A Nuclear 9/11: Can we Defeat Nuclear Terrorism by Securing the Ports?

In a word, no.  Anyone who wants to smuggle the key ingredients (highly enriched uranium or weapons grade plutonium, otherwise known as special nuclear material, or SNM) needed to make a nuclear weapon into this country can easily do so, and the installation of any combination of the most sophisticated radiation dectection devices on the planet at our ports will do nothing to alter the fact.  The idea that lots of expensive detection equipment at our ports, or any other ports, will significantly reduce the terrorist nuclear danger is based on a fallacy:  that terrorists capable of securing enough SNM to build a bomb will be brain dead.  They would have to be brain dead to try to sneak SNM past sophisticated detectors when there are a virtually unlimited number of ways one could get it into the country without taking that risk.  It’s not necessary to smuggle a nuclear weapon in one piece.  It could be brought in broken down into small components and assembled at the target.  The SNM could be smuggled across our borders in pieces small enough to be virtually undetectable by backpackers, on commercially available mini-submarines, light aircraft, small pleasure boats, or what have you.  The SNM could then be assembled and easily fabricated into any desired weapons configuration in place.  The whole debate about defeating nuclear terrorism sounds like it’s being conducted in a lunatic asylum.

For example, The Daily Caller (hattip Instapundit) cites a GAO report to the effect that, ”

The nation’s ports and border crossings remain vulnerable to a nuclear 9/11 despite a $4 billion investment since 2005 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a number of programs aimed at preventing nuclear smuggling around the world.

Senators similarly admonished DHS in a recent Senate hearing for failing to uphold its end of the bargain with the American people.

“Terrorists have made clear their desire to secure a nuclear weapon,” Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said at the Sept. 15 hearing. “Given this stark reality, we must ask: what has the department done to defend against nuclear terrorism on American soil? The answer, unfortunately, is not enough… not nearly enough.”

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), responsible for the domestic aspect of DHS’s nuclear terror deterrence, received approximately half of the $4 billion investment, which it spent deploying over 1,400 radiation monitors at the nation’s seaports and border crossings in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

But these radiation monitors have a serious flaw: they can only detect radiation from lightly shielded radiation sources.

The only problem is that spending billions more to fix this “flaw” won’t help, unless you happen to have invested your nest egg in detection equipment.  The article continues,

The GAO report uncovered a bureaucratic nightmare involving DNDO and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which resulted in the failure to properly develop and deploy detection equipment that could detect radiation from heavily shielded sources.

DNDO began working shortly after its founding in April 2005 on what it called the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System (CAARS) and the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP) ̶ intended to automatically detect radiation from heavily shielded sources in a user-friendly fashion in order to screen cargo containers in the nation’s ports and border crossings.

In the first place, radiation detection equipment doesn’t come in just two flavors; “good for heavily shielded sources” and “not good for heavily shielded sources.”  There are a great number of different types, all with their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of sensitivity, energy resolution, etc.  In the second place, it doesn’t matter what kind are installed at the ports, because terrorists will simply bypass them.  The whole port security paradigm is based on the premise that our opponents, in spite of their ability to acquire SNM in the first place, will be bone stupid.  They won’t, and there are much more effective ways to spend all the money we are throwing down this particular rathole.

The article goes on to cite Cato Institute budget analyst Tad DeHaven, who plays a familiar broken record to demagogue the sheep:

They are not subject to market forces and other controls, so they can screw up federal money,” DeHaven said. “There are not going to be any angry shareholders, and in most cases you are not going to lose your job, so the incentives for the federal government to efficiently and effectively procure goods … are poor.”

One wonders if he reallly gets paid to churn out such hackneyed stuff.  Tell me, Tad, do you actually know anything about the people who work for DNDO?  Did it ever occur to you that many of them might be ex-military, that they might be highly motivated and dedicated to their country’s welfare, and that it’s not out of the question that they care a great deal about working to “efficiently and effectively procure goods”?  You might actually try meeting and talking to some of them.  They work just down the street from you.  Did it ever occur to you that the problem might not be their lack of patriotism and dedication, but the fact that they’ve been given an impossible task?  And BTW, no, I don’t work for DNDO or DHS.

The article concludes in a somewhat more sober vein,

Heritage Foundation homeland security analyst Jena Baker-McNeill instead blames Congress for setting what she sees as an unrealistic goal of inspecting every container that passes through the nation’s ports and border crossings. Congress imposed the goal for political reasons without considering its practical implications, she said. Baker-McNeill believes more emphasis should have been placed on increased intelligence aimed at intercepting nuclear smugglers abroad due to the volume of cargo that enters the country and limited resources.

It seems to me Ms. Baker-McNeill might be on to something.  If we’re going to spend money to defeat nuclear terrorism, I suspect it will be much better spent on finding ways to keep terrorists from getting their hands on SNM in the first place.  Once they do, we can install the most efficient radiation detectors with the most clever software ever devised at all our ports, and it won’t deter them in the slightest.  We will only have bought ourselves a dangerous sense of false security.

The Chinese Sense our Weakness

Now they’re demanding a triple kowtow from one of our allies. Turkey has noticed the same thing. They’re demanding an apology from another of our allies for daring to react to a deliberate Turkish provocation. I’m surprised they bother with our allies. Why not just demand an apology directly from the US government? After all, we are without peers when it comes to groveling before our enemies. Vietnam would do well to take heed as China bullies her in the South China Sea. If she leans on us for support, she will be leaning on a weak reed. She should have learned that from her own history.

State’s Rights and Federal Power

There’s no doubt the federal government of the United States is bloated beyond anything the Founding Fathers ever intended.  For example, Benjamin Franklin wrote in response to a scornful letter from some Englishmen, who were our enemies at the time,

The weight, therefore, of an independent empire, which you seem certain of our inability to bear, will not be so great as you imagine; the expense of our civil government we have always borne, and can easily bear, because it is small. A virtuous and laborious people may be cheaply governed, determining, as we do, to have no offices of profit, nor any sinecures, or useless appointments, so common in ancient or corrupted states. We can govern ourselves a year for the sum you pay in a single department, for what one jobbing contractor, by the favour of a minister, can cheat you out of in a single article.

James Madison, a major architect of the Constitution, rejected the broad interpretation of the General Welfare clause that later became an essential rationalization for the cancerous growth of government.  As noted in Wikipedia,

Madison vetoed on states’ rights grounds a bill for “internal improvements,” including roads, bridges, and canals:

Having considered the bill … I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling this bill with the Constitution of the United States…. The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified … in the … Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers.[27]

Madison rejected the view of Congress that the General Welfare provision of the Taxing and Spending Clause justified the bill, stating:

Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.

As noted at OffMyFrontPorch, he also wrote the the Federalist Paper, #45,

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite……The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

Jefferson was of like mind with respect to the meaning of the Taxing and Spending Clause, writing in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798,

Resolved, That the construction applied by the General Government (as is evidenced by sundry of their proceedings) to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate to Congress a power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution, the powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof,” goes to the destruction of all limits prescribed to their powers by the Constitution: that words meant by the instrument to be subsidiary only to the execution of limited powers, ought not to be so construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument…

Even arch-Federalist Alexander Hamilton wrote,

The State governments possess inherent advantages, which will ever give them an influence and ascendancy over the National Government, and will forever preclude the possibility of federal encroachments. That their liberties, indeed, can be subverted by the federal head, is repugnant to every rule of political calculation. (Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June 17, 1788)

But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States. (Federalist No. 32, January 3, 1788)

That and much more like it can be found in the writings of the men who actually drafted the Constitution, and nothing that supports the creation of a centralized state of the kind the United States has become today.  Such ideas are now labeled “extremist,” as is anyone who objects to the radical redefinition of government in the United States that has taken place since the New Deal.  The Taxing and Spending Clause became the key to the massive growth of a centralized state after all, and the Tenth Amendment has become a nullity.  To remedy the situation, some are now calling for a Constitutional Convention to reign in the power of the federal government.  It won’t happen, or at least not anytime soon.  Franklin Roosevelt managed to stay in power through almost four terms, in spite of his dismal performance in managing the economy until he was rescued by the start of World War II, by passing out benefits to favored blocs of voters, who could then be counted on to defend their own interests on election day, normally conflating them with the interests of the country.  Federal power will continue to expand for the same reason, and all the Tea Parties in the world won’t stop it.

Homeland Security: The Left and the Right Converge

We live in an age of political conformity. The orthodoxies of the Left and Right are constantly reinforced in the echo chambers of the Internet and the other media of mass communication. Read a fragment of someone’s opinion on any of the hot button issues of the day, and, assuming they take an active interest in politics, you will know their opinion on every other hot button issue as well. One rarely comes across manifestations of independent thought. The phenomenon is familiar to students of our species. Humans are predisposed to belong to an “in-group,” and react to those who don’t belong, or, in other words, to the “out-group,” with hatred and loathing. Human culture has advanced a great deal in the last several thousand years. Now the in-groups and out-groups are no longer limited to neighboring bands of primitive hunter-gatherers, but can be global in scope, with millions of members. No matter, the basic behavioral trait is still the same, and is as characteristic and predictable as ever.

It is therefore of surpassing interest to find the Left and the Right agreeing on anything. The neutered mummies of ideas they represent are usually carefully manicured to conflict, not converge. Still, it seems to me I’ve found an example in a recent article about Homeland Security by Fareed Zakaria on the Left, which was answered with all the usual overblown indignation and outrage by N. M. Guariglia on the Right.

The point of apparent agreement is the excessive and wasteful nature of the government’s response to 911. As Zakaria puts it:

Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. The amount of money spent on intelligence has risen by 250 percent, to $75 billion (and that’s the public number, which is a gross underestimate). That’s more than the rest of the world spends put together. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet—the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. Five miles southeast of the White House, the largest government site in 50 years is being built—at a cost of $3.4 billion—to house the largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs: the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.

After running on in the same vein for awhile, he concludes with a pro forma appeal to the Founding Fathers:

Surely this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programs. When James Madison pondered this issue, he came to a simple conclusion: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germs of every other … In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended…and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.”

Guariglia couches his agreement with the fundamental thesis of the article within a furious attack on Zakaria, who, as usual, is found to be both evil and stupid for daring to meddle with the boards of the ideological box he lives in. For example, by suggesting our response to 911 has been exaggerated, he is agreeing with all the fools who don’t realize that Saddam’s finger was within a hairs breadth of the nuclear trigger:

…nobody believed Saddam had a “nuclear arsenal” in the 1990s. That’s because after we defeated him in 1991, we discovered he was but six months to a year away from developing an atomic bomb.

He is an honorary dupe of Soviet Communism, even though the Soviet Union has been dead and buried for nigh on two decades:

Soviet expansionism was real: Afghanistan, El Salvador, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Angola, Romania, martial law in Poland. Communist insurgencies had sprung up around the world. Eastern Europe was under the Politburo’s dominion. Dissidents were kidnapped and thrown in gulags. Hell, if it weren’t for a disobedient colonel in 1983 they would have nuked us! (Unsurprisingly, the article he links completely debunks this claim).

He is a bleeding heart idealist for opposing torture, which must be a wonderful thing, because, after all, the torturers assured us that it was quite effective:

Obama knows water-boarding worked and saved American lives, and he knows Americans would be supportive of the practice in such a case, so he would therefore rather keep this issue in the dark than vindicate the worldview of Dick Cheney and the Weekly Standard.

…and so on in response to the similarly fossilized and homogenized pronouncements of Zakaria. However, in the midst of it all he says,

There’s some truth to these last points. Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security could have been put in the FBI. Perhaps the director of national intelligence could have been put in the CIA. Perhaps the federal government could be fighting this war far more effectively — and cost-effectively. But all this speaks to government incompetence, mismanagement, and red tape. It says nothing of our “overreaction” to 9/11.

In other words, he’s in substantial agreement with the main point Zakaria is trying to make. He just considers it heretical to admit that the overreaction was really an “overreaction.” Whatever. Surprisingly enough, I, too, concur in this furious agreement. The next time we have to deal with a national emergency, I suggest we resist the usual urge to create another massive government bureaucracy to “save” us. Such efforts are not likely to be any more effective in the future than they have been in the past.

The WaPo and the Mosque at Ground Zero

H. L. Mencken, himself on of America’s greatest editorial writers, had meager respect for most of the species. As he once put it, “Give me a good editorial cartoonist, and I can fire half the editorial staff.” He wouldn’t have been surprised by a piece entitled “A Vote for Religious Freedom,” that recently appeared on the editorial page of the Washington Post. It was marked by the self-induced imbecility about “freedom of religion” that has been the bane of serious debate about the role of Islam in today’s world.

The piece addresses the issue of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, noting with approval the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s vote to deny historic status to the existing building on the site. In the words of the editorial,

The agency’s correct call is a victory for cooler heads in city government, and for a fundamental American ideal – freedom of religion.

In fact, as far as the current debate about Islam is concerned, freedom of religion is a red herring. I suspect that, among all those who have expressed opposition to the mosque, the number of those who really care whether their neighbors believe in Jehovah, Allah, or the Great Green Grasshopper God is vanishingly small, as long as their opinions are between themselves and their God, and don’t imply any requirement to intervene in or control the lives of others. I have not yet read a single article on the subject that takes issue with the right of Moslems or anyone else to think and believe as they please. Many of them, however, take issue with the claims of Islam to political control and social coercion. The question, then, is whether these arguments are justified, or are merely smokescreens for an assault on freedom of religion.

The answer is obvious. Is it credible to argue that the Islamic theocracy in Iran has not practiced religious discrimination against those of other faiths, or that its justification for that discrimination has not been based on Moslem religious doctrine? Is it credible to argue that Islam does not explicitly reject freedom of religion, prescribing severe punishment for those who would leave Islam for some other faith, and institutional discrimination, including special taxes and denial of freedom of speech in matters relating to religion, directed against those of other faiths? Is it credible to argue that Islam poses no challenge to separation of church and state, or that it has never favored substitution of religious for secular law? Is it credible to argue that much of the terrorist violence that has plagued the world in recent years has not been justified in the name of Islam? Is it credible to argue that severe limitations on the equal treatment of women, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Islamic world, are not justified in the name of Islam? No, in all of these cases, it is not credible.

The proposed mosque is to be part of a complex known as the Cordoba House, and the Wapo editorial tries to gull its readers with the revisionist version of history according to which Islamic Cordoba was a “medieval Spanish city where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in peace for 800 years.” It boggles the mind to consider the possibility that Wapo’s editorialists are really stupid enough to believe that. Do they not have access to Google? Can they not confirm for themselves that Jews were subjected to pogroms in Moslem Spain, including one in Cordoba itself in the year 1011? Did not Ibn Abdun, one of the foremost Spanish Islamic jurists in this “golden age” write,

No…Jew or Christian may be allowed to wear the dress of an aristocrat, nor of a jurist, nor of a wealthy individual; on the contrary they must be detested and avoided. It is forbidden to [greet] them with the [expression], ‘Peace be upon you’. In effect, ‘Satan has gained possession of them, and caused them to forget God’s warning. They are the confederates of Satan’s party; Satan’s confederates will surely be the losers!’ A distinctive sign must be imposed upon them in order that they may be recognized and this will be for them a form of disgrace.

Were the Jews of Cordoba not forced to wear such a sign, in the form of a yellow turban, reminiscent of the yellow Star of David they were forced to wear under a later European regime? Were Christians not martyred in the city for daring to criticize Moslem religious beliefs? Was not Maimonides himself, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the Cordovan “golden age,” forced to flee the city to avoid religious persecution? I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point.

In fact, there is no such thing as a “mere religion” among any of the major religions in the world today. All of them have, at one point or another, claimed the right to political control, attempted to elevate their religious tenets to secular law, and discriminated against and penalized those who thought differently. I am hardly a defender of Christianity, and it is no different from any of the other religions in this respect. However, devout Christians can, and have, as in the case of Roger Williams, convincingly argued for the separation of church and state based on religious doctrine. The enlightenment has further neutered its claims to state support and established status, to the point that, today, one can reasonably speak of freedom of religion in nominally Christian countries. Not so with Islam.

The principle that the WaPo editorialists and others who make similar arguments are defending, then, when they evoke “freedom of religion” has nothing to do with private religious beliefs. Objectively, what they are saying, whether they are prepared to admit it themselves or not, is that, as long as the adherents of some system of belief can manage to convince the rest of society that they are a religion, no matter whether their “religious beliefs” include such things as a monopoly of state power, severe restrictions on freedom of speech on matters touching their beliefs, and a right to profound intervention in the lives of others, then they automatically become immune from criticism in the name of “freedom of religion.”

One wonders what kind of a two by four it would be necessary to whack people like this up alongside the head with before they finally realized this debate isn’t about “freedom of religion.” Would they defend the murder of a Moslem friend for “apostasy” because he decided to convert to Christianity in the name of “freedom of religion?” Would they tolerate the nullification of democracy and the imposition of sharia law in the name of “freedom of religion?” Are they prepared to tolerate “honor killings” in the name of “freedom of religion?” Would they assist in the genital mutilation of their daughters if it were required in the name of “freedom of religion?” Would the editors of the Washington Post claim that these things are not required by the Moslem religion? A great many devout Moslems who have spent a great deal more time studying Islamic scriptures than they would claim that they are required. Who are the editors of the Washington Post to define what it means to be a Moslem?

The debate about the mosque at Ground Zero does not and never has had anything to do with freedom of religion. There is a point beyond which it is no longer acceptable to sacrifice one’s own Liberty and tolerate intervention in one’s own life to accommodate the religious beliefs of others. The debate is about when that point is reached.

Why Defend Andrew Breitbart?

Because of the reason his enemies are attacking him.

They are not attacking him because they believe he unfairly accused Shirley Sherrod of racism. They are attacking him because his opinions challenge leftist orthodoxy. The left has embraced demonization of those who disagree with them as a tactic for promoting their world view. In addition to this real reason for demonization, there is always a “good reason” offered to rationalize it, usually based on the claim that their opponent has violated some moral rule.

The specious nature of these “good reasons” is always obvious because of the double standard with which they are applied. More egregious violations of the same rules by those not perceived as enemies are ignored. For example, as noted above, Breitbart is being demonized for “race-baiting.” If the left held its own to a similar standard, few would be found in its ranks less guilty than Breitbart. In his case, it is not clear that he was deliberately making a false accusation of racism, or that Sherrod was even the main target of his attack. Whatever her intent when she made her remarks about discriminating against a white farmer because of the color of his skin, the approving reaction of the NAACP audience, which didn’t know at the time where she was going with her remarks, can certainly be plausibly described as racist. Regardless, the furious attacks on Breitbart continue, with all the usual faux virtuous indignation.

By way of contrast, consider the left’s response to a far more reprehensible justification of deliberate race baiting by one of its own. In an e-mail to his Journolist cohorts, Spencer Ackerman, who currently writes for Wired magazine and the Washington Independent, openly promoted false charges of racism as a political tactic. As noted by the Daily Caller,

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Needless to say, this blatant advocacy of racism, providing only that it be exploited to promote a “good cause,” has not provoked the same contrived outrage on the left. The “good reason” for the attacks on Breitbart doesn’t apply to Ackerman, or anyone else the left considers one of its own.

All this is easily understandable in terms of human nature. We are wired to apply different standards to “us” than we apply to “them.”  The left’s attempts to demonize the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Andrew Breitbart, and the rest of its pantheon of evil are perfectly natural. They are also irrational and self-destructive.

UPDATE: Who do you think David Letterman is picking on?

a.  Spencer Ackerman

b.  Andrew Breitbart

Of the Alternate Universe of the “Progressives”

A popular theory has it that the Internet is contributing to political polarization by providing innumerable blogs, news aggregators and other websites that enable users to filter reality to fit their ideological preconceptions.  Whether that’s really true is still open to question, but I recently noticed some anecdotal evidence in the form of a couple of web essays that tends to confirm it.  The first was a piece written for the Telegraph by Janet Daley, who (for a European at least) showed a remarkable grasp of the reasons for the popular unease that fuels the Tea Party movement and disenchantment with Barack Obama and Big Government.  For example, quoting Daley,

The president’s determination to transform the US into a social democracy, complete with a centrally run healthcare programme and a redistributive tax system, has collided rather magnificently with America’s history as a nation of displaced people who were prepared to risk their futures on a bid to be free from the power of the state.

Americans who have risen from poverty to become qualified tradesmen or entrepreneurs generally believe that they have a right to put what wealth they produce back into their own businesses, rather than trusting governments to spread it around among those judged to be deserving.

What is more startling is the growth in America of precisely the sort of political alignment which we have known for many years in Britain: an electoral alliance of the educated, self-consciously (or self-deceivingly, depending on your point of view) “enlightened” class with the poor and deprived.

A little later I ran across the second piece, which seemed almost purposely written to confirm Daley’s take on contemporary America.  Written, appropriately enough, for CNN (you remember, the news organization Germany’s Spiegel Magazine recently described as “non-partisan“) by Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton and a quintessential member of the elite Daley was writing about, it was entitled, “Why Obama’s poll numbers have sunk.”  Zelizer’s take:

How should we understand the fate of a president and a party who have been relatively successful at passing their agenda, yet don’t seem to be enjoying an electoral bounce?

With the unemployment rate over 9 percent, many Americans are unhappy and scared. But there is more to it than that.

The first factor has to do with President Obama’s decision to focus on controversial issues that he felt were important to the nation, even if they were not the most beneficial issues for his party. In other words, Obama selected issues such as health care and financial regulation that were sure to stimulate conservative opposition and cause concern among moderates.

At the same time, the president is a pragmatic politician who has been willing to cut deals to survive a notoriously difficult legislative process. In making those compromises, he has often angered many of his supporters on the left.

…citizens are deeply cynical. Given the large donations that private interest groups make to candidates, including the health care industry and Wall Street executives, it is naturally hard to believe that Washington would ever really pass government reform.

And so on.  In other words, the factors that Englishwoman Daley has apparently had no difficulty understanding have gone completely over the Princeton professor’s head.  He can come up with all kinds of good sounding reasons for Obama’s drop in the polls, but the one reason that is energizing the Tea Party movement and is ubiquitous above all others on every conservative and libertarian blog, not to mention talk radio and Foxnews, namely, unease at the cancerous growth of the nanny state and the intrusion of state power in the lives of average citizens, has gone completely over his head.  It’s as if the citizens of the United States could not possibly fear the growth of big government itself.  In the good professor’s alternate universe, the possibility that any of them might object to the prospect of serving as dutiful milk cows,  exploited by the state to support programs that benefit other people, whether that prospect is real or not, could not possibly even occur to them.  Based on his article, the thought has never even entered his mind.  Mind you, we’re not discussing whether the real motivations of Obama’s opposition are real or imaginary, rational or the product of some strange hysteria whipped up by Rush Limbaugh.  We’re talking about the very existence of that concern.

If members of the elites Ms. Daley refers to have not merely discounted popular unease at the growth of big government as a problem in itself, but have so insulated themselves from reality that they honestly believe that unease doesn’t even bear mention as a reason for Obama’s drop in the polls, to say they are out of touch is an understatement.  A large and growing number of the citizens in this country fear their future role will be as tax slaves to an alien state power that will milk them to support programs whose chances of ever providing them with benefits in any way commensurate with the resources they will be forced to hand over are vanishingly small.   The question about whether they are right or wrong in that surmise is not the point.  The point is that elites who pride themselves on their infallibility actually seem unaware that such concerns even exist.  The “best and the brightest” among us are, once again, suffering a remarkable disconnect with reality.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

“Right Wing Terror” vs. the Real Thing

Remember the recent hysteria on the left about imminent right wing terror and insurrection promoted by subversive institutions such as freedom of speech?  Here’s what the real thing looks like, but I doubt that the “right wing” was involved in an attack on an oil company executive.  It doesn’t fit the narrative.

