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8/31/2009
ANGRY IDEOLOGUES vs. THE STATISTS

This is another installment in my award winning series of blog posts on “What Ails Conservatism?” (Note: The awards have been of the “RINO of the Day” and “Squish of the Month” variety).

The purpose of this series has been to clarify my own thinking about modern conservatism and it’s relevance in a 21st century industrialized democracy of 300 million people.

***********************************************
Conor Friedersdorf, writing at Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, has a thoughtful critique of Mark Levin’s huge bestseller Liberty and Tyranny.

It caught my eye because I finished the book last week and was as impressed as Conor with some of Levin’s arguments, especially how he constructed a logical, and coherent framework for applying traditional conservatism to problems associated with modern America. It was a brave attempt to marry philosophy with politics and Mr. Levin should be congratulated for going beyond the usual cotton candy conservatism we get from the Hannity’s and Becks of the right.

However, like Conor, I was troubled by what might be termed, Levin’s problem with “enemy identification:

As I reflect on Liberty and Tyranny’s final pages, however, I find myself unable to respond without addressing a larger feature of the book that I regard as its most consequential flaw: Its every section, including the Epilogue, references few if any concepts as often as “Statism.”

[...]

The United States that he comments on isn’t one that pits Republicans against Democrats, or conservatives against liberals, or the center right against the center left, or where citizens of complicated political persuasions — mixing ideology, pragmatism and ignorance — do some combination of participating in politics and ignoring it. Instead Mark Levin’s America is one where the conservatives are pitted against the Statists, or to put things as he would, where liberty is pitted against tyranny.

Freidersdorf never gives us his definition of “statism” so it is impossible to discover why he believes the label is so mis-applied in Levin’s book. Conor quotes Levin’s thesis:

The Modern Liberal believes in the supremacy of the state, thereby rejecting the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the order of the civil society, in whole or in part. For the Modern Liberal, the individual’s imperfection and personal pursuits impede the objective of a utopian state. In this, Modern Liberalism promotes what French historian Alexis de Tocqueville described as a soft tyranny, which becomes increasingly more oppressive, potentially leading to a hard tyranny (some form of totalitarianism). As the word “liberal” is, in its classical meaning, the opposite of authoritarian, it is more accurate, therefore, to characterize the Modern Liberal as a statist.

Do “modern liberals” desire to create a “Utopia?” That is an exaggeration. Liberals are no more enamored of Utopia than conservatives. Both political philosophies seek to create societies that emphasize different virtues; self reliance vs. community; moral order vs. fairness; personal responsibility vs. the collective good.

It is also mis-leading (though not entirely inaccurate) to say that liberals favor the “supremacy of the state.” It is more accurate to say that the modern left favors promoting “the collective good” at the expense of “selfish” individuality. They do not dismiss individual rights. They simply believe that in some instances - more than is healthy for liberty’s sake - those rights should be trumped by what is best for all.

This flies in the face of Kirk’s “voluntary community” but is a far cry of worshiping at the altar of “statism.” And Conor nails it when he takes Levin to task for generalizing and ultimately, mis-identifying the enemy:

Terrible as he sounds, The Statist that Mr. Levin describes—his ill deeds keep growing as the book winds down–would at least play a clarifying role in American politics if he actually existed. Imagine how useful a blueprint Mr. Levin’s book would prove if the primary opponents of conservatives were actually cunning Statists with malign motives and hatred of liberty in their hearts. But re-read all the attributes that describe the Statist. Does anyone in American politics fit that description, let alone a plurality sizable enough to enact their agenda?

In fact, the main antagonists that the American conservative vies with in politics are the independent, the liberal, the center left Democrat, the progressive, even some among the apolitical. The average people who support “Statist” President Obama’s domestic agenda are apolitical African American women who work in cubicles, law firm associates who earn six figure salaries, and working parents who fret about being uninsured—not utopian radicals bent on advancing a counterrevolution that destroys the freedom won by the Founding generation.

Levin obviously has in mind Democrats and liberals who support the agenda of President Obama - an agenda full of “solutions” to problems like health care, climate change, education, the home mortgage crisis, and our economic woes. Is this a “statist” manifesto or an attempt by a political party to curry favor with voters by offering to address their real life concerns?

I have resisted using terms like “socialist” and especially “communist” to describe the Democrat’s ideology because by strict definition, they are not trying to destroy the free market, repeal individual rights (as always, making an exception for 2nd amendment guarantees), set up a dictatorship, or impose “tyranny - soft or hard - on the American people.

Sllippery slope arguments are unconvincing, if only because the logical fallacy involved in the “boiling frog” scenario where we all just sit back and allow the government to descend into a kind of fascism, is belied by the stink being made by conservatives over some of Obama’s more anti-free market actions today. Can you imagine if Obama really tried to take control of the economy? I daresay we wouldn’t need Glenn Beck, weeping on live television about how bad things are with Obama as president to activate conservatives. And we wouldn’t be alone. Moderates, libertarians, classical liberals, and others would be standing with us, side by side, to strenuously oppose any move to socialize the entire economy.

But I too, have been guilty of using the word “statist” to describe what Obama and the Democrats have been doing. My definition is a little more benign than Levin’s in that the agenda being promoted by the left would not lead to tyranny, but rather a highly constricted free market of the sort that is practiced in many European social democracies; over-regulated markets that stifle inventiveness, innovation, and entrepreneurship. With such regulation necessarily comes higher taxes on all: reason enough to oppose the Democrats and thwart their plans for “fairness, transparency, and accountability” in the free market.

But I see Friedersdorf’s point. There may be a small clique on the left that would love to see an America that they could “guide” in a paternalistic sort of way. George Soros and his billionaire buddies come to mind. But in order to kill the free market, enslave the American people, gain control of the media, and destroy liberty, those ordinary folk Conor mentioned would have to be convinced that all of this would make their lives better - a tall order, that.

