Archive for April, 2013


April 29, 2013

“Suppose Watergate had not been uncovered? I’d still be on the City Desk.”
-Bob Woodward

Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States is notorious in US history as being the only one to ever resign from office.  The scandal surrounding Nixon catapulted leftists into power in the Democratic Party, emboldened them in culture, and made “Watergate” a world-famous term.  From that point on, pundits have tacked “-gate” at the end of every political scandal, trying to relate the events to Nixon’s decline.
Watergate was a sordid tale of a president working behind the scenes to destroy enemies and block their political power.  President Nixon’s office, probably Nixon himself, told men working for him to put bugs in the Democratic Party Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, Washington DC.  The men bungled the job and someone spotted them, then the story began to leak out.  As time went on, the Nixon administration ordered men to lie to investigators and police, but the men caught planting bugs were being paid by money from the Committee to Re-Elect the President.
President Nixon had taped all conversations and dealings he had without knowledge of people involved and those tapes recorded more than he wanted people to know.  The president, or someone at his command, edited the tapes of all conversations in the Oval Office that were seized by subpena by the justice department, leaving gaps covering much of the events.  However, enough was discovered that  43 people were indicted, tried, convicted, and incarcerate, including men such as Attorney General John Mitchell, White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, and advisers Charles Colson, John Ehrlichman, John Dean, and investigator G. Gordon Liddy.
The bulk of these convictions were based around the cover-up, attempting to shield the president from the break in and bugging attempts.  The break-in its self would have been very embarrassing for the president but was separated enough that he personally was unlikely to have been directly connected. Politically damaging, but not enough to depose President Nixon.
Facing impeachment and probable removal from office, President Nixon decided the country would be better off without the trial and the battle, and resigned from office, leaving Vice President Ford his successor.  President Ford soon pardoned President Nixon, stating it was better for the country to not go through any more legal proceedings against a president.
And behind it all, we’re told it was the work of crusading journalists, primarily from the Washington Post, who took down President Nixon through meticulous reporting, defying the power base in government.  they faced official pressure, wiretaps on their phones, even death threats and feared for their lives, we ere told.  Woodward and Bernstein became reporter heroes, with books and movies praising their intrepid investigative journalism.  They won awards, and became classic examples in journalism school held up for students to emulate.
Woodward and Bernstein took down a president, that’s the line.  President Nixon was forced to tell the truth and retire because of heroic Washington Post reporters who defied the odds, the pressure, and the establishment to find the story at all costs.  That’s what we’ve been told, but is it true?
Not really.

The dominant narrative in the film All The President’s Men was that two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) discovered the crime, unraveled the connection to the president, dug up the coverup, and toppled the Nixon administration with the help of unknown, shadowy informant “Deep Throat.”  Except that’s just not true.  Even BBC News reported not long ago:

Rolling up a scandal of Watergate’s dimension and complexity required the collective efforts of special prosecutors, federal judges, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the Justice Department and the FBI.

Even then, Nixon likely would have survived the scandal if not for the audiotape recordings he secretly made of conversations in the Oval Office of the White House. Only when compelled by the Supreme Court did Nixon surrender the recordings, which captured him approving a plan to divert the FBI’s investigation of the break-in.

Woodward and Bernstein both reject the “heroic reporters topple president” narrative.  Woodward has repeatedly denied this, such as these quotes:

“The mythologising of our role in Watergate has gone to the point of absurdity, where journalists write… that I, single-handedly, brought down Richard Nixon. Totally absurd.” 

“To say the press brought down Nixon, that’s horse s**t.”

Washington Post publisher at the time Katherine Graham even said:

Sometimes people accuse us of bringing down a president, which of course we didn’t do. The processes that caused [Nixon’s] resignation were constitutional.

Michael Graham, Washington Post Ombudsman during Watergate wrote at the time:

Ultimately, it was not The Post, but the FBI, a Congress acting in bipartisan fashion and the courts that brought down the Nixon administration. They saw Watergate and the attempt to cover it up as a vast abuse of power and attempted corruption of U.S. institutions.

