Contact Me

About RightWing NutHouse

Site Stats

blog radio

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More


(Romeo St. Martin of Politics Watch-Canada)

"The epitome of a blogging orgasm"
(Cao of Cao's Blog)

"Rick Moran is one of the finest essayists in the blogosphere. ‘Nuff said. "
(Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye)

October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004



Blacksmiths of Lebanon
Blogs of War
Classical Values
Cold Fury
Diggers Realm
Neocon News
Ravenwood’s Universe
Six Meat Buffet
The Conservative Cat






















‘Unleash’ Palin? Get Real






"24" (96)
Bird Flu (5)
Blogging (198)
Books (10)
Caucasus (1)
Cindy Sheehan (13)
Decision '08 (288)
Election '06 (7)
Ethics (172)
Financial Crisis (8)
FRED! (28)
General (378)
GOP Reform (22)
Government (123)
History (166)
Homeland Security (8)
Iran (81)
Katrina Timeline (4)
Lebanon (8)
Marvin Moonbat (14)
Media (184)
Middle East (134)
Moonbats (80)
Obama-Rezko (14)
Olympics (5)
Open House (1)
Palin (5)
PJ Media (37)
Politics (649)
Presidential Debates (7)
RNC (1)
S-CHIP (1)
Sarah Palin (1)
Science (45)
Space (21)
Sports (2)
Supreme Court (24)
Technology (1)
The Caucasus (1)
The Law (14)
The Long War (7)
The Rick Moran Show (127)
War on Terror (330)
Who is Mr. Hsu? (7)
Wide Awakes Radio (8)


Admin Login


Design by:

Hosted by:

Powered by:

I used to think that the United States was basically indestructible, that our constitution, the uncommon common sense of our people, a bountiful land, and a respect for our history and traditions could see us through any crisis.

Does that still hold true?

I believe these truths are immutable. But there is one very important additional truth that, when removed from the equation, causes the entire edifice to come crashing down in rack and ruin, a testament to the folly and failure of our politics and politicians.

I am talking about faith: Faith in government, faith in our leaders, faith in our institutions, and most of all, faith in ourselves and our talent for self government – the ability for us to decide what is best for our country and our families.

It is the faith of our fathers, and their fathers before them, and their fathers and grandfathers who bequeathed us a nation based on this simple, uncomplicated faith. Without it, there is no trust. And faith, like trust, once lost is a hard commodity to regain

I recall on 9/11, there was a time that it was unclear the extent of the attack, especially after the Pentagon was hit. I am not over dramatizing when I say that I believe everyone in America wondered who was next? What else could happen? The absolute worst scenarios went through my mind as I’m sure it did for most of you. And I remember thinking for just a second or two, “Is this the end of America?” But I immediately dismissed such a preposterous notion. America was a rock, a force of nature. You couldn’t destroy it. Knock a few buildings down, sure. But the almost childlike belief in our ability to overcome anything and emerge triumphant was a powerful tonic that worked its magic on the American psyche and gave us the will to pull together for the good of all.

In that crisis, we had faith to spare. Forgotten was the recent election and its gut rending divisiveness as we came together as one people in the face of tragedy and crisis. It was inspiring. It was elevating.

It was an illusion.

In truth, our unity after 9/11 was a mirage, a temporary respite from the culture wars, the political wars, the ideological wars – the war for the soul of America. The natural equilibrium of political combat to the death reasserted itself within a matter of weeks and any sense of togetherness we felt was extinguished in a flood of partisan poison. And you can draw a straight line from the post 9/11 falling out to our current crisis where what ails us as a nation has only been exacerbated by war and crisis.

I blame Bush. And the Democrats. And the liberals. And the conservatives. And I blame us for enabling the catastrophe, where it becomes easy to lose faith, trust, and even hope – hope that there was a way through this morass of hate and distrust so that we could emerge on a far distant shore, free of the infection that has sickened the body politic of America to the point that now, we teeter on the edge of a precipice, looking down into the blackness of an unknowable, unknowing future.

The internet is at fault. So is talk radio. So is the liberal/conservative/lazy media. So is the consolidation of information sources. So am I.

Am I taking the easy out? A typical Moran “a pox on both your houses” screed? Examine your consciences and you tell me where it’s all Bush’s fault or all the Democrats fault. Or where conservatives or liberals are blameless. Or even where one party or another is “more” at fault – as if you can place catastrophe on a scale and weigh it out, carefully loading one side or the other with rancor, bitterness, lies, exaggerations, political gamesmanship, and cynicism thus hoping to determine the “real” culprit of our current predicament.

That kind of stupidity is silly and self defeating. And it only reveals that those who try it are part of the problem, not the solution.

We are not in an economic crisis. We are in a crisis of faith. We have lost what has been handed down to us, generation after generation going all the way back to the founding, passing on the secret of America’s uniqueness, its “exceptionalism,” as if it were a holy relic of the Catholic church lovingly preserved and cared for by parishioners for all time.

We – all of us – have failed to do the things necessary to maintain this faith. We have been careless and stupid in choosing our leaders. We have been lax in holding them accountable. We have not paid attention to what they were doing – here or abroad – and we have failed to demand that the government lift the veil of secrecy on too many enterprises. We have failed to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We have failed to take responsibility for our own mistakes. We have abandoned self reliance, family and community values, respect for our political opponents, and the American idea that neighbor helping neighbor is far preferable to asking government to do it for us.

High ideals and standards to live up to, yes. And our forefathers were not always successful themselves in adhering to principle and acting for the greater good. But the difference between them and us is that they had faith that the wisdom and basic common decency of the American people would emerge and carry us through times of crisis relatively unscathed and still one nation. They counted on a rough unity of the people – that we all had basically the same idea of what America was and where it should be going. How to get there was the basis of our political battles – and believe me, they were as rough and tumble as any of the political donnybrooks we have had in recent memory.

It is not our politics that divides us. Nor does ideology tear us apart. These are but symptoms of the disease that afflicts us. Our problem is that we have lost faith in the idea that we can dream common dreams – American dreams – and give ourselves a common point of reference where we all agree what, at bottom, America is and where it should be going.

With this loss of faith has come an overpowering fear that prevents us from trusting others and ourselves. With no trust in one another – in our intentions or good will – we lose faith in our ability to solve our problems together and we get what we saw yesterday on Capitol Hill; a complete and utter failure of our leadership to deal with the crisis at hand, preferring to score cheap political points at the expense of the other rather than work together to avoid a probable calamity.

There was a point in the Cuban Missile Crisis (as dramatized in the movie Thirteen Days, based on Robert Kennedy’s book of the same name) where the Commander in Chief of the Strategic Air Command, General Curtis LeMay looks at President Kennedy and says, “You’re in a helluva fix, Mr. President.” Kennedy turned to the World War II hero and said, “In case you haven’t noticed, you’re in it with me.”

Each side is pointing at the other and, in effect, telling them they are in one helluva fix and then explaining why one side or the other is the real culprit at fault in this mess and it is up to them to deal with the crisis. Not enough Republicans supported the bailout or Pelosi was too partisan, or the Democrats wanted to embarrass McCain or the Republicans just don’t care and wish to see a catastrophe just as long as the free market triumphs.

None of it is true. The real issue is trust and the impossibility of achieving it because we have all lost faith in each other and ourselves. And the scary part is, no one in America knows how to fix what’s broken and bring us back to sanity.


