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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
FREE SPEECH ISN'T JUST FOR JEWS. In the following tangle, I'm going to have to be careful to explain that my concern is with two things here, but that I'm not discussing a third.
There are several things that concern me about the upcoming trial of Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, who are generally referred to as "former AIPAC lobbyists."
One has to do with the war, the current political climate, and, yup, The Jews. I'll be starting with that.
But the other issue is freedom of the press, and the threat to start prosecuting anyone who accepts classified information, and that's a danger to all of us.
Then there's the third issue, the infamous Mearsheimer/Walt paper, which I'm not going to get into in the slightest; I haven't read it, and don't at this time plan to; life is short, and enough other people are arguing about it. At present, I have no opinion (some prejudicial suspicion, but nothing more); not gonna talk about it.
The coming trial of two former representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for alleged violations of the Espionage Act is fueling concern among Jewish leaders that Israel and the Jewish-American community increasingly are being blamed for the Bush administration's troubles in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, leaders of such groups as the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League say they're tracking global media that they believe disproportionately focuses on the role Jewish officials inside the Bush administration played in building the case for war in Iraq.
A number of prominent strategists overseeing the Iraq invasion during President Bush's first term are Jews, such as former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the Pentagon's then-No. 3 civilian official, Douglas Feith. Although they have been singled out for particular criticism, Jewish leaders say critics of the war often selectively bypass the scores of non-Jewish officials who also played central roles in developing the Iraq policy.
"Now you have an Iraq war that Americans are turning against, and you have people saying it's all a Jewish conspiracy," says Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, which promotes religious tolerance and the rights of the state of Israel. "But look at President Clinton's team: You had many Jews who aggressively pushed for peace in the Middle East. But these same critics don't see this as part of the same conspiracy."
This is my first concern. I see this stuff a lot. It's all over if you look for it, or are sensitive to it.
Instead of observing that various war supporters supported the war because of their convictions (possibly summarizable as "being neo-conservative," but cases such as Francis Fukuyama and others seem to indicate that that's not a wholly accurate label, either), what's observed by many is Look At All The Jews Behind It, and They Must Have Wanted War Because They're Jews, because It Was Really For Israel, and, of course, as we know, Only Jews Are Concerned About Israel, and besides, that means all Jews are of a single mind, and that's why all American Jews supported the war in Iraq, and why all Israeli Jews are Likudniks.
Except, of course, all of that is nonsensical crap. Most American Jews opposed the war, and Likud could barely win two handfuls of seats in the recent Israeli election, they're so unpopular in Israel. The fricking "Pensioner's Party," devoted to getting old people more money got far more seats and votes than Likud.
Neither are George W. Bush, or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleeza Rice, Jewish, last I looked.
But most people are also blind to these sorts of classic tropes, and the long history behind them, and how they've been used in the past, and are still used today.
I was fairly disturbed when, in a blog comments conversation the other day, someone alleged that Israel was "threatening" Iran, and when I asked for support for that allegation, this article was hauled out of the hopper.
Now, I believe that the person who did this did so in great innocence, and simply isn't sensitive to the classic tropes of You Know What, and probably didn't read the article very carefully.
But here's the sort of thing we can find in one of Germany's largest magazines, and that a good, smart, American can let pass as innocuous:
With Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, his undersecretary Douglas Feith, and political advisor Richard Perle, all of the Jewish faith, Tel Aviv's right wing presumably already has influential supporters in Washington. In a comment on US foreign policy, the Financial Times, which normally leans toward Bush, recently wrote that "The Israeli tail wags the American dog."
Apparently it isn't obvious to everyone what's wrong here.
Does Israel's right wing have "influential supporters in Washington"? Absolutely. That's a perfectly legitimate thing to say. Now, the hint that such people might therefore, when considering or advocating American policy, be swayed to advocate policy that would be bad for America, out of undue prejudice towards the interests of Israel is another question, but it's certainly a perfectly legitimate topic for debate, as well. Absolutely, and let's be clear about that.
But what's blatantly, blatantly wrong here is the notion that such people, whether merely influential, or also so biased towards Israel as to advocate ill-advised policy for America might do so not out of their ideology, or worldview, or politics, or convictions, but because they are Jews.
As I observed: the rulers of America are not, in fact, Jews.
But the trope of The Jewish Advisors Are Poisoning The Well With Their Schemes: well, that was very big indeed with Mr. Goebbels and Mr. H., and all their ilk.
That's where it all goes wrong. That's where the illness lies. The focus not on politics, ideology, or conviction, but on Jewishness as The Problem.
The allegation that Jews are Secretly Controlling/Over-influencing Our Policy And Lives: that's the heart of classic anti-Semitism.
From that we get suspicion of Jews in power, examination of names for Jewishness, and proceed to witch-hunts for Jews, expunging of Jews, investigations into the undue influence of Jewish interests, and so on down the line.
To say this sets off hackles and alarm bells is an under-statement. And I'd like it to set off yours, too, please.
Back to the WSJ, and Mssrs. Rosen and Weissman:
The trial of the former AIPAC lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, is scheduled to begin next month. The two men are charged under the Espionage Act with receiving and disseminating classified information provided by a former Pentagon Middle East analyst. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley are among the witnesses Messrs. Rosen and Weissman's defense team has indicated it may call.
The Justice Department's indictment details how Messrs. Rosen and Weissman allegedly sought to promote a hawkish U.S. policy toward Iran by trading information and favors with a number of senior U.S. officials. Lawrence Franklin, the former Pentagon official, has pleaded guilty to misusing classified information. Mr. Franklin was charged with orally passing on information about a draft National Security Council paper about Iran to the two lobbyists, according to people familiar with the case, as well as other classified information. Mr. Franklin was sentenced in December to nearly 13 years in prison, but his sentence could be reduced, depending on the testimony he provides for the prosecution.
Lawyers for Messrs. Rosen and Weissman, as well as many Jewish leaders, say the actions of the former AIPAC employees were no different from how thousands of Washington lobbyists work. They say the indictment marks the first time in U.S. history that American citizens -- outside government employees or contractors -- have been charged with receiving and disseminating state secrets in conversations. In court filings, the defense team argues that their clients couldn't have known that the information they received was classified, and they say a conviction in the case could cast a chill over the U.S. media and political process.
The actions of the men are "what members of the media, members of the Washington policy community, lobbyists and members of congressional staffs do perhaps hundreds of times per day," the legal team wrote this month in a brief seeking to have the case dismissed. "These meetings are a vital and necessary part of how our government and society function."
Several members of Congress have expressed concern about the case since it broke in 2004, fearing that the Justice Department may be targeting pro-Israel lobbying groups, such as AIPAC. These officials say they're eager to see the legal process run its course, but are concerned about the lack of transparency in the case.
Now, this trial has a variety of aspects. One is the Jewish/anti-Semitic angle I raised above: the trial is being used by people of certain persuasions as evidence of allegations ranging from suspicion of undue Israeli influence in American politics/policy, to outright declarations that America is, as we all know, Controlled By The Jews.
The larger angle is the First Amendment, as reported by Walter Pincus (among many others):
The federal judge overseeing prosecution of two former lobbyists charged with receiving and transmitting national defense information under the 1917 Espionage Act has given the government until today to respond to defense claims that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and may violate the First Amendment.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ordered the government to provide the additional support for the charges filed last August against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The two were accused of receiving classified information during conversations with government officials, one of whom, then-Pentagon employee Lawrence A. Franklin, warned Weissman that the information he was giving was highly classified.
At a hearing last Friday on the defendants' motion to dismiss the indictments, Ellis directed a series of questions to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory expressing concern that the government had not dealt with constitutional issues raised by the defense.
"I didn't find your response in writing to match up with the fairly extensive attack by the defendants . . . so I am going to have further briefing," Ellis said. Last January, at the hearing where he sentenced Franklin to 12 years for passing classified information to the two lobbyists, Ellis called attention to the imprecise nature of the almost 90-year-old statute that restricts disclosure of "national defense information" that could harm U.S. interests or help enemies.
Ellis also said he had thought there would be well-established precedent he could follow, since the statute had been around for so long. But it has turned out that Rosen and Weissman are the first nongovernment employees to be indicted under the act for receiving classified information orally and not through documents or other tangible items.
"I think we are a bit in new, uncharted waters and that's why I'm going to consider this matter extremely carefully," Ellis told DiGregory and attorneys Abbe Lowell and John Nassikas, who represent Rosen and Weissman.
The case is drawing the attention of First Amendment attorneys because both Ellis and prosecutors have noted that the two lobbyists -- in receiving and disseminating the information -- are doing what journalists, academics and experts at think tanks do every day.
Floyd Abrams, a New York attorney who has represented the New York Times in a variety of high-profile cases, said in an interview this week that the AIPAC case "is the single most dangerous case for free speech and free press." Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, wrote on his Web site this week: "Anything other than a dismissal of the charges would mark a dramatic shift in national security law and a significant reduction in First Amendment protections."
Attorneys for the AIPAC lobbyists argue that First Amendment protections bear on the case because their clients were exercising their free speech rights.
DiGregory argued that oral disclosure of defense information was not protected speech because someone could be telling the contents of a classified document.
To read the statute that narrowly "would do great damage to our ability to protect national security," DiGregory said.
Ellis said the government must respond to the defense argument that the statute, which does not define "national defense information," is so vague "that men of common intelligence necessarily must guess at its meaning and differ as to its application."
The judge also told prosecutors to deal with another defense argument: that the statute does not provide "fair warning," since this is the first time it has been applied to civilians. Due process "bars courts from applying a novel construction of a criminal statute to conduct that neither the statute nor any prior judicial decision has fairly disclosed to be within its scope," Ellis said.
DiGregory conceded that every case up to now cited by the government has involved either government employees or the passing of classified papers.
Ellis also raised the question of what would happen if people to whom Rosen passed the defense information relayed it to someone else. "Would it [the criminal liability] continue to apply ad infinitum?" he asked. DiGregory replied, "That's a difficult question to answer in the abstract."
It's fairly unusual for a judge to raise such questions on his own. Uncharted waters, indeed.
If this theory of the 1917 Espionage Act holds, then any journalist who receives classified information can be jailed.
It would turn out that we've had an Official Secrets Act all along, and it took the Bush Administration to unearth it.
This case is the proverbial camel with its nose in the tent. If these guys can be convicted under the theory that it's illegal for anyone to receive classified info -- and remember that this has never been the case before, that no one has ever even been charged with such a thing, in all the zillions of cases of government leaks of classified info -- than, yes, anyone who receives classified info can be so convicted.
There's no problem, mind, that I'm aware of with the conviction of Larry Franklin. He passed on classified material that he, a government official, was forbidden by law to pass on; he appears to have been guilty and properly found so. Fine.
But we've never before convicted people of a crime for receiving classified material. That's a whole 'nother ball game.
The staff of the New York Times who reported on the NSA "Program," including James Risen? Jail time.
Seymour Hersh? Jail time.
Pincus at the Post? Jail time.
And every other reporter, forever more.
Needless to say, Woodward and Bernstein would have gone to jail, and so those who published the Pentagon Papers, and on and on.
So this is kinda an important case. And not just because of the Jewish aspects.
But, hey, think of us as your canary in the mine. It's in our job description.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for the WSJ piece if you want to digress onto Walt/Mearsheimer; 0 out of 5 for the Washington Post piece.
I didn't read the article as carefully as I should have done. I was looking for a cite of Meir Dagan's recent presentation to the Knesset about Iran's capabilities and some discussion of how Israeli policy was responding to it, but it was a very quick and sloppy googling. That paragraph you pull out--which, to my embarrassment, I didn't even skim to--is pretty vile indeed.