This problem with mis-identification that Conor writes about as well as the wrong headed definitions of where Obama and the Democrats are trying to take the country, feed what has become a perceived paranoia among many conservatives that is driving people away from the movement rather than rallying them to our standard.

At bottom is the argument I’ve been trying to advance in this series; that the excessive ideology fueling the rage that manifests itself in paranoid rantings on the internet against imagined socialism, the purging of perceived apostates, the obsession with ideological purity, and more recently, shouted down speakers at health care town halls - all of this damages conservatism in the eyes of people who might be inclined to support our cause. It also makes it extraordinarily easy for the opposition to paint conservatives as too emotional to trust with running the government.

Bruce Bartlett has some similar thoughts:

I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?

I am not alone. When I talk to old timers from the Reagan years, many express the same concerns I have. But they all work for Republican-oriented think tanks like AEI and Hoover and don’t wish to be fired like I was from NCPA . Or they just don’t want to be bothered or lose friends. As a free agent I am able to say what they can’t or won’t say publicly.

I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents.

I don’t think you can accuse Bartlett, Friedersorf, or I for that matter, of lacking principles. I have made the argument that pragmatists are as principled as any ideologue. Where the extremists and I part company is in the application of those principles to real world politics. Not hating your opponent should not disqualify you from being a conservative, nor should dismissing the notion that Obama is a socialist be cause enough to question one’s conservative bona fides. Principled opposition in a republic must be based on the golden rule; respect others as you yourself would like to be respected. No, I don’t always live up to that credo. But I would like to think that I never question the good intentions of my foes. Wrong, not evil.

And on a related note, I would argue with Mark Levin that liberty does not exist in a vacuum, nor can free people exist apart from the community that bred them. There are responsibilities that go along with enjoying liberty that includes the recognition that we are not islands unto ourselves, and that government, however imperfect it can be, is nevertheless not the implacable enemy of liberty some conservatives believe.

A danger at times? Yes. But if conservatism is to triumph again, we must demonstrate that conservative principles can be applied to running government better than the those of the opposition. That is the essence of politics and we would do well to remember it.

By: Rick Moran at 11:40 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (22)

TRENDS FOR 2010 BEGINNING TO WORRY DEMOCRATS

Yes, it’s way too early to make any predictions, but then, pollsters and pundits wouldn’t have anything to write about which means they’d be out of a job for a year or so.

Actually, the value of predictions today is relevant to the current political debate over health care. Leading analysts who gauge the mood of the public on a month to month, even week to week basis, see outliers that may - or may not - be indicative of trends.

Trends represent long term outlooks rather than the “snapshot” that polls generally give us. Get enough snapshots of how people are thinking, and you can trace how people are feeling about an issue on a graph. That’s the essence of strategic polling and politicians - even this far out from the 2010 election - ignore the information at their own peril.

So when several of the best analysts in the industry examine the trendlines, as well as the 50-60 congressional districts where vulnerable members from both parties are fighting to remain in office, they put two and two together and come up with scenarios for the election based on science, their own experience, and hunches born out of their insights gleaned over many years of watching politics.

What these pollsters are seeing does not bode well for the Democrats as explained by Josh Kraushaar of Politico:

After an August recess marked by raucous town halls, troubling polling data and widespread anecdotal evidence of a volatile electorate, the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010.

Some of the most prominent and respected handicappers can now envision an election in which Democrats suffer double-digit losses in the House - not enough to provide the 40 seats necessary to return the GOP to power but enough to put them within striking distance.

Nate Silver, an unconventional but deadly accurate pollster who runs the must read site 538.com - and a Democratic consultant - managed to scare the beejeebees out of liberals at the recently concluded Netroots convention:

At the mid-August Netroots Nation convention, Nate Silver, a Democratic analyst whose uncannily accurate, stat-driven predictions have made his website 538.com a must read among political junkies, predicted that Republicans will win between 20 and 50 seats next year. He further alarmed an audience of progressive activists by arguing that the GOP has between a 25 and 33 percent chance of winning back control of the House.

“A lot of Democratic freshmen and sophomores will be running in a much tougher environment than in 2006 and 2008 and some will adapt to it, but a lot of others will inevitably freak out and end up losing,” Silver told POLITICO. “Complacency is another factor: We have volunteers who worked really hard in 2006 and in 2008 for Obama but it’s less compelling [for them] to preserve the majority.”

Is Silver being an alarmist or is there really a 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 chance that the GOP can pull off a shocker?

If history is any guide, Nate may have something there. Opposition gains in off year elections are a tradition in American politics with the party out of power winning back seats in 10 of the last 12 such elections. (The average gain has been about 13 seats).

But realistically, there would have to be a huge backlash - even bigger than 1994 - for Republicans to regain control of the House. The re-election rate for modern gerrymandered congressional districts tops 98% and the GOP would have to knock that percentage down to 90% in order to gain back the House.

A tall order, that. But the Democrats did it in 2006. And given the volatility of the current political climate, it is not beyond imagining, although Silver’s estimate of Republican chances to regain control is not shared by other seasoned pros.

I think that Nate is being deliberately provocative. The stars would have to align just right for a GOP takeover of the House to materialize. A perfect storm of failed health care reform, a double dip recession, and perhaps higher than expected inflation could combine to cause the kind of collapse in the political fortunes of Democrats that would give the GOP control of the House. I would place the chances of this occurring somewhere between “Impossible” and “Highly Improbable” - say, from zero to 5%.

If the economy improves faster and better than expected, that would alter the trends and Democratic losses may be held to a minimum. There are a lot of variables there as well, but I would put the chances of that happening slightly higher than a GOP takeover; say, 5-10%.