“May you be cursed to live in interesting times.”
(Not an old Chinese Proverb)

Negotiations to bail out Wall Street, dead beat homeowners, school loan scofflaws credit card scammers, ACORN, and others who have lined up outside the doors of Democratic lawmakers with their hands out wanting a piece of that $700 billion in free money appear to be stalled at the moment. Apparently, House Republicans are balking at the prospect of a large chunk of our free market economy being taken over by the government and are exploring alternatives.

If such action is necessary to keep us from sliding into a depression with a financial implosion this country may never fully recover from, then I am one of those conservatives who would reluctantly sign on to the Paulson plan – even with its goodies for left wing special interest groups and bailouts unrelated to the credit crunch on Wall Street.

But the more I read about this plan, the more I’m convinced that something akin to the 1982 tax cut bill is being acted out on Capitol Hill with everyone and their cockeyed uncle getting in line for a piece of the bailout pie. It is the time honored practice of log rolling – legislators loading up a bill with unnecessary and unrelated provisions supported by this powerful member or that one, done so that support for the overall measure can be gained. The smell of free money is loose in the land and the sharks are in a feeding frenzy.

Even with all of that, I’d be willing to embrace the bill – if there is no viable alternative. At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be one. Holding up the bailout are conservative Republicans in the House who, even if they come up with something, will never get Pelosi and Reid to go along with it. In that sense, their efforts are a waste of time. The Bush Administration has caved on just about all of the Democrat’s demands to make this a “comprehensive” (read “Christmas Tree”) bailout bill. And the liberals are not about to give up the goodies they have fought for to help their various constituencies. Hence, the best the free market conservatives can hope for is to make a statement for the historical record that somebody stood up for liberty when the rest embraced dependency.

Overly dramatic? Not by much. No, we are not “nationalizing” Wall Street nor is America going to become a socialist country overnight. But to say nothing fundamental is going to change in America as a result of this massive intrusion by the federal government in the financial markets is equally wrong. We will come to rue this day, of this I am sure.

Here is a smattering of responses to three questions from “free market” economists that Reason’s blog Hit and Run asked: How bad is the current market situation?; how bad are the current proposed bailout plans?; and what’s the one thing we should be doing that we’re not?

How bad is the market? Bryan Caplan is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University:

To be honest, I’m not too sure. While we’re blaming banks and investors for their “herd behavior,” we should remember that politicians and the media often run with the herd, too. When the dust settles, I suspect we’ll realize that conditions weren’t as bad as people assumed—or at least they weren’t until we tried to fix them.

Same question to Robert E. Wright, clinical associate professor of economics at New York University:
The current situation is potentially dire. The comparison with 1932-33 is sobering: An unpopular Republican president is in office, the financial system is a mess, and an important election looms, yet many fear what the articulate Democratic candidate might do if elected. We won’t have to wait until March to find out this time around. But given how fast the world moves these days, late January will seem an eternity away. The payments system broke down last time (March 1933), necessitating a bank “holiday,” a moving speech (“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”), and creation of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). Breakdown of the payments system today would stagger the economy

Next question. How bad are the current bailout plans? This from Jeffrey A. Miron, senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard:
The bailout is a terrible idea. It transfers a huge amount of wealth to people who do not deserve it. It will generate enormous incentives for creative bookkeeping as the investment houses and banks try to rid themselves of any assets they do not want. The bailout fails to eliminate the crucial policies that contributed to and caused the current situation, such as the Community Reinvestment Act, the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and so on. Last but hardly least, the bailout sets a terrible precedent: If you take huge risks and become too big to fail, the government will bail you out.

Finally, what should we be doing? This from Fredric Sautet, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University:
Getting out of the mess is not going to be easy. Once the perverse incentives are in the system, it’s hard to go back. Bailing out is very bad and in the long run is worse than bankruptcy. It is not a coincidence that Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and is now bailing out his friends. The problem is that bankers should be punished for their careless, stupid investments (JP Morgan, for instance, has $8.1 trillion in credit derivatives on its books), but since it was largely driven by the government’s loose monetary policy and regulation, bankers are not the only ones responsible. Clearly letting the banks fail in the short run would have bad consequences for many households in the U.S. (and elsewhere). The problem is that the government does not have the incentives to intervene just for a short time. Once the banks are nationalized, it may take a while before the government leaves the place. Ultimately, this situation calls for radical policy solutions: The return to the gold standard and the abolition of central banks.

What is truly frightening to me is that no one really knows how bad things are now. Nor does anyone have a clue whether this bailout plan will work or make things worse. And to top it off, there is a growing belief among some economists that we are in a world of hurt and the probability of not a slowdown but an actual contraction of the economy looms large.

Yves Smith of the blog Naked Capitalism (writing in the same Reason Magazine article) points to a 2007 study done by Harvard University’s Kenneth Rogoff and the University of Maryland’s Carmen Reinhart who analyzed similar market conditions that led to contractions in other countries. This is long but worth reading in its entirety:

This credit crisis has already led to the biggest 12-month fall in household wealth in U.S. history, including during the Great Depression. It has not yet had a commensurate impact on economic growth because our foreign creditors provided what economist Brad Setser called “the quiet bailout,” lending to us to the tune of roughly $1,000 per man, woman, and child. But it would be a mistake to expect this largesse to continue, at least at such favorable interest rates.

As Harvard University’s Kenneth Rogoff and the University of Maryland’s Carmen Reinhart found in their analysis of financial crises, every country that experienced a housing/bank crisis of the magnitude of the one we are in has suffered a marked fall in GDP. As they noted in their paper “Is the 2007 U.S. Sub-Prime Financial Crisis So Different? An International Historical Comparison”:

At this juncture, the book is still open on the how the current dislocations in the United States will play out. The precedent found in the aftermath of other episodes suggests that the strains can be quite severe, depending especially on the initial degree of trauma to the financial system (and to some extent, the policy response). The average drop in (real per capita) output growth is over 2 percent, and it typically takes two years to return to trend. For the five most catastrophic cases (which include episodes in Finland, Japan, Norway, Spain and Sweden), the drop in annual output growth from peak to trough is over 5 percent, and growth remained well below pre-crisis trend even after three years.

Note that their study shows the U.S. to be on a trajectory considerably worse than the average of the five worst cases, suggesting our fall in growth will be at least as severe. And no public official in the U.S. is willing to tell the public that no matter how this crisis plays out, we will suffer a fall in our standard of living.

Contraction, deflation, high unemployment, the disappearance of entire industries, a budgetary nightmare of unimaginable deficits in the out years that will top half a trillion dollars – this is what we have to look forward to even if this bailout plan goes forward – at least according to some economists.

Is this a glimpse of the future? Or just a worst case scenario? No one knows. And this is why the markets are so unsettled – panicky if you will. Uncertainty will eat away at our economy until not just Wall Street but Main Street as well feels the effects of the crisis.

Thankfully, we are not likely to have the bank failures, the soup lines, the massive dislocations that occurred during the Great Depression 80 years ago. FDIC and a social safety net along with (hopefully) no Dust Bowl will bring us to a hard, but manageable landing. But any recession (or contraction) will not be measured in months. It will be years before the toxicity of all this debt is wrung from the economy. It appears to me from reading what economists of all stripes are saying, that we are in for a period of slow or non-existent growth that could last 3 to 5 years (some say longer).

None of this refers to our current problem; the bailout and what to do about it. My desire – my longing – for alternatives to this plan will apparently not be realized. And while it is not a universal belief that catastrophe will occur if we do nothing, enough people who are a helluva lot smarter than me (and not all of them in government or supporting Bush) seem to think the chasm is open beneath our feet already and we are hanging on to the edge of a very steep cliff.

