State of the Union

Worst Argument of the Day Award

Amanda Bowman on why the US and the UK should not “go wobbly” on fighting terror:

The American television show 24 is in its 7th season because its portrayal of a life-and-death fight against terrorism in the face of political meddling appears to most Americans—and I would add Britons—both believable and justified. When the American people find out that the real “Jack Bauers” of our government act, for the most part, according to well thought out procedures—procedures that have concretely contributed to our national security—they will draw the conclusion the Obama administration lacks the prudence and stomach for its post-9/11 responsibilities.

Absolute nonsense. 24 is successful because it is believable? Come on, Amanda. Next you’ll be saying that the key to the success of the X-men franchise lies in its gritty realism.

What is it with war-on-terror hawks and fiction-based arguments? They just don’t stop. Newt Gingrich keeps quoting from thriller novels to support a more aggressive foreign policy, and now this — two years after this TAC cover piece by Michael Brendan Dougherty nicely pegged the hawkish habit of asking “What Would Jack Bauer Do?”

Clearly, in order still to cling on to the mantras of the Bush Doctrine, one needs to have a supreme willingness to suspend disbelief.

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Kennedy and the Catholic Vote

Earlier I speculated about what the death of Ted Kennedy means for conservatives who have relied on him as the stereotypical liberal for roughly 40 years. But there’s another symbolic void created by Kennedy’s absence from the political scene — he was last iconic Irish Catholic Democrat of national renown. There are still plenty of Irish Catholic Democrats, of course, including numerous Kennedys. But none of them have the symbolic resonances that Kennedy had, at least among older Catholics. For some American Irish Catholics, the idea of the Kennedys as a royal house, representing Throne and Altar alike, despite their deviations from the Altar’s teachings, was very powerful. Someone like John Kerry, by contrast, is just another Catholic liberal.

I remember around 1993, when I occasionally listened to Rush Limbaugh, a caller phoned in to say she agreed with Rush about everything but wished he would go easy on Ted Kennedy. She expressed the religious-political reverence that a certain generation held for Joe Kennedys sons. They beat the WASPs at their own game, after all, at a time when that still seemed like it mattered. Now a majority of the Supreme Court, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the vice president are all Catholic, but nobody thinks this is very remarkable.

Will the death of Ted help move more Catholics toward the GOP? (Assuming, that is, the GOP can ever get its act together — one shouldn’t take that for granted.) The Republicans probably have a better chance of cultivating the next high-profile political Catholic, whoever it might be, since to make the most symbolic impact, the politician has to stand as an avatar of Church as well as State. Catholic Dems today have such a problematic relationship with the Church that I can’t see them filling the gap. (Most of them are no worse on points of Catholic doctrine than Ted himself was, but again, it’s important that Ted was of a time when Catholics of any kind were rare enough in national politics to be metaphorically powerful.) Then again, if the Democrats’ Catholic problem is their party’s secularism, the Republicans’ Catholic problem is their party’s evangelicalism. Evangelicals may not engage in much overt Catholic-baiting these days, but there’s still a very deep, if little articulated, cultural and philosophical divide. Catholics tend not to like the culturally fragmentary and politically expansive tilt of the evangelicals.

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Empire Doesn’t Come Cheap

For those who appreciate a little comedy of the absurd with their Saturday morning coffee I recommend an article on the Baghdad Embassy/Mausoleum in today’s Wash Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/28/AR2009082803166.html.  The Embassy, the largest in the world, will cost $1.5 billion to run this year, rising to $1.8 billion in 2010 and 2011.  The Embassy has 88 State Department Security officers directing 1,300 security contractors and 1,900 perimeter guards.  That is the equivalent of an Army combat brigade.  To guard an Embassy! 

At the end of the article is a report of the deaths of two US soldiers yesterday “when their convoy was attacked IN BAGHDAD” (my emphasis).

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Tired of the OLIGARHY!

(Via Alex Massie). Today, at 5 pm, Glenn Beck will uncover his plan to save the Republic. Here’s how he plugged it yesterday:

The Oligarh! The missing letter is Y, of course. Ask Y!

Stay tuned! Are you also tired of being a vitim? Join the 9/12 Projet. And fight soialism, and the Ommunists.

This is too good for satire. Is Glenn Bek a lunati? Or a omic genius?

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Shocked, Shocked! The Pentagon is Profiling Journalists!

I am glad that Stars and Stripes has nailed the story about the Pentagon profiling journos headed overseas for embed duty, not only because it is only fair that we know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent in so-called military “strategic communications” and that the Fourth Estate knows exactly where it stands with the military establishment, but that it was Stars and Stripes, virtually inoculated from any rightwing sniping about ‘flyover’ and ‘driveby media’, that has been bird-dogging this latest example of government manipulation of the news in wartime.