But most analysts - even Democratic ones - see the possibility 14 months from election day, that Republican gains could top the average of 13 seats by as much as a factor of 2. That seems reasonable to me - especially given the number of very vulnerable Democrats who won in 2006 and 2008 in districts normally carried by Republican presidential candidates.

Another factor that is an unknown will be congressional retirements. The GOP had 29 members leave office more or less voluntarily in 2006 (4 members declined to run because of ethics problems), and the Democrats captured all of them. We’ll have a better idea of who might be leaving after the first of the year.

As for the senate, I would say GOP chances of a takeover are even less than the House; say, between a “Cosmic Impossibility” and “When Hell Freezes Over.” And that’s being optimistic.

Seriously, the Republicans have too many seats to defend and not enough vulnerable Democrats to have a chance for an upset. Even if the Perfect Storm Scenario laid out above plays out, winning 11 seats is just too steep a hill to climb. If the GOP can gain 3-4 seats - still a tall order - they could consider the election a success.

But if the current trends showing double digit gains for Republicans in the House and those modest gains in the Senate play out, it would put the GOP in position to make a realistic run for control in 2012 when a winning president’s coattails can make the difference.

It would still be a long shot - I’m thinking that the first real chance for the GOP to regain control is in 2014 if Obama is re-elected and 2016 if a Republican wins in 2012 - but given the eye-popping deficits Obama will be running, anything is possible.

By: Rick Moran at 8:34 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

8/30/2009
A PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON TORTURE WOULD SATISFY NO ONE

As my regular readers know, I have written in the past that I believe the actions of the Bush Administration in authorizing torture broke American and international law and some accounting is necessary in order for us to confront what the government did in our name.

I will not rehash the arguments for and against torture. Suffice it to say, I reject the notion that the ends justifies the means for a variety of reasons, and that I believe those who are sincere in their support of Dick Cheney’s rationale for “enhanced interrogation techniques” have lost sight of one of the things that makes us an exceptional nation; our respect and reverence for the rule of law.

That said, I have also rejected the idea of torture prosecutions - not because I believe the guilty should get off scott free but because any reasonable and fair minded person looking at the matter knows that the administration believed they were acting in the best interests of the nation, and that they honestly believed they had finessed the treaties and statutes by their stretched, and ultimately legally incorrect justifications for torture. Was it wrong for the Bushies to try to extend a fig leaf of legality over what turned out to be serious violations of domestic law and international agreements? I believe they felt they had little choice. To my mind, that doesn’t make it right, nor am I convinced (nor are interrogation experts) that non-torture techniques couldn’t have elicited the same information.

Yes, torture was probably responsible for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed spilling some secrets. But what we’ll never know is if the professional interrogators would have been able to break him down using legal methods. Rejecting the “ticking bomb scenario” as unrealistic, I and many others - including many in the military and intelligence communities who interrogate for a living - have come to the conclusion that the plots broken up because of our waterboarding KSM would probably have been foiled using perfectly legal means of interrogation.

But this doesn’t answer the question about prosecuting or not prosecuting offenders - including high level officials who ordered underlings to break the law. Fred Hiatt, writing in WaPo today, has a thoughtful, but ultimately flawed analysis and recommendation:

On the one hand, this is a nation of laws. If torture violates U.S. law — and it does — and if Americans engaged in torture — and they did — that cannot be ignored, forgotten, swept away. When other nations violate human rights, the United States objects and insists on some accounting. It can’t ask less of itself.

Yet this is also a nation where two political parties compete civilly and alternate power peacefully. Regimes do not seek vengeance, through the courts or otherwise, as they succeed each other. Were Obama to criminally investigate his predecessor for what George W. Bush believed to be decisions made in the national interest, it could trigger a debilitating, unending cycle.

By attempting to navigate between these two principles, Obama has satisfied neither. Last week his administration took another step down a path of investigation and recrimination, without coming any closer to truth-telling or justice as most Americans would understand it.

Even with the best of intentions - and I do not grant the Obama administration that desire based on the rank partisanship they have demonstrated from top to bottom - any prosecution would necessarily be perceived as being politically motivated. The same holds true for any congressional hearings. The idea that the Democrats could conduct anything approaching non-partisan, or at least fair hearings on this issue, involving the Bushies, is laughable. The pressure on Democrats in Congress to turn the hearings into an inquisition from their rabid, partisan base would be overwhelming.

Hiatt suggests a presidential commission:

There is a better, though not perfect, solution, one that the administration reportedly considered, rejected and should consider again: a high-level, respected commission to examine the choices made in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and their consequences.

Such a commission would investigate not just the Bush administration but the government, including Congress. It would give former vice president Dick Cheney a forum to make his case on the necessity of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” It would examine the efficacy of such techniques, if any, and the question of whether, even if they work, waterboarding and other methods long considered torture ever can be justified.

Some on the left would object because the goal would not be prosecution and punishment; as in South Africa, amnesty might be promised in exchange for truth-telling. Some on the right, and some in government now, would worry about damaging national security with public airing and rehashing of past misdeeds.

Hiatt bases the idea for this commission on what he believes is a pre-requisite for such a body to be effectve: that “the two political parties compete civilly…” I don’t know where Mr. Hiatt has been spending his days these last couple of decades but it certainly hasn’t been in Washington if he truly believes what he wrote.

There is no civility between the parties. It is all out partisan warefare on any and every issue of consequence - and usually on trivialities as well. Both sides blame the other for this state of affairs, which would be amusing in any other context. The parties are locked in a death grip, driven to hold on with bulldog tenacity by their rabid, uncompromising, unforgiving bases of support whose influence is all out of proportion to their numbers.

But these hysterical party men are also their most reliable voters, as well as being a significant source of volunteer campaign help, and a wellspring of donations for the member’s re-election. It doesn’t take much for the base to turn against a member and given how organized they have become, can turn out a primary candidate to challenge the member on a whim.

