized in the community. This has proven to be a huge mistake as more and more information challenging climate change orthodoxy is either dismissed out of hand or tainted with charges of coming from biased sources. It has had a deadening effect on scientific debate and thus has done a disservice to policy makers and the public who are groping for answers on who to believe and what to do - if anything - about climate change.

Recently, Brin updated his 2006 article with ominous news:

As of Summer 2008, Retired senior US diplomat Michael Michaud has resigned from the IAA SETI Subcommittee in protest over what he sees as continuing efforts to repress open discussion of these issues, and to disparage those who see anything wrong with METI. He was recently joined by Dr. John Billingham, one of the founding fathers of SETI and director of NASA’s long-running SETI program.

The METI folks make the point that in 20 years, anyone with a computer and a dish will be able to aim their own powerful signal at the stars so why oppose their efforts today? They make a good point while at the same time, obviating the need for active SETI research to begin immediately. There is time to discuss all of the issues surrounding active SETI before it becomes a reality.

Work on the Second SETI Protocol should continue and a consensus reached. For if we can’t come together on these basic questions regarding our potential role in a crowded universe where contact with other civilizations becomes a reality, we will be unprepared for any consequences that might arise from this success.

By: Rick Moran at 9:45 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

7/11/2008
NOW GRAMM FEELS OUR PAIN - AND McCAIN’S BOOT

Phil Gramm is still one of the smartest men ever to serve in the United States Senate. This despite his clueless statement that the US is in a “mental recession” and that Americans are a bunch of “whiners” about the economy.

Well things may very well look that way to the former Chairman of mortgage giant USB and a guy who gets $50 thousand a crack to regale fat cat businessmen with stories of how stupid our government is and how the private sector is always smarter. I’m sure from the vantage point of someone whose idea of rough economic times is cutting back on the number of manicure’s he receives a week from 3 to 2, things are just peachy.

The former Texas senator can cite figures on why the economy is not in recession from now until Barack Obama takes the oath of office and it still won’t change the fact that the manufacturing sector of our economy is losing jobs faster than Gramm’s prospects for a cabinet position in a McCain administration. This means that Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan are for all intents and purposes, in an economic slide - a real downturn and not one invented by the New York Times or the Democratic party. To tell these people that they are just having a bad dream and to stop bitching gives those with a political tin ear a bad name.

“Technically” not being in a recession is like saying that “technically” I have the body of a Greek god, a mind like Aristotle, and the compassion of Albert Schweitzer - or I would have those things if I bothered to work out, read more, and gave a good goddamn about the rest of you. It’s all a matter of perception. And you can be “technical” all you want and still not grasp the fundamental truth that it doesn’t matter where they got the idea - whether you and Phil Gramm believe it was force fed the American people by a biased media, a sneaky and underhanded Democratic party, or if they read it in a bathroom stall - the undeniable truth of the matter is that most Americans believe the economy sucks and that they feel quite vulnerable at the moment to job loss, a loss of health insurance, and the price of gas making it impossible for them to maintain their standard of living.

Politicians don’t deal in “what ifs.” They leave that kind of thing to fans of the Chicago Cubs. Those who aspire to be president deal with the reality of the here and now. And John McCain, fighting perceptions of his own lack of understanding and compassion towards working folk, cannot tolerate nor can he afford his number one economic surrogate and advisor to run off at the mouth about the American people suffering from some demented notion that times are tough and that they should ignore everything that’s going on around them and be happy.

Things may be fine in some areas of the US but in the absolutely vital states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, there is real, demonstrable economic pain. What’s more, there is a palpable sense of fear in the air in those states. People don’t necessarily want government to guarantee them a job. They want to be reassured that their leaders understand what they are going through and that, true to our traditions and history as Americans - that things will be better in the future.

No, Phil. We are not nor have we ever been a nation of whiners. Whiners don’t build transcontinental railroads or criss cross the country with a ribbon of highways. Whiners don’t win three World Wars (going on 4) or liberate billions from oppression. Whiners don’t stamp the world with cultural icons like Hollywood or even hated McDonalds. Whiners don’t create a $13 trillion economy while the rest of the world stagnates into economic ennui.

John McCain has the right idea of what to do with someone who has so little faith in America, her people, and our future:

“The person here in Michigan that just lost his job isn’t suffering a mental recession,” he told reporters after a town-hall-style meeting at a factory in this city west of Detroit.

And when he was asked whether Mr. Gramm — McCain campaign co-chairman, UBS Investment Bank vice chairman and former economics professor — might serve as treasury secretary in a McCain administration, the candidate replied with a flash of his sometimes tart humor.

“I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus,” he said, “although I’m not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that.”

Talk about throwing someone under the bus, McCain just booted Gramm through the windshield and ran over him. Definite road kill, the former Texas senator has become.

McCain has been straight talking his way across the old rust belt, telling auto workers in Michigan their jobs aren’t coming back, supporting free trade in Ohio, and talking energy in Pennsylvania. Will voters give McCain the benefit of the doubt because he refuses to pander to them? Experience says no, that the American people may not like pandering but they like hard truths even less. Perhaps McCain will get credit outside of the rust belt for telling it as he sees it.

