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7/31/2010
CONSERVATIVE HYSTERIA THREATENS MID TERM GAINS

Maybe it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s an al-Qaeda plot that has dumped LSD in public cisterns throughout the country. Or, it could be simple, old fashioned, bat guano crazy wishful thinking.

Whatever it is, the very silly season has arrived on the right and with it, diminishing chances that the American people will drink the same flavor of Kool Ade and join conservatives in giving the Democrats a well-deserved paddling at the polls.

A kind of irrational combination of fear and exuberance has infected the right in recent weeks as the number of vulnerable Democrats grows and the realization that at the very least, the House may fall into their laps takes hold. And if the hysteria was limited to the fringes, one might dismiss it as not worthy of discussion.

Instead, illogical ranting has gone mainstream with a call by former Rep. Tom Tancredo in the Washington Times for the president to be impeached, and now the belief that there may be another American Revolution on the way emanating from the pages of the staid, and usually rational Investors Business Daily.

The probable response of those two media organs would be that these are valid points of view and they are performing a public service by airing them. At least, that’s what the New York Times says when they publish off the wall looniness from liberals.

In truth, they are not valid. They are not rational. They are not sane. Tancredo especially, forces one to ask the question; what country is he talking about?

For the first time in American history, we have a man in the White House who consciously and brazenly disregards his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. That’s why I say the greatest threat to our Constitution, our safety and our liberties, is internal. Our president is an enemy of our Constitution, and, as such, he is a danger to our safety, our security and our personal freedoms.

Now, if you’re familiar with the conservative internet, this is not an uncommon idea. All that’s missing is the charge that President Obama is a Marxist.

Oh, wait…

Mr. Obama’s paramount goal, as he so memorably put it during his campaign in 2008, is to “fundamentally transform America.” He has not proposed improving America - he is intent on changing its most essential character. The words he has chosen to describe his goals are neither the words nor the motivation of just any liberal Democratic politician. This is the utopian, or rather dystopian, reverie of a dedicated Marxist - a dedicated Marxist who lives in the White House.

That’s right. Tom Tancredo believes the president of the United States is a Commie. He’s not even a pinko. He is a dead red, dyed in the wool, “dedicated Marxist.” Left unsaid, but easily inferred from Tacredo’s unbalanced rant, is that President Obama is deliberately out to destroy the country. This is a Rush Limbaugh talking point and many of his 17 million daily listeners fall for it. One would think a former congressman should know better, but evidently, such rationality requires adherence to a worldview that doesn’t see the political opposition as the reincarnation of the Devil.

Is President Obama intent on “changing [America's] most essential character?” Unfortunately, yes he is trying. He is doing it not because he wants to destroy America but because he thinks he is improving her. This misguided, imprudent, and ultimately doomed attempt to alter the relationship between the people and the government can be opposed rationally (as defending it can be argued without resorting to hyperbole or name calling). Tancredo chooses to believe (or lets on that he believes) that in order to oppose the president, one must resort to hysterical exaggerations and deliberate misinterpretation of Obama’s motives. But doing it the logical way will not garner him headlines or make him a hero on the right.

Such is the level to which conservatism has sunk in some quarters.

There is not a shred of evidence that the president has “violated his oath of office” nor is there a speck of proof that President Obama has committed any high crime or misdemeanor that would even hint at the necessity of removing him from office. He has played hardball politics the Chicago Way, rewarding friends and punishing enemies as any other flag waving, patriotic, devious, two faced politician in America has done in the past. Admittedly, using $800 billion in taxpayer monies to play that game is a rather novel gimmick to protect the jobs of the president’s union friends and benefactors. But “impeachable?” Not hardly.

But Tancredo’s skewed version of reality can’t hold a candle of idiocy to the ideas expressed in this IDB editorial by former Ford-Reagan treasury department officials Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins. The headline - “Will Washington’s Failures Lead To Second American Revolution?” - is really quite deceiving. You will be glad to hear that except for the lede where the authors compare the internet to the colonial Committees of Correspondence and dreamily wonder whether that alone could lead to another revolution, nowhere in that article do the duo defend the premise of the headline.

Instead, they launch an hysterically exaggerated attack on what President Obama has done so far in office:

Barack Obama, however, has pulled off the ultimate switcheroo: He’s diminishing America from within — so far, successfully.

He may soon bankrupt us and replace our big merit-based capitalist economy with a small government-directed one of his own design.

He is undermining our constitutional traditions: The rule of law and our Anglo-Saxon concepts of private property hang in the balance. Obama may be the most “consequential” president ever.

The Wall Street Journal’s steadfast Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote that Barack Obama is “an alien in the White House.”

His bullying and offenses against the economy and job creation are so outrageous that CEOs in the Business Roundtable finally mustered the courage to call him “anti-business.” Veteran Democrat Sen. Max Baucus blurted out that Obama is engineering the biggest government-forced “redistribution of income” in history.

Fear and uncertainty stalk the land. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says America’s financial future is “unusually uncertain.”

What can be said when grown-ups, former government officials no less, resort to such nonsensical hyperbole? How much courage, really, does it take business execs to call the president “anti-business?” If they had released a statement saying that Obama was really Satan, that might take some balls.

And why is anyone surprised at the liberals engineering income redistribution? It’s what they do for a living. Of course, they’re never honest enough to run on such a platform (recall Obama denying as much vociferously and the liberal pile on of Joe the Plumber for asking about it). But electing Democrats to such huge majorities is an open invitation for the government to pick you pocket - in the name of “fairness,” of course.

