Tuesday, January 10

Don't Buy A Hangover Cure From A Guy Who Never Sobers Up

Joe Klein: "How to Stay Out of Power", Time Web Exclusive, Jan. 8

I'M not good at math. Actually, I was good at math, but circumstances and my natural indolence led to a lack of training. When I switched schools in the eighth grade the guidance counsellor mistakenly put me in the regular math class, and since I didn't know anybody I wasn't aware of the problem for months. "Oh," he later told me, "you should have been in the advanced class." That cleared that up. "Oh." You're now a year behind and there's nothing we can do about it. So I wound up taking algebra and geometry in high school in classes full of people who Just Couldn't Get It, and by the time I was free to take calculus or trigonometry I was old enough to realize that neither was likely to get me laid. I suppose my loco parents could have raised holy hell when the mess was discovered, but my stepfather held to the theory that any training for a young man which did not involve the risk of crushing or amputating body parts was suspect. Art, somehow, he was fine with. I think he was attracted to the fumes.

Anyway, as everyone knows, unless you actually need the stuff it's just a time-filler, and my one regret is that I'm thoroughly incompetent when it comes to theorem jokes. Because by now this "How the Democrats can stay out of power" business desperately cries out for an equation, and the best I can do is a title: the "Lieberman Absorption Hypothesis."

This, I know, falls far short, because in addition to the DLC-type critique there's the mirrored Republican Troll Advice Gambit, which more properly belongs to game theory, but they use the same raw data: Democrats, by doing x or ignoring bedrock Red-state value y are consigning themselves to permanent minority status. The main difference between the two is that the latter adds "Ha ha ha" at the end. Both suggest, jokingly or not, that Nascar Dads and Values Voters, two groups whose responses are so well known in advance it's not necessary to do any actual testing, are either dying to throw off their GOP masters, or at least wish they could demonstrate their own serious-minded concern about Issues by occasionally voting for a Democrat who was indistinguishable from his Republican opponent.

But the fact is that Klein's column actually has very little to do with the Absorption Hypothesis; it seems to be there like a tattoo he's not quite embarrassed enough by to cover up yet. The column starts with some sort of swipe at Nancy Pelosi which, honestly, was so lackluster I couldn't be bothered to look up the story to see what he was distorting about it. Assuming that it happened (go ahead, you look it up and tell me), am I supposed to be outraged in our current political climate because a Democrat used weasel words? Damn, Joe, you're threatening to become the Jerry Quarry Celebrity Casino Greeter of punditry. If not Norma Desmond.

Klein reports a weird response from Pelosi that makes me wonder just what context it was yanked from:
When I asked the Congresswoman about this, she said, "Some in the government have accused me of confusing apples and oranges. My response is, it's all fruit."

Except he's the one doing the accusing. I know, politicians change the subject all the time, but you'd think if this were an actual response to the actual lead-off of the piece he'd have pressed for something which at least sounded like they were having a conversation.

That's not the point. This is:
A dodgy response at best, but one invested with a larger truth. For too many liberals, all secret intelligence activities are "fruit," and bitter fruit at that. The government is presumed guilty of illegal electronic eavesdropping until proven innocent. This sort of civil-liberties fetishism is a hangover from the Vietnam era, when the Nixon Administration wildly exceeded all bounds of legality—spying on antiwar protesters and civil rights leaders.

It's funny. All these years I've imagined civil liberties fetishism was a hangover from the American Revolution.
But the "all fruit" assumption doesn't take into account the strict constraints placed on the intelligence community after the Nixon debacle, or the lethally elusive nature of the current terrorist threat. The liberal reaction is also an understandable consequence of the Bush Administration's tendency to play fast and loose on issues of war and peace—rushing to war after overhyping the intelligence on Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program, appearing to tolerate torture, keeping secret prisons in foreign countries and denying prisoners basic rights. At the very least, the Administration should have acted, with alacrity, to update the federal intelligence laws to include the powerful new technologies developed by the NSA.

No, Joe, at the very least the administration should have obeyed the law. And the Doctrine of Elusive Lethality isn't a part of it. Serial killers are lethally elusive. So are domestic terrorists. What, in the course of human events, isn't an excuse for some Wild West justice? I'm ready to kill my neighbor for letting his elusive dog poop on my lawn.

I've got to squeeze in the bit that brought me there in the first place, a mention in the Daou Report of hip-hop "conservative" blogger Sister Toldja's take:
Make sure to note his information on how there is evidence that, thanks to the leaker as well as the reporting of this story in the NYTimes, that the terrorists are modifying their behavior, which obviously hampers our ability to track them.

So here's the amazing proof:
It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys. There is evidence that the information harvested helped foil several plots and disrupt al-Qaeda operations.

There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials, that since the New York Times broke the story, the terrorists have modified their behavior, hampering our efforts to keep track of them—but also, on the plus side, hampering their ability to communicate with one another.

Yep, there's your evidence--a journalist says so. And that's always good enough for your right-wing blogosphere.