But in those 3 vital states, his candidacy is now an even harder sell thanks to the insensitive, stupid remarks of Phil Gramm.

By: Rick Moran at 8:18 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

LOW EXPECTATIONS FOR CONGRESS

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Public approval of Congress is so low that a few Republican optimists dream of overcoming the structural factors favoring the Democrats, holding steady or even gaining seats. They are dreaming. America has a proud tradition of disdain for Congress.

In the run up to the Civil War, the floor of the US House of Representatives became the very first battlefield as northern and southern members would routinely resort to fisticuffs in order to settle arguments or points of personal honor. It was not unusual for Members to come armed with pistols to the floor, ready and willing to offer satisfaction to those who maligned them.

And you thought our Congress was a mean place today?

While the House floor back then could erupt in violence at the drop of the proverbial hat, the Senate was a different story. Here, the well born members had tradition and ceremony to stand on, preferring to leave the fighting to the riff raff over in the House — until the Spring of 1856.

It was then that the issue of statehood for Kansas roiled the Capitol and men appeared to lose their minds with passion. At the height of this controversy Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner rose to give a speech that skewered slave holders and the “harlot” slavery. Sumner painted slavery in the most sexually suggestive terms imaginable while virtually accusing every slaveholder of raping their female slaves.

One of the most horrifying aspects of slavery to the good Puritans of New England was the “freedom of the slave quarters” granted to southern masters (and their house guests). Sumner’s words were designed to recall that horror and in the process condemn not only the institution of slavery, but those who practiced it.

Sumner even got specific in his condemnation. He named the fire eating senator from South Carolina Andrew Butler as one of the practitioners:

“The Senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentimcuts of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight I mean the harlot, Slavery. For her, his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this Senator. The frenzy of Don Quixote, in behalf of his wench, Dulcinea del Toboso, is all surpassed.”

That fellow had a way with words, didn’t he? Not everyone agreed — especially Butler’s cousin Preston who heard of the calumny practiced against his kinsmen and took matters into his own hands. This is from the Official Senate History of the incident:

Representative Preston Brooks was Butler’s South Carolina kinsman. If he had believed Sumner to be a gentleman, he might have challenged him to a duel. Instead, he chose a light cane of the type used to discipline unruly dogs. Shortly after the Senate had adjourned for the day, Brooks entered the old chamber, where he found Sumner busily attaching his postal frank to copies of his “Crime Against Kansas” speech.

Moving quickly, Brooks slammed his metal-topped cane onto the unsuspecting Sumner’s head. As Brooks struck again and again, Sumner rose and lurched blindly about the chamber, futilely attempting to protect himself. After a very long minute, it ended.

Bleeding profusely, Sumner was carried away. Brooks walked calmly out of the chamber without being detained by the stunned onlookers. Overnight, both men became heroes in their respective regions.

For months afterward, Brooks received ceremonial canes from admirers across the South, several engraved with the epithet “Hit him again.” Summner, for his part, spent years in physical therapy and returned to the Senate in time to lead the Bitter End Republicans both during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

What did the American people think of displays like this? Most probably, they were hugely entertained. In a time before radio, TV, the internet, and Bill Maher, politicians were celebrities. And a politician who could deliver a stemwinder of a speech was a superstar. Can you imagine a knock down, drag out fight between say Bono and Kid Rock? The syndication rights alone would be worth millions.

On the other hand, few would pay to see our current lawmakers go at it on the floor of their respective chambers. Somehow, I can’t see Harry Reid gettin’ it on with Mitch McConnell, although Mitch has a few inches and probably 50 lbs on the Nevadan. Then again, Harry looks like one of those sneaky strong, wiry types with arms like banded steel. And don’t let that mild mannered professor look fool you either. As a kid, he would accompany his father, Harry Reid Sr., for long days deep underground in the mines. His father was a hardrock miner — not a job for the faint of heart or someone averse to hard work.

But despite seeing Congressmen and Senators as well known personages, the American people back then saw Congress as a whole pretty much the way we see it today; a healthy republican skepticism for their motives and a tendency to view the entire crew as a pretty worthless bunch. They may have liked and admired their own Member of Congress and Senators. But taken together, the Congress was seen as a bunch of greedy charlatans who were out to enrich themselves and their cronies.

If that description strikes you as apropos of today’s gaggle of congress critters, you wouldn’t be alone. A recent Rasmussen poll is great news for our elected officials. An overwhelming majority of Americans actually agree on something for once. Amidst war, a faltering economy, gas prices that are so high parents are auctioning off their children just to fill the tank, and the prospect of al-Qaeda paying a visit to your neighborhood soon, Americans have come to a consensus on one major issue.

They believe that Congress pretty much sucks.

Rasmussen reports in its latest survey that just 9% of the public gives Congress good or excellent ratings. I said this was great news for our lawmakers because it would be hard to imagine these numbers going any lower. They have hit absolute, undeniable, rock bottom. Just 2% of the public believes that Congress is doing an “excellent” job. Only 7% believe them to be doing a “good” job. Meanwhile, 88% think that Congress is doing a “fair” or “poor” job with 52% believing that 535 marmosets might do a better job than the sorry bunch currently calling themselves our Congress.