I confess to not seeing how any of this leads to a revolution. A shooting war between the right wing and the US army would be over very quickly, to the detriment of the wingnuts. Revolution at the polls is more likely, but who’s going to vote for people who spout nonsense like the above?

Marc Ambinder:

The Democratic strategy in a nutshell is small enough to fit in one but has the protein of a good, tasty nut. The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask. This IS offensive and over the top, and the more Democrats repeat it, and the more dumb things some Republican candidates do, the more generally conservative voters who might be thinking of sending a message to Democrats by voting for a Republican will be reminded that the replacement party is even more loony than the party that can’t tie its shoes. This is a strategy of delegitimization, not affirmation. It is how you reduce independent turnout. It’s how you fundraise for your own party.

A corollary: the House is not going to save itself for Democrats. Let’s stipulate that House Democrats have passed a lot of legislation. It’s too late to convince voters that all of it was good. So selling is not going to work. If you’ve already decided not to buy an Acura, you’re not going to be convinced just because James Spader’s melifluous voice tells you that it’s the right thing to do. Decision science suggests that the only avenue available to Democrats is to prevent people from making the OTHER choice, too.

Ambinder titles his post “Democratic Message: We may be incompetent, but they’re crazy” which is pretty close to the truth. The problem is that people get mad at incompetents but fear crazies. For this reason, the more that people like Tancredo take center stage for the Republicans, and the more respected conservative outlets like IDB publish nonsense, the more those few voters who might be persuadable enough to turn a GOP wave into a tsunami that would wash away Democratic majorities in the House and Senate look in askance at the right and wonder if they can be trusted with power.

By: Rick Moran at 10:21 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

7/30/2010
WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE MATTERS
CATEGORY: Government, Politics

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

It’s been called “undemocratic,” “a relic,” and worse. Every 50 years or so, a movement gets underway to eviscerate or eliminate it — one of the creakiest compromises that emerged from our Constitutional Convention in 1788.

I refer to the Electoral College — that inelegant, less than perfect, but ultimately useful device by which we ultimately elect our presidents. Over the years, more than 30 Constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress to gut the college or eliminate it entirely. None have ever passed the legislature and sent to the states for ratification.

A few states have taken it upon themselves to circumvent the Electoral College by joining what has come to be known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact where no matter the vote for president in their own states, they will apportion electoral votes based on the national popular vote totals. Massachusetts is the latest state to join this Compact, but it is unclear whether it would actually pass Constitutional muster if challenged.

Arguments in favor of the Compact are compelling. Isn’t it always better to have the people choose the president directly? In a nation as much in love with liberty as the United States, such an argument resonates powerfully. Other arguments are equally worthy; such a compact would prevent chaos in very close elections; it would take the focus of elections off the large swing states and thus empower smaller states; and the compact may open the door to more serious third party challenges, thus broadening participation.

But there are two powerful reasons for maintaining the current system. First, as conservatives, we favor tradition - especially when it can’t be proved that changing the rules would make the system better. For every argument in favor of giving the Electoral College the deep six, there are counter-arguments which reveal unintended consequences that would arise if we were to abandon the college and consign its wisdom to the dustbin of history.

The original intent of the College was to keep the decision for president entirely out of the hands of citizens and place it in the hands of “wise men” who would presumably act in the national interest in choosing a president rather than base the choice on the selfish interests of the rabble. The Electoral College was amended in 1804 to reflect the emergence of political parties, and states mostly settled on a “winner take all” formula for choosing electors.

This boosted the influence of states in national elections by forcing candidates to run campaigns that reflected the federal nature of our republic. The early divisions of big state vs. small state in the country were augmented by urban vs. rural, west vs. east, north vs. south, and agriculture vs. manufacturing divisions to which a candidate for president had to address if he were to be successful.

The magic formula to reach a majority of the electoral college votes, therefore, was a test of the broadest possible appeal of a candidate. It guaranteed that no region, no interest would be slighted by a candidate who did so at the risk of alienating key groups and losing precious Electoral College votes in the process. Rural voters from north and south, urban voters from the coast and the interior, were lumped together and specific appeals were tailored to win them over.

The other major reason to maintain the Electoral College is that it confirms the federal nature of the United States government. It is not surprising that the impetus for the Compact is coming from heavily Democratic states. Direct election of a president would place a premium on wholesale politics. In the 2008 election, Barack Obama took 9 of the 10 largest states, running up huge majorities in the popular vote in states like California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and Michigan. In a race decided by the popular vote, the Republican would be at a distinct disadvantage in that he would be forced to run a defensive campaign, trying to cut into the Democrats huge advantage in coastal and heavily urbanized areas while defending turf in far less populous regions. The disparity would mean that the Republican would spend far more per vote than the Democrat.

And there is something to be said for the charm of presidential campaigns as they are currently run. True, swing states like Ohio and Florida get an inordinate amount of attention from candidates. But would smaller states receive more stroking from candidates if we were to switch to a popular vote model? I can’t imagine it. In a close election like 2004, John Kerry and George Bush criss-crossed the country in those final days, hitting smaller states like New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, and Washington, in addition to the larger markets, fighting for each and every electoral vote. I doubt very much whether that scenario would play out in a direct election scenario as it would be more efficient and prudent to appear in states with the largest TV markets to maximize the effort to win as many votes as possible.

The argument for or against the Electoral College is a close one. But in the end, bowing to the wisdom of the Founders has rarely steered us wrong through the centuries. In this, as in most things, their prescience in doing what was best for succeeding generations of Americans has been born out with great success.

