BY DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, March 28, 2011) —Today, The Planet has some odds and ends to present, and then we will share the posts from two guest writers, up and down, on the United States’ recent adventurism in Libya.
SteroidsGate, the Berry-Heller Chronicles & More
SteroidsGate isn’t going away any time soon. There’s much more to this story. The information we have seen emerge thus far likely represents the beginning, not the end. There will be attempts to keep it hidden. It will be an interesting case study, this tug of war. There’s no question that if the Establishment had its way, it would have buried this story. They tried. They failed. They have a vested interest in keeping it covered up. The media, representing as The Third Esate We The People, have a vested interest in uncovering.
Because three people — Glenn Heller, The Planet, and Conor Berry — thought enough of the public’s right to know, the story is out there. That’s the essential point to make as we take up Berry-Heller II.
Judging by the numbers, the online bout between Conor Berry of the Berkshire Eagle and citizen watchdog Glenn Heller has been a box-office smash. With such numbers, what the critics say proves of little importance, though we have heard from lots of folks with their views. Heller is dissatisfied with Berry’s work on the case. Berry has defended, explained might be the better word, his methods. The Planet thought Berry outlined his reportage in SteroidsGate as clear as can be stated. He put it this way to Heller:
1. I read your blog post, and the information it contained was news to me.
2. I recalled being told several weeks back that a certain Pittsfield cop was in some sort of trouble, but I couldn’t get any confirmation and no criminal charges had been filed locally — and I was told criminal charges were unlikely.
3. I sat on that info until I learned more.
4. I learned more by reading your blog, which resulted in a minor deduction on my part that the PPD “detective” might be the guy I was looking in to.
5. After getting confirmation, I proceeded with the two articles that have been published to date. More are likely over the next few days.
That wasn’t enough for Heller, and a wildfire ensued. Thus, we present some consensus findings from a wildly unscientific Planet poll. We stress that these are not OUR conclusions, but a summation of opinion we have received on what Eric Vincelette likened to Ali-Frazier II:
‘PLANET’S POLL FINDINGS’
* Berry has a delicious sense of humor, wry and dry [straight from newsroom central casting, since The Planet’s heart is fond of such men (and women) stemming from long ago and our days at the Syracuse Post-Standard, working with guys like George Carr, George Swayze, and Dan Carey]. Readers also think Berry has had the best of Heller because of the injection of humor. All the other factors in the Tale of the Tape seem more or less equal.
* The exchange has lost hidden the most essential fact: that these two guys, along with The Planet, brought an important story to light, one that might have been ignored, spiked, or otherwise hushed up [The Planet goes back to this fact, sometimes as a last resort in wading through the Rock-em Sock-em Robots Show of Berry and Heller].
* Berry is the best talent in the Eagle newsroom.
* Heller is well connected in Berkshire County.
* Heller’s odd network of “mimic” websites (using “berkshire eagle”, “wamc”, etc.) and the various snail-mail addresses are troubling in that, as one person put it, “they put off a strange vibe, like he’s hiding out and hiding in.”
* Berry is not done with this story.
Newspaper vs. Cyberjournalism: Give Us Digital
Readers will have to judge al this for themselves. The Planet, as we have stated, has a professional regard for Conor Berry. Having been there and done that, we understand full well the procedural constraints he is under writing for that dying breed of media species, the daily newspaper.
The Planet imposes some of these restraints on our news work: redundant verification of information, when possible; remaining skeptical of rumor, hearsay, and the like until one has reason to go with the information; relying on such “analog” methods as phone calls, chatting up sources, and knocking on doors. Indeed, that’s been part of the fascination with SteroidsGate — how traditional newspaper journalism and cyberjournalism handle a story like this. Cyberspace has much more leeway and rightly so. The Plant much prefers this less constrained medium.
Moreover, Berry is at a double disadvantage because he works for an outfit that is adrift in so many ways. The Berkshire Eagle has these challenges:
— Its industry, that of the newsprint daily paper, is shrinking.
— Its parent company went bankrupt. Its financial future is murky. It’s losing money.
— The Eagle’s management (business side and editorial) has been co-opted by the Pittsfield GOB Network. That is the key factor in deciding what gets covered and what doesn’t. The SteroidsGate story, which has already touched upon several sensitive seats of power and promises to do much more of that, is a good example.