Simmering for over a week, the story is starting to sprout earnest legs, but given a few more hours and days, will likely slide off into familiar media narcissism, as more reporters begin demanding their profiles and posting them online. Given the hyper-competition in the foreign policy reporting space, one can easily imagine one scribe scrambling over the other with contempt for the Pentagon out of one side of his face, using the other to call attention to his overseas bonefides. Not all are that egotistical, of course, and seeing your life’s work clinically analyzed like a FBI background check has to be quite disquieting. Nevertheless, some may want to think twice before broadcasting their profile: the Pentagon may like you and that could be kind of icky, especially when you’re trying to pay it cool.

The thing that gets me is none of this is really a surprise. The Rendon Group didn’t come out of a hole in the desert, it helped start the war. In fact its propaganda and message management work for the government goes back decades. Meanwhile, the military has put all sorts of restrictions on its official embeds and that’s why we have independent reporters who risk life and limb to get the story. The military hired a covert PR firm to plant “good news” in Iraqi papers — why wouldn’t it want to keep tabs and try to manage journalists it couldn’t outright buy or silence?

It’s amazing, as I see the first signs of this profiling story on major television news networks, I recall how none of them — save PBS — would touch the explosive Message Force Multipliers story of 2008. Because it involved the corporate broadcast media participating in the Pentagon/Bush Administration-led Spin of the Century, they acted as though it never even happened. Now that they are the victims, it is a different story?

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Cracking Khalid

“Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

George Orwell’s truth comes to mind as one reads that Eric Holder has named a special prosecutor to go after the “rough men” who, to keep us sleeping peacefully at night, went too far in frightening Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the engineer of the September massacres.

Yet it seems now indisputable that those CIA interrogators, with their rough methods, got vital intelligence that saved American lives, as Dick Cheney has consistently contended.

According to the Washington Times, which reviewed the newly declassified CIA documents, those interrogators “produced life-saving intelligence that disrupted numerous terrorist plots.” Read More…

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Senator Frum

Linda Frum, that is, sister of David. With brother David busily carving out his role as the voice of moderate, calm conservatism in America, Linda has just been appointed to the Canadian Senate. David is proud. Will the Frums inherit the earth?

Speaking of things Frummy, I forgot last week to honor Mr Conservatism that Can Win Again with the @TAC award for back-handed compliment of the month, in recognition of this gem of a tribute to his adversary Robert Novak:

I have regretted for some time not being more precise in my criticism of him, and it’s no excuse for my fault that he never regretted being imprecise or worse in his criticisms of others.

Such grace.

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Sibel Edmonds Speaks, But No One Is Listening

Those who are interested in issues like widespread corruption of our elected officals by foreigners have no doubt followed the ex-FBI traslator turned whistle blower Sibel Edmonds saga for the past few years.  Sibel has finally testified in court under oath about some of the things that she learned while working for the bureau.  The testimony was in a court in Ohio about two weeks ago.  A full transcription and a useful summary appear at http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7374.  In short, she names a number of Congressmen including former Speaker Dennis Hastert who took money from Turkish lobbyists.  She also identifies senior State Department and Pentagon officials who apparently did the same, including our friends Marc Grossman, Paul Wolfowitz, and Doug Feith.  Interestingly, she claims that Grossman blew the cover of Valerie Plame’s company Brewster Jennings back in 2001, causing CIA to shut it down, so Robert Novak was not guilty of exposing the CIA cover mechanism.  In another interview given a few weeks ago, Edmonds claims that CIA was working closely with al-Qaeda in the Balkans and continued to do so until 9/11. 

As I have reported before, Edmonds is a credible witness who is ignored by the mainstream media and congress because her tales, if true, would be devastating to both political parties and to the Israel and Turkish lobbies.  She is dismissed as a crackpot.  She might in fact be blowing smoke, but now that she has testified under oath and in considerable detail making very specific accusations isn’t it time for someone in the administration to review the FBI files and stand up to say whether her accounts are true or not?  Corruption in the US government is something that no one wants to talk about, particularly if powerful foreign interests are involved.

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Rev. Dan Hannan

Poor old Britisher Dan Hannan is fast becoming the transatlantic Right’s version of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Just a few days after his remarks against the NHS on Glenn Beck’s show made him a national hate figure in the UK, he is now in hot water for making positive noises about Enoch Powell to Reason TV.

“He was somebody who understood the importance of national democracy, who understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small government Conservative.”

Parmjit Dhanda, Labour MP for Gloucester, has already smelt rivers of Hannan’s blood, and called on the Tory leadership to force him out. How long until David Cameron throws his MEP under the bus?

PS – It also occurs to me that there is something a bit sad about Hannan’s unbridled enthusiasm for the Internet. It made him famous, true, but now it is being used by his opponents to make him sound like a nutter.

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The Hannity Prophecy

From H.L. Mencken’s diary, 1940:

My guess is that in the long run the newspapers will lose their more moronic customers to the radio. … The function of a newspaper in a democracy is to stand as a sort of chronic opposition to the reigning quacks. The minute it begins to try to out-whoop them it forfeits its character and becomes ridiculous. I believe that many people already notice this deterioration, and that is responsible to some extent for the movement toward the radio.

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