For civility to return to politics, there must be a basic recognition by both sides that the other side has the best interests of America at heart. This does not seem possible when the leadership of both parties toss around epithets like “evil mongers” or “culture of death” to describe the other side.

A presidential commission of the kind suggested by Hiatt might succeed in gathering relatively non-partisan members, but couldn’t help being caught up in the vortex of partisan wrangling. Every finding, every witness, every statement made would be filtered through the unique prism found in the base of both parties. It would be marginally different than a select congressional committee and much better than prosecutions. But it would ultimately fail to satisfy either side because it’s mandate would not be to score political points but to find some elusive “truth.” Rather than serve to illuminate what happened and heal the nation, such a commission would eventually be seen by both sides as favoring the opposition.

We live in a different country than existed at the time of the 9/11 Commission. The undisguised hatred of President Bush and the virulent reaction of his supporters to defend him by trashing the opposition over the last 8 years has made the atmosphere in Washington worse than it was in 2002.

It may be that Hiatt’s idea will turn out to be the best option in a universe of bad choices. But it is not a solution as long as neither side trusts each other enough to put aside the massive distrust each holds for the other and see the wisdom of trying to come to grips with this unique, and to my mind, tragic interlude in our nation’s history.

By: Rick Moran at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

8/29/2009
MEN AND WOMEN AND PORN: A LOVE STORY
CATEGORY: History, Manzine

It was 10 years ago that I decided to write a piece on “Mainstreaming Pornography.” I had recently gotten out of a relationship with a woman who liked porn, was turned on by porn, and was turned on even more when we watched it together. Believing this was something of an oddity, I researched the subject and discovered to my surprise that there were millions of women who were porn consumers, and that many more actually found certain types of pornography sexually stimulating in the lab.

Unfortunately, I never sold the piece. Perhaps I was ahead of my time because today, the fastest growing segment of porn consumers are females - single, married, involved - and the younger the woman, the more likely they are to have their own porn collection stashed away at home.

There is still a stigma attached to porn viewing by women (”nice girls don’t do it”) but mores in America are changing fast and if you haven’t noticed, porn sellers are making it a point to market all kinds of adult products to women. Several chain stores like Starship and Good Vibrations report almost half their walk in business comes from women.

But what of the porn industry itself? Industry analysts say that more than 70% of all adult films made still cater to the tastes of men. And while those “tastes” may not have changed much since the first guy figured out that a woman has three orifices, and that it feels good sampling all of them, there has been a decided shift in what is considered “mainstream” today as opposed to 30 years ago.

Yes, real men like anal sex according to today’s standards. This survey from 2006 revealed changes in attitude toward the act that, according to my unscientific observations, mirror the rise in popularity of anal sex porn in the 1990’s:

The survey, released last year, showed that 38.2 percent of men between 20 and 39 and 32.6 percent of women ages 18 to 44 engage in heterosexual anal sex. Compare that with the CDC’s 1992 National Health and Social Life survey, which found that only 25.6 percent of men 18 to 59 and 20.4 percent of women 18 to 59 indulged in it.

Here we have a classic case study of media influence; did the rise in interest in anal sex drive the porn industry to make more films in that genre or did the explosion of films portraying anal sex in the 1980’s and 90’s drive the curiosity seekers to try it in their own lives? This leads to a further question; what influence does pornography have on sexual practices in America?

Modern pornography - dating to the Victorian era where the camera was first employed to take risque pictures - has never been much of a mystery for men. If you’ve viewed any classic porn, you know that much if it is rather vanilla in nature. Classic woman alone, one or two women with one or two (or more) men, two women — all catering to common males fantasies and are still staples of the porn industry today. Of course, there were examples of homosexual porn as well as rare fetish porn, but by and large, the market catered to men with “ordinary” tastes in sex.

This held true through the 1970’s after the breakthrough films Deep Throat, and Behind the Green Door made it hip to take your date to the local “art house.” But the invention of the VCR changed the porn industry forever. Now, because porn consumerism exploded, even fetish and gay videos could find a niche in the market and make big money.

Today on the internet, I challenge you to invent a fetish and not already find dozens of porn titles that cater to it. Everything from head to toe, hair to ankle worship, and all the bodily functions in between now has its own sub-genre on streaming porn sites. I suppose this is progress but since I’m pretty much of a vanilla sort of fellow myself, I have refrained from investigating.

Most of these fetish films cater to men. But interestingly, women seem to get aroused watching just about any kind of pornography:

Even more compelling were the results of a 2004 study at Northwestern University that also assessed the effect of porn on genital arousal. Mind you, a copy of “Buffy the Vampire Layer” and a lubed-up feedback device isn’t most girls’ idea of a hot night in. But when the researchers showed gay, lesbian, and straight porn to heterosexual and homosexual women and men, they found that while the men responded more intensely to porn that mirrored their particular gender orientation, the women tended to like it all. Or at least their bodies did.

Today’s internet porn recognizes the surging female audience in a variety of ways. The two biggest pay-per-minute sites — HotMovies.com and AEBN.com — feature a “For Women” genre that streams movies with more of a storyline, as well as films that realize specific female fantasies. HotMovies has a genre with movies directed by women, another fast growing facet of the adult film business.

No stats are available from the two streaming video sites regarding female viewership, but Hustler’s Theresa Flynt reports that 56% of their DVD sales are made to women.

The cultural earthquake being caused by the widespread acceptance of pornography by both sexes has yet to be measured. How does it affect our attitudes toward partner sex? Toward women? Men?

Seeing that porn is an estimated $57 billion dollar industry world wide ($10-14 billion in the US), the social scientists will probably have enough data to keep them busy for years.