Conor Berry had information that something was up with the PPD earlier in March. His first story wasn’t published until after Heller got first in with an online posting. The Planet, who like Berry had some information earlier, got enough confirmation to post our initial story the following day. Berry followed with his.
The Boring Broadsheet Eats Its Own
An Eagle newsroom source (not Conor Berry) told us that our first story, in which we goaded the Eagle, “forced the hand of [Tim Farkas].” Berry has admitted that he was pulled off the Angelo Stracuzzi story by superiors he has not named for reasons which he has not shared. Also, as he termed it, his editors “threw him under the bus” on the Carmen Massimiano early in 2010. In addition, why did the Eagle take down Berry’s story on SteroidsGate on its website after just one day? That stinks. It wasn’t Berry’s decision, just to be clear.
Who made it this decision? A machine? An Eagle staffer told The Planet it was an automated computer decision, untouched by human hands. We accept that, for the sake or argument and having no evidence to the contrary. If so, though, why can’t a human editor override the stupid machine and put it back up? No one at the paper, apparently, wants to answer that.
Folks, this is why the Boring Broadsheet is so hard to believe.
The Planet has no doubt of Berry’s abilities as a newsman. We admire them. We empathize with him for being employed by a newspaper whose management has chosen to emasculate what should be the local media outlet with the biggest set of balls. We know Berry is a fighter and that he will pursue SteroidsGate to the fullest. Whether he is allowed to report what he uncovers, that is another question.
A Question of Politics
Most people involved in politics brand themselves. In Berkshire County, the vast majority of those who declare party loyalty are Democrats. Most of the remainder are Republican, with small numbers of “third” parties. It’s telling that a large group of the electorate has opted out of any party label and registered as unenrolled or independent. This registers their disgust of politics and politicians.
Over the many years on the public stage, The Planet has been asked for our political loyalties. We usually answer flippantly: “I am a pedestrian. My political agenda consists solely of making it safety to the other side of the street.” These words have more truth than most realize.
Politically, We Are What We Say and Write
Another way we answer is to look at the record. If you perform a content analysis of everything we have written and spoken over the years, THAT makes up what you would term our “political philosophy.” As you can see, The Planet doesn’t come at ANY issue with mind made up. Unlike Democrats or Republicans, we don’t wear the Party Goggles. These specs have colored lenses, and they force the viewer to predispose judgment in advance of information. One’s position is predetermined by the party dictates. The Planet has always found that type of dictatorial politics nauseating. In short, don’t ask for our politics. Instead, give us a specific issue and ask our views.
If pressed and the fate of the universe depended on The Planet selecting a political party that best expresses the nuance of our leanings, we would take Libertarian. In fact, we call ourselves libertarian “with a lower-case “l”. Our motto: More Freedom. Less Government. We are not, in fact, registered Libertarians. We are Unenrolled libertarian pedestrians — the Ulp Party.
Libya: In and Out of Focus
“C’mon all a you big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He’s got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in …
Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. What gives? Why are we doing this? The Planet’s position is simple: Stay out of unnecessary foreign entanglements. In light of President Obama’s speech to the nation tonight, we present two thoughtful views on our current involvement in Libya. The Planet stresses that these are not necessarily our views. Our guest writers — Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch and Peter Beinart of The Daily Beast — speak for themselves.
Libya: Wrong country, wrong war!
By Larry Klayman
In the last few weeks in particular, American foreign policy has never looked worse. To describe it as the “Keystone Cops of Diplomacy and War-Making” would be too charitable. The fault lies not just with President Barack Hussein Obama, our obsessively pro-Arab and pro-Muslim president, or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his easily compromised sidekick, but also with the inert and incompetent Republican political establishment. Here are just a few of their glaring mistakes, not only with regard to Libya but the entire Middle East.
First, as I have said many times in recent columns, the United States has taken its “eye off of the ball.” Israel and Iran are the key to Middle East stability and the potential for peace in the region. Israel, of course, is our only Westernized ally in this part of the world; it shares our Judeo-Christian heritage and is a buffer to the Islamic radicalization now under way to an even greater extent in the Middle East. It needs to be protected and cherished, not disparaged and threatened for not rolling over and ceding to the demands of the Palestinians. While Obama and Clinton have recently told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he must essentially accede to these Palestinian demands for a state along the lines they propose, or risk having borders imposed on it in the near future, where are the Republicans in the defense of the Jewish state? You do not hear any loud screams coming out of them on Capitol Hill. They are inert and preoccupied primarily with their so-called budget issues, where they have failed to get anything meaningful accomplished.
