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My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror (2018) (theintercept.com)
310 points by spof84 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments



The major takeaway is that one can't count on the NYT to challenge powerful interests. This makes the NYT a powerful conservative force in US culture.

It follows that most of the articles that appear opposed to powerful interests are a) inconsequential, or b) used as a distraction, helping to create the impression that the paper is anything but a powerful conservative force.

It's no accident that the paper ran the Judith Miller work selling the Iraq war, or that it was an early participant in the smear campaign against Assange, or that it is a thought leader on the threat posed by China. Sure there are stories about CSAs and the homeless, but ultimately it's a big budget right wing PR operation, intent on preserving the status quo.

For even more obvious evidence, just look at the people whose weddings are covered in the paper's nuptials section -- predominantly children of powerful elites who the paper wishes to flatter with its coverage.

If one were to ask "what kind of coverage might we expect from a paper controlled by a billionaire industrialist?", we might actually predict a right-wing perspective. But due to the Times' history as a progressive paper (most notably the writings of Frederick Law Olmsted which fueled the abolitionist movement), the paper is uncritically viewed by many in the present day as a voice that opposes the right wing, authoritarian social goals held by powerful elites.


I think the big papers (New York Times, Washington Post) have always been the voice of the establishment. I remember reading their editorials broadly condemning the labor movement while it was fighting for basic rights (and being slaughtered by public and privatized law enforcement) in the middle of the 19th century. Perhaps at times more humanist than others, but nevertheless.

I also think it is really obvious that it would be this way. There is hardly any money in selling newspapers, even well before the internet completely obliterated that business. But shaping public opinion? That is valuable beyond measure, for the right (moneyed) interest groups.


Washington Post seems to be a lot better about being a neutral outlet with quality journalism. Although... being owned by Bezos makes me wonder how long they can remain that way.


$600m for AWS.


How is the new york times staff or owners profiting from supporting those moneyed interests?


I don't know that the editors and writers profit directly, beyond their salaries. More like the companies are run at a loss in order to control the conversation. Of course seats are filled with people that push the line the owners prefer.


Ad buys.


And access.


Targeted ad buys to the highest bidder.


The owners like to think of themselves as the decision-making elite of the country, and the White House flatters that delusion by giving them illusion of being consulted. This creates sympathy for the WH's views at the top of the NYT, and that attitude percolates implicitly to the editors.


By having a financial stake in things other than the paper.


I don't think that's the takeaway the author means to convey. The picture he paints of the Times is that they've become much more resilient to political pressure as a result of his ordeal.

In fact the article closes:

Since then, the Times has been much more willing to stand up to the government and refuse to go along with White House demands to hold or kill stories.

I think the major takeaway is really the erosion of journalistic protections which has occurred over the last decade+.


> The picture he paints of the Times is that they've become much more resilient to political pressure as a result of his ordeal

Not really though. One has to look at the articles and values espoused by the newspaper and not an individual's assertions to determine where the newspaper stands. A news paper that espoused the establishment's line of Saddam Hussien possessing weapons of mass destruction which factually was wrong cannot claim to be resilient to political pressure. Look at its coverage on plethora of issues from labour movements, civil rights, Cuban missile crisis, interventions in South America, financing of Contras , coverage of China, and middle east. It has always supported and validated the establishment's position even though now we know that the establishment was wrong in every single of this.


He is trying to whitewash his record, and that of Judy Miller (who escaped the full censure she deserved because she is a personal friend of Arthur Sulzberger, the owner of the NYT).

Risen should have been fired for the Wen-Ho Lee with hunt alone, where the Federal judge in charge of the case apologized on behalf of the judicial branch of the Federal government to Mr. Lee for the way he was mistreated, with Risen acting as a cheerleader for the notorious Notra Trulock.

He does have a point about the Plame affair, but there is a big difference between journalists helping cover up malfeasance in public office and those protecting whistleblowers. This could be addressed by extending the whistleblower statutes to cover journalists.


> It follows that most of the articles that appear opposed to powerful interests are a) inconsequential, or b) used as a distraction, helping to create the impression that the paper is anything but a powerful conservative force.

It could also be taking on a rival powerful establishment interests, like in Democrats vs Republican type bickering.