Incredibly, some Republicans are screaming for us to let go:

According to one GOP lawmaker, some House Republicans are saying privately that they’d rather “let the markets crash” than sign on to a massive bailout.

“For the sake of the altar of the free market system, do you accept a Great Depression?” the member asked.

If it were just some Wall Street fat cats who would lose their shirt, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over killing the bailout. But since there is no realistic chance for any other emergency measure to pass – not with Bush’s shameless caving in to the Democrats and the Senate Republicans meekly going along not to mention the Democrat’s desire to pander to their left wing interest groups like ACORN - I am forced to the conclusion that without this bailout, havoc would ensue and we might very well have a serious contraction of the economy with the result being the end of the US as a economic powerhouse for the foreseeable future.

The Germans already see it:

Germany blamed the United States on Thursday for spawning the global financial crisis with a blind drive for higher profits and said it must now accept more market regulation and a loss of its financial superpower status.

In some of the harshest criticism of the United States since the crisis threw Wall Street banks into financial disarray this month, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said the turmoil would leave “deep marks” on both sides of the Atlantic, but called it primarily an American problem.

“The world will never be as it was before the crisis,” Steinbrueck told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

“The United States will lose its superpower status in the world financial system. The world financial system will become more multi-polar,” he said.

Once again, I must confess ignorance as to whether Steinbrueck is blowing smoke out of his ass and engaging in a little wishful thinking or whether this is a consensus belief among other European powers. If the former, I hope he chokes on his sauerbraten. If the latter, we better get used to the idea that the kinds of huge capital infusions from overseas that have been one of the driving forces of American entrepreneurship may dry up and curtail business formation and expansion.

Whatever they are going to do, I hope they do it quickly. With Washington Mutual being seized by the government and many of its assets sold to J.P. Morgan while the credit crisis for ordinary folks hits home – the result of a wait and see attitude on the part of banks large and small on this bailout plan – you would hope that the powers that be on Capitol Hill might put aside the campaign for a moment to do something, you know, for the country.

But with John McCain’s political stunt apparently yielding zero results at the negotiating table while Democrats falsely accuse him of gumming up the works (after demanding he make his position on the bailout known), it doesn’t appear there are any grown ups in Washington who want to bite the bullet and do what is right for the country. There is suspicion that many of the liberal ornaments on this Christmas Tree were put in for the unexpressed purpose of presenting the Republican Congress with a plan they could not possibly support:

One of the sticking points, as Senator Lindsey Graham explained later, wasn’t a lack of begging but a poison pill that would push 20% of all profits from the bailout into the Housing Trust Fund — a boondoggle that Democrats in Congress has used to fund political-action groups like ACORN and the National Council of La Raza

So before we hear much about GOP obstructionists, perhaps we should look at the question of why Democrats would make that a deal breaker in their negotiations if not to play politics with the nation’s economic future?

Obama? MIA, of course. Not a peep from the messiah on the biggest issue to hit Capitol Hill in a generation. So much for leadership, eh?

If there is no plausible alternative, pass the damn Paulson plan and let’s hope for the best. That’s all we’ve got at the moment. Otherwise, the consequences of doing nothing may make us all wish we were somewhere else come Monday.

By: Rick Moran at 11:59 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Congress is wary of the push to bail out Wall Street...

I am afraid I’ve been derelict in my duties as Chief Bemused Chronicler of the Coming Catastrophe. I’ve got an excuse, though. My Give a Damn’s Busted.

Well, that’s only half right. Of course I care about the precipice we are currently teetering upon. Nevertheless, part of me wants to scream “Jump!” just because the idea of huge corporations with enormous political influence and the fabulously wealthy men who run them getting off the hook and not paying dearly for the cruddy decisions they made with their customer’s money sickens my soul.

In six months, even the ones who are fired will no doubt land on their feet running some other company or fund into the ground. They are losers. And the helluva it is, many of these fellows with their hands out, begging us to backstop their stupidity will not be fired, or disciplined, or even given a slap on the wrist. They may even receive kudos from shareholders and the “experts” for having the good sense to finagle cash from the government in exchange for paper that is worth less than a supermarket full of Charmin.

Yes, I know that eventually the Treasury Department will try and sell these securities. And no doubt, the American taxpayer will be told that it was a great deal because we bought in for a song and sold for a huge profit. In the meantime, these same guys will be planning their next get rich quick scheme, gambling that they won’t be one of the suckers holding the bag when the crap hits the fan next time.

As I understand it (and I use the word “understand” in the minimalist way as in “I “understand” quantum mechanics isn’t about repairing tiny cars) the whole point of these trillions of dollars in mortgage backed securities bought by banks and investment firms all over the world is that it “spread the risk” so that no one company would be too exposed.

Who came up with that idea? And why, after spreading the risk all over the world, does it come all the way back and slap the American taxpayer square in the face?

In the immortal words of C-3PO, “Don’t get technical with me.” We are used to government programs being designed to do one thing while ending up accomplishing exactly the opposite. But a financial instrument?

We are told there hasn’t been enough regulation. We are also told there’s been too much regulation. We’ve been told that capitalism is at fault. We’ve been told that it’s government’s fault. We’ve been told it’s a lack of oversight. We’ve been told that banks were forced to lend to deadbeats. We’ve been told it’s the fault of greedy businessmen. We’ve been told it’s no one’s fault, that everyone is to blame.

Now I am not that bright about this kind of thing but to my way of thinking, I’m not sure everything we’ve been told can all be right. And given the track record of the people making these grandiose claims of fault – right and left – it hardly engenders confidence that anyone, anywhere knows what the hell they are talking about.

We might as well face it. Even the financial gypsies at the Fed don’t know what they are doing in this situation. They are in full reactive mode and their crystal balls have gone dark. And if the Fed is in the dark, the hacks at the Treasury Department are only guessing too.

Now I may not understand what’s going on too well but common sense would tell the average Joe that before we go off half cocked and start handing out taxpayer money that maybe, perhaps, we should have the slightest idea if this is going to work.

Just sayin’, that’s all.

Do we have a fallback plan in case this doesn’t do the trick? Or are we just going to throw more money at these Wall Street geniuses and hope for the best?

One thing about this crisis that is truly entertaining is reading bloggers trying to outdo one another in the level of hysteria that their posts reach. It is truly amazing. I’ll bet some of those online thesauruses are getting massive traffic as bloggers search for new adjectives to describe how dire is the situation we find ourselves.

One would think such hyperbole would be the exclusive province of the left. But we righties are making a brave stab at matching them – not in describing the financial crisis but in warning of the catastrophic consequences of the bailout plan. Now, one can oppose the Treasury plan without going off half cocked about “nationalizing Wall Street” or “socializing” the financial system in America. Similarly, one can write of the gravity of the situation without resorting to florid language about selling apples on street corners and half of America standing in soup lines.

But then, what fun is being calm and reasonable? After all, this is an election season and the more out of control and idiotic the rhetoric, the more some people will take you seriously. Besides, predicting the end of the world makes you sound smart to some. It speaks to one of humanity’s most fundamental impulses; the need for drama in our dull and dreary existence. We see this with global warming advocates whose calamitous warnings actually make them feel good inside. There is something almost sexually arousing about imagining the end of the world.

And some bloggers appear to really have a hard on for this disaster.

By: Rick Moran at 8:37 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (22)


They call themselves “Values Voters” and they’re meeting in Washington this week at a gig sponsored by the Family Research Council – which in actuality does little “research” and spends most of its money and time lobbying for what they perceive to be “family issues.”

No – you won’t find too many scholarly papers or books published by the FRC. What you will find is a lot of shocking ignorance, bigotry, and a stupidity so profound that one wonders how these people can live in the 21st century without their heads exploding.