By: Rick Moran at 11:41 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

WHAT ABOUT THAT MEMO SHOWING KENNEDY WORKING AGAINST AMERICAN INTERESTS?
CATEGORY: History, Politics

Some would go farther and say that the memorandum from Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB that was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR, outlining a secret proposal made by Senator Ted Kennedy to the Soviets to help them “understand Reagan” in return for their help in making him president, constitutes treason.

It’s not a word to throw around lightly and the reason I refrain from using it is because I am unsure Kennedy’s actions meet the definition. Kennedy was not in direct contact with Andropov, using his good friend John Tunney, former senator from California, as a messenger boy to deliver the proposal to the Soviets. And he wasn’t proposing to betray any secrets.

At the time this memo was first released (1992), it was completely ignored by the American press. But I vividly recall reading about it when Paul Kengor published his book The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism. There was a brief firestorm on the internet with Kennedy supporters pointing out that it was possible that Tunney - a notorious loose cannon - could have concocted the whole thing without Kennedy’s knowledge.

Kennedy office issued a statement saying that the interpretation of the memo was “way off the mark,” but didn’t deny its authenticity. This Peter Robinson piece in Forbes details what Kennedy was asking:

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers.

First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up their propaganda.

Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal … to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. … If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews. …

And then there is this tidbit about Teddy wanting to run for president in 1988 and wanting Soviet help in boosting his campaign:

Kennedy’s motives? “Like other rational people,” the memorandum explained, “[Kennedy] is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations.” But that high-minded concern represented only one of Kennedy’s motives.

“Tunney remarked that the senator wants to run for president in 1988,” the memorandum continued. “Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans and elect their candidate president.”

This is one area of the memo that makes the interpretation of Tunney’s remarks suspect. Kennedy had determined by 1982 that the presidency was out of reach - according to numerous friends and family members - and that he had set his mind to making a good career in the senate. This sounds like Tunney wishful thinking. As a Kennedy insider, he and the rest were desperate to “get back” to the White House. But Kennedy always kept his own counsel about his presidential ambitions and it is unlikely Tunney would have been privy to them.

The memo, while compelling, is a single source document. And while it is believable, it would never stand up in court, and the rigorous standards of evidence applied in treason cases. It is also well to remember that the KGB was sometimes overly enthusiastic in reporting that some Americans were willing to work with them. Also contained in that million page document dump after the fall of communism were memos that “proved” that FDR’s closest advisor, Harry Hopkins, was a soviet agent and that Marilyn Monroe worked for the commies too. The KGB routinely lied to their leaders in this manner and it is impossible without corroborating evidence to determine if the interpretation of the KGB chief of Tunney’s overture is accurate.

There were supposedly other memos about Tunney-Kennedy from 1978 and 1980 that Izvestia ferreted out. But no one has ever seen those memos and their provenance is impossible to determine.

That said, no major media outlet ever pursued the story which is significant in and of itself. Obviously, they were afraid of what they might find if they dug too deeply. Or they found it easy to dismiss because of the reasons I mention above.

It is also significant that not one major media obituary on Kennedy even mentioned it. Protecting the reputation - even after death - of a liberal icon appears to have trumped honest journalism once again.

By: Rick Moran at 9:14 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (28)

8/28/2009
YEAH…BUT I STILL DON’T GET TWITTER
CATEGORY: Blogging, General

After feeling SO left out of the Twitter revolution because it all looked so…so…geeky, I found myself with some time on my hands this morning (I am on vacation from my PJ Media job), and decided to gird my tech loins and enter the dank, overpopulated, incomprehensible Twitter Universe.

I had signed up for Twitter back in April but contented myself with using the social networking button on my blog to update all 170 or so of my followers about my brilliant blog posts.

I didn’t know what the hell I was doing of course. I just discovered today that a few people actually responded to these whispers in the Twitter wilderness, which REALLY made me feel like an idiot. A dozen or so Twitterers actually took the time to Tweet back about what I had posted.

For those of you who so kindly tweeted me these last few months only to have that response summarily ignored by a technological pea brain, I apologize. I plan on using the Krell mind expander a little later just so I can figure out how to get back to you.

For these last months, I was using the handle “roddy mcorley” instead of my name because when I signed up, the computer told me that someone else was using my name (imagine the gall!) and that I had to come up with another one. It never penetrated my vacuous skull that I could use a variation of my name and people would then be able to recognize my tweets.

(It should tell you something that I thought there was only one other “rickmoran” in the Twitter world and that I actually believed I might be able to buy the guy off and take my rightful place in Twitterdom, proudly using my real name. Today, using a simple search, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered about 50 “Rick Moran”s, most using variations of my name, all tweeting away happily, secure in the knowledge that people knew who they were.)

Who was roddymcorley? Roddy McCorley was an Irish patriot, who fought during the rebellion of 1798, and was later captured by the British and hung. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem recorded a ballad about McCorley that was written at the turn of the 20th century, and is not only one of their more well known selections, but has also been a staple at Moran family gatherings for more than 40 years of campfire/living room songfests.

The song is both tragic and uplifting - as only the Irish can do it:

Up the narrow streets he stepped
Smiling proud and young
About the hemp rope on his neck
The golden ringlets clung
There is never a tear in his blue eyes
For glad and bright are they
As young Roddy McCorely goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today

Today, I killed off Roddy McCorley as my handle and adopted “rickmoran_rwnh.” In exploring the Twitter site, I accidentally found out how you can change your username. Imagine my sheer delight when I discovered I could use my real name so that my legions of blog fans can now follow me on Twitter.

Maybe sometime this weekend I will peruse the instructions (also discovered by accident today) so that I can actually get in on the conversation. No promises though. If it is any more complex than pointing and clicking, faggetaboutit.