Chomsky in his famous Andrew Marr interview addressed Marr's example of Watergate scandal as one part of the establishment defending itself against another part of the establishment, thus allowing the story to be broken. He compared Watergate, which everybody knows about, to a much bigger scandal of the same time, COINTELPRO, which relatively few people have even heard about.

The entire interview is worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjENnyQupow


Not only the NYT, other mainstream sources will not shake the boat if ad revenue is at stake. The Internet was the wild west early on, but it did provide a medium to discuss issues and foster many different points of view. It seems the walled gardens have taken over and the de-platforming is beginning to curtail some points of view whether you agree with them or not.


Wedding coverage in The NY Times is paid, just like the obituaries.


Conservative in the sense of conserving, which doesn't always fit the right/left modality.

It's as Chesterton said, "The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."


The NYT is not useful as a source of important news. It is useful as a barometer of what a portion of the US establishment thinks. It's pro-Iraq war cheerleading predicted there would be no significant pushback against it, for instance.


> but ultimately [the NYT is] a big budget right wing PR operation, intent on preserving the status quo.

I think that's misleading, bordering on libel. Even this article cited cases (e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/16/politics/bush-lets-us-spy...) where the NYT ran stories that challenged powerful interests and the status quo, directly against the personally stated wishes of a conservative president.

The truth is that things are more complicated than black and white. Some might be disappointed that the NYT doesn't always gleefully poke at the eyes of a particular power whenever it can, but like every human and human organization, it doesn't always live up to its own ideals or the ideals that have been applied to it.


>If one were to ask "what kind of coverage might we expect from a paper controlled by a billionaire industrialist?", we might actually predict a right-wing perspective.

That depends on what he's selling, and also on what his allies in government or elsewhere want him to publish.


I think its narrow minded to assume a tool of the government is right wing, or left wing for that matter.


I think in his comment he is making a clear difference between "the right" and "conservative", which is a related, but not entirely identical, term.


Exactly right. Conservatives vs Liberal != Republicans vs. Democrats


I agree, but I'm using the term in a way that resonates with the popular use of the word in modern American politics. The point might be lost if I instead used the more precise phrase "authoritarian, status-quo preserving".


My impression is that "left" is used synonymously with the Democratic party and "right" with the Republican party in practically all American media. By this popular understanding, calling the New York Times right wing makes no sense, as it's very clearly allied itself with the Democratics. The Democratic party has been just as dedicated to the corporate and military status quo as the Republican party. The two parties only differ practically on social wedge issues.


I think it's pretty fair to say that the leadership of both major parties, elites in and outside the government, and the military/intelligence services are right wing, and have been historically so in the United States barring the brief period between the New Deal and the destruction of Keynesianism in the 80s.


How do you explain the policies where the right wing has been steadily losing ground for the past 50-100 years? For example on immigration, on gender equality, or sexual liberation? Are the elites just losing those battles? Because it doesn't seem like they mind.


Not sure that contradicts what I said? For example, Richard Nixon was a social conservative that ran on a backlash against socially progressive causes, but was still a left wing president. Supported industrial regulation with the EPA, instituted price controls, governed fully within the Keynesian framework of the day. He was to the left of most of the modern day Democratic party.


You're claiming the leadership of both parties are right wing, and elites inside and outside of government are right wing. Why, then, has the right wing lost so much ground on those issues I listed over the past 50-100 years?

Do you deny the issues I listed are issues where the right wing has lost ground in the past 50-100 years? If so, what do you even mean by "right wing"?

If not, then your position is that the elites have been losing on those positions for the past 50-100 years. Is that what you think?


I'm not really sure what to say. I thought I was pretty clear in my previous post?


>I'm not really sure what to say.

You could start with answering the questions that I asked.


Perhaps you could acknowledge what I've actually written instead of sidestepping around it?


What is there to acknowledge other than your claim that the elites inside and out of government are historically right wing, except for a few brief periods of time? The bit about Nixon being a left-wing president? I don't care about your classification of Nixon as a left-wing president. It has nothing to do with your claim that the elites inside and out of government have historically been right wing.


The perception that right wing has lost ground is an illusion. There is dramatically less dissent in America today than there was in the past, much less threat of any social movement that would endanger the status quo.