These guys would have been right at home in Salem about 400 years ago. This is their take on homosexuality:

Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects. While the origins of same-sex attractions may be complex, there is no convincing evidence that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn. We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools. Attempts to join two men or two women in “marriage” constitute a radical redefinition and falsification of the institution, and FRC supports state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent such redefinition by courts or legislatures. Sympathy must be extended to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, and every effort should be made to assist such persons to overcome those attractions, as many already have.

There’s never a stake and a pile of wood around when you need one, huh guys.

I am no great defender of homosexual activists – or any other activists who seek special rights or privileges based on some idiosyncratic attribute. They can’t help being gay nor can many obese people help being fat or others help the fact that they’ve got red hair (I discriminate ruthlessly against people with red hair). A line must be drawn somewhere or soon, the only people not able to claim special rights are gorgeous, hunky, heterosexual white men under the age of 40. And don’t worry, they’ll find something they’ve been discriminated for too.

But at the same time, does anyone else feel that they’ve jumped into a time machine and travelled back about 100 years when reading how the FRC feels about gays? Well, maybe not a hundred but at least 30. The American Psychiatric Association decided back in the 1970’s that homosexuality was not a mental disorder or disease so where they get this “negative physical and psychological” stuff is not, I assure you, from any recognized authority on the subject.

But the FRC talks like gays are sick while needing our sympathy and help to get rid of “unwanted” (!!) sexual desires. I pity anybody with unwanted sexual desires. It’s sort of like the feeling I get when I see Catherine Zeta-Jones in Zorro. But the FRC isn’t talking about those kind of unwanted desires; they’re talking about sexual feelings for someone from the same sex generally.

So where do they get these cockamamie, stupid, bigoted notions? It ain’t from any “research” done by the Family Research Council. Or at least any published research. What they have are brochures, “booklets,” a lecture, and a couple of friend of the court briefs filed in cases involving sodomy laws.

I have taken some pains to describe these “values” because they are apparently shared by the vast majority of “Values Voters” who showed up at this shindig in DC this week. In addition to a lot of hokum like this, they are also fed a steady diet of political red meat by the likes of Sean Hannity:

Hannity made an offer to Barack Obama. Given Obama’s predilection for scolding America for not being charitable, Hannity offered to send Obama’s destitute half-brother in Kenya $1,000, if Team Obama can send Hannity his address. If Obama will appear on his show, he’ll make it $10,000.

Afterwards, he returned to the media issue. Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s strategist, told him that the media has lost a tremendous amount of credibility in this electoral cycle. Rasmussen reports that 69% of the public believe that the media outlets have rigged their reporting to favor their candidate. In no manner is that more obvious in the way they have treated Sarah Palin. In six days, Hannity says, there were more questions about Bristol Palin than in 19 months about Obama’s association with William Ayers.

What any of that has to do with being a values voter I don’t know. But it sure revved up the troops, didn’t it?

Bill Bennett was also there. Now I happen to like Bill Bennett quite a bit and believe him to be a rational, intelligent man who speaks and writes with great clarity about the challenges of maintaining western civilization’s core values and protecting them from assault by some nihilists on the left.

But this is nonsense:

Bennett said that we have to tread carefully in our support of the Palins for the pregnancy of their teen daughter. We need to applaud the way that they handled this family crisis, Bennett says, but we have to remain focused on preventing teen sex and fight an epidemic that creates these pregnancies. We can do both, and we should.

Obama represents a different set of values, and Bennett warns that these could prove dangerous to the American way of life. We shouldn’t question his patriotism, but we can certainly question his judgment. Fred Thompson summed it up best, Bennett says. “There are two questions we will never have to ask about John McCain: Who is this man, and can we trust him with the Presidency?”

Values are “dangerous?” Are Obama’s values (he is a nominal Christian, a family man, seems fairly honest for a politician, and cares about his community) going to attack us? Maybe they’ll jump us when we’re sitting in church minding our own business. Perhaps they’ll ambush us on our way home from the store.

Values are not dangerous. They may be different. But different isn’t dangerous unless one seeks to impose those values on people who are unwilling to accept them. Obama and the Democrats may still achieve power in November. But really now, are our core values going to change that much unless we let them?

The problem is that many of the things these attendees believe to be “value oriented” either have nothing to do with “values” and everything to do with politics or, even more prosaically, are absolutely none of their fricking business as far as what others might believe, or think, or seek to live. In other words, I would tell most of the “values voters” there to get stuffed and keep their nose out of my life. My values are my own and seeking to make political issues out of personal morality is the antithesis of liberty.

For instance, saying that life begins at conception is a belief based on faith. I respect that. But science doesn’t see it that way and the government cannot, should not base laws that govern people on the way humans interpret the will and thoughts of a supernatural deity. That simply isn’t rational. Who knows the mind of God? Not Sean Hannity I assure you. And my experience has been that even great intellects and good souls like Pope Benedict harbor doubts about how well they understand what goes on in the mind of the guy upstairs.

These are not evil people at the FRC conference. I believe them to be in thrall to a belief system that they find enormous comfort in as opposed to dealing rationally with the world at large. They are led, for the most part, by good hearted people who really want to do the right thing but end up not recognizing that their own myopia about the modern world is handcuffing their parishioners and preventing them from opening their minds to all the possibilities – other ways of thinking. Other means of discovery besides finding the correct verse in the bible.

There isn’t a god but if there was, it would seem to me that he would want us earthlings to use all of our faculties, all of our experience and learning, all the cumulative knowledge built up over thousands of years of human civilization in order to get the most out of life. The discovery of carbon dating has given the lie to the notion that the earth is only 6 thousand years old. In the parlance of Christians, god opened our minds and allowed us to gain the ability to go beyond Genesis and discover for ourselves some of the mysteries of the universe. We have exceeded the knowledge of the ancients because we have built upon their work and opened our minds to the fundamental truth that we are perfectly capable creatures whose curiosity and ability to ask questions supersedes any “truth” we can get from any religion on earth.

I’m sure I share some of the “values” that these Christians accept as their own. But I don’t think I have a corner on truth nor do I think it a good idea to use the government to impose my own concept of morals or values on someone else. This I will oppose from both the religious right and secular left. My values are my own. I would be pleased if everyone – right and left – just stayed the hell out of my life and let me live it the way I see fit.

By: Rick Moran at 12:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (64)


I would have thought by now that the Obama campaign would have figured out how to effectively attack Sarah Palin and bring her down a peg or two. But it appears that rather than take a studied, reflective approach to determining their best strategy for assaulting her, they have continued to flail about wildly, throwing everything against the wall and watching to see if anything sticks.

So far, no dice. They tried the old “smear and fear” approach but only ended up getting so many facts wrong while appearing mean and stupid that Palin skated merrily away, garnering sympathy for having to endure the baseless, outrageous lies and falsehoods about her family from the press and liberal blogs.

Their efforts to paint Palin as an extremist were even less successful. Even referred to the charges that she cut funds for special needs children, banned books, endorsed Pat Buchanan, and belonged to the secession-minded Alaskan Independence Party as “sliming” Palin. She also does not support teaching creationism in public schools although she’s one of those “let’s allow the kids to debate evolution and creationism” folks that makes me want to throw my copy of Origin of the Species through the wall. And her pastor apparently believes that gay people can be “cured” – of what, I’m not sure except he might want to pray for himself so that God allows him to move forward in time so that he can live in the 19th century.