Even the “follow the money” line telling Woodward to track down the cash and find out what happened was fiction, part of the script in the film, not from real life.  The reporters were doing a decent job of journalism, but the idea that their lives were in danger and their phones tapped was scoffed at by Woodward: “We never found any evidence that our phones were tapped or that anyone’s life was in danger.”
In fact, the information released by Woodward and Bernstein wasn’t new or helpful to the investigators.  “Deep Throat” (Mark Felt, it was later revealed) simply gave the reporters information that the justice department had already gathered in building their case.  The justice system was ahead of the newspaper, not led by it.  For example, the revelation that Nixon had tapes of all the discussions on the topic came from testimony by former White House aide Alexander Butterfield before congress.
What’s particularly interesting is that many of the things President Nixon was attacked and demonized for weren’t particularly unique or new to the office.  Presidents since FDR in the 30s had been taping conversations in the oval office.  JFK directed the IRS to audit over 10,000 contributors to conservative organizations – political enemies of his – while in office (interestingly enough, no audits were carried out against Nixon’s enemies on his list). In the Kennedy administration, Attorney General RFK ordered wiretaps on many political enemies, as well as figures such as Martin Luther King jr.  As Geoff Shepherd writes at Politico:

The 1975-76 Church Committee hearings, particularly FBI testimony about actions undertaken for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and The Growth of Domestic Intelligence report, document that such abuses of power hardly began with Nixon.

And Democrats in congress knew all this.  Further, many of the things President Nixon was deposed over, President Clinton did and worse, and got away with in office.  More troubling, many separation of powers violations took place, such as justice department investigations run by congress, violations of the 5th amendment, and manipulations of trial procedure and evidence to get the desired outcome.  Its not that the president and all those guys weren’t guilty, its that Democrats in congress broke the rules to make sure they won.
The prosecutor hid evidence from the defense team – something that Justice Department officials have been busted for doing repeatedly recently, having cases thrown out as a result (which suggests that in the past it’s been standard policy).
As crimes go, Watergate was pretty minor.  Even the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 80s under President Reagan was worse, if handled more cleverly.  The Whitewater investigation was looking into far worse crimes as well. Yet the Nixon administration is held up as the worst, most corrupt administration of all time and a byword for Republican perfidy.  There have been worse administrations in American history (The Grant administration, for instance, was riddled with corruption, even if President Grant himself wasn’t necessarily, and Teapot Dome scandal with Warren G Harding was unbelievably corrupt).
But its Richard Nixon who is held up as the depths of evil and scandal, and two reporters trumpeted as the greatest men ever, inspiring generations of leftists.
One final myth about the Watergate scandal: the number of young people signing up to be journalists after the events increased!  Except examination of the enrollment numbers shows that there wasn’t any sudden increase:

It’s a myth that endures despite its thorough repudiation by scholarly research. One such study, financed by the Freedom Forum media foundation, reported in 1995 that “growth in journalism education” resulted “not from such specific events as Watergate… but rather to a larger extent from the appeal of the field to women, who have been attending universities in record numbers”.

The study was unequivocal in stating that “students didn’t come rushing to the university because they wanted to follow in the footsteps of Woodward and Bernstein — or Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, for that matter”.

A similar study, released in 1988, declared: “It is frequently, and wrongly, asserted that the investigative reporting of Woodward and Bernstein provided popular role models for students, and led to a boom in journalism school enrollments.”

Instead that study found that enrollments already had doubled between 1967 and 1972, the year of the Watergate break-in.

In the end, the entire thing was awful and illegal, but the mythology that built up around Watergate was awful as well.  Today, leftists boast that they took down a president and beat the system, when it was the system that took down the president, and reporters didn’t contribute materially to the events.
And when you see scandals like Benghazi taking place, its difficult to even conceive of a few bugs being planted and staff members trying to keep investigators from finding out the connection to the president being such a serious deal.  In comparison to more recent scandals by presidents, Watergate seems pathetic and mild.
This is part of the Common Knowledge series. Common Knowledge, things we know that ain’t so.


April 26, 2013

They put  a wreath upon his door

George Jones is a legend in country music for good reason, he was an amazing singer and songwriter and when he would do a cover of a song he made it better than before.  I know people think of country singers as hicks who sing through their nose, but George didn’t just have an amazing voice, he had a huge range that he was more than willing to use to best effect to the song.
And his songs were pure country gold, about mama, losing love, hard luck, beer, and so on.  Each one had its own charm and rarely did he dip into the “play on words” easy country writing style – but when he did it always worked well.  Many of George’s songs were sad, but always uplifting, and he sung them very well.
George Jones had a very wild youth, and you can read about his bio elsewhere, but eventually he turned his life around largely thanks to his loving wife (who he sang a duet with about their love).  Well, he’s moved on now, but his song will last as long as people have music.  Tip of the Stetson to George, and thanks for all the music.  God be with his family in their loss.