As for Iran, rather than committing valuable American resources to questionable adventures like Libya, the United States should be doing everything possible to overthrow the mullahs in Tehran. If they fall, and Iran becomes a secular state, then any nuclear weapons in the possession of this non-Arab Persian state, now or in the future, will at least likely be controlled by rational persons. And, an end to the neo-Nazi Islamic regime – which executes the opposition at a rate now exceeding one every eight hours and admits to wanting to kill all Jews and Christians – would end Iran’s terrorist support of Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other radical groups throughout the Middle East and the world, including here in the United States.
To hear Obama and Clinton try to justify their intervention in Libya as a humanitarian issue was particularly insulting, especially to Iranians who yearn to be free and have been fighting for their freedom, with greater geo-political stakes, far longer than the Libyans. What we have seen in Iran is an ongoing genocide of students and others in the opposition, for which I have filed suit in Washington, D.C., federal court for crimes against humanity. But a court case is far from enough. Why have at least three successive American administrations, comprised of both political parties, ignored and appeased Iran for decades, when it is the key to restructuring the Middle East, removing the nuclear threat and stopping the Islamic revolution in its tracks? The negligence – if charitably you can call it that – borders on the criminal.
Second, even assuming that Libya is an important “adventure” and conceding that multilateral action may be preferable, multilateralism is not worthwhile when it delays action, which if taken quickly can change the balance of power, save lives and also be effective. President George W. Bush made this mistake with Iraq, when for at least nine months he waited to remove Saddam Hussein and asked for United Nation approval and support, but got none. In the end, his dithering and waiting likely gave Hussein time to hide or destroy his weapons of mass destruction and Bush – to save face when none were then found – sought to disingenuously justify the costly war as an effort to create democracy in this essentially autocratic and factionalized state, run in large part by Muslim terrorist militias in the wake of Saddam’s removal. To date, nine years later, there is no real democracy in Iraq; only mostly radical Shiite factions loyal to the mullahs in Iran, not the United States. These factions themselves are on the verge of yet another civil war in the Middle East.
Similarly, Obama’s effort to get NATO and other Arab states on board for his Libyan campaign – which he never really wanted in the first place but was forced on him politically by the perception, if not reality, that he has shown indecisiveness in foreign affairs – delayed removing Gadhafi when he was weak and easier to remove in the early days of the civil war. With the administration’s new and contrived goal of merely stopping bloodshed to the Libyan opposition, Obama has sown the seeds for a divided Libya – now that Gadhafi has regained the upper hand – and a protracted war that accomplishes nothing, just as we have seen in Iraq, is likely. Again, where has the Republican establishment in Congress been in taking a lead or even having a real voice here? It knew or should have known where Obama and his secretary of state were taking us. To hear their screams and political hackery now are hypocrisy and dishonesty at its worst.
The situation in the Middle East is not a game show! Nor should it be driven by television commentators on Fox News or MSNBC and the failed politicians they call consultants. It is serious business.
What we have “accomplished” in the Middle East in the last many weeks, months and years is frightening, and if American foreign policy and war-making continues along these lines, it will not simply be a question of poor foreign relations. As the price of oil spikes higher due to the mess furthered by the U.S. government establishment, and as Americans lose more of their hard-earned income to higher gas prices during what is in effect a continuing economic depression, the cost of having Keystone Cops in charge will become increasingly apparent.
The 2012 election is likely to be driven not just by domestic but also world politics. Our next president must have both credentials and, as importantly, be honest, competent, have a logical world vision and be strong and principled. Certainly, no one in either political party qualifies at this time. The future is not bright.
Larry Klayman is a former Justice Department prosecutor and the founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch. His latest book is “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.”
LIBYA: IS ‘HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION’ ENOUGH FOR WAR?
NEW YORK – In the President’s Libya speech tonight, he’ll have to deflect critics who ask why we’re taking on Gaddafi–but not other murderous regimes. Peter Beinart on Why Consistency in Foreign Policy is Overrated.