To a large extent, the right wing policies of decades past have worked incredibly well to focus authoritarian force where it is most useful to right wing goals:

- Suppression of the black population, the crack epidemic, and destruction of the black power movement.

- Massive increases in the number of people in prison, but most notable is the successful campaign to make Americans view prisoners as subhuman and deserving of extremely cruel and unusual treatment.

- The dramatic increase in the ideas of American Exceptionalism and the associated force projection after the cold war. It was not certain this was possible, but it has been achieved thanks to successful fear mongering PR about terrorism and militant Islam.

- Dramatic increases in social inequality. There are many reasons for this, but foremost among them is a loss of social power by the have nots relative to the haves, and the resulting shift in wealth patterns.

- Low voter turnout rates. Americans have been made to feel absurdly proud to live in a democracy, yet only around half see any value in casting a vote. This is akin to convincing the people that pine needle tea is delicious and contains many essential nutrients.

- Broad support for unprecedentedly generous corporate welfare. More and more industries are viewed as too important to fail, and significant societal resources are allocated to the preservation of the status quo. Chieftains in those industries have captured massive upside gains while successfully foisting downside risks onto society as a whole. There is no serious consideration among regulators or officials that the incentive system is remotely unjust, and we are told to be grateful that the industries were saved.

- Widespread hero worship of cops, military, and other projections of authoritarian force. The NFL is sponsored by and heavily promotes the US military, and police departments use aggressive PR stories about kitten rescues, etc., to help whitewash their image in the face of more and more examples of profound misconduct. Further, there are rarely any investigations into such misconduct (abuse of power, etc.) that reach beyond low level participants.

Those are just a few examples, but most of the increasing trends are broadly right-wing in their nature and are supported by various groups. Consider the example of US military intervention in foreign lands. Some support it because the "evil" regime oppresses women, some support it because the regime is brown-skinned, some support it to help "ensure stability" in the region, etc. There is now a grab bag of reasons to support American Exceptionalism and glorification of military force projection, which is broadly right wing, yet the options appeal to people across the entire American political spectrum, including the so-called left that seemingly believes that smart bombs are the best way to improve womens' rights worldwide.

Consider the rhetoric around gentrification for a host of other examples of the built-in right wing bias in American culture.

In other words, right wing views have become so utterly dominant in American culture that there is no longer any real need to add oxygen to it, so the political right wing appears to be losing ground.

Consider all the laws that prohibit employees from accepting jobs in the same industry, laws that extent patent protection to absurd time durations, the general public complacency about unauthorized wiretapping and more broadly the Snowden revelations. Nobody cares about this stuff because the right wing view considers it normal and appropriate/acceptable.

Even something as gut wrenching as the ICE camps for children was a major issue only because it offered partisan benefit. Obama took no heat for doing essentially the same kind of detention system. Then magically a few months later everyone has forgotten about it now that it's no longer politically useful.

The illusion of left vs right makes people feel that there is actually dissent in the US. There is very little.


An important example you had is criminalization and imprisonment. It turns about Bill Clinton, a Democratic president, was the one responsible for the terrible 1994 crime bill (3 strikes comes from there, etc). He was strongly supported by his wife Hillary the future Senator, Sec. of State and presidential candidate. Her comment calling African American youth "superpredators" was very telling: https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/aug...

At the same time it was surprising to see for once, Trump and everyone else back the recent prison reform bill:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/18/trump-sign-p...

---

The package, which would immediately release 4,000 federal prisoners according to some advocates, passed the House judiciary committee last week and is likely to be brought up for a vote early next week. The bill would also expand compassionate release, giving elderly and terminally ill inmates a path home, and invest tens of millions in re-entry programs. It would also end the shackling of women giving birth behind bars and provide them with necessary hygiene items at no charge.

---


You've ignored the examples I gave of policies where the right wing has clearly lost ground, and in doing so have missed my point. I'm not claiming the right wing has lost ground everywhere. I'm suggesting the right wing has lost ground where it is in conflict with the interests of the elites. And it has typically gained ground in areas that are of high importance to the elites and relative unimportance to the bulk of the people who make up the right wing.

A large influx of economic migrants is in the interest of the elites, not the bulk of the people who make up the right wing. It is the elites who have pushed for and benefited from those policies, and they have been wildly successful.