Maybe I should just give it up. Readers of this site are probably giggling at the thought that I can say anything meaningful using 140 characters. Or 140 words for that matter. I am well aware of my propensity to babble, to digress, to wax poetic when simple declarative sentences will do. But then, how would you get to sleep at night without my somnolent scribblings to make your eyes glaze over and get heavy with sleep? I am better than Sominex and cheaper than Halcion, and I challenge anyone to a “sleep-off” to see which blogger - Andrew Sullivan or me - is a better sleep aid. I will bet $50 dollars that I can put you to sleep faster than Andrew.

Yeah…I still don’t get Twitter. And probably never will.

By: Rick Moran at 11:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

KOPECHNE AS MARTYR TO KENNEDY’S FAILED AMBITION
CATEGORY: Ethics, Politics

Maybe she phrased it wrong. Maybe liberal blogger Melissa Lafsky writing in Huffpo this morning had a brain cramp and wrote something she didn’t want to.

Maybe aliens made her do it.

Somehow, some explanation must be given for this kind of incredible, tone deaf, idiocy:

We don’t know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she’d have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history. What we don’t know, as always, could fill a Metrodome.

Still, ignorance doesn’t preclude a right to wonder. So it doesn’t automatically make someone (aka, me) a Limbaugh-loving, aerial-wolf-hunting NRA troll for asking what Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted’s death, and what she’d have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded.

Who knows — maybe she’d feel it was worth it.

I’m sure the 29 year old woman was comforted by the fact as she was gasping out her last breaths in that air pocket that formed when the drunken sot of a senator steered his car into the tidal pool and left her to die a terrifying death, that her passing would launch “the most successful senate career in history.” Kopechne was, after all, a good liberal - civil rights worker, RFK volunteer, and the kind of dedicated young person who would gladly sacrifice their life for the cause.

Except that liberals (despite what some of my righty colleagues may think) are people too. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that Mary Jo Kopechne, when she realized that no help would arrive in time to save her, was, if she was thinking about anything except the dwindling supply of oxygen and screaming and shaking and crying as her lungs began to burn from the excess CO2 in that tiny space, may have cursed the living daylights out of Kennedy for being responsible for her impending death.

And if, by some miracle granted by God, she had been able to see the future, what would have been her reaction to Kennedy’s story of what happened that night? The attempts to get his cousin Joe Gargan to lie for him and back his bogus claim that Kopechne was alone in the car? What would she have thought about the fact that after extricating himself, he went back to the party he had just left? What would she have thought of Kennedy going back to his hotel, complaining to the manager that he couldn’t sleep because of a noisy party, and then having the balls to say at the inquest, “I almost tossed and turned and walked around that room…?”

Almost describes everything Kennedy did that night - except he was mostly drunk and tried to concoct a plan that would have absolved him of any responsibility for Kopechne’s death.

I think it much more appropriate to ask what Mary Jo Kopechne would have thought about that, rather than her views on Senator Kennedy’s glorious senate career.

I don’t know about you, but I sure would rather be alive and kicking than being the “catalyst” for the notion that Kennedy could never be president because of my death and this was somehow a good thing because of all the good my killer did during the rest of his life, being forced to abandon his presidential aspirations and serve in the senate.

Mary Jo Kopechne - Martyr to Kennedy’s failed ambition.

Of all the millions of words, tens of thousands of articles, blog posts, and other scribblings by liberals over the death of Ted Kennedy, this may be the most amazingly shallow, myopic, and ultimately self centered sentence that has been written. To write, to hint that Kopechne would have somehow preferred to be dead rather than alive in any circumstance, for any cause, or for any person in her life at that time is ghoulish, and bespeaks an extraordinary callousness toward life that calls to mind the absolute worst that ideologues of either the left or right are capable.

I do not wish to generalize, and indeed, I know there are many liberals who are shocked by this as well.   But it does highlight the mindset of some liberals quite well, don’t you think? To left wing fanatics like Lafsky, human life does not belong to the individual, but to the higher cause of the collective good. For Lafsky, of course Kopechne would, if she had a crystal ball and been able to see the future, have sacrificed herself on the altar of social “progress” rather than live a full life filled with friends, family, kids, and a fulfilling career.

What a despicable thing to write.

By: Rick Moran at 9:05 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (22)

8/27/2009
WHAT IF ‘OBAMACARE’ MORPHS INTO KENNEDYKARE?

Liberals are licking their chops at the prospect of using the death of Ted Kennedy to unite the party and get a health care reform bill passed.

Is exploiting the death of Kennedy a rotten, shameless, despicable thing to do? In politics, nothing is rotten or shameless - unless you’re on the other side taking advantage of an obvious political gambit. The only consideration is if something works or not. And baby, the Dems are going to milk the death of Kennedy until they wring every last ounce of political capital they can manage from his rotund carcass.

They are going to bend every effort to tie the emotional attachment with the late senator sincerely felt by the vast majority of Democrats directly to the health care bill with the hope that it will give some of the Blue Dogs, and liberals the cover they need to come to an agreement. In short, using the memory of Kennedy and good feelings elicited when appealing to his ghost, the Democratic leadership hopes it makes party members more willing to compromise to achieve the goal of creating KennedyKare.

I would fully expect the Republicans to do the exact same thing in similar circumstances. Of course, that would be an impossibility at the moment since no Republican living, dead, or in between has that kind of pull with the party, nor is there an issue that Republicans could rally around even if such a mythical beast existed. The appeals to Reagan’s memory may engender fond feelings of nostalgia, but the wellspring of actual political power that the Ghost of the Gipper can wield is just about dry.

So the question isn’t should the Democrats exploit Kennedy’s death, but rather what is the best way to go about doing it to achieve success?

Renaming the bill in honor of Kennedy won’t do much. Nice symbolism but hardly enough to break, what most media reports have said, is a titanic log jam of proposals on reform where several committees and individuals are working at cross purposes. Getting a bill out of this mish mash is going to take a lot more than simply calling the monstrosity something else.