By: Rick Moran at 7:03 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

7/27/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: EXCUSE ME, I HAVE TO TAKE A WIKILEAK

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

Tonight, I welcome Jeff Dunetz, Jazz Shaw and Charlie Martin to talk about the Wikileaks document dump and what it means for the war effort in Afghanistan. We’ll also look at some other hot topics making news today.

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.”

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 4:39 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

7/26/2010
NO REAL BOMBSHELLS IN AFGHAN WIKILEAK DOCS

After weeks of speculation where war opponents were licking their chops and the administration was sweating bullets, Wikileaks has released 92,000 documents summarizing in detail the day to day operations on the ground in Afghanistan as well as pungent assessments of our Afghan allies and our supposed friends in Pakistan.

In truth, there are only mild surprises gleaned so far from the document dump. Three news outlets - The New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Speigel - were given access to the material weeks ago with the caveat that they not release anything until yesterday.

A few highlights courtesy of the New York Times:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 - a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives - work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

There is also extensive documentation and speculation about the role of Pakistan’s wayward intelligence agency, the ISI, in cooperating with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Again, this is not earth shattering news as the American government has been lodging complaint after complaint with both the former government headed by President Musharraff and the current government about a blind eye being cast by the military and civilian authorities in Pakistan toward activities by their own intelligence service.

In the New York Times report, a good point is made about the provenance of this intelligence:

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information - raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan- cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

Thus, a critical reason why clueless idiots like Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, should be prevented from acting like idiot children in dumping this startling amount of information raw, unexpurgated, without context and without reason on the public. The fact is that Assange doesn’t care what effect his triumphal act of America-hate has on live troops, the debate over the war, the effect on policy where thousands of lives are at stake, or even on advancing understanding of what is happening in Afghanistan. This was a reckless, petulant, adolescent, tantrum thrown by a cold, calculating, glory hunting ignoramus. And that goes double for the individual who purloined these documents in the first place.

Clearly, too much information gathered by the government is being classified as “Secret” or “Top Secret.” Many times, that classification is used to hide perfidious deeds or even simple political misbehavior. The volume of classified documents grows astronomically every year with more and more government bureaucrats given the ability to classify what they are doing. This is not a prudent use of the necessary secrecy that attends some government functions and actions. And if Assange was a crusader to rectify that imbalance, he might receive a little more sympathy from me.

But he is not. His purposes are malevolent - to destroy the credibility of the United States government and deliberately undermine public confidence in the war. And his methods are unconscionable. He - a foreigner after all - has presumed to inject himself  into a domestic political debate. I don’t want to hear that crap about our actions affecting everyone else in the world and that therefore, foreigners have a perfect right to butt their noses into our domestic politics. That is so nonsensical as to be sky blue idiocy. The very same people who make that argument would scream bloody murder if we injected ourselves into their domestic arguments about policies that affected the United States. Assange doesn’t have a leg to stand on morally, or politically for that matter. That’s because for all the hype, for all the worry that this document dump engendered in government, this may be the most spectacularly banal scoop in history.

Certainly, these are no Pentagon Papers. The information that has been held back from the public appears to be reasonable and necessary to the war effort, including the idea that the war was not going as well as some in the military and White House were saying. Did people expect otherwise? Besides, it is impossible, given their nature,  for these reports to have documented the broad strategic efforts by the military since most of the documents appear to give a worm’s eye view of the conflict, reporting on purely local conditions rather than trying to judge the overall progress made by both the American military and the civilian rebuilding efforts.

The only revelations that might merit a page one story in the media were the news that the Taliban has gotten a hold of some relatively ineffective (old) ground to air shoulder fired missiles (probably Stingers) and the larger extent of civilian casualties that the Pentagon chose not to publicize. As for the latter, the Pentagon may have not been forthcoming, but regional media was not shy about reporting on Afghan civilians being killed in our drone and manned air strikes. Domestic media was not reluctant in picking up on those reports either.

As for the missiles, the incident reports show that while there have been some successful strikes, many more were failures. That would seem to indicate either the Taliban don’t know how to use the missiles or they are older ordnance with attendant problems as far as aged rocket fuel, bad electronics, and perhaps even dud war heads. Was it necessary to keep their existence secret?  Probably not. Then again, there may be tactical reasons for not revealing our knowledge of this. Perhaps we want the Taliban to think we don’t know they possess such weapons. It is a certainty that Mr. Assange doesn’t know and just as clearly, doesn’t care.

The civilian casualty cover up is more serious. The American people certainly have a right to know what their military is doing in their name. However, it should be obvious to anyone except the most willfully blind (Glenn Greenwald) that the extraordinary lengths to which our forces go not to kill civilians that comes through crystal clear in the incident reports gives the lie to contentions by Assange and others that war crimes are being committed. Even after General McChrystal altered the Rules of Engagement to reflect the most careful and prudent measures taken to not even carry out offensive operations if civilians were in the area - at the risk of the lives of our own men - civilians were wounded and killed. If you want to make an argument against causing any civilian casualties, you might as well go all the way and argue against the war. Anything less brands you as a hypocrite.

There were also domestic politics at play in Afghanistan in covering up civilian casualties. Do we know if the Afghan government was also reluctant to give the whole story about the deaths of ordinary people? Would it matter? It’s a tougher call than if you simply examine the surface of the story and not reflect on the broader implications involved in going out of our way to announce the deaths of Afghan civilians.