The big reason for these historically wretched numbers is the fact that the Congress has done precious little to address the major concerns of the American people. And their number one concern at the moment is the extortionate price for a gallon of gas. Energy costs for the average family have doubled this year and all the voter is seeing from our “Great Men” is handwringing and blame making. Unlike our lawmakers, the American citizen is quite the sensible person and figures that the Congress isn’t going to get anything done by being beastly to each other. They want action and they want it yesterday.

But that just isn’t in the cards with this assemblage up of pirates and grifters. As long as they’re bringing home the pork to their own districts, while making solicitous noises about knowing how tough it is for the average family in this crisis, the average voter will chalk up the problem to “all those other Congressman” and return their Member for another two years so that he/she can rob the treasury some more.

It’s depressing but true that this cycle of stupidity will be repeated once again this year. Historically, incumbent Congressmen are returned at a rate of 98% and though a few Republicans will probably fall in November, it won’t affect that percentage very much. Most Democratic gains will come in the 32 open seats vacated by retiring (or indicted) members. Being an incumbent these days is like getting dealt a straight flush every hand. The only way to lose is if you go to jail or die before scooping up the pot.

Some of my conservative friends point to these embarrassing numbers and take me to task for not believing in a GOP sweep in the fall. The Democrats, after all, are in control of this flea circus and if the Republicans could get swept away in 2006, punished for mismanaging Congress then surely the Democrats should suffer a similar fate, yes?

In a perfect world, such would be the case. CBut we don’t live in a perfect world or even a halfway tolerable one. The aftertaste of 12 years of Republican rule is still being spit out by the voter which is why in the generic vote for Congress, Democrats still lead by a comfortable 47-34 margin. People may be going broke filling their tanks with gas but they aren’t yet ready to blame the party that promises them a bountiful and clean energy future but in the meantime they should sit down, shut up, and suffer in silence.

It shouldn’t be a winning strategy but it will be. And its because people don’t expect anything from Congress anyway that allows this kind of cynicism to win through to victory.

A helluva way to run a country

By: Rick Moran at 5:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

7/10/2008
MY OBLIGATORY POST ON JESSE JACKSON DEGONADING OBAMA

These are the days that I truly hate the internet and how it has affected our politics.

Don’t get me wrong. The “Jesse Jackson ate Obama’s testicles” story is a lot of fun to write about - as you can tell already. And I make no claim to being above it all when it comes to latching on to an internet feeding frenzy and participating in these Bloggasm memes.

But really now, just what is this story about? Does anyone seriously believe The Good Reverend is going to withdraw his support from Obama or work one whit less energetically to get him elected? Can anyone possibly claim this has any relevance whatsoever to the campaign, any issue of the campaign, or is even tangentially related to presidential politics?

Of course not. This is basically a story about a racialist who sees an ascendant Obama as a threat to his little white guilt extortion racket and expressed his frustration at the fact that if Obama is elected, it will be harder to maintain his position in the African American community and hence,  the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.

Electing Obama will not prove there is no racism in America. But if Obama continues to push themes of personal responsibility for African Americans and if he continues his efforts to alter the cultural bias against obeying the law, staying in school, and getting a good education, the days of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the rest of the Victimhood Society being able to afford $2000 suits and live high off the hog will be numbered.

Taking responsibility for one’s own life be it accepting the obligations that come with fathering a child or staying away from drugs and the poisonous culture of gangs is a liberating experience - the last thing that the Jacksons and Sharptons of the world want. Absolute dependency on government for African Americans is their ally and any efforts to throw off that oppressive yoke threatens their raison d’être.

But back to Jackson’s mock threat to make a eunuch out of Obama. Or, more accurately, make Obama more of a squish than he already is. Here is Jackson’s colorful sotto voce threat while being filmed by Fox News and, unbeknownst to Jackson, a live mic:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized Wednesday for saying Barack Obama is “talking down to black people” during what Jackson thought was a private conversation before a FOX News interview Sunday.

Jackson was speaking to a guest at the time about Obama’s speeches in black churches and his support for faith-based charities. Jackson added before going live, “I want to cut his nuts off.”

His microphone picked up the remarks.

Here’s a link to the video.

To emphasize “cutting off” the remnants of Obama’s manhood, Jackson actually gave a slight “stick it to ‘em” fist pump as if he relished the idea of taking a rusty blade to said body part. One wonders in more private venues what body parts he would look forward to removing from someone like President Bush or one of the group of writers and reporters who have delved into his personal and professional life to reveal the Good Reverend as nothing more than a philandering bunko artist.

And no one has chronicled the outrageous activities of this charlatan better than Kenneth Timmerman whose unauthorized biography of Jackson revealed shocking facts not only about The Good Reverend, but also his enablers in business and government who were terrified of Jackson’s threats of being branded “racist” for not giving in to his extortion schemes.