In order to rally the Congress, more substantive and public demonstrations of both real and manufactured emotionalism will have to be employed for the gambit to work. Kennedy is going to have to first be beautified, and then named as a civic saint - a party icon that can be invoked with such reverence that “What would Teddy want?” becomes a rallying cry for reform leaders.

It starts today with a “carefully orchestrated” procession from the Kennedy’s beloved Hyannis Port, through the streets of Boston where the political and emotional symbolism will fairly drip from old imitation gas streetlights in the city’s historic North End:

A procession will leave Hyannis Port at 1 p.m. today, accompanying Kennedy’s body to Boston for a final journey through a city indelibly marked by his family.

At about 2:15, the procession is expected to wind its way through downtown, first passing through the North End, where his mother was born, then crossing the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway on its way to the State House, and ultimately passing the Bowdoin Street residence of President Kennedy when he first ran for Congress and the federal building that bears his name.

Crowds are encouraged to gather on Hanover Street along the Greenway, on City Hall Plaza, and on the Boston Common in front of the State House.

The procession will end at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, where Kennedy will lie in repose and visitors will be invited to pay their respects today and tomorrow.

There will be a massive outpouring of people who will want to view the remains, reminding members of Kennedy’s enormous popularity not only in the party, but with the average working American as well. TV images of the procession passing these Democratic touchstones will also serve to connect Ted to his martyred brothers thus making a direct appeal to generations of Democrats.

This is powerful stuff, and the news nets will milk coverage was well, seeing that events such as these will bring millions of eyeballs to their broadcasts who might not normally be watching.

Same thing happened when Reagan died, and for the same reasons. National tragedy is the honey that attracts millions of extra viewers and there’s no reason to complain about it.

There will apparently be no less than 3 memorial services; an invitation only event tomorrow night at the library (no word on whether it will be televised, although I can’t imagine it not). Then, the actual funeral mass at a Basilica on Mission Hill. Here, there will be “limited press access” which is probably short hand for pool reporting.

From there, more symbolism will be used as another procession will form, taking the casket to Logan Airport for the trip to Washington and a late afternoon burial at Arlington Cemetery.

President Obama is scheduled to give the eulogy on Saturday and will no doubt give it his usual best effort. How hard will he hit the meme of passing health care reform in Kennedy’s name? Hopefully, the guy isn’t completely tone deaf and will refrain from hammering the world wide audience over the head with references to it. However, it would be perfectly legitimate for Obama to specifically tout reform since Kennedy himself is quoted as saying the issue was central to his public life. Republicans will complain no matter what but the president must still strike a solemn balance between honoring Kennedy and taking care of politics.

A couple of interesting side notes. First, why no lying in state in the rotunda of the Capitol? It could be because they would then have to move the funeral mass to Washington, D.C. as protocol would dictate that any lying in state be conducted before the funeral rites. Plus, the funeral would have to be moved to a Sunday which, while permissible, is atypical in the Catholic church.

Secondly, there has been no announced Wellstone-style Congressional memorial service. It may not have been planned yet. Or, Democrats might be a little hesitant considering the grief they got following the tribute to Wellstone after his death from a plane crash in 2002.

Surely Al Franken is being disingenuous at best when he writes in HuffPo about that Wellstone tribute:

A pained Limbaugh asked his audience the day after the memorial: “Where was the grief? Where were the tears? Where was the memorial service? There wasn’t any of this!”

This was a lie. I was there. Along with everyone else, I cried, I laughed, I cheered. It was, to my mind, a beautiful four-hour memorial.

I didn’t boo. Neither did 22,800 of the some 23,000 people there. This has been a much discussed, much lied about aspect of the memorial. A number of Republicans, like Peggy Noonan and Weekly Standard writer Chris Caldwell claimed that 20,000 people had booed Trent Lott. (Caldwell claimed that 20,000 people booed a whole litany of people who weren’t booed at all.) We’ll never get an actual count - but I’d say about two hundred people booed Trent Lott when his face came on the Jumbotron. This was about a minute after 23,000 people cheered for Bill Clinton when his face appeared on the Jumbotron.

How does that square with an account from someone a little less partisan, William Saletan of Slate?

But the solemnity of death and the grace of Midwestern humor are overshadowed tonight by the angry piety of populism. Most of the event feels like a rally. The touching recollections are followed by sharply political speeches urging Wellstone’s supporters to channel their grief into electoral victory. The crowd repeatedly stands, stomps, and whoops. The roars escalate each time Walter Mondale, the former vice president who will replace Wellstone on the ballot, appears on the giant screens suspended above the stage. “Fritz! Fritz!” the assembly chants.

“Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning,” Wellstone declares in a videotaped speech shown on the overhead screens. “Politics is about improving people’s lives.” But as the evening’s speakers proceed, it becomes clear that to them, honoring Wellstone’s legacy is all about winning the election. Repeating the words of Wellstone’s son, the assembly shouts, “We will win! We will win!” Rick Kahn, a friend of Wellstone’s, urges everyone to “set aside the partisan bickering,” but in the next breath he challenges several Republican senators in attendance to “honor your friend” by helping to “win this election for Paul Wellstone.” What can he be thinking?

Franken is right. I watched the entire memorial service (I admired and liked Paul Wellstone even though I vehemently disagreed with him on almost everything he stood for.) It is true that 20,000 people did not boo Trent Lott. But unless those 200 phantom booers mentioned by Franken were right next to a microphone and had their numbers seem inflated, my guess would be more like 5,000 booed Lott, with even louder boos for Jesse Ventura, then governor. I seem to recall Denny Hastert also receiving a healthy round of boos but am not sure he was even there.

At any rate, Saletan’s description of the “Memorial Service” is spot on. Numerous speakers trashed Republicans - not just the two he mentioned. It could very well be that Franken - as rabid a partisan who has ever served in the senate - has an entirely different idea what partisan speechmaking is all about than normal people like you and me.