April 26, 2013

“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”
-Joan Rivers

Well the Miss Korea beauty pageant is going on, and you might notice something about the contestants:
They look sort of, I don’t know…
Suspiciously, like, cloned?
As in nearly identical?
Its kind of creepy in a way
Like they’re aliens invading Korea
Duplicate maidens infiltrating the far east
The truth is, this is caused by the rampant plastic surgery in the country, and a specific facial style being determined as ideal.  So they all get the same sort of cut and end up looking like the same girl with different hair styles and dresses on.
The cutters involved are clearly very skilled at their work, and no wonder, given the amount of practice they get.  But it ends up with an unnervingly bizarre result in a pageant like this when you gather all these girls together in one place.  And eventually, the truth does come out:
Until those kids can go under the knife, that is.


April 24, 2013

“Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and country resort to such violence?”
-President Obama

When anything happens in this world, humans always want to know why.  If it is a regular, common, and familiar event, we already know so we don’t have to ask.  The spoon fell off the table because of gravity, my eyes watered because I was cutting an onion; we answer why the instant it happens.  But the question is always there, and with big, new, or shocking events the questions are often more difficult to answer.  And sometimes, we make them more difficult than they ought to be.
When two Chechens set off a series of bombs at the Boston Marathon, people began to wonder why on earth anyone could be so awful?  When you mix politics and ideology into the equation, it becomes even more complicated.  The legacy media and various pundits, desperate to avoid the most likely conclusion, stretched at any possible chance this could have been anything but a radical Muslim attack.  They pointed to the day (patriots day) and the location (Boston, Massachusetts) and suggested it must have been some right wing anti-tax protest.  They pontificated that usually these attacks are by right wingers (without a shred of logic or basis).  They even printed pictures like the one shown above from the Sidney Morning Herald, suggesting a tea party connection.
Well as I’ve written about before, they keep trying and trying to find a tea party monster and all they find are Occupy bombers and radical Muslims.  Still, its worth a shot, I suppose.  Eventually they might be right.  The problem is the target.  People do this kind of thing to make a statement, they don’t just “want to watch the world burn,” they want to do something symbolic.  The cost in lives and money is fairly low for that to be the only statement, so they pick a target that represents their anger.
And if it were an anti-tax maniac, they would have picked a government target, not random people on the street.  Even Obama’s friend, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers picked police as targets, not just a crowd of onlookers to a sporting event.  Muslim terrorists pick targets that represent their fury: the twin towers representing American riches, the pentagon representing American military might, etc.
Bombing a bunch of people watching a race fits this latter category better than other options, because there were women dressed immodestly (by radical Muslim standards) watching a race with men and women dressed improperly with lots of cameras on it and a cross section of American people.  Blowing them up would spread terror and a major reaction – perhaps even change policy, the purpose of terrorism to begin with.
So now we’ve found out that they were not angry tea party folks, the folks on the left are trying to figure out why on earth this took place.  They are tying themselves into knots trying to avoid the obvious, that this is a Muslim angry at America, and fit some other possible explanation in.  Remember the Ft Hood shootings?  The shooter explained quite well why he did it, he went into great detail before he shot anyone about what he wanted to do and why.  And yet the usual suspects talked about everything but the reasons he gave.
They could ask the surviving bomber himself.  He gave the usual reasons – moral corruption, American violence against Muslims, and bizarrely because Americans think Muslims are violent.  Yeah, that’ll show them.  The question isn’t that hard to answer, you just have to take them at their word.  In a way, the leftist folks were right about one thing: these were caucasians in the most literal sense – Chechnya is in the Caucasus Mountains.  Not the kind of caucasian they had in mind, but I’ll give it to them.
In seeking solutions to this problem, pundits have begun offering their theories.  For example, Mario Cuomo suggested that this bombing, something he claims was unthinkable in the past, is the new normal, caused by the rapid change of society and of all things climate change.  He’s a politician, not a scientist, so I guess I can forgive his ignorance on climate patterns (hint: no warming for over a decade).  But this is a truly strange attempt to explain the bombings away.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman took a similar tack, stating that we have to fix the economy and the best way to do that is levy a gigantic new carbon tax on the nation.  “We need to redouble our efforts to make America stronger and healthier so it remains a vibrant counterexample to whatever bigoted ideology may have gripped these young men,” Friedman exclaims.
These attempts betray a certain worldview, an ideology that shapes their understanding of events and solutions.  When they ask why, their basic assumptions about life mold their answers, and in the process betray their ignorance about life.
Raised and trained in a worldview that rejects absolute ethical authority and truth, these men are unable to explain how bad people could do bad stuff on a moral basis, and so they cast about for whatever is out there that might possibly fill in the gap.  The fact that these choices are boutique issues for the left they hope can be shoehorned into the nation during a crisis – never let one go to waste, as Axelrod quipped – is no coincidence either.
People do bad stuff because people are basically bad.  Sure, we do good stuff too, but the general default position for humanity is selfish, mean, violent, and cruel.  We can be trained to keep it to ourselves and hide it well, but it never goes away.  Modern western civilization is not normal for humanity, we’re not usually polite, law abiding, and tolerant; pluralism is rare and odd around the world and through history.
People have been blowing things up and killing others for all sorts of reasons for millennia; John Wesley Hardin shot a man for snoring in the 19th century.
Moral corruption causes people do do evil things, not climate change or societal shifts.  Islamic law and Muslim teachings prohibit killing non combatants and innocent people, this isn’t command from Muhammad these idiots were following.  They were doing wicked things because they’re basically bad people like all of us.  The evil we do comes from inside us, not from outside influences.  The influences shape how that evil takes form, but it isn’t the genesis of our bad deeds.  We do bad things because we’re bad people.  We only wonder at people doing bad things like bombing a marathon because we’ve convinced ourselves that humanity is basically decent and nice.
The problem is that for the naturalist, they have convinced themselves that all existence consists merely of what can be measured, sensed, and tested with science.  You can’t measure morality, you can’t sense truth, and you cannot test righteousness with a Bunsen burner and a test tube.  So they must not exist, or if they do, they’re just constructs we invented, not something we must all universally recognize and heed.
Yet modern western civilization has gone out of its way to avoid that fact, and has built a Jenga stack of mythology around the decency of man, our ability to fix ourselves and rid the world of bad, and a utopia that would result if only we followed certain leftist ideology.  Friedman’s idea that being extra PC and tolerant will shame bad guys into not doing bad things isn’t just ridiculously childish, its suicidal.
As Richard Fernandez writes at the Belmont Club:

So did we provoke Islamism?  Perhaps “we” did. But who is the we? Fewer still notice that Islamists focus their attacks on the cultural flagships of the Left. New York, Boston, London, women’s schools in Afghanistan, gay politicians in the Netherlands, apostate black women in Europe, and even pacifists who make their pilgrimage to the Middle East to bear witness to their own invincible idealism.

The Tsarnaevs were showered with a huge amount of things. And did they like it? No they hated it. Hated the whole idea of the dirty, degenerate, corrupt West. They hated the idea and took the goodies without a thought.  Despite this the mainstream culture is set to respond to their attack with more things.  More drones, detectors, armored vehicles, barriers, restrictions, weapons, armor ….  more items the list of which goes on and on. But omitted from the catalog of responses will be any campaign to mentally engage radical Islam — to debate against it, denounce it or render it uncool — because that would be bigoted.

Mayor Bloomberg’s reaction is that we have to start abandoning those old ideas of liberty and change the constitution to deal with modern realities.  That stuff keeps getting in the way of his solutions to the pressing problems of the world like too much sugar and unsaturated fats in our food. And of course, we keep learning that these Muslim terrorists have been living off the generosity and money of the countries they attack, from Spain to England to the US.

 The reaction of the left, no matter what horrors result from their policies or in response to them, is to have more leftist ideology in place.  Its never time to back off and reconsider, its never time to reverse course or change your path, its always time to speed up.  Because if you really paid attention to what was going on, why these attacks happened, you might notice a pattern of events, an escalation of terror attacks in the US since President Obama took office.  And that’s counter to the “take advantage of a crisis” tactic used to push for more leftist schemes.
It is sad to watch the reaction of these guys to the tragedy in Boston.  Those dead people and all the wounded, terrified, and shocked runners and spectators aren’t helped by avoiding the truth.  All they are is another “speedbump” on the road to serfdom. 

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