Equality among the sexes not a right wing goal, and that is the direction society has moved over the past 100 years.

Sexual liberation, and the related disappearance of Christianity from popular culture, is not a right wing goal.

Social inequality and corporate welfare are goals of the elite, not the right wing, which primarily consists of rural working class white men who are victims of the policies meant to bring about those goals as much as anyone else.

Military intervention is a project of the elite and transcends political parties in the US. Working class Republicans would never have dreamed up going to Iraq or Libya or Syria to oust a dictator, any more than working class Democrats would have. Either side can be made to support such a conflict as we have seen by taking advantage of in-group out-group tendencies, but they'd never come up with it themselves. They have no reason to. But the elites do, so it happened.

You're right that there is little real dissent in the US. The reason is that real dissent is suppressed by the elites, not protected by them. It's harassed and deliberately targeted by government officials. It's kicked off of platforms run by the elites. It's viciously attacked at every turn by the elite-owned corporate media. If you want to know where the real dissent is, look for the ideas that the elites actually try to stop.


> Obama was determined to extend and even expand many of Bush’s national security policies, including a crackdown on whistleblowers and the press. Ignoring the possible consequences to American democracy, the Obama administration began aggressively conducting surveillance of the digital communications of journalists and potential sources, leading to more leak prosecutions than all previous administrations combined.

I am still thinking periodically about what happened there. Like the saying goes "I don't know what I expected..." but I certainly expected more from Obama. For some reason I thought privacy, freedom of speech and transparency would be priorities but they weren't. Granted, looking back I don't think he explicitly said those would be his top policies, it was just beliefs people, including me, imbued into his presidency. It was a very successful "Hope and Change" marketing campaign. He even fooled the Nobel Committee into getting a Nobel Peace Prize, so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad.

Other good things happened of course like ACA, a push to regulate pollution but overall it was a disappointment vis-a-vis the expectations.


During the Obama administration it became legal to assassinate US citizens without trial as long as they are presumed "terrorists" and aren't currently on US soil. It was a deeply flawed presidency that deserves much more critique than it has ever received.

https://theintercept.com/2017/01/30/obama-killed-a-16-year-o...


I have a suspicion that any American President would have had to do this. Its true that these things did happen under Obama, but I am hesitant to think that someone else could have done better.


The United States killed its own citizens in military operations long before Obama.


Well, Obama OLC's legal memo advocated it explicitly, though.

From Wikipedia: 'Barron's memo was described by The New York Times Editorial Board as "a slapdash pastiche of legal theories — some based on obscure interpretations of British and Israeli law — that was clearly tailored to the desired result."[7] A lawyer for the ACLU described the memo as "disturbing" and "ultimately an argument that the president can order targeted killings of Americans without ever having to account to anyone outside the executive branch."[8]'

One could say it "became executive doctrine" then.


What "doctrine" is this? Since World War 1, when the military has deemed it necessary to kill combatants who happen to be American citizens abroad, it has done so.


This kind of thing is why people say the dems and repubs are the same party with two coats of paint.

Before 2008 there were a lot of issues the mainstream left were vocal about. 8 years of Obama and only a select few even got lip service. Now neither the democrats nor any vocal factions of the left seem to care about them.


The UniParty.

However... This is where I'll make a point. The GOP and Dems absolutely both hate Trump. That's the funny thing about bubble types and die-hard liberals is that it seems neither can see just how little the GOP wanted Trump. They just didn't have a riggable system like the DNC did.

That like him or not, Trump is very much disrupting the many of the plans of those politicians that while pretending to be against each other have almost identical goals. That's not a defense of Trump, it's an understanding that if you hate the GOP, you should understand Trump is their enemy and it doesn't make sense to lump them together in your bias, at least not all the time.

EDIT: LOL, apparently because some Republicans like Grham and Rand Paul support Trump he has the entire GOP establishment. Except Flake, McCain, Romney, Paul Ryan, Priebus, and this small list that is effectively still against https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_oppose... .... Look, I get that it makes you sad to hear that Trump isn't liked by the people you don't like, but if you think the GOP wanted or wants Trump now - you're foolish. They're STUCK with him now, that's a big difference. The GOP as a hole will halfheartedly "fight" for him, while wishing he was dead.