Whether it was planned to be a pep rally is not the point. That’s what it became and Democrats would do well to recall the reaction to press reports - including those bastions of right wing lying, the New York Times, and Time Magazine that led to at least a mini-backlash that could have cost Mondale the election.

But such an event might be a topper to what Democrats obviously hope will be an emotional outpouring in memory of Senator Kennedy which might translate into the political muscle necessary to ram through KennedyKare. In fact, one might expect the Democrats to try and stampede the issue into passing once Congress is back from their recess after Labor Day.

Would it work? The stampede, probably not. But I don’t see how the death of Ted Kennedy and the Democrat’s exploiting the emotional context of remembrance and history that will be on display, can do anything except help President Obama and the Congressional leadership realize some kind of health care bill before Thanksgiving.

By: Rick Moran at 9:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

8/26/2009
NO DOUBTING TED KENNEDY’S IMPACT ON HISTORY

We will let the New York Times and liberal blogs lionize the man. I assure you there will be enough of that for anyone’s tastes.

Here, I will try to give the unvarnished truth about a person who was indeed, the “liberal lion of the Senate” (take from that what you will), as well as representing the absolute worst of wealth and privilege in the United States.

Ted Kennedy, the rogue son of a rogue family has died of brain cancer at age 77. Oftentimes, liberals like to compare the Kennedy family to that other famous political family that featured presidents, and legislators of note; the Adams family.

Pardon me if my outrage can’t quite be held in check. The man who fought longer and harder for American independence than anyone of his time - John Adams - had it all over Teddy as far as personal moral behavior and principled, pragmatic leadership. His son, John Quincy Adams, took stands against slavery that made any “political courage” shown by Kennedy to be minuscule by comparison.

Suffice it to say, that the difference between the two families couldn’t be more pronounced and referring to the Kennedy’s in the same breath as the Adams’s is a travesty.

No doubt Kennedy the man was a despicable cad, a notorious roue, and, until late in life, a certified drunk. As most conservative blogs are reporting this morning, “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.” ‘Nuff said about Kennedy the man.

But history is a relentless bitch of a mistress, holding us to standards of truth and accuracy so that even one so vile as Kennedy must be examined not only in the context of his personal peccadilloes but also for his contributions to his times.

And those contributions were awesome.

There is no doubt that the average Joe working American lives a better life today because of Teddy Kennedy. He is safer on the job, his wages are higher (even non-union workers), his children have more educational opportunities, he is healthier, and wealthier than any working American of any other generation in history. We can certainly criticize liberal excesses in much of the legislation that this master parliamentarian guided through the labyrinthine maze of Congress. But no honest appraisal of Kennedy’s career would be complete without referring to the gigantic impact he had on ordinary, blue collar America.

He was at the center of every major legislative initiative that created much of the welfare state, as well as shepherding through Congress important legislation regarding voting rights, health care, labor law, and education. Conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Orrin Hatch found him not only to be a tough enemy but also someone with whom they could negotiate their concerns. He earned the respect of his opponents by having the issues associated with any legislation he was pushing down absolutely stone cold. And his mastery of Roberts Rules of Order made him a formidable presence in any senate debate.

Even historians not enamored of his far left liberalism — a liberalism that seemed to get farther left the older he got — compare him to Henry Clay or John C. Calhoun as far as his impact on the senate. That may be unfair to Clay who sacrificed his chance at the presidency to bring about compromises on the slavery issue. I did not sense such self abnegation in Teddy Kennedy, who viewed his senate seat as something of a patrimony from God. The wealth and privilege he enjoyed that allowed him to escape justice in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and his family to get out of scrape after scrape with the law highlighted the fact that this was a family not above the law but beyond it. Their money, power, and influence had far too much impact on our national life than is healthy in a republic. And perhaps that’s the key to Kennedy’s psyche.

I believe the guilt of possessing great wealth drove him to compensate for his privileged position by pushing legislation that he believed exonerated him of his family sins. This is not unusual in American history, with industry titans from Astor to Rockefeller giving away much of their fortune prior to their death. But what drove Kennedy was also perhaps the nagging belief that he really wasn’t up to the Kennedy mystique, that he was a fraud compared to his martyred brothers.

The truth is, John Kennedy was no liberal at all (just ask Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.), and Robert Kennedy’s liberalism was far more muscular and more out of the classic school of left wing thought than the New Left activists who tried to adopt him in 1968. Robert’s liberalism was informed by both his Catholicism, and his own personal demons of trying to live up to the heroic image he carried of his brother John.

It took Ted a few years after Robert’s death to be convinced that “carrying on the legacy” of RFK actually meant going beyond his brother’s concerns that welfare was creating a permanent underclass to embracing the welfare state and the left wing agenda that went with it. Perhaps he saw this as the quickest way to the White House, not even able to fathom the damage done to his presidential aspirations by being responsible for Mary Jo Kopechne’s death. Or perhaps, it was indeed guilt that drove him on. Historians will have a field day with his motivations, that’s for sure.

The last of the “original” Kennedy brothers is dead. An age has now passed into history where for “one, brief, shining moment” one American family stood at the apex of power, largely bought for them by their immensely wealthy father. His two brothers who preceded him in death were known for what “might have been,” having been cut down before they could make any lasting impact on the country.

Not so the third Kennedy brother. His legacy will live on in the lives he made better, the lives he made worse - and the life he was responsible for ending.

By: Rick Moran at 9:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (38)

8/25/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: THE CIA”S WAR WITH THE WHITE HOUSE

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

Tonight, my special guests are Dr. Melissa Clouthier and Andrew Ian Dodge. We’ll look at the war that has broken out between the CIA and the White House as well as the latest on health care reform.

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.”

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 4:25 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)