As for the question of should the documents have been published? Of course not. Anyone who gave that anti-American nutcase Julian Assange - an Australian by birth - access to those documents should be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail for a very long time. Untold damage is being done simply because no one knows what use of this information will be made by the enemy. What intelligence can they glean from its contents? Certainly the Taliban can figure out some of our weaknesses by reading through these documents. For that reason alone, Assange himself should be relentlessly pursued and arrested.

It is highly likely that this irresponsible release will result in additional American casualties.

By: Rick Moran at 10:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

7/24/2010
A LAZY MIDSUMMER’S WEEKEND
CATEGORY: Blogging

chi_murders_by_race
“Ah…the Dog Days of Summer”

Sitting outside in the early afternoon this brutally hot and humid Saturday in the heartland, you suddenly realize that something is amiss. Then it dawns on you that the noise that usually attends the weekend chores of homeowners and the sounds of summer that identify the slow, pleasant rhythm of life in the Midwest are missing. There are no lawn mowers mowing, weed whackers whacking, power edgers edging, blowers blowing, or chain saws sawing. And despite the presence of a dozen children within earshot, there are no joyous cries and squeals that would help you recall your own youth when a summer Saturday occasioned gleeful games of Hide-and-Seek, 3 man baseball (the player at bat got to choose what field they would hit the ball), and the general roughhousing that accompanied a childhood with no cares and the loving surety of parents and family.

Not this Saturday. The thermometer is touching 90 degrees with humidity that gives you the impression that in order to breathe the air, you must first slice it into edible parts. You didn’t so much inhale as you gulped the oppressively hot and heavy air which contributed to the very natural and common sense conclusion that only idiots would dare venture outside in such conditions.

But then you recall that there are those whose job requires them to pay no mind to the life-endangering weather and till the fields so that we don’t have to. There are no lazy summer weekends for farmers or farm workers. This is the miracle season when seeds planted in the spring are reaching a crucial stage of growth and must be tended with the skill and yes, love that will spell the difference between profit and loss on the farm. It is the time when the crop’s yield per acre is determined, and a sharp eye must be trained on the Lord’s bounty to make sure that insects, rusts, and other blights don’t get out of control and cut into the razor thin profits that most farmers can look forward to.

God bless them. As I sit on our recently completed home made patio, there is no breeze to disturb the branches of the Poplar tree. Sue had the idea that the kitties might like a short frolic outdoors and beckoned to my old man Aramas to come exploring. The wise old Tom took one sniff at the door, looked up at her with a haughty stare as if to say, “Do I look like an idiot?” and marched back to his pillow, 5 feet from the AC vent.

Similarly, our beautiful white female Snowball refused the invitation, although being a much younger feline, looked somewhat regretful as she backed away from the entrance to Hades.

But the baby Lucky (pictured above) had no such qualms. He happily and boldly walked outside, wending his way in a figure 8 between my legs as his his wont. I have never had a cat so fascinated with human feet. He takes it as a challenge to scoot between your legs as you walk around the house - sort of like a moving obstacle course for cats. Of course, sometimes he mistimes his dash and you nearly fall and break your neck when cat, feet, and shoe get all tangled up in one another. You’d think the boy would learn his lesson, but 30 seconds later he’s back at it. It is lovable, maddening, and just adds to the mystery of the relationship between humans and felines.

Tiring of chasing his tail between my legs, Lucky wanders off the patio to sniff his domain. Suddenly, an impossibly fat Robin alights about 20 feet away and starts pecking at the ground looking for worms that have been forced to the surface as a result of the rain this morning. The bird has obviously gorged himself already and is probably looking for desert. What he wasn’t looking for was a deadly enemy standing 20 feet away with murder on his mind.

Lucky caught scent of the Robin before seeing him. When he did, it’s as if he had looked upon Medusa’s head and turned to stone. One paw was slightly off the ground, frozen in time while the only thing moving on his entire body was his nose. Slowly, the young hunter made himself as small as possible, inching his way down until his belly was flat, his haunches raised in anticipation of springing forward, his ears twitching now, relying on his other senses to tell him where his prey, now frozen itself, was located.

The Robin knew very well that Lucky was there. The bird sensed danger but wanted to make sure where it was coming from before fleeing. In truth, for all his instinctive behavior, Lucky really wasn’t much of a hunter. When the inexperienced youngster raised his head to draw a bead on his prey, the Robin took off for friendlier climes.

Our boy looked back at us - we were laughing hysterically - and with a swish of his tail, went off exploring the rest of his territory, ignoring our mirth at his ineptness and lovable failure. He was soon engaged in a fascinating duel with a grasshopper. Sue and I both hoped that the bunnies who lived under the woodpile near the back of the fence would act sensibly and stay out of the heat - and away from danger - while Lucky was a’prowling.

These are the dog days of summer, the period 20 days before and 20 days after the dog star Sirius and the sun are in conjunction, according to the ancients. That may be. But here in the Midwest, we’ve always seen the dog days as a time that only a dog could love. Life draining, oppressive heat, sauna-like humidity and the phenomena of the late afternoon thunderstorm that appears regularly, coming out of nowhere and disappearing almost as quickly, leaving behind those jaw dropping, horizon to horizon rainbows that appear so close at times that you can almost hear the laughing Leprechaun guarding his pot of gold.

And along about February, when everyone is heartily sick of the cold, the snow, and the biting wind, many of us will fondly recall the dog days of summer, wishing for a small taste of the misery we’re all complaining about today.

By: Rick Moran at 2:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

7/22/2010
THE PERILS OF EPISTEMIC CLOSURE
CATEGORY: General, Politics

Both the Sherrod matter and the Journolist revelations have one thing in common that the ideologues from both sides remain blissfully and determinedly unaware; the controversies are excellent examples of epistemic closure on both sides.

