Evan Maloney thinks the Feds are above the law

It surprised me too at first, but after this epic amount of state-worship I decided to defend The New York Times. I'd never heard of this particular statist before Clara brought his post to my attention, but these attitudes are fairly representative of a lot of people, so they're worth examining.

Here's the story: Times executive editor Bill Keller decides to break the news that the Feds are secretly trying to monitor financial activity between suspected terrorists. He justifies the decision by saying we shouldn't "take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish" and that the argument that this would jeopardize National Security is weak. This guy Maloney basically accuses him of treason.

Nevermind that the financial monitoring is completely shady and probably illegal. (Even if it's legal it can only be so in a completely twisted environment that has literally no barriers to government power as long as they claim they're fighting terrorism.)

So when the president and his goons do something illegal in the name of fighting terrorism, that's totally fine and we shouldn't trouble our simple heads with it. But when somebody exposes the illegal power grab, he is the menace. The offending selection:

What I’m struggling to figure out is, if you as a private citizen came into the exact same information that the Times eventually published, but instead of publishing it, you passed it along to an al Qaeda operative in a dark alley somewhere, you would be guilty of treason and could be executed. Yet, [Times editor] Bill Keller seems to think that “freedom of the press” amounts to one huge legal exemption–the espionage laws do not apply to him!–and by being chosen by a handful of old-money New Yorkers to edit a newspaper, he is somehow in better position to decide what is in the public interest than the government officials that we the people elected to act on our behalf.

If you were spying on American financial institutions, detaining people indefinitely only on your say-so, collecting everybody's phone calls, and generally declaring yourself willing and legally able to do anything else you wanted, that'd be fucking sweet! And if someone tried to stop you, that'd be treason!

While he applauds reporters for being "a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy", he fails to address an important question: Where is the check against Bill Keller? Where is the check against the press? I don't remember getting to vote for any newspaper editors, and nobody else I know does, either. And yet they have the power to change the future by making it more likely that terrorists can move throughout the world without detection.

I really am frustrated by the conservative inability to make distinctions between the power of a gun pointed between your eyes and the power of a shitty newspaper. In one corner, Bill Keller run amok might do a service and reveal some National Security information to the whole American public about how they're being monitored, and this might also marginally help the terrorists by letting them know they have to work through other channels. As if they couldn't have guessed that themselves without the announcement. In the other corner, you have a power-hungry blueblood—who thinks he's been appointed by the Almighty, no less—who might have you disappeared at any moment, and somehow he's the one we're supposed to trust. He's the one who's less likely to abuse his power.

It's true that we didn't get to decide who would run the New York Times. But the Times is a business, and they're ultimately in the business of satisfying customers. The president and his goons didn't get my approval in 2000, 2004, or any time in between. And they don't need it because no matter how unsatisfied I am they can still violate my liberty and property until 2009.

And the swipe at the New York elite was just too precious. Conservatives are in love with the elite everywhere except New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Any bastard, as long as he's their bastard. Fortunately, after George W. Bush is gone from office they can still vote for Jeb Bush, and George P. Bush after that, and maybe Jenna Bush after that. As long as they keep the old money out.

Can the marriage between conservatives and libertarians be saved? Are you nuts?

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Do I detect hysteria?

Do I detect hysteria?

One thing I like about the

One thing I like about the Times' disclosure is that Bush and the White House confirmed that they are doing what was described. If this was a matter of national security you'd think they would either stay mum or deny that it exists. Instead they slam the Times and proclaim "we are doing this!" Now the terrorists are absolutely sure they're doing this, and if they're like anyone else they know that the government is probably listening/watching everything anyway.

It is rather ironic that the White House has recently decided that lying is a bad thing.

It seems that throughout

It seems that throughout history, executive and/or royal authority has been gained via a ruthless determination to reach out and take as much power as people allow.

Idealogs have risen to power in large part because too many people are too easily led. A "bandwagon effect" leads to almost a cult like following of "true believers." These true believers have two main rolls (besides being cheer-leaders). They recruit new members or intimidate the opposition. Still, this dedication is not enough to maintain long-term power.

Totalitarian movements grow because far too many citizens are uninvolved with politics and don’t ask questions. These citizens are the disconnected, silent majority. The key to positive change in America lies not with divisive partisan politics. The key is tapping into the pent-up hopes and dreams of the disaffected, uneducated, and uninformed Americans who don't even bother to vote.