No word on whether Palin believes the same thing and until someone asks her, we won’t know. But don’t you find it a touch ironic that GOP efforts to tie Obama to his kooky preacher are met with cries of “guilt by association” by the left while it is apparently perfectly alright to make Palin’s preacher and his views fair game?

No matter. The Democrats seem to have realized the backlash created by their smears and have now tried a few other tacks – at least one of which has backfired almost as badly as the smears against her family.

I’m talking about “Troopergate” where Palin apparently pressured the Public Safety Commissioner to fire her state trooper ex-brother in law. The press tried to paint the entire matter as Palin improperly interfering in an internal police matter because she was being vindictive. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the truth came out about her sister’s ex drinking on the job, tasering his 12 year old stepson, and finally threatening her father’s life.

Funny how those details were included in stories about “Troopergate” as insignificant asides – or not included at all. At any rate, Palin may indeed be censured because technically, it appears she exercised influence where she shouldn’t have. The Democrat’s problem is that no one blames her for doing so because of the threats and the beastly behavior of the ex.

I note on Memeorandum that stories of “Troopergate” have disappeared entirely. They have been replaced by articles about how Sarah Palin is lying when she says she fought the “Bridge to Nowhere” which actually was a “Bridge to Somewhere” – specifically an island with 7,500 inhabitants. Palin says wants to use state funds to build it but a couple of years ago, she was singing a different tune:

“We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge,” Gov. Palin said in August 2006, according to the local newspaper, “and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative.” The bridge would have linked Ketchikan to the airport on Gravina Island. Travelers from Ketchikan (pop. 7,500) now rely on ferries.

Apparently, she eventually did kick the residents of Southeast Alaska under the bus and oppose the bridge – but only after conservative bloggers had made it a cause celebre.

OMIGOD STOP THE PRESSES! A politician is exaggerating! Maybe even lying. I would find this a cause for concern if liberal bloggers and the media were one tenth – make that one one hundredth – as interested in Obama’s whoppers and exaggerations as they are Palin’s.

Face it guys. Politicians are liars. They lie for a living. They lie at the drop of a hat and will continue lying because it works. To suddenly acquire religion and decry politicians lying is an absurdity I didn’t think even the left was capable.

Only 12 year old children and liberals believe politicians like Obama which is why they can become so disillusioned with politics. When their heroes are shown to have feet of clay, they don’t blame their own naivete and child like belief in those who seek great power but rather they blame the “system” or they become even more infantile and blame their hero’s opponent for making him something less than what he purports to be. I’ve seen it for nearly 40 years and it never ceases to amaze me.

So the Plain fib about opposing the Bridge to Nowhere is getting them exactly that – nowhere. Josh Marshall is hopeful.

We’ve now had a week of blaring headlines and one-liners about Sarah Palin as the mavericky, pork-busting reformer from Alaska. But we seem to be witnessing the first stirrings of a backlash and a dawning realization that the ‘Sarah Palin’ we’ve heard so much about over the last few days is a fraud of truly comical dimensions.

The McCain camp has made her signature issue shutting down the Bridge to Nowhere. But as The New Republic put it today that’s just “a naked lie.” And pretty much the same thing has been written today in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the AP, the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday even Fox’s Chris Wallace called out Rick Davis on it. (Do send more examples when you find them.)

On earmarks she’s an even bigger crock. On the trail with McCain they’re telling everyone that she’s some kind of earmark slayer when actually, when she was mayor and governor, in both offices, she requested and got more earmarks than virtually any city or state in the country.

As you can tell, Josh has been using the Hadron Collider to split hairs about what constitutes Palin “fraud” and what is revealed as lefty hyperbole. Exaggerating accomplishments and diminishing negatives is a part of politics. Grow up Josh. Or better yet, be a journalist and start listing Obama lies and whoppers on your site. I won’t hold my breath for that.

Nor will I waste my time waiting for Marshall to list our “Change and Hope” candidate’s hundreds of millions in earmarks – some of which went to his political cronies and his wife’s employer. This doesn’t include using his influence while state senator to enrich his patrone, convicted felon Tony Rezko. These items seem to disappear into the ether between Marshall’s claim to be a “journalist” and the rank partisan stench that emanates from his blog.

But Josh has a weird habit of thinking that whatever people inside the beltway believe about an issue or a candidate that the rest of the country shares those attitudes. I daresay he will be greatly disappointed if he thinks that Palin’s convenient dodge about the BTN will resonate with anyone save his fellow lefties.

So far, nothing appears to be sticking to Palin that would destroy her or even lessen her popularity. And despite efforts to paint her otherwise, she appears to be a genuine reformer. And it is an historical fact that she ran against the establishment Republicans and won. The parsing of words, the effort to blow up the most insignificant appearance of impropriety into a major scandal, and the still whispered smears against her and her family have all failed to make a dent in Palin’s shining armor much less throw her off her white charger.

By: Rick Moran at 11:10 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

CATEGORY: Ethics, Government

Where does the truth lie with regard to the use of torture on detainees at Gitmo and other sites around the world?

Is it really as widespread as many people claim? Who is responsible for it? Are the techniques being used on prisoners really torture? Is it legal? If it isn’t, should we prosecute everyone – on up to the president – who could be held legally responsible?

For myself, most of those questions have already been answered. Yes, torture has been used on many hundreds and probably thousands of detainees in our custody. Yes, orders to inflict torture on the detainees came from the highest levels of our government. Yes, by any definition, both domestic law and international law was violated when torture was carried out. And yes, the techniques used by interrogators would be considered “torture” under both domestic and international law.

You can argue that it was “justified” from here until doomsday and it won’t change any of the facts given above. It’s not a question of operating in a “gray” area. The techniques went far beyond water boarding and “stress” techniques and included beatings, electric shock, and other barbaric practices. And the beating heart of this monstrous policy was not the president or Secretary of Defense but rather Dick Cheney and a small group of like minded government enthusiasts who can only be termed torture fanatics and who despite evidence that torture didn’t work, continued to order it meted out to detainees.

Later, these same torture cabalists sought to hide their activities – even going so far as refusing to release innocent detainees for fear that they would talk and perhaps lead to their own day in front of a judge.

Much of this information is available through the Freedom of Information Act, ferreted out by journalists and rights groups. Much more of it has been reported by many of the top national security reporters in the business. Another reporter, Jane Mayer who is a staff writer for The New Yorker, has written a book that details the who, the how, and the why in our government responsible for this black stain on our history.

Called THE DARK SIDE: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, Mayer has culled reports from responsible journalists as well as FOIA documents to come up with what is nothing less than an indictment of officials at the highest levels of our government for crimes related to the torture of prisoners in our custody.

While I have not read the book yet, I have read several excerpts at Shaun Mullen’s blog as he has been serializing parts of the narrative. Rarely have I been so devastated. The book is meticulously researched and footnoted (as are several other anti-Administration books on the Iraq War that my fellow conservatives dismissed at the time as “hit pieces” or products of “liberal media bias” but are now generally accepted as accurate historical references to the bumbling stupidity of the Bushies) and takes a raw, unflinching look at the entire, rotten mess; Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, rendition, and the war between the Cheneyites and a few brave lawyers and aides who thought what was going on was wrong.

The New York Times book review, written by liberal historian Alan Brinkley, highlights the role of Dick Cheney and how his aides and sycophants rode roughshod over the law, the government, and those who opposed them. I have been a Dick Cheney defender in the past – especially since I believe his major critique that the executive branch was hurt badly by the Congressional power grab following Viet Nam and Watergate is basically correct. However, even before reading excerpts of this book I had come to the conclusion that Cheney went far beyond trying to redress the Constitutional balance and was engaged in a little kingdom building himself.