So excuse me for just waking up, but it seems like only yesterday when we were announcing specific terrorist threats to specific bridges, or generalized threats to shopping malls or Wall Street on specific days, but now, after the fact and presumably with no intelligence operatives at risk, since these were intercepts, we can't, I dunno, name one? Are we now somehow reticent to actually arrest people in this country with links to SPECTRE, or do we have to keep that quiet, too? Jeez, even Dervishes get tired of spinning at some point.


James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

I don't think it's your imagination. I read five wingnut bloggers who linked to Klein's piece, and either a) they no longer care if anything they say is remotely believeable or b) they're all dumber than a bag of hair.

Fer chrissakes, twenty years ago, when I occasionally indulged in gray-market agricultural product purchases, nobody ever used a cordless phone and nobody mentioned certain words or phrases, and that was probably pure paranoia. But SPECTRE agents are just jabbering away by satellite. Right. And I seem to recall that we didn't have enough Arabic translators for an actual war, but now we're stopping terrorist plots by intercept.

Anonymous said...

The big point is that of course it would be not nice to be like Nixon, therefore, the bushies are not like Nixon. Or to quote the math types: QED.

Anonymous said...

Tbe Wall Street Journal has an editorial today which says that if liberals are truly concerned about civil rights violations like warrantless wiretaps and such, they would forget about the NSA thing and try to get the name of the J. Edger Hoover building changed (because Hoover wiretapped people like Martin Luther King).

Really. The WSJ really said that.

So, I'm guessing that to the liberals on the WSJ editorial page, this sort of civil-liberties fetishism is a hangover from the Vietnam era.

Anonymous said...

Doghouse, you hit exactly the point I've been thinking of whenever someone tries to claim the NSA story is endangering National Security: Unless the terrorists are dumber than a bag of wet hammers, they have always treated every phone conversation as if it were being monitored. The leak probably made no difference at all.

Of course, neither the wingnuts nor Dear Leader and his minions have been able to offer a semi-plausible reason why they couldn't have gone for FISA warrants.

(For later: Which is dumber, a bag of hair or a bag of wet hammers? Discuss.)

Anonymous said...

Hair in a bag is smart, because that's how you throw it away.

Wet hammers will rust, but if you took them out of the bag and dried them off they would be useful.

So, the bag of wet hammers are dumber.

I'd like to contribute to this discussion in more coherent ways, but by now everybody knows I'm schizophrenic, so there's probably nothing valid I can say on the subject of "insufficient" or "overdone" paranoia on the part of terrorists. I've chosen to recuse myself. (Link to definition provided for the benefit of any republican SCOTUS nominees out there.)

So, uh, right on, Doghouse.

And wtf is the WSJ smoking?

julia said...

What I think you're not understanding is that Joe Klein is Miss Havisham.

No, really, think about it. He fell truly, madly, deeply for David Cassidy, er, Bill Clinton, thinking that since Clinton (unlike anyone else who could be troubled to talk to Joe Klein) had charm, he must be a wonderful man who really, really cared about Joe Klein and wanted him to be totally happy and get everything the insensitive jerks around him were denying him through not understanding how Special he was Inside.

Then Clinton left him standing at the altar with a sitting room full of wedding cake.

Well, you know, he wrote the (cowardly, specious) anonymous book, but it wasn't enough. He has to raise a generation of Estellas to make sure that anyone who even vaguely resembles the man who failed to love Joe Klein is afflicted with only blankeyed sociopathic vacuums of entitlement and greed to love.

Dammit, the people refuse to reject the man who did him wrong. Fuck the people. The people must pay.

Bartender, a round of Republicans for the house.

and the senate, for that matter.

Geez, Joe, you're not entirely done embarrassing yourself, are you, dear?

Anonymous said...

There is evidence that the information harvested...
There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials...

Okay, if he can't name one foiled plot or operation out of several, then howzabout naming even ONE of these intelligence officials? (Note the plural, too.) Why on earth are these sources anonymous? Nobody's blabbing any secrets here or blowing any whistles... they're just spinning and well, lying as usual. This isn't exactly something the administration is shy about doing publicly. So why weren't he/she/they willing to go on the record with the spin, if not the actual evidence? (Unless, such evidence merely derived from Joe's fertile hackish imagination or lunch with Ed Gillespie.)

Either Klein's own fetishism is being currently tracked by Rove's restored and updated Hoover dossier collection or he's just one more scared opportunistic doggie licking his master's fingers.

Anonymous said...

And since I'm catching up on my holiday reading...
For any youngsters out there still up at this hour who may be unaware of it, Don Novello wrote The Lazlo Letters: The Amazing Real-life Actual Correspondence of Lazlo Toth, American! (recently updated) which is brilliant, inspired and hilarious - a prank pioneer before Father Guido existed. Highly recommended by this pre-geezer.

Anonymous said...

I've resigned myself to the idea that the punditry distancing itself from fascism is a pipe dream, but could we at least lose the "It would be a scandal if they weren't spying on us!" canard?

Just as a sort of compromise?