To jog your memory, Julian Sanchez defined epistemic closure thusly:

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile.

While Sanchez formulated his definition in order to apply the term to conservatives, does any of that sound familiar with regards to the Journolist?

Jonathan Chait defines the liberal reality during the 2008 campaign when the Democratic primary debate on ABC became the only major media event where Barack Obama was confronted with even mildly tough questions about Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers:

The first thread came on the heels of a Democratic primary debate in Pennsylvania, in which the moderators almost completely ignored public policy and asked both candidates a series of questions revolving around Barack Obama’s alleged lack of patriotism or American-ness. Some members of the list, put off by the ABC News team’s questions, decided to write a letter expressing their umbrage.

A couple points pertain. First, the Daily Caller notes, “Journolist members signed the statement and released it April 18.” This is literally true but probably gives readers the impression that all of Journolist signed the letter. In fact, 41 people signed the letter, out of 400 people on Journolist. In other words, Journolist was a vehicle for them to network with each other. This was not an effort “by Journolist.” Most people on Jounolist had nothing to do with it.

Chait has created a reality - or, more accurately, reflects a reality created by Journolist - where questions about Obama’s radical associations, especially with regards to Wright who the candidate identified as a “spiritual advisor” and a major force in his life, are actually questions about “lack of patriotism or American-ness.” The idea that the liberals who belonged to the list (even if they didn’t respond to that specific thread) parroted this talking point far and wide is significant because it reveals why even if list members remained silent, they had absorbed the thinking of the group and rejected any notion that the questions about Obama’s association were legitimate.

Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of Journolist: “Listen folks-in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”

“Discourse that serves the people?” Or serves the cause of electing Obama? It’s easy to confuse the two when your version of reality is heavily influenced by those who share the common goal of electing a particular candidate to office.

Isn’t this a rejection of “objective” reality? Isn’t this a question of dismissing criticism of Obama just because it comes from outside the myopic reality generated by the list and not based on anything save a closed ideological loop that the Journolist represents?

Further:

The members began collaborating on their open letter. Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones rejected an early draft, saying, “I’d say too short. In my opinion, it doesn’t go far enough in highlighting the inanity of some of [Gibson's] and [Stephanopoulos's] questions. And it doesn’t point out their factual inaccuracies …Our friends at Media Matters probably have tons of experience with this sort of thing, if we want their input.”

Note again that legitimate questions about the radical associates of the potential next president of the United States are defined as “inanities.” (I wonder if Obama had hung around with known mafia figures and was asked about it if that would have been more “inanities?”) There was not one quote from a Journolist member in the Daily Caller story who ventured outside the tightly controlled reality created by the group who rejected the inauthentic premise that the questions asked of Obama about the numerous radicals in his past and present were legitimate.

The Journolist was a self-reinforcing feeback loop of  consensus driven opinions, totally rejecting any criticism coming from conservatives (and most of the contrary liberals in the group), while creating a reality based not on objectivity but on a constantly evolving notion of what could be realized for political gain. Hence, the eagerness to pick a conservative name out of a hat and toss the “racism” charge, or the open coordination of a media strategy to manipulate or kill the Reverend Wright controversy.

Chait and other Journolist defenders can talk until they are blue in the face about the innocence of the group regarding their intentions, but the objective  facts speak for themselves. It doesn’t matter how many list members participated in a discussion. The talking points were disseminated to all. And while Chait has a point that we should not assume that everyone read every email, or that everyone adopted the consensus strategy and opinions that emerged from these discussions, we can safely assume that every one of them wanted Barack Obama to win and were not bashful about using the list to promote that end.

As an example of epistemic closure, the Journolist is right up there with what the right did with the Shirley Sherrod story.

The first 12 hours after Andrew Breitbart released his heavily edited video of Sherrod’s  speech before the NAACP recounting a 24-year old incident, there was the usual feeding frenzy on conservative blogs and websites. No one in the conservative camp needed to be instructed on how to handle the story. No coordination was necessary. The issue was starkly laid out and  the reaction was instantaneous and predictable; a real “gotchya” moment by Breitbart that would bring down the NAACP (and their allies in the Democratic party) a peg or two on the credibility scale.

But trouble was brewing about the story. Andrew Sullivan linked to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story where Sherrod tried to explain herself. It was here that the part of the video left on the cutting room floor suddenly became very significant and important to understanding the context of Sherrod’s bigoted words.  Then, as the day went on, the drip, drip, drip of revelations about the actions of the White House, the Agriculture Department, the NAACP, and Breitbart himself turned the story 180 degrees in the opposite direction. A full, 43 minute video was found of Sherrod’s remarks and despite the curious exoneration of the USDA employee by the left (Sherrod admitted her bigotry but then proceeded to turn a racial incident into a quaisi-Marxist class warfare parable), the right continued to defend Breitbart and refused to ask questions of him; questions that someone not caught in the epistemic closure so prevalent on the right would have asked within 5 minutes of seeing the video in the first place.

Where did the video come from? Does the unedited version of the video give context that would be important to the story? Why should we care about an incident that occurred a quarter of a century ago — especially since there are more contemporary examples of  blatant racism of the so-called civil rights group?

The lock-step response on the right to the Sherrod video blew up in its face when the left was successful in turning the story from a question of racism at the NAACP (the reaction of the audience to Sherrod’s remarks about discriminating against a white man seems to have been lost in the shuffle) to how Breitbart tried to smear the NAACP. In this case, objective reality reveals a story turned on its head by an effusion of facts that, in some ways, contradict Breitbart’s narrative and in other ways, makes many of his points moot.