Shakedown” chronicles in excruciating detail what Jackson is all about:

As Timmerman’s chronicle makes explicit, there were few if any things that Jackson failed to exploit for monetary value. The book’s title, Shakedown, refers to the process by which Jackson would “shake down” or extort corporations for money, threatening to call for a boycott of their products by black Americans unless they provided a certain number of jobs to minorities and made hefty donations to Jackson’s various non-profit organizations. Fearful of being labeled racists and becoming embroiled in public relations scandals, many corporate CEO’s gladly acquiesced to Jackson’s demands, doling out funds and rewarding Jackson’s business “partners,” usually wealthy black businessmen, with lucrative jobs. Left out of this process were ordinary black men and women, the ones whose collective power to boycott lay behind Jackson’s threats.

One particularly obvious “shakedown” occurred in 1999 when Jackson’s organization Rainbow/PUSH opposed the proposed merger of telecommunications giants AT&T and TCI, claiming that the companies had a “questionable employment record.” AT&T CEO Michael Armstrong instructed his company to donate $425,000 to the Jackson-controlled non-profit group, Citizenship Education Fund [CEF]. Jackson’s opposition to the merger was immediately halted. Then, when the bond deal between the companies was announced, Armstrong personally requested that the small black-owned investment bank, Blaylock & Partners be named co-manager of the record-breaking deal. Blaylock personally benefited to the tune of $1.4 million from the deal, “its biggest deal ever.” Blaylock’s CEO, Ron Blaylock then gave Jackson a $30,000 donation.

While the shakedown of AT&T benefited Jackson and Blaylock, it did nothing for the ordinary men and women on whose behalf Jackson was supposedly acting when he inquired about the “questionable employment record” of AT&T and TCI. “Jesse was brokering deals for a closely knit black elite, and it rankled many black businessmen who never made it into his inner circle-either because they refused to contribute to Jesse Inc. or because they simply weren’t big enough to count,” writes Timmerman.

One can see how an Obama presidency might cut into Jesse’s racketeering by empowering those “little people” beyond anything Jackson has ever delivered. So while Jackson feels a certain obligation to campaign for Obama and place his candidacy in a political/historical context, he doesn’t have to like it. Those “faith based initiatives” would really put a crimp in Jackson’s, Sharpton’s, and others ability to soak corporate American and hold up Congress for funds.

That’s the backstory but where’s the connection to Campaign ‘08? It isn’t there and you won’t find any. The story got legs simply because Jackson used a street metaphor to express his feelings about Obama moving in on his bailiwick by offering an alternative to the African American community on how they can find a seat at the American table.

Jackson and his friends feel the heat. And yet they don’t dare submarine Obama’s candidacy lest they be revealed as the charlatans they truly are. So they hang around the fringes of the Obama campaign until they say something outrageous like Jackson did the other day. Then we get the non-apology for causing a non-distraction at a non-event.

Remind me again why I’m writing about this…?

By: Rick Moran at 8:00 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

7/9/2008
THE IRAQIS ARE GROWING UP

Finally, Nouri al-Maliki - a guy I’ve been calling an empty suit for years - seems to have grown a pair and is standing up for the Iraqi people against the Americans.

The Iraqis want our combat forces to leave in an orderly fashion by withdrawing troops using a timetable that will be mutually agreed upon. What’s not to like in this?

Well, if you’re President Bush or John McCain, you have a political problem in that you have opposed a timetable being attached to our withdrawal for years. But that was Democrats setting arbitrary timetables not the sovereign nation of Iraq giving their problematic allies a graceful way to exit with honor and a true “Mission Accomplished.”

Saddam is gone. His WMD programs are history. The Iraqi army has proven in Basra, in Sadr City, and most especially in Mosul that they are capable of handling the security of the country (internal). The police - while still a large problem as far as corruption - performed quite well in Mosul also.

Just what is it we are still needed for?

Security from external threats? Agreed - but we don’t need 135,000 troops for that. We don’t need 50,000 troops in Iraq either. A “tripwire” force of less than 20,000 should be all that’s needed to keep Iran or Syria or any other hostile power from violating the territorial integrity of Iraq. With the pre-placement of equipment for a much larger force along with several thousand American advisers to continue the Iraqi’s training, a large combat presence will be tough to rationalize.

It was unrealistic of us to think that we could nurture this fledgling democracy through its growing pains and into the light of true liberty. At some point, the apron strings must be cut and the Iraqi government and people must go out on their own and find their own path to freedom. It will be messy. There will be stops and starts. It won’t look much like western style democracy. But the Iraqis must develop their own traditions, their own institutions if they are to succeed in joining the free nations of the world.

Ben Franklins admonishment to a woman outside of Independence Hall after the Constitution was agreed upon at the convention should hold special meaning for the Iraqis. When asked by the lady what kind of government to delegates had given the people Franklin responded “A republic ma’am - if you can keep it.” I don’t know exactly what kind of government will emerge in the coming years in Iraq. All I’m sure of is that it will be an Iraqi government. It may be free. It may be less free. It may devolve into a dictatorship - perhaps even mimicing the clerical fascists next door in Iran.