There are plenty of smart objections to America’s Libya intervention. But when President Obama addresses the nation on Monday night, he should rebut the stupidest one: that America shouldn’t wage humanitarian war in Libya because we’re not doing so in Congo, Zimbabwe and every other nasty dictatorship on earth.
The consistency argument, it’s important to understand, has nothing to do with Congo and Zimbabwe. Most of the people who invoke those ill-fated countries showed no interest in them before the Libya debate and will go back to ignoring them once Libya is off the front page. Ask someone who demands moral consistency in humanitarian war how exactly they propose to intervene in Congo and you will quickly realize that the call for moral consistency is actually a call for immoral consistency. The point of invoking the horrors of Congo is not to convince the US to act to stop the horrors of Congo; it is to ensure that, out of respect for the raped, murdered and maimed in Central Africa, we allow innocents to be raped, murdered and maimed in North Africa as well. The Congolese, presumably, will find it comforting to know that the great powers are as just as indifferent to savagery in other lands as they are to the savagery in theirs.
There will always be horrors that outside powers cannot or will not prevent. But the fact that they cannot be stopped everywhere is no reason not to try to stop them somewhere.
There is a serious argument against humanitarian intervention. It starts with the belief that international affairs is by nature tragic. Terrible things happen in distant societies but we do not really understand them, and so our efforts at amelioration either prove futile or actually make things worse. We think that because our motives are pure we can violate the norms of sovereignty that we guard jealously when it comes to our own affairs, but in so doing we open—or reopen—the door to a predatory imperialism that can do even greater harm. And finally, by spending money on distant lands we bankrupt our own.
What unites these arguments is a belief that foreign policy must be Hippocratic: First, do no harm. But the advocates of moral consistency cannot stomach this moral minimalism so they cloak it in moral maximalism: Rather than arguing against humanitarian war anywhere, they argue for it everywhere, which is a less honest way of saying the same thing.
But humanitarian war is not possible everywhere because war is never waged for humanitarian reasons alone. There is nothing strange or scandalous, for instance, about considering logistics. NATO is intervening in Libya in part because Libya lies relatively close to the NATO countries that are doing the intervening, as did Bosnia and Kosovo. That means the operation can be done more cheaply, at less risk to American and European lives, and with a greater chance of success, than in Zimbabwe or Congo. Those are all valid considerations, as valid as a doctor choosing to operate on the patient he has the best chance of saving.
Libya also resides in a more strategically important part of the world than do Congo and Zimbabwe. In intervening there, the US hopes not only to save innocent Libyans, but to bolster its reputation and relationships with the activists seeking to replace Gaddafi and his fellow tyrants in the oil-rich Middle East. To say that makes the Libya intervention immoral is like saying that covering the uninsured was immoral because Barack Obama hoped it would win him votes. It’s also true that NATO is intervening in Libya because, unlike say, Burma, is does not lie within the sphere of influence of a hostile great power. That’s also a pretty reasonable consideration if one wants humanitarian interventions to succeed, and not increase the risk of superpower war.
The point is that there is no purely moral position from which to judge international affairs. At best, moral concerns coincide with practical, self-interested ones. It may be that this nexus never offers much hope for a place like Congo. But that hope is probably slightly greater if the West intervenes—successfully—in Libya than if it does not. In the 1990s, after all, critics condemned the Bosnia intervention because the West was not stopping genocide outside Europe. It was in large measure because the West did stop genocide in Europe, however, that the world’s non-intervention in Rwanda was considered in retrospect such a disgrace. Spurred by the memory of Rwanda, activists from around the world drew attention to the killing in Darfur. And now, in part because of that widening circle of outrage, NATO is doing in North Africa what fifteen years ago critics charged it would do only in Europe.
There will always be horrors that outside powers cannot or will not prevent. But the fact that they cannot be stopped everywhere is no reason not to try to stop them somewhere. And showing that they can be stopped somewhereâ€”first in Bosnia and Kosovo, hopefully now in Libyaâ€”may make dictators pause to reflect that they could be next. Thatâ€™s moral progress, which in the ugly, real world is a pretty impressive thing.
Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, is now available from HarperCollins. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
AND WITH THAT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN< BOYS AND GIRLS, WE MOVE ON TO APOCALYTICA. LOVE TO ALL.