But as a case study of epistemic closure, the Sherrod story typifies conservative internet media. The additional evidence that would appear to exonerate Sherrod of racism charges (not for spouting Marxist idiocies) has been ignored by many on the right. In a piece for today’s Human Events, Dan Riehl attempts to defend the indefensible:

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said America is a nation of cowards on matters of race. He was correct, but in a manner he likely didn’t predict. The racism Breitbart revealed is the racism of the Shirley Sherrods of the progressive-leftist Democratic Party and the NAACP. Afraid to honestly look at and address that, the usual leftist suspects are simply turning the tables as a distraction in a weak effort to instead attack Breitbart.

Breitbart did exactly what he set out and claimed to do, put the inherent racism of the NAACP and the American left on full display.

Perhaps it’s not so much what Breitbart did but what he failed to do; explain the context of the video and give a reason why this edited snippet of tape about an incident that occurred 24 years ago  is relevant to making his case. A more vigorous, less closed conservative media might have pushed those questions to the forefront, challenging their colleagues on the basis of fairness and transparency. Instead, no one dared challenge the narrative lest they be accused of being “liberal” or simply wanting to please the liberal media so they would be invited to the best cocktail parties. Since any such challenge would be rejected out of hand, none was made by those who fear to be ostracized by the group for their apostasy.

These two examples of epistemic closure, one from each side of the ideological divide, point up the perils of a closed information loop. Creating realities based on false authenticity; possessing a worldview that squeezes facts through an ideological or hyper-partisan prism, generates an inability to objectively perceive events  in a rational and logical manner. Perhaps more importantly, it prevents both sides from talking to each other as each is in possession of a separate reality that neither recognizes as the truth.

By: Rick Moran at 12:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

7/20/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: JOURNOLIST: THE BIGGEST MEDIA SCANDAL IN HISTORY?

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

Tonight, I welcome Monica Showalter, Fausta Wertz, and Jazz Shaw to talk about the Journolist scandal and other hot topics making news today.

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.”

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 4:23 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

7/19/2010
TO MY FRIENDS IN THE TEA PARTY: DON’T STOP NOW, GUYS
CATEGORY: General, History

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

The “Tea Party Federation” - a group that purports to represent tea party groups across the country - has exorcised a demon from its midst.

Mark Williams, a radio talk show host by trade, and a self-proclaimed “tea party leader” has been banished from the TPF for writing what might be the most tone deaf, racially insensitive blog post this side of an article praising the Confederate Battle Flag.

It is difficult for a rational person to get their mind around what Williams wrote on his blog in the form of a letter to Abraham Lincoln, about the NAACP’s resolution demanding that racist elements inside the tea party be denounced by its leaders. Reading it was like being transported back to the America of the 1950’s.

Some “highlights:”

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

[...]

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.

And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

[...]

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Sincerely
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person

(Note: Williams has since taken the blog post down from his website.)

Williams claims the piece was satire. And while I am generally in favor of cutting some slack to those who seek to use humor and exaggeration in skewering the politically correct racialists who seek to use race to silence opposition and promote their economic and social agendas - the NAACP comes to mind here - there is a line that should never be crossed and Williams’ screed didn’t even come close. It was far over the top, insensitive, ignorant, and cringe-inducing to anyone with half an ounce of empathy.

The Tea Party Federation - chief cat herders among tea party groups - issued this statement within 24 hours of Williams’ impossibly crass and insensible missive:

[David] Webb appeared on the CBS program Sunday morning to announce that Williams and the Tea Party Express — which has held a series of events across the country to generate support for the movement — no longer were part of the National Tea Party Federation.

“We, in the last 24 hours, have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote,” Webb said of Williams’ blog post that satirized a fictional letter from what he called “Colored People” to President Abraham Lincoln.

Williams, you might recall, propelled himself to national attention when his group, Tea Party Express, hosted a “Tea Party Convention” in Nashville last February. There were charges from other tea party groups that Williams was out to make a buck, and that he was setting himself up in a leadership position of the tea party that no one asked him to assume.

To be accurate, his group, the Tea Party Express, was a small cog in the Tea Party Federation - a fact that seemed to get buried the last couple of days as the press has played up Williams’ “leadership” position in the tea party movement. I’m no expert on the group but the idea that any one group or even several groups speaks for the literally thousands of local tea party organizations across the country is a little daffy.

The tea party folk might act in concert on a case by case basis - the Scott Brown campaign being a good example - but what makes the movement so maddening to dissect is its diffused, confused, and fiercely (some might say fanatically) independent bent. While recent polls reflect the reality that most tea partiers are going to vote Republican, that hardly means they accept the GOP as it is currently constituted, nor do they necessarily rule out voting for a Democrat in some instances if that candidate proves themselves stronger on issues like fiscal conservatism and smaller government.

But the question I have for the Tea Party Federation and others in the movement who are applauding the exile of Williams, is why stop there? Why not purge the loons, the paranoids, the irrational nitwits who question Obama’s citizenship, or believe the Democrats want to set up a one party dictatorship, or that Obama is a secret Muslim - or any number of idiocies espoused by those who identify themselves as “tea party patriots?”

If the racists make up a small part of the tea party movement - and I believe they do - so too the paranoid right who have latched on to the rational, mainstream demands of the overwhelming majority of tea partiers for less spending, less government, and more accountability in Washington, by piggybacking their delusional nonsense on to the movement in the form of forums, email lists, and even spokespeople at tea party events.