At the same time, I reject the view of Cheney (or any of the others involved in the torture regime) as being dark lords of the underworld. They were, in their minds, patriots out to protect the country from a very real threat (something with which both Brinkley in his review and Mayer in her book agree). But good intentions don’t excuse immoral and criminal actions. Nor do they obviate the need to air out the truth of what has gone on in the dark places where just because no one hears the screaming it doesn’t mean the law breaking didn’t take place.

Brinkley’s review – overly and unnecessarily dramatic at times – nevertheless traces the beginnings of torture from the aftermath of 9/11:

But as Jane Mayer, a staff writer for The New Yorker, makes clear in “The Dark Side,” a powerful, brilliantly researched and deeply unsettling book, what almost immediately came to be called the “war on terror” led quickly and inexorably to some of the most harrowing tactics ever contemplated by the United States government. The war in Iraq is the most obvious and familiar result of the heedless “toughness” of the new administration. But Mayer recounts a different, if at least equally chilling, story: the emergence of the widespread use of torture as a central tool in the battle against terrorism; and the fierce, stubborn defense of torture against powerful opposition from within the administration and beyond. It is the story of how a small group of determined men and women thwarted international and American law; fought off powerful challenges from colleagues within the Justice Department, the State Department, the National Security Council and the C.I.A.; ignored or circumvented Supreme Court rulings and Congressional resolutions; and blithely dismissed a growing clamor of outrage and contempt from much of the world — all in the service of preserving their ability to use extreme forms of torture in the search for usable intelligence.

At times, it seems almost as if by recklessly and mindlessly defending actions that clearly violated the law, Cheney and his acolytes seemed unable to face what they had brought into being; that by continuing to order the torture of detainees, they might have to face the monstrously upsetting fact that they were wrong all along.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that not only are some of the people we are currently holding almost assuredly innocent of any wrongdoing, it is that no one has any idea of the numbers of people who are in our custody:

No one knows how many people were rounded up and spirited away into these secret locations, although the number is very likely in the thousands. No one knows either how many detainees have died once in custody. Nor is there any solid information about the many detainees who have been the victims of what the United States government calls “extraordinary rendition,” the handing over of detainees to other governments, mostly in the Middle East, whose secret police have no qualms about torturing their prisoners and face no legal consequences for doing so.

Then there is the age old argument about torture. Is it really an effective means of getting information from suspects? Or is it self defeating and will prisoners give false information just to stop the torture?
This vast regime of pain and terror, inflicted in the name of a war on terror, rests in large part on the untested belief of a few high-ranking leaders in Washington that torture is an effective tool for eliciting valuable information. But there is, Mayer persuasively argues, little available evidence that this assumption is true, and a great deal of evidence from numerous sources (including the United States military and the F.B.I.) that torture is, in fact, one of the least effective methods of gathering information and a likely source of false confessions. Among the many cases Mayer and other journalists have chronicled — including the case of the most notable Al Qaeda operative yet captured, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — the information gleaned from tortured detainees has produced unreliable and often entirely unusable information. That many of the interrogations were conducted by American servicemen and -women with scant training made the likelihood of success even lower. (Some of the interrogators had no qualms about what they were doing and welcomed being unconstrained by any laws or rules. “It was the Camelot of counterterrorism,” one officer later told a journalist. “We didn’t have to mess with others and it was fun.” Others were traumatized by what they had done and seen, and suffered psychologically as a result.)

If common sense were applied to the matter, one would think that there is at least some efficacy to torture else it would not have been a regular part of interrogating prisoners for thousands of years. But one can see with such mixed results why even the argument that torture was “necessary” in order to get vital information falls flat. And even more telling was that even after being told that torture wasn’t working any better – or worse – than legal interrogation methods, the torture crowd continued to order it performed on detainees while defending the practice against a determined group of Administration insiders – including many conservatives I am happy to say – who wanted it stopped:
From the very beginning, there was strong resistance to the regime of torture. Those who challenged it included journalists like The New York Times’s James Risen and Scott Shane, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, Ron Suskind (the author of “The One Percent Doctrine”), The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh and Mayer herself (who scrupulously credits the work of her many colleagues). Other opponents were officials in the State Department, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., members of Congress of both parties and many career military officers, including former chiefs of staff. But as Mayer notes, few of them “had the temerity to confront Cheney, who clearly was the true source of these policies.” Among the most courageous opponents of the use of torture was a small group of lawyers working within the Bush administration — conservative men, loyal Republicans, who in the face of enormous pressure to go along attempted to use the law to stop what they considered a series of policies that were both illegal and immoral: Alberto Mora, the Navy general counsel, who tried to work within the system to stop what he believed were renegade actions; Jack Goldsmith, who became the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in 2003 and sought to revoke the Yoo memo of 2002, convinced that it had violated the law in authorizing what he believed was clearly torture; and Matthew Waxman, a Defense Department lawyer overseeing detainee issues, who sought ways to stop what he believed to be illegal and dangerous policies. Waxman summoned a meeting of high-ranking military officers and Defense Department officials (including the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force), all of whom supported the restoration of Geneva Convention protections. Waxman was quickly hauled up before Addington and told that his efforts constituted “an abomination.” All of these lawyers, and others, soon left the government after being deceived, bullied, thwarted and marginalized by the Cheney loyalists.

So what is to be done? The torture continues to this day even though there are indications that the Cheneyites are nervously looking over their shoulders in anticipation that some legal jeopardy will be attached to their actions. Dare we trust the Democrats to hold impartial hearings on the matter? The joke answers itself. How about a “bi-partisan” commission a la the 9/11 group? Better idea but the personnel would all have to be painfully apolitical – if there is such an animal. Even then, it would be impossible to keep politics out of the investigation.

There are no easy answers nor should their be. Some on the left would love to hand the entire crew over to the International Criminal Court which would be an abominable surrender of sovereignty. Rather, I think if ever a situation cried out for a special prosecutor, this would be it. Forget a Congressional select committee or any blue ribbon commission. Law breaking demands a prosecutor given broad leeway to look into the dark recesses of government to ferret out the truth, no matter where it leads.

I’m used to being on the opposite side of my conservative friends on this issue. Why this is so pains me a great deal. Reading the excerpts from Mayer’s book, I was heartened by the opposition to torture from some conservatives in the Administration, reassuring me that I was not completely nuts. But on the internet, it is at least 5 to 1 in favor of torture thus making me a persona non grata among most of the right on this issue.

What’s my main justification for opposing this horror? An FBI Agent told his CIA counterpart in withdrawing from the program, ““We don’t do that. It’s what our enemies do!”

And that sums it up. Anyone who believes in American exceptionalism must accept that torture makes us much less than that as I pointed out in this post l a few months ago:

It vexes me that conservatives believe such nonsense – believe it and use it as a justification for the violation of international and domestic law not to mention destroying our long standing and proud tradition of simply being better than that. Why this aspect of American exceptionalism escapes my friends on the right who don’t hesitate to use the argument that we are a different nation than all others when it comes to rightly boasting about our vast freedoms and brilliantly constructed Constitution is beyond me.

But for me and many others on the right, the issue of torture defines America in a way that does not weigh comfortably on our consciences or on our self image as citizens of this country. I am saddened beyond words to be associated with a country that willingly gives up its traditions and adherence to the rule of law for the easy way, the short cut around the law, while giving in to the basest instincts we posses because we are afraid.