That maybe used to be the case, but they've rallied behind him now. His approvability is 90% among people who identify as Republicans.

You still see occasional "wildcard" moments peek through, though like his (IMO wonderful) decision to withdraw from Syria, which managed to draw condemnation from everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike. But unfortunately, it seems it's all bluster as Trump is wont to do, and will likely not amount to much.


It's definitely not bluster, he fired his Secretary of Defense over his refusal to pull out of the conflict. It's one of the most consequential decisions of his tenure so far.


I'm curious, why do you believe Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria is a good one?

I support the eventual withdrawal from Syria, but packing up now will place a large burden on Kurdish minority groups in the region, who deserve better. It will not be the first time we supported the Kurds while they advanced US goals and then pulled out ASAP.

It also seems the decision was motivated by conversations between Trump and Erdogan, which makes me think the Turkish will resume subjugating Kurds in the region when US exits.

I think we should withdraw by replacing more and more guns-and-boots people with books-hammers-meds people.

Leaving a power vacuum to be filled by Turkey or Russia seems to be the worst option, and imo a betrayal to our Kurdish allies who would not be treated fairly under Turkish or Russian control.

Edit: I really mean this question in good faith. This is my present understanding of the situation, but I do not believe I have the whole picture. I really appreciate the time anyone could take to point out an inconsistency or misunderstanding.


I think a basic problem with your analysis is that there will always be an emotionally compelling reason to commit troops to enterprises like this. We have to support our allies, the Kurds. Saddam Hussein and his sons are cruel dictators. Iranian theocrats are intent on destroying Israel. There are concentration camps in North Korea. Gaddafi is a dictator and sponsor of terrorists. Etcetera.

These reasons aren't wrong, those things are true. The problem is that they lead down a path of interventionism which hasn't worked very well. For example, Iraq. Hussein really was a cruel dictator but by invading and destabilizing the region the conflict killed a million or more people, generated ISIS, and left the area tumultuous.

I also want good things for the people of Syria. I don't think it's fair for them to be ruled by Asad. Where I disagree with people who advocate continued military intervention is that I don't think this is the right way to help them.

I think the right way to help people is by exemplifying the virtues of our system of governance and economics. We should become a country that others want to emulate. We should spread good ideas, like the rule of law, human and civil rights, regulated but mostly free markets, etc. Other countries will desire our prosperity and change of their own accord to become more like us, not because we're pointing guns at them, but because they genuinely want to live the way we've shown is possible.

I see this approach as unraveling the networks of evil in the world. Russia changing to be less of an oligarchy, permit more free press, better cooperation with the world, more Democratic will likely entail less support of Assad.


So much this. The "great" thing about the world being a mostly terrible place, is the government can pick and choose where to intervene for reasons other than helping people. This gives the government some cover because people say "well Hussein is a bad guy" even though we ignore the bad guys in a bunch of other countries out there for completely mysterious reasons.


I think, actually that the region would have had its melt-down one way or the other. The Arab spring would have happened anyway. And he most likely would have swept Hussein away. Vietnam told us, that in the long run, no foreign power projection prevails against local interests aligned with local powers.

And it will happen again, in about 1.5 generations- waving over a region, who will be very much beyond peak oil. Which will have all those in power at that moment, trying to vent the tension the good old European style- by sending those revolutionary's with all the emotional words and no plans on how to make the world a better place into endless ditch wars.

So the board for the great game is been lay out- now the most relevant game piece has to be determined. Who is the Germany of the middle east?

As in a currently disassembled power-house without resources, that reassembled is capable of innovation and thus is a danger for all current major players.


If the GOP has such disdain for Trump, then why do traditional conservatives in Congress continue to support him?


> If the GOP has such disdain for Trump, then why do traditional conservatives in Congress continue to support him?

Probably two reasons:

1) They fear his base, which can mount primary challenges to unseat them when they're open with their distain (see: Flake, Jeff).

2) Trump has been useful in allowing them to pursue much of their traditional agenda: tax cuts, deregulation, court picks, etc.


Because they are more closely aligned with the populist wing of the Republican party than the neo-conservative/elitist/globalist wing of the Republican party. The elitist wing has been the dominant force in the Republican party for decades at least.


Simply untrue given the rank and file GOP support of Trump through all legislative goals, except McCain on Obamacare and the wall.


> Granted, looking back I don't think he explicitly said those would be his top policies, it was just beliefs people, including me, imbued into his presidency. It was a very successful "Hope and Change" marketing campaign.

Exactly. He was a chimera: the ambiguity in his slogans let each person see in him what they wanted to see, and his brief political record gave few specifics to challenge those desires. The real work of politics is to decide on the details of policy in the midst of real disagreement, and ideally politicians would be very clear about their thoughts on those details to help the public to properly have its say.


>For some reason I thought privacy, freedom of speech and transparency would be priorities but they weren't.

He's a constitutional law professor! He loves his blackberry! Those girls that campaigned and danced around for Obama were hot. Yay his skin color doesn't matter - except it totally matters! He'll stop the wars! He's so cool he tweets out things!

Because you were sold on an extremely effective misinformation campaign specifically targeted at you. It's not that you should feel bad - but I'd hope you'd be able to see it if it happened again (and it is happening again, it's just opposite now).

... I'm sorry, perhaps I'm bitter because I saw exactly what this was in 2007, then had to put up with 8 years of watching the media entirely cover for him. It was annoying. What's worse is that even now people still fall for the "I had a scandal free presidency" absolute lie.


History is written by the victors, and his scandalous policies did not lose in the court of law. As it turns out, all the shitty shit he did was perfectly legal[1] (And also supported by most of the country.)

The current crop of scandals is, ah, personal failings and run of the mill conflicts of interest. Obama's cabinet picks were a bit better then the current crop, in that respect. Well, except for Hillary's email server. Which he has masterfully distanced himself politically from. Trump has not done the same for his problematic subordinates.

[1] Which says a lot about how restrictive on government power the constitution actually is.


>Well, except for Hillary's email server.

Or the fact that she was the Secretary of State while her husband's charity was accepting millions of dollars in donations from leaders of foreign countries (the very same people who the American people were relying on her to oppose whenever their interests conflicted with those of the American people).


> I'm sorry, perhaps I'm bitter because I saw exactly what this was in 2007

And what exactly did you see back in 2007? Because it sounds to me like you are merely describing politics since the advent of television at the national level in the current U.S. two-party system.

Do you really mean to say you saw the same type of fake news campaign spread across social media in 2007 as is described in recent NYT pieces wrt the 2016 election (e.g., troll accounts so widespread that a Facebook lobbyist recognized one as one of his mom's Facebook friends)? If so can we see an archive.org link of what you wrote back then?


You forgot about the "It's Just Metadata" argument:

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-aclu-demolish-its-jus...


It's disappointing coming from the man who campaigned on the promise "I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution."


Obama was one of our better Republican presidents....


That's a pretty fatuous statement when you consider the goals of the GOP over the past 38 years. Did Obama work with the GOP to privatize entitlement programs? Did he pass a major tax cut? Did he appoint pro-life judges? Did he move towards transforming the Department of Education to state block grants?


My comment was somewhat tongue in cheek. I'm well aware of the goals of the GOP, thank you very much.

I'm also very much aware of the fact that the GOP was obstructions to his agenda, effectively neutering his work. (Also hopeful for the destruction of the GOP once Mueller is done with his work).

That said, Obama's support for the fiasco in Afghanistan is not "liberal" in any way, and his failure to even bring up the notion of the criminality of the 2008 financial crisis showed that he was beholden to his corporate donors more than the country.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/23/untouc...


Well, that, or unwilling to see millions of Americans put out of work simply so he can make a vain statement about his principles. But tomato/tomato.


Nice spin there.


That's a strangely specific list of questions, but here is an attempt to address them:

> Did Obama work with the GOP to privatize entitlement programs?

No, but he often supported or considered cuts to Social Security and Medicare (including in the context of working with the GOP). For example, Obama's executive order 13531 established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ("Simpson-Bowles"), which recommended cuts to Social Security.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Commission_on_Fiscal_... https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/us/social-programs-face-c...

> Did he pass a major tax cut?