On a positive note, I recently found a very interesting website LearnToQuestion.com. This site is one way silent majority can learn how to question.

It's Propaganda Lessons section is good complementary reading to OhioDem1's How to Sell a War I’m glad I found this site while Googling "question." It is encouraging to find fellow Americans who are taking positive actions to help wake up America.

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I think the main thing

I think the main thing Maloney misunderstands in his 'dark alley' example is that Bush isn't just spying on al-Qaeda, he's spying on *everyone*. To amplify the scenario, if soldiers were preparing to machine-gun a crowd of ordinary people that might contain a murderer, it is morally better to do nothing than to tell the murderer. But it does in no way follow that alerting the crowd of their imminent slaughter is wrong. Even if one thinks that one has a right to sacrifice the crowd in the attempt to kill the murderer, it doesn't follow simply from the premises that alerting only the murderer is wrong.

I can't locate it now, but a

I can't locate it now, but a day or two ago someone dug up an old NYTimes piece from soon after 9/11 urging the government to implement the very program - the "completely shady and probably illegal" program. That one.

I believe that the main point of disagreement is about whether we are genuinely at war with an enemy. War is an unusual situation in which the normal standards and rules of peace do not, in fact, apply. Something of course does apply, it's not total chaos. We have a concept of "laws of war". But it's not the same as peacetime.

Personally I don't think that the situation is dire enough to be called a war. However, you need to recognize that the people who are taking the Times to task do not agree with that. They consider us to be in a state of war with a dangerous enemy that not only is trying to kill us, but stands a good chance of doing it. My personal view is that 9/11 was a one-time thing in which they didn't even use their own weapons, they hijacked four of our planes, something they're not going to be able to do again. But unless you're willing to stand your ground and say that Al Qaeda is not anywhere close to being at the level of the Nazis or the Japanese, unless you're willing to assert that there is no genuine war going on, then your arguments will fail to address the issue, and you will miss your mark. Of course, if you do assert that we are not really in a war, then a lot of people are going to laugh at you. So basically, the position is a weak one.

You could by the way take an even more extreme view and say that we should not have compromised our freedoms even in WWII - that maybe we should not have fought it at all. And that the North should have let the South secede. And so forth. It's a minority view, and not one that stands much chance of persuading many people.

Cartoon: Bush uses hatred of

Cartoon: Bush uses hatred of press to rally base
The Blue State, TheBlueState-Todd

(By John Cole, Scranton Times Tribune, Cagle Cartoons)

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Other blogs writing about this issue: Velvel on National Affairs, Media Matters, The Garlic, ...

Comparing publishing

Comparing publishing information in a newspaper (or even on a blog) to selling it to al Qaeda is one of the more ridiculous straw men I’ve seen.

In practical terms it makes not that much difference. I think you are approaching the question from a moral angle, that morally it is quite a bit worse to sell the information. But looking at it from a practical angle, they get the information either way. The main practical difference is that the US Government knows what information they got, which only partially diminishes the damage.

The right side of the political sphere seems almost entirely to think this was a bad thing that hurt our ability to fight this war. Meanwhile, the left side of the political sphere seems, similarly, to think that outing Valerie Plame was a bad thing that hurt our ability to fight this war. So basically everybody except for a tiny band of folks is really big on national security and down on government secrets getting out even to the newspapers.

I think a stronger argument is needed than the usual libertarian paean to freedom. From a libertarian point of view, it may even be okay to sell information to Al Qaeda. Classify it under international trade.

Comparing publishing

Comparing publishing information in a newspaper (or even on a blog) to selling it to al Qaeda is one of the more ridiculous straw men I've seen. This is a straw man made of like... soda straws or something. And covered in acetone.

It's fortunate that we have relatively powerful press organizations that can get away with it. If some lone blogger tried to break this story they'd get stomped on. Thank goodness for the New York Times. The fact that they published a story like this makes me a lot more optimistic about the future, because it shows that even the pro-government bias of the media has its limits.

Sean, I'm the lone blogger

Sean,

I'm the lone blogger who broke the story on every past, present, and future spy program. No harm done...yet. :beatnik: