I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Various matters

A few matters worth noting (Personally and for the record, I don't count this as a violation of my necessary blogging hiatus, though, admittedly, reasonable people might disagree):

(1) Few people understand and critique neoconservatism better than the writers and editors of American Conservative Magazine (I've written two articles for them). Its Editor, Scott McConnell, has a superb article in the current issue which warns that neoconservatives -- though scorned and discredited -- are far from defeated and will have plenty of further opportunities to continue to wreak havoc in our country.

McConnell documents how "resilient and tactically flexible" neoconservatives have been -- they cater themselves and their advocacy opportunistically to fit the prevailing political circumstances -- and have little loyalty to the political figures to which they attach themselves. In the wake of neoconservatism's signature Iraq disaster, it is "likely to present a different public face."

The most current, pressing question is the extent to which they will influence the last two years of the Bush presidency, and in particular whether they will be able to cause escalation in Iraq and additional wars with Iran and/or Syria. McConnell provides an excellent guide of what is likely to come from this most pernicious movement.

(2) Barbara O'Brein performed jury duty last week in a criminal case in which the defendant was charged with the dastardly crime of possession of marijuana. She recounts the travesty of what occurred here. It is well worth reading not because her experience is unusual but because it isn't.

Our judicial system is plagued with towering and systemic flaws, but they receive relatively little public attention because only those who interact frequently with the legal system -- judges and lawyers -- are really aware of just how broken it is. Other than being an actual party to a civil litigation or criminal proceeding, jury duty provides the best glimpse into how the whole thing works, and Barbara's reaction is quite typical.

(3) Wired's Ryan Singel is attempting to force the White House's "Privacy and Civil Liberty Board" -- also known as the Lanny Davis Presidential Reverence Commission -- to disclose information it learned about the President's warrantless eavesdropping program. In particular, Single wants to discover how many Americans have been targeted by the warrantless eavesdropping program, information which, as he notes, is "something that the Justice Department has to do when the government bothers to get a warrant."

As I've noted before, we have transformed ourselves from a citizenry which expects and demands transparency in our government, to one which operates from the premise that our Government leaders should operate in secret and tell us only what they think we ought to know. Government secrecy ought to be the exception -- the rare exception -- not the rule.

(4) An update on the House of Death matter I am hoping to pursue further: I expect to have a few interview scheduled for this week, and will post both the podcast and transcript when they are available, and will write further about it when warranted.

(5) Here is an unnecessary reminder about how little Peggy Noonan knows, how her columns are driven by nothing but the most dreadful platitudes, and how wrong she is all the time (without ever remotely acknowledging any error). From her September 15, 2006 Wall St. Journal column -- with an assist from the equally cliche-dependent Kellyanne Conway -- on why Democrats will lose the midterm elections (something I delightfully stumbled into while searching for something else):

But I feel the Democrats this year are making a mistake. They think it will be a cakewalk. A war going badly, immigration, high spending, a combination of sentimentality and dimness in foreign affairs--everyone in the world wants to be free, and in exactly the way we define freedom at dinner parties in McLean and Chevy Chase--and conservative thinkers and writers hopping mad and hoping to lose the House.

The Democrats' mistake--ironically, in a year all about Mr. Bush--is obsessing on Mr. Bush. They've been sucker-punched by their own animosity.

"The Democrats now are incapable of answering a question on policy without mentioning Bush six times," says pollster Kellyanne Conway. " 'What is your vision on Iraq?' 'Bush lied us into war.' 'Health care? 'Bush hasn't a clue.' They're so obsessed with Bush it impedes them from crafting and communicating a vision all their own." They heighten Bush by hating him.

One of the oldest clichés in politics is, "You can't beat something with nothing." It's a cliché because it's true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine.

Mr. Bush's White House loves what the Democrats are doing. They want the focus on him. That's why he's out there talking, saying Look at me.

Because familiarity doesn't only breed contempt, it can breed content. Because if you're going to turn away from him, you'd better be turning toward a plan, and the Democrats don't appear to have one.

Which leaves them unlikely to win leadership. And unworthy of it, too.

That was, as Noonan pointed out, an extremely brilliant Republican strategy indeed -- have one of history's most unpopular Presidents, at the height of his unpopularity, make the midterm elections a referendum on him. And those stupid, hapless Democrats played right into Karl Rove's hands (as always) by falling into the trap and talking too much about Bush. That proved that not only would they lose the midterm elections, but that they were "unworthy" of victory. Onto the next column.

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