All the excuses mustered over the years by conservatives fall flat in the face of cold hard reality itemized and catalogued by Mayer in Dark Side. Parsing what is or is not torture doesn’t cut it. Defending the unilateral abrogation of the Geneva Convention doesn’t hold water. Saying “They deserve it” or “They deserve worse” or “It really doesn’t hurt that much” are laughable sophistries that reveal a dead spot in the conscience of the person uttering them. Attacking the source won’t work either; the evidence is just too overwhelming to deny.

I am beyond hoping I can convince any of my fellow conservatives that these horrendous practices must be stopped and the perpetrators exposed, our dirty laundry aired for the world to see. But perhaps some of you might open your minds to the possibility that something very bad has been carried out in our name these last few years. And to have it done by supposed conservatives besmirches them and the rest of us who expect much more from people who identify themselves as men and women of the right.

By: Rick Moran at 3:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (28) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with 2 Dutch climbers rescued from K-2...

It may be tempting to look at the latest indictment of a Republican lawmaker and conclude, as my sainted grandfather did many years ago, that “all Republicans are crooks.” A loyal Chicago Democrat through and through, none of us had the heart (or courage) to mention to grandpa a few of the more brazenly corrupt scandals that had tainted the Cook County political machine run by Richard J. Daley, the current mayor’s father.

The indicted lawmaker, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), is charged with seven counts of lying on a financial disclosure form. Using the recent past as a guide, this is pretty tame stuff. But it is highly unlikely the prosecutors are through with the 85-year-old senator because just over the horizon are almost certain indictments for bribery relating to work done on the senator’s house to the tune of $250,000 in gifts from VECO, an oil services firm. It seems the CEO of VECO, seeking government contracts, wanted to get extra chummy with the senator and offered to pay for most of the expansion costs on Steven’s house. Actually, it worked out pretty well at first. Stevens doubled the size of his home and VECO received some nice, rich government contracts.

Alas, no good bribery scheme lasts forever. Two VECO executives have already pleaded guilty to bribery charges and the chances are very good that they will roll on Stevens and testify against him. It would be an ignoble end to a career that has defined all that is wrong with pork-barrel spending in Washington. Stevens was one of the biggest abusers of the “earmark” process and funneled tens of millions of dollars to his home state over the years in appropriations that were snuck into bills without debate or discussion.

The problem, of course, is not grandpa’s “all Republicans are crooks” meme. It’s that the rising expense of congressional campaigns and growing power of lobbyists have combined to offer temptations for corruption that have proven irresistible to a frighteningly large number of members of Congress—both Democratic and Republican—over the past 25 years.

The controlling factor regarding political corruption appears to be which party is in power at any given time, rather than any predilection toward crookedness by one party or the other. Take the Democrats of the 1980s and early 1990s. Ensconced in power for 50 years, Democrats were involved in scandal after scandal that rocked Capitol Hill. The parade of crooked pols included five House members and a senator caught up in the ABSCAM scandal where Arab businessmen/lobbyists (played with great effect and glee by FBI agents) openly offered huge dollops of cash in exchange for immigration and banking favors.

The videotapes of the encounters with the lawmakers bordered on hilarious. One greedy Democrat, after stuffing $25,000 in his coat and pants, actually asked the FBI/Arab businessman “Does it show?” All of the Congressman—including a young John Murtha who appeared to turn down the bribe but later seemed to be wavering—knew full well what was in that briefcase and they couldn’t take their eyes off of it. As a morality play, it was a huge hit.

There was Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan who was convicted and sent to jail for receiving kickbacks from the salaries of his staff after giving them raises. The good people of his district were either unaware or didn’t care that Charlie was in the klink because, despite being jailed, he was re-elected. Diggs resigned rather than face certain expulsion.

Then there were the “Keating Five.” The Ethics Committee in the Senate determined that three Democratic senators had improperly interfered in a regulatory matter on behalf of Charles Keating, real estate mogul and owner of several Savings and Loans that had gone under. Two other senators—John McCain and John Glenn—were absolved of wrongdoing. McCain was the only Republican named in the ethics complaint.

There were others—House Speaker Jim Wright most prominent among them—who were either censured for unethical behavior or under investigation for malfeasance of one kind or another. The rash of special prosecutors during the 1990s also targeted many Democrats who served in the Clinton administration.

The adage “power corrupts” is too simple. There are many who hold power who manage to maintain their integrity. Senator Larry Pressler from South Dakota was seen on tape refusing ABSCAM money and immediately reporting the meeting to the FBI. And most congressmen and senators make an attempt to hold onto their values while serving the nation.

But in the last eight years, we have seen a serio-comic parade of Republican hooligans whose shocking greed has altered the meaning of corruption.

The rogues gallery includes:

— Feb. 22, 2008: Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Arizona) indicted on charges of extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes in an Arizona land swap that authorities say helped him collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs.

— June 11, 2007: Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) arrested in a bathroom sex sting at the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He is now asking a state appeals court to let him withdraw his guilty plea.

— Jan. 19, 2007: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for trading political favors for gifts and campaign donations from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

— March 3, 2006: Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-California) sentenced to eight years and four months in prison. He collected $2.4 million in homes, yachts, antique furnishings and other bribes in a corruption scheme.

— Oct. 3, 2005: Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) charged with felony money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Republican fundraising efforts in 2002. One charge has been dropped and two others are being argued before a state appeals court.

Other shoes that could be dropping:

—John Doolittle (R-California) who is caught up in the Jack Abramoff mess and also has ties to Duke Cunninghams’s partner in crime Brent Wilkes. Either or both investigations may hit pay dirt.

—Jerry Lewis (R-California) is enmeshed in a federal investigation into a lobbying firm headed up by former Republican Congressman Bill Lowery. It is alleged that Lewis, former chairman of the Appropriations Committee, steered hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks and other appropriations to clients of Lowery who then gave to his campaign. It is one the largest bribery investigations in California history involving local governments, universities, and private companies.

—Don Young (R-Alaska) is another Alaska congressman caught up in scandal. It appears that Young inserted an earmark in the budget after the House and Senate voted on a bill (but before Bush signed it) worth $10 million to construct an interstate interchange. Nothing really extraordinary in that except the interchange was not to be located in Alaska but someplace slightly further south—in Florida. Apparently, a developer raised a lot of money for Young’s campaign just prior to the earmark being surreptitiously placed in the bill. Feds are investigating.

—Gary Miller (R-California) is under investigation by the FBI for a real nice real estate scam that’s been ongoing for years. Three separate properties he has bought for a song, sold for a ton, and then claimed the local government declared “eminent domain” forcing him to sell. Miller would then not claim the profits as taxable capital gains due to the “imminent” seizure of the property. One problem: this time, the local government of Monrovia is denying it threatened to invoke eminent domain.

—Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) is under federal investigation for getting caught using his staff for campaign purposes. Note I said “getting caught” because they all skirt the line between official business and campaigning—or go over it in an overt fashion.

—Mark Foley (R-Florida) may not have broken the law but his steamy emails to barely legal kids who were former House pages epitomized a culture of corruption on the Republican-controlled Hill when it was revealed that several GOP Congressional leaders knew of Foley’s interest in the pages and did nothing.

There are also a half dozen former Republican members of Congress who are under investigation for activities carried out while they were serving in the House.

And Democrats are in trouble too. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana), last seen ordering National Guardsmen in New Orleans to assist him in saving items from his house during hurricane Katrina, was caught with $90,000 in his freezer and has been indicted on 16 counts ranging from bribery to wire fraud relating to his business dealings in Africa.

Also, Allan Mollahan (D-West Virginia) is under investigation for steering earmarks to campaign contributors and business partners.

In 2001, Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of racketeering and accepting bribes.

The common thread running through almost all of these corrupt practices is cash for campaigns. The non-profit group Public Citizen spells it out in black and white:

The cost of congressional campaigns has skyrocketed, from an average of about $87,000 spent for successful House elections in 1976 (about $308,000 in 2006 dollars) to an average of $1.3 million spent on winning campaigns in 2006. Successful Senate candidates in 1976 spent an average of $609,000 (about $2.2 million in 2006 dollars), and in 2006, the average Senate winner spent an astonishing $9.6 million.

Starting the day after they are elected, House members must begin raising more than $1,000 a day to amass large enough war chests to wage their next campaign, while senators must raise more than $3,000 per day.

It’s not just the money game that has changed. Lobbyists have gone far beyond simply advocating the passage of legislation to benefit their clients. They have become one-stop shops for corruption. Junketing with their favorite members, bestowing goodies both large and small on their targets, they can also raise copious amounts of campaign cash. And the competition among the lobbyists is so ferocious that things were guaranteed to get out of hand. In the case of Jack Abramoff, they did. The lobbyist spread millions around Capitol Hill and was hugely successful in getting his clients what they wanted and needed from government. In no time, he went from a minor player into the big leagues in terms of billings.

Unless something is done to reform both campaign finance and lobbying rules, the chances are excellent that in a few years the Democrats will have their own sorry bunch of lawbreakers and scofflaws with their mugshots plastered all over the Internet. That is the culture on Capitol Hill at the moment.

And despite promises from both John McCain and Barack Obama to reform this mess, the prospects for real change seem remote.

By: Rick Moran at 9:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)


Those of you familiar with my work in debunking 9/11 conspiracy theorists might be surprised at my attitude toward the case of suicide by the prime suspect in the anthrax attacks of 2001. In this matter, there is so much smoke that I will not dismiss the idea of conspiracy – not necessarily involving the government but such a theory cannot be ignored – despite my belief that there is usually a much simpler and boring explanation for most events surrounded by conspiracy theories.

The suicide of Bruce Ivins, a prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax mail poisonings will certainly give the conspiracy jobbers something to wag their tongues about for a few days. But until a little more information becomes available, I would hold to the facts and not speculate too forcefully – yet.

There are certainly troubling aspects to the idea that the anthrax attacks were planned and carried out by an employee who works in a government lab. And the strange way the investigation was handled by the FBI and the Army leaves many questions unanswered.

There is also the timing of the attacks – so soon after 9/11 that at the time, it was easy to believe America was under attack by Islamic militants on several fronts.

To those inclined to believe the worst of Bush and the American government, the answer is simple; Ivins was a tool of the Administration and that the Bushies sought to gin up fear of terrorism to pass their dictatorial agenda that included the Patriot Act and other domestic spy initiatives. He didn’t commit suicide but was killed to keep him quiet.

Nice movie script but several problems are immediately apparent. First, according to this LA Times article, Ivins had been depressed for months, had run out of money to pay for legal fees, and actually told his therapist he wanted to commit suicide:

Soon after the government’s settlement with Hatfill was announced June 27, Ivins began showing signs of serious strain.

One of his longtime colleagues told The Times that Ivins, who was being treated for depression, indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide.

Soon thereafter, family members and local police officers escorted Ivins from USAMRIID, where his access to sensitive areas was curtailed, the colleague said.

Ivins was committed to a facility in Frederick for treatment of his depression. On July 24, he was released from the facility, operated by Sheppard Pratt Health System. A telephone call that same day by The Times verified that Ivins’ government voice mail was still functioning at the bacteriology division of USAMRIID.

The scientist faced forced retirement, planned for September, said his longtime colleague, who described Ivins as emotionally fractured by the federal scrutiny.

“He didn’t have any more money to spend on legal fees. He was much more emotionally labile, in terms of sensitivity to things, than most scientists. . . . He was very thin-skinned.”

Secondly, there’s the FBI. Reviewing the investigation of the anthrax attacks until 2006 is a study in incompetence by the FBI and the Army. Is it possible they deliberately blew the investigation in order to keep the plot from being exposed? Conspiracists will make that argument. I reject it because all too often, human error and coincidence is the much simpler and therefore more realistic explanation. It may very well be that the Army didn’t want to know if anyone from their lab was involved – a plausible explanation when considering the bureaucratic mindset at work in the lab’s own investigation of Ivins for an incident regarding a possible anthrax “spill” that the suspect never reported to his superiors. Covering up lax safety at the lab by not disciplining Ivins is perfectly in keeping with the way some in the Army bureacracy might operate. If that reflects badly on the Army, I’m sorry but we have seen similar cover ups over the years.

The FBI, however, knew of Ivins activities in cleaning anthrax from lab areas at Fort Detrick and still never made him a focus of the investigation. It wasn’t until FBI chief Mueller kicked out the agents heading the inquiry in 2006 and replaced them that movement towards Ivins began. 

Why did the FBI concentrate their investigation instead on Stephen Hatfill, recipient of more than $5 million in a settlement agreed to just a few months ago and another employee at the lab? While demonstrating a breathtaking incompetence,this fact alone absolves the government of any conspiracy in my mind for the simple fact it would be stupid to make someone from the same lab as Ivins a suspect if there was a plot afoot. There are other labs they could have grabbed a patsy from while deflecting attention from Ivins. Therefore, we can almost certainly conclude that the FBI would not be part of any plot.

This is not to say that a thorough investigation shouldn’t immediately be undertaken by either a bi-partisan Congressional or independent panel that would examine all aspects of the case - including possible conspiracies. This matter went unresolved for entirely too long and whether it was incompetence or just bad luck, answers must be found regarding the Army and the FBI’s investigation of both Hatfill – whose case is strange indeed – and Ivins. 

This case is far from closed. But I would urge everyone to wait upon the facts before connecting any dots – even if those dots are tempting one to posit conspiracies about the matter. Because at bottom, in order to believe in a government conspiracy to ratchet up fear following 9/11, one must suppose something so monstrous at the core of our government that if proven correct, will bring the United States to ruin.  

This blog post originally appears in The American Thinker.

By: Rick Moran at 9:21 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Payrolls contracted for the 6th straight month in June despite the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.5%
  • Wages have grown only 2.8% this year – below the 4% rate of inflation. And you wonder why people are worried about falling behind?
  • We have lost 578,000 non government jobs – down every month – since last November. The rate of job loss has increased each of the last three months.
  • Decelerating wage increases coupled with a rising rate of inflation reveal a weak bargaining position not only for unions but for most others who count on that pay raise every year to maintain their standard of living.
  • 345,000 jobs lost this year in residential construction with another 51,000 lost among non-residential builders. No one has a clue when or where this housing meltdown will end. With a government bailout of secondary mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now a foregone conclusion, things may get even tighter in the housing markets.
  • Another 33,000 manufacturing jobs lost. That makes 24 straight months of losses in the industrial sector.
  • The number of underemployed workers has skyrocketed; 9.9% of the total workforce is now considered underemployed. Most of these people are part timers who would rather be working full time. The total number of underemployed workers has increased over the last year from 4.3 million to 5.4 million.
  • “June’s 5.5% unemployment rate represents a 1.1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate since March 2007, and an addition of 1.76 million to the unemployment rolls.”
  • “Workers paychecks are under attack from three sides: diminished jobs and hours, slower hourly wage growth, and faster price growth. Moreover, most workers lack the bargaining power necessary to fend off these attacks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maggie's Farm linked with Phil Gramm puts foot in mouth...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of fallout can the interrogator expect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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