For every photo of a racist sign at a tea party event, there are two that promote off the wall conspiracy theories about Obama and the Democrats. While you can’t fault the movement in general for the fact that fringe players have latched on for the ride (a casual perusal of signs at any anti-war demonstration would tell you that nutcases are not confined to the right), you can ask for a strong, declarative, unambiguous statement condemning those whose unabalanced, and blatantly paranoid worldview makes the entire tea party movement look like a haven for escapees from the padded cells of insane asylums.

So I would urge the tea party movement to finish the job of booting the riff raff from their ranks by making it plain that only (mostly) rational and logical criticisms of President Obama and the Democrats will be tolerated.

Certainly you can’t completely police what polls tells us is a group of 29 million or so Americans. That would be an unreasonable request and an impossibility anyway.

But the effort must be made. Otherwise, what profits the tea party movement to ban the racists but embrace the crazies?

By: Rick Moran at 7:24 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

7/18/2010
‘QUIET DESPERATION’ DOESN’T DESCRIBE THE HALF OF IT
CATEGORY: Blogging, Government

Christopher Orlet has struck a nerve among the internet addicts who are as compulsive in following politics and culture as a drunk reaching for the bottle on the night stand first thing in the morning:

I have lived most of my life with but one or two persons I would call good friends. My fiancée, who collects friends like a baleen whale collects plankton, finds my lack of friends odd. I don’t doubt that it is.

It’s not that I am unable to play well with others. It is rather that I have a hard time finding persons who interest me enough to want to be friends. This is, I suppose, what attracted me to books and magazines so many years ago — the opportunity to be in the company of interesting people with engaging stories to tell.

All but one of the friends of my youth has long since disappeared from my radar screen, which is a common enough occurrence after high school. The thing is, I never felt particularly close to any of them. Other than the fact that we were going through the same teenage crises, we had little in common. What brought us together wasn’t not mutual values and interests — they liked cars and girls, I liked guitars and girls — but that we had grown up in close proximity to each another. It was friendship based on location, coincidence, and social class.

Pathetic? Or a description of many of us who have eschewed the superficiality of most relationships outside of marriage and settled on gleaning human contact via the flickering monitor on our desktop?

Before the internet became as ubiquitous as it is today, it was burying oneself in books, magazines, and periodicals that substituted for connecting with flesh and blood. While Orlet claims there is no one as interesting in the world as himself and therefore, finds homo sapiens rather boring, that was only part of the reason I walled myself off from most of humanity. The truth is, I am a bore myself in social situations. Small talk drives me nuts. Inanities make me homicidal. I would much prefer someone walking up to me at a party and asking if I ever read In Praise of Folly than a half-soused reveler asking me about the weather (hot chicks excluded).

I have found that I get along swimmingly without this kind of connection to the species. I’m sure most of those whose company and friendship I reject are lovely people, no doubt willing to give the shirt off their backs and the last coin from their pocket if you asked. I know because some have asked me. It has always amazed me that people you have met perhaps 3 or 4 times in your life feel able to not only involve you in the intimate soap operas of their lives, but also think nothing of showing up at your door at 3:00 AM sheepishly explaining that the wife booted them off the couch they were already sentenced to sleep upon and could they please spend a night or two with you (eating you out of house and home in the process) while the old lady calmed down?

The internet is a perfect vehicle for someone like me. No one expects you to get too close so you can be as funky, as snarky, as haughty and ill-mannered as you please with the only price you pay being removed from someone’s email list. I treasure those emails from readers who, due to my apostasy - real or imagined - would solemnly announce that they would never visit my blog again. My response to these drama queens was always the same; so be it. And to help you keep your promise, I will ban your ISP number, keeping you from ever seeing my blog again.

But looking at this solitary lifestyle in a different light, it personifies Thoreau’s observation of a life lived in “quiet desperation.” The lack of real friendships in my life - save my lovely Zsu-Zsu who doubles as lover and nursemaid - leaves a hole in the soul that is the largest price one pays for shunning the kind of superficial relationships that pass as friendships. For by shunning all it shuts off the possibility that you will find that diamond in the rough - that “true” friend that brings intimacy without sex and closeness without the kind of cloying stickiness many sexual relationships embody. I stopped looking for that mythical beast long ago and have settled for meeting the greatest minds who ever lived in books, while playing with the ignorant savages who inhabit the more fascinating parts of the internet.

Orlet quotes Poe:

A real friend may be, as the musician Chuck Prophet said, someone who will pick you up at the airport. But I think Edgar Allen Poe was nearer the truth when on his deathbed he cried: “My best friend would be the man who would blow my brains out with a pistol.”

EAP obviously never imagined the internet where many who aren’t even your friend would gladly blow your brains out -even without you asking.

Makes life worth living even without friends, eh?

By: Rick Moran at 10:18 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

7/16/2010
A NON-FINANCIAL EXPERT’S NON-EXPERT OPINION ON THE FINANCIAL REGULATION BILL

It is an article of faith for many on the right that government regulation of anything is inherently wasteful and inefficient; that government’s role as a watchdog or arbiter can only lead to less freedom, more restriction of the free market, and a less vibrant economy.

More learned people than I make that argument so I will not dispute it. The question then; is there a case to be made for government regulation anyway?

We’re getting into slippery territory by weighing the bad against the good; a loss of freedom in the market in exchange for some semblance of order. The notion that this is a bad trade off in every case is mistaken, in my opinion. Certainly there are compelling reasons why the only entity large enough to ride herd on the gigantic corporations who run our financial industry upon which we all ultimately depend is the federal government. Trusting these mega-banks to do the right thing without careful, and calibrated adult supervision contradicts the conservative principle that you can’t change human nature (Russell Kirk’s principle of the “imperfectability”) - that given the means and opportunity, the financial giants will act in ways that would be detrimental to the promotion of necessary fairness and transparency, thus damaging the free market anyway.

Kirk’s “well ordered society” and “prudent restraints upon power” should inform any regulatory scheme that seeks to balance the needs of society to protect itself and the necessity of the free market to operate. In this way, there is a conservative case for financial regulatory reform to be made. It’s just too bad that GOP lawmakers are so terrified of their right wing base that they didn’t dare work with Democrats to come up with a bi-partisan FinReg bill that would have been a more prudent, less intrusive, and more effective than the one that passed the senate yesterday. Working with the enemy is verboten and that goes double for anything that smacks of using the government to regulate Wall Street.

It is a legitimate question to ask whether Democrats would have listened to Republicans - any Republican - on a FinReg bill in the first place. Not even trying to work with the opposition on such significant legislation is irresponsible governance. Those few Republicans who exposed themselves to the fury of the base by trying to work with Democrats will get precious little thanks for their efforts. What meager concessions that senators like Scott Brown, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe were able to wangle from the majority will do little to alleviate the impression that this is a Democratic bill through and through, passed once again in the dead of night, with little understanding of what the senate has wrought, and will place an inordinate amount of power in the hands of regulators to make sense of the bill’s 2000+ pages.

Prudence is a lost civic virtue.

The tragedy is that there are indeed, some aspects of this bill that any conservative could have gotten behind. For the first time, a light will shine on the shadowy world of derivatives and credit default swaps - the abuse of which became a primary cause of the downfall of Bear Stearns and AIG. The NY Times Steven Davidoff:

Shadow Banking. The bill establishes record-keeping and reporting requirements for most derivatives (Section 727 and 729). It also establishes a registered derivatives exchange and requires all of these derivatives to be submitted for clearance on an exchange (Section 723). The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission can regulate and ban abusive derivatives as well as decide which derivatives are required to be cleared (Section 714). Nonfinancial companies do not need to clear derivatives if there is a commercial reason for the transaction and they notify the S.E.C. of their ability to financially meet the obligation (Section 723). These provisions as a whole ensure that there is a more open process for derivatives and the ability of regulators to assess their systemic risk.

Treating the derivatives market in a similar fashion that we regulate the stock exchange is a reform long overdue. Previously, we were treated to the spectacle of derivative traders actually betting against the plays of their clients - a grossly unethical practice. At least regulators will get a heads up if there are the kinds of abuses in the system that led to the meltdown.

What about bailouts?

The bill establishes an intricate series of provisions to place ailing financial institutions and systemically significant nonbank financial companies into receivership (Title II). The bill also has provisions allowing the government to deal with systemically significant foreign firms and foreign financial subsidiaries of American companies (Sections 113 and 210). Had these provisions existed, the government could have dealt effectively with the disastrous problems at the American International Group, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

The bill requires that in any resolution, senior management is placed farther down the line of creditors of the firm than they would in a normal bankruptcy (they are placed after the unsecured creditors and just before shareholders) (Section 210). The bill also allows the government to break financial contracts, like credit default swaps, in the resolution process (Section 210). These two provisions allow the government to avoid an A.I.G.-type situation where it is forced to hand over collateral under these derivatives contracts or otherwise pay out money to undeserving management.

There is no guarantee that a company will be “too big to fail” but it makes a taxpayer bailout a matter of last resort rather than panicked action by government. The point being, even if we allow a failing giant to go out of business, it must be managed very carefully so as not to spook the rest of the market and guarantee an orderly exit for the business.

Not perfect but probably the best that could be achieved under the circumstances.

The bank capital requirements are mostly sensible to me, although there is the risk that too stringent requirements will lessen the competitiveness of our financial institutions. As a prime example of unintended consequences, a regulatory regime that is too restrictive in how much cash and assets a bank should have on hand is a probable outcome. Regulators, by nature, are overly cautious and this area of the bill would seem to lend itself to overregulation.

There’s plenty not to like in the bill. A fairly thorough and intelligent take on this comes from Conn Carroll over at Heritage blog. No doubt there are other unknown consequences that will emerge over the next few years. All we can do is hope that Congress will ride herd on the bureaucrats and mitigate the worst of what they can do.

Could the GOP have done any better - that is, if they were of a mind to regulate Wall Street to begin with? I really don’t know. Would a GOP bill have incorporated more suggestions from the industry? Would it have been as tough on derivatives as the current bill appears to be?

What is certain is that we have another imprudent example of how not to govern an industrialized democracy in the 21st century. These gigantic “comprehensive” reform measures hand too much power to unelected bureaucrats by Congress abdicating its responsibilities to carefully weigh the consequences of their proposals before greenlighting them. The most disheartening aspect of Obama’s agenda is not that little thought is given in this area, but that no thought at all is invested in figuring out the downside to these legislative initiatives. It is beyond irresponsiblity that the Democratic Congress has placed us in thrall to government apparatchiks who care more about aggrandizing power and elevating their position than in promulgating intelligent regulation. That is the nature of bureaucracy - something that the Democrats have forgotten, or simply about which the Democrats don’t care.

Reason enough to boot them from power in November.

By: Rick Moran at 11:10 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)