Sarah Palin and the Eagleton Meme

When John McCain nominated Sarah Palin as his running mate, it unleashed the most hysterical storm of media muckraking and villification I’ve personally ever witnessed.  She was perceived as a serious threat to their “anointed one,” Barack Obama, and they dropped any pretense of “objective journalism” in attacking her.  For a week and more, one couldn’t watch any legacy media news report that wasn’t repeating some hackneyed anti-Palin smear for the umpteenth time.  Now I’m no fan of Palin, but I couldn’t help feeling outraged at the time at the shear mendacity of their attacks.  Yet journalists as a species are as utterly convinced of their own righteousness as any Pharisee, and in this, as in so many other cases, they ended up believing their own cant.  In their fevered imaginations, they managed to magnify the paltry smears they’d managed to dig up by dunning Palin’s political enemies into derelictions of the first water.  The result was the now largely forgotten Eagleton meme.

Those of you with long memories will recall that George McGovern nominated Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton as his running mate after clinching the Democratic nomination for President in 1972.  When it was discovered that Eagleton had received medical treatment  and was under medication for a mental health problem, McGovern threw him under the bus, replacing him with Kennedy in-law Sargent Schriver.  Of course, the “similarities” with Palin immediately occurred to mainstream media journalists.  For them, the historical parallel was “obvious,” and they immediately got in the tiresome habit if asking anyone they could find to interview if they thought Palin had been properly “vetted,” as if the whole world must believe the same fairy tale.   They were cocksure McCain would have to abandon her, and that with alacrity.  For example, from Joshua Green of the Atlantic:

Here in St. Paul, talk of Palin has dominated the Republican convention—even more so than cable news—and by Monday night discussion among Republican operatives and reporters had turned to whether Palin would survive or become the first running mate since Thomas Eagleton in 1972 to leave a major-party ticket.

The more circumspect CNN played the familiar journalistic game of using an incendiary headline, but hedging its bets in the body of the article itself.  The headline of an item that appeared on September 3, 2008:

Betting on a Palin withdrawal

The more subliminal Eagleton reference in the body of the article:

Placing a Palin withdrawal at even 12% seems bullish; no presidential candidate has withdrawn his VP selection since Thomas Eagleton left Democratic candidate George McGovern’s ticket in 1972.

The Grey Lady was less subtle.  It’s headline, by op-ed guy Gary Wills:

McCain’s McGovern Moment

and his sage advice, after being “shocked, shocked,” to learn that Palin was “an initial supporter of the so-called bridge to nowhere; an appointer of a man who had been officially reprimanded for sexual harassment as the public safety commissioner in Alaska; a mother of an unwed and pregnant 17-year-old; and other things being ferreted out by the minute.”

Perhaps Senator McGovern should not have deserted Tom Eagleton. Perhaps Senator McCain should stick by Governor Palin. But if he does soldier on with her by his side for a while, will he end up having to call another midget convention like the one that had to be cobbled together to nominate Sargent Shriver? That is hardly in his best interests.

Perhaps Governor Palin, realizing that and trying to minimize her own humiliation in coming days, should withdraw before she is nominated and let Senator McCain turn again to one of his more experienced options. We should remember that Senator Eagleton went on to serve honorably after his withdrawal, both during his time in the Senate and in charitable work after he retired from public office. He died last year, respected and beloved.

Gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn’t it?  Well, the Eagleton meme is no more, the MSM’s curiosity about whether Palin was properly “vetted” seems to have evaporated, and the former governor’s political stock seems to be doing just fine at the moment.  Still, it’s interesting to recall the fantasy worlds journalists occasionally create for themselves when they take themselves too seriously.