And while we will watch with great interest and even powerful emotions, it matters not what we think. We have done all that we can to give them this opportunity - an opportunity that cost us more than 4,000 brave souls and countless thousands who returned maimed, disfigured, and emotionally troubled. Other unforseen consequences will no doubt emerge not the least of which is a regional power in Iran who will try their best to undermine what we have started in Iraq. They may succeed. And then again, they may not. There are many in Iraq who are dedicated to establishing a secular democratic state. Perhaps their good hearts and good intentions will hold off the beast to the south who will work through proxies to try and destablize the nascent state.

But it will not be our direct concern anymore. Take the deal, Mr. President. The Iraqis have grown up and are ready to take responsibility for their own security, their own state. Hasn’t that been our goal all along.

Make the deal, Mr. Bush. It will be your parting gift to the country and might - just might - raise you up in the estimation of your countrymen. Goodness knows you’ve done enough the last 8 years to lower it.

By: Rick Moran at 8:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

7/8/2008
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: STATE OF THE RACE

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show,, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, Rich Baehr of The American Thinker joins me in the second chair for a discussion of the state of the presidential race in early July

Our catch phrase for the show: “Almost like the “Algonquin Round Table” except I don’t live in Algonquin anymore and Dorothy Parker died years ago.”

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.” A podcast will be available for streaming or download around 15 minutes after the show ends.

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 6:58 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

A CHICAGO OPERATION FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

It’s not making news because after all, reporting on the messiah’s mixed race upbringing and sterling oratory makes for so much better copy.

But someone, someday in the major media is going to wake up and take a good long look at Barack Obama’s campaign and notice something very strange; it is staffed from top to bottom with Chicagoans who have mostly made their bones working for Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago Machine.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Barack Obama’s campaign is being run out of Chicago. He recently moved most of the Democratic National Committee functions to the Windy City and his campaign headquarters is there as well.

The question the press might want to ask would be is there anything being “run” in Chicago that doesn’t have Mayor Daley’s fingerprints all over it?

Is Barack Obama Daley’s man?

Seth Gittel in the New York Sun:

While the convention will be held in Denver it will give off the greatest Chicago cast since 1996, when Mayor Daley hosted the convention that nominated President Clinton for his second term. The June decision to place operations of the Democratic National Committee in Chicago together with Mr. Obama’s headquarters reinforces the Windy City’s dominance of Democratic politics. The big question is whether American voters will notice.

Mr. Obama has run successfully as a candidate of reform. A former community organizer, he fills his rhetoric with references to “a new and better day” and the omnipresent imperative of “change.” In South Carolina last January Mr. Obama said, “we’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington.”

For the junior Illinois senator, change in Washington is a requirement. But that does not seem to be the case for Chicago, as it seems from Mr. Obama’s support for Chicago’s mayor who has been in power since 1989. Mr. Obama announced his support of the mayor’s reelection effort in January 2007 after Mr. Daley, endorsed him for president in 2006.

[snip]

The reality is that without Mr. Daley’s backing, Mr. Obama would be running a very different kind of campaign. Part of the tactical genius for Mr. Obama’s campaign has been provided by his campaign consultant, David Axelrod, who also is a longtime operative in Mr. Daley’s operation.

A columnist with the Chicago Tribune, John Kass, explained the arrangement in an interview with CNN: “Richard M. Daley is the boss of [the] Chicago Machine. His spokesman was David Axelrod. Their candidate is Barack Obama. Who speaks for Barack Obama? David Axelrod. There’s no such thing as coincidences. Chicago politics doesn’t have coincidences.”

As far as coincidences go, there’s also the woman Newsweek described as the campaign’s “insider-outsider, a trusted friend who can give them a view from beyond the confines of the campaign bubble,” Valerie Jarrett. Ms. Jarrett served as the planning and development commissioner for Mayor Daley during the 1990s. Today, in addition to being a confidante of Mr. Obama and his wife, she’s also the chief executive of Habitat Co., which has drawn scrutiny for managing uninhabitable affordable housing, such as the Grove Parc Plaza complex.

It is amazing to those of us who have followed Chicago politics for any length of time that Axelrod’s close connections to Daley are not a part of the story of this campaign. It’s not that this fact is rarely mentioned. It is that it is NEVER mentioned! Axelrod knows full well the stink that emanates from City Hall could tarnish Obama’s Mr. Clean reputation - a rep that has been created out of whole cloth given Obama’s own connections and pandering to the Machine when it would benefit his career. His endorsement last year of Daley (along with most of the corrupt Cook County slate of candidates) shows just how serious Mr. Obama is about “change.” In short, he’s perfectly willing to change you but when it comes to changing Chicago, the candidate is a weak sister.

The inclusion of Ms. Jarrett in Gittel’s analysis is surprising. She is the invisible woman of the campaign and, as her resume indicates, is a bridge between Obama and some of the Machine’s moving parts. Her stint on the Planning Commission - one of the most powerful jobs in the city - coincides with Michelle Obama’s service on the same board. They also served together on another powerful board, the Landmarks Commission (try to build almost anything or anywhere in the city without the approval of the Landmarks Commission and you run into big problems).

Anyone asking the question how a little known state senator who has served less than half a term as a US Senator could be the Democratic nominee for president only need look at Obama’s friends in very high places in Chicago. This is the story of the campaign. It’s a shame everyone is missing it.

By: Rick Moran at 9:52 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

DEMS PLAYING ALFONSE AND GASTON WITH VEEP CHOICE

“After you, my dear Alfonse.”
No, no - After you, my dear Gaston.”
(”Alfonse and Gaston” - newspaper comic strip created by Edward Burr Opper)

When looking at the choice Barack Obama must make for the Vice Presidential nominee of the Democratic party, one is struck by the number of high profile candidates who have politely refused to run with the messiah.Reliapundit has compiled the list of “after you” candidates:

EDWARDS HAS SAID HE’S NOT INTERESTED.
JOE BIDEN SAYS HE’S NOT INTERESTED, BUT MIGHT SAY YES IF ASKED.
DITTO KERRY.
GOVERNOR TOM STRICKLAND OF OHIO HAS SAID HE’S NOT INTERESTED.
SENATOR BAYH SAID HE’S NOT INTERESTED - BUT MIGHT SAY YES.
GOVERNOR BREDESEN SAYS HE’S NOT INTERESTED.
WEBB HAS NOW SAID HE’S NOT INTERESTED.

RP draws an interesting parallel with the McGovern candidacy where George was so obviously going to lose hugely to Nixon that no one wanted to join him for the death watch. Finally, in desperation, McGovern turned to Missouri senator Tom Eagleton. Eagleton was a fine man, a good senator, but had undergone electro-shock therapy for depression about 10 years previously. In 1972, this was considered a disqualification for high office by most - even though McGovern stupidly backed Eagleton after the news broke and was forced within 48 hours to withdraw his candidacy - and I’m not so sure it would be widely accepted today.

The point being, no respectable potential Veep nominee would touch McGovern’s campaign with a ten foot pole.

The Obama campaign is beginning to smell a lot like the McGovern effort. Perhaps not so much because people don’t think he can win as much as the disaster-in-waiting his presidency could be. Seasoned pols like Governor Strickland and Senator Evan Bayh have politely declined the honor. Now, part of that may be the realization that they would not be Obama’s first choice, although Strickland would probably bring the candidate Ohio and Bayh, Indiana. Ditto Bredesen with Tennssee. And in a close race, any one of those states could help make the difference.

But the “after you” syndrome seems to have infected the campaign as other potentials who would be popular with the party have in effect said, “Don’t call me unless there’s no one else who will do it.”

But why? There are precious few professionals who think John McCain can pull it off. The GOP is in absolute disarray. From top to bottom, defeatism and depression have set in which almost guarantees big Democratic pick ups in the House and Senate.

And yet…

If Obama were such a shoo-in, why are so many candidates for the Vice Presidency taking their name off the chalk board? This is especially true of younger guys like Bayh, Bredesen, and Webb who have all been mentioned as possible presidential contenders some day. Serving 8 years in an Obama administration as Vice President would almost guarantee their ascension to the top spot on the Democratic ticket in 2016.

Are we missing something that these guys have already caught on to?

Obama’s poll numbers are good but taking into consideration all the factors involved, those numbers just don’t add up. With a screamingly bad economy in some parts of the country (and getting worse everywhere else) along with people desperately wanting “change” (whatever that means) coupled with the Republican brand being about as salable as dog food at a convention of gourmet cooks, by all rights Obama should be so far ahead at this point that McCain wouldn’t even be showing up in his rear view mirror.

But that is not the case. Despite a campaign in disarray with many Republican strategists criticizing the organization, the message, the themes, and the scheduling of McCain, Obama can’t shake the Arizona senator. Daily tracking polls by Gallup and Rasmussen have the race closer than the GOP could have dreamed at this point. Gallup has it 47-43 Obama while Rasmussen shows a 5 point Obama lead 49-44.

The big news from those tracking polls is that Obama can’t crack 50%. And the all important electoral college numbers at this point also show Obama lagging although he is doing slightly better than his national numbers would indicate. According to RealClear Politics running count, Obama has 153 solid electoral votes with 85 leaning his way for a total of 238 (270 needed to win). McCain has 93 solid and 73 leaning for a total of 163. The map currently shows 137 toss up EV’s - a number that is expected to grow to McCain’s detriment.

The problem for Obama is that McCain is running better in states like Washington, Oregon, Michigan, and Pennsylvania than Obama is running in some GOP leaners and toss ups. In other words, this is still a tight race in every way despite the perceived advantages of the Democrat.

And then there’s the matter of race that no one is taking for granted. No one can guess what the American people will do when they are faced with making a choice in the voting booth. In privacy and secrecy, with the curtains closed and no one looking over their shoulder, just how tolerant will the American people be? Perhaps a few of those candidates who are saying they don’t want the Veep job believe that in the end, race might make a difference.

Finally, there’s the Hillary factor. Since Mrs. Clinton wants the job, appearing to stand in her way would not be healthy politically. The Clintons have long memories and know how to treat their friends - and anyone they perceive as an enemy.

So I don’t necessarily see “The McGovern Factor” at work in the reluctance of so many A-list Democrats who are declining to serve as Veep on a ticket headed up by Obama. But I find it strange that McCain does not seem to be having a similar problem despite the fact that he finds himself very much in McGovern territory as far as the perception of his chances in the fall.

No doubt Obama will find a candidate - a good candidate - to run with him. But the process by which he chooses his running mate has revealed a hesitation among some Democrats to tie themselves too closely to their presidential candidate. Is it significant? I think it is and I believe one reason may very well be that some Democrats are not as confident of victory in November as they let on.

By: Rick Moran at 7:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

7/7/2008
THE NEW YORK TIMES VS. COMMON DECENCY

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published an exciting story about how the CIA broke 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaik Mohammed. The hero of the story was a nondescript CIA interrogator who astonished his CIA colleagues by eliciting enormous amounts of valuable information from KSM, all by using psychological ploys and developing a rapport with the terrorist rather than the tactics used by the “knuckledraggers” as the interrogator’s colleagues called the CIA paramilitary types, who were using waterboarding and other methods of torture.

As Allah points out, the story in the Times was not about the interrogator but rather the US government’s stumbling about in the post 9/11 intelligence climate searching for a counter terrorism strategy. Why then, did the Times reporter Scott Shane, his Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet, and executive editor Bill Keller decide to include the real last name of the interrogator when publishing the story?

An editor’s note published with the article explaining the decision to out the interrogator is self serving twaddle:

The Central Intelligence Agency asked The New York Times not to publish the name of Deuce Martinez, an interrogator who questioned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other high-level Al Qaeda prisoners, saying that to identify Mr. Martinez would invade his privacy and put him at risk of retaliation from terrorists or harassment from critics of the agency.

After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for Mr. Martinez, the newspaper declined the request, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.

The Times’s policy is to withhold the name of a news subject only very rarely, most often in the case of victims of sexual assault or intelligence officers operating under cover.

The backstory, revealed today by Times “Public Editor” Clark Hoyt, is even more shocking in its implications. What it reveals about the people who make such decisions at the highest editorial level at the Times is that quite simply, they do not believe that al-Qaeda poses much of a threat to individuals and, by extension, the United States.

And beyond the security calculations made on behalf of the interrogator by those noted terrorism experts Bill Keller and Dean Basquet, there is the extraordinary lack of common decency in deliberately and knowingly placing someone’s life and the lives of his family in danger. This is especially true when you consider that the story would have gotten along just fine without us knowing the real name of the interrogator.

This raises a couple of other questions, none of which would flatter the editorial leadership at the Times. Are they so enamored of their own policies and rules governing the naming of names that they got caught up in a fight to identify a non-covert employee of the CIA at the expense of his safety? Did Keller et al sacrifice common sense and common decency on the altar of corporate inflexibility rather than bend the rules to accommodate a special situation?

I do not ascribe wicked ulterior motives to the Times outing of the interrogator. I believe it much more likely that the bureaucrats and lawyers at the Times insisted on following established policy - the God of the small minded - instead of making an exception in the interrogator’s case.

Clark Hoyt’s non-explanation of why the interrogator’s name remained in the story despite entreaties made by DCIA Hayden and the interrogator’s personal attorney, the high-powered, well connected Washington lawyer Robert Bennett, is more incredible than the “Editor’s Note” that appeared in the original story. Note the lack of empathy for the interrogator’s concerns for his safety and that of his family as well as the disingenuous of the explanations:

Shane said he had sought the C.I.A.’s cooperation in reporting the story but was rebuffed by the agency and by Martinez, who now works for a private contractor. After Shane contacted friends and associates of Martinez and sought an interview with him, Mark Mansfield, the C.I.A.’s director of public affairs, sent a strongly worded letter to Dean Baquet, The Times’s Washington bureau chief. Naming the interrogator “would be reckless and irresponsible,” Mansfield said, and “could endanger the lives of this American and his family” by making them Qaeda targets. And in the “poisoned atmosphere” of the debate over the C.I.A.’s interrogation techniques, Mansfield wrote, Martinez could be “vulnerable to any misguided person who believes they need to confront ‘torture’ directly.”

Baquet asked for a meeting to discuss the C.I.A.’s request. Mansfield refused. He told me the letter said it all and nothing could be accomplished by a meeting. But to Baquet, Shane and Rebecca Corbett, the editor of the story, the refusal suggested that the C.I.A. was not actually that concerned. The Times has been asked before by the C.I.A. to withhold information — it has sometimes agreed, sometimes refused — and serious requests have usually come from the top of the agency, with an opportunity to discuss them.

But the reporter and editors said they were still worried about Martinez’s fears and tried to assess how realistic they were. Shane said he repeatedly pressed the C.I.A. for more information. He called John Kiriakou, a former covert operative who was the first to question another top Qaeda terrorist, Abu Zubaydah. Kiriakou voluntarily went public last December, and Shane wanted to know what happened. Kiriakou mentioned a death threat published in Pakistan and didn’t go into much more detail. Kiriakou said he advised Shane not to use the name.

The Times was not looking for a reason to keep the name of the interrogator quiet. They were looking for justification to publish it. When the CIA wouldn’t give it to them, they went outside the agency and were told exactly the same thing - publishing the name would put the man and his family in danger.

How much danger? Here is what the former agent told Hoyt about what happened when his name became known:

When I asked Kiriakou for full details about his experience, he said he received more than a dozen death threats, many of them crank. His house was put under police guard and he took his family to Mexico for two weeks after the C.I.A. advised him to get out of town for a while. He said he lost his job with a major accounting firm because executives expressed fear that Al Qaeda could attack its offices to get him, though Kiriakou considered that fear unreasonable.

Apparently, the Times brain trust did not press Kiriakou for these details because they simply didn’t want to hear them. Our brave Public Editor did not see fit to criticize his colleagues for this gross negligence.

Finally, the last leg of the Times case for publishing the name was cut from under them (”serious requests have usually come from the top of the agency, with an opportunity to discuss them…”) when the DCIA calling Bill Keller to plead the interrogator’s case:

[name redacted] hired a Washington super-lawyer, Robert Bennett, to plead his case. With the story two days from publication, Gen. Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, called Bill Keller, The Times’s executive editor. Keller said Hayden acknowledged that he did not know of any specific threat to [name redacted] or of any Qaeda hit list. But Hayden said that naming [name redacted] could subject him to harassment or even put him in danger. Keller said, “I had this impression that he was doing it out of respect for [name redacted] and his family’s concerns more than a concern the C.I.A. had.”

Through his spokesman, Hayden agreed with Keller’s description of what was said but disagreed with the editor’s interpretation of the call. Hayden was “extremely disappointed” in the newspaper’s decision, Mansfield said.

Keller’s “impression” that Hayden wasn’t serious about trying to protect the interrogator is a breathtaking example of journalistic arrogance. With that kind of insight, Keller should be transferred to the Business Section and made into a stock touter. Instead, it is clear that the Times editors placed the interrogator’s safety as a secondary concern while trying to justify their decision to name him.

What kind of fallout can the interrogator expect?

The Times and other news organizations have been asked over the years to withhold stories for fear of harm. And they have done so when a persuasive case has been made that the danger — whether to national security or an individual — is real and imminent. In this case, there is no history of Al Qaeda hunting down individuals in the United States for retribution. It prefers dramatic attacks that kill indiscriminately. And The Times took reasonable precautions to prevent Martinez from being easily found.

Bennett said The Times did “a terrible thing.” He said Martinez had been threatened repeatedly by Mohammed and others he interrogated but they did not know his identity. Now their friends do, at least to some degree. Martinez has received no threats since the article was published. Shane, on the other hand, has received abusive e-mail bordering on the threatening.

I understand how readers can think that if there is any risk at all, a person like Martinez should never be identified. But going in that direction, especially in this age of increasing government secrecy, would leave news organizations hobbled when trying to tell the public about some of the government’s most important and controversial actions.

Of all the self serving tripe contained in this backstory, the notion that there is no threat because al Qaeda hasn’t gone after individuals yet is perhaps the most ridiculous. It suicidally underestimates the capabilities of our adversary while giving the paper another “out” when it comes to responsibility if anything does happen to the interrogator. “How could we possibly have known they would kill the guy? They had never done it before…” would make an excellent lead editorial if, God forbid, al-Qaeda makes good on its threats.

And poor little Shane! He’s been getting “abusive” (name calling) emails “bordering” on being threats. What shameless sophistry from Hoyt. To try and equate an al-Qaeda threat with that of some internet magpie is patently stupid and transparent in the extreme. It is perhaps revealing of how the Times editors actually view the War on Terror that they would compare al-Qaeda to an anonymous web rabble rouser.

And in a case like this, it is up to the paper to prove how it would be “hobbled” if they published an alias for the interrogator rather than mention him by name - not the other way around where the subject of the story must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be in danger if his name was published. That is perhaps the most telling proof of hubris on the part of the Times. In their little cocoon of arrogance and self importance, they place the life of a man on a scale and weigh it against their own petty policies and personal notion of the public’s “right to know.”

The fact that the interrogator was no longer with the agency and therefore was being punished with notoriety years after he had served his country honorably shows that the Times concerns were not with national security or the personal security of the interrogator but rather with their own warped view of journalistic standards that apparently brook no revision - even if it could cost someone’s life.

Hoyt never bothers to criticize any of his colleagues in this story. He accepts their “explanations” - some of which are outrageously inapt - at face value with no comment on whether they pass the smell test. To my mind, the excuses made by Keller, Shane, and Baquet stink - reason enough to bring down disapprobation on the Times, their editorial staff, and most especially, their Public Editor who once again has failed to do his job.

By: Rick Moran at 8:14 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (28)