Yes, of course!? The largest component of the stimulus bill was tax relief.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvest... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvest... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_Relief,_Unemployment_Insur... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Taxpayer_Relief_Act_o... https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/us/politics/19taxes.html

> Did he appoint pro-life judges?

Obama nominated a judge who failed to be confirmed in part because of Democratic opposition to his (purported) "votes in the legislature to retain Confederate insignia in the state flag of Georgia, restrict abortion, and ban same-sex marriage".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_P._Boggs

It's a little unclear what Sonya Sotomayor's position on abortion is.

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/us/politics/28abortion.ht...

> Did he move towards transforming the Department of Education to state block grants?

No, but the Obama Administration supported funding for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund in the stimulus bill, a relatively significant block grant from the Department of Education.

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/factsheet/stabil...


It's not a strangely specific list if you look at the GOP platform in each Presidential election year from 1976 through 2016. Starting in 1980, at the conclusion of the national "ideological sort", the common thread of GOP policy goals has been:

1. Reduce taxes and simplify the tax code

2. Appoint federalist pro-life judges

3. Privatize federal programs that can be privatized

4. Devolve funding and authority to the states through block grants

5. Oppose gun control

6. Require a balanced budget, and cut spending to do it

7. Subsidize school choice

8. Reform and cut welfare

9. Reduce the influence of unions

10. Increase defense spending

I didn't make those up; I literally went to the UCSB Presidency Project for each of those 11 cycles and made a text file capturing the policy objectives of the GOP (several months ago, not just as a freaky obsessive response to your comment).

There are other policy items that come and go; for instance, in the 80s and early 90s, the GOP was the party of term limits. Starting in the 90s, they became the party of tort, liability, and malpractice reform. For a brief, sparkling moment, they were the party of guaranteed-issue private health insurance. But those 10 items are basically unchanged, and none of them are Democratic goals.

To your specific arguments:

1. Obama opposed privatization and expanded federal entitlements dramatically.

2. Obama increased several taxes, and increased the tax burden on upper-income families and in support of the ACA; those increases would have been starker had he not been held hostage by a united GOP legislature that, for instance, required him to extend some of the Bush tax cats in exchange for funding the government. Not to mention: his biggest cuts were part of the ARRA, which prevented a potential second Great Depression.

3. Obama did not appoint pro-life or federalist judges of any sort.

4. Obama presided over the implementation of Common Core, which dramatically increased the federal influence over K-12 education and made him the bête noire of conservative educational wonks.

So, no, President Obama was not a "good Republican President". Respectfully, I think you might basically have to not know what the Republican party has stood for for the last ~40 years to believe that.


Fyi, I am not the commenter above who compared Obama to a "Republican president", and I tried to stick directly to your questions.

You'll note that the answers were mostly "no", except for whether he passed a major tax cut.


Obama was also the "tech" president. I wonder to what extent this increased surveillance is a result of the scalability advantages software brings. More than all previous presidents combined is pretty significant. Did he spend that much more?


[flagged]


> Think about how many people during the Cold War moved to a remote island to take intensive Russian language classes.

Given the way you've presented your argument, you can't lose:

1. If the number is extremely low, it supports your claim in your last sentence that moving to Hawaii during the Cold War to take Russian language classes is conspicious behavior that reveals his parents as CIA.

2. If the number is extremely large, it supports your initial claim that moving to Hawaii and taking Russian language classes "are pretty typical covers and paths."

It appears you have yourself a contradiction there.


I discovered that there was, in effect, a marketplace of secrets in Washington, in which White House officials and other current and former bureaucrats, contractors, members of Congress, their staffers, and journalists all traded information.

This is why I left that world.

The US Government and policy makers decide that it is sometimes necessary to do things that put US Govt employees at mortal risk. It is important that there are employees like this that are willing to take those risks and they do so knowingly.

Where this goes off the rails is when those same Policymakers put their ego over the safety of the people they are risking in order to repugnantly gain status or money.

This "marketplace" is a dark pool of real risk that is opaque to those who are trying to execute the orders given. An operator can reasonably evaluate what the risks are going into any intelligence activity, but there has traditionally been an underlying assumption that the people giving the orders aren't going to comprimise the activity. I'm not sure that's an assumption worth holding anymore.

I should note that is a separate point from accountability and transparency with respect to the "should" of these activities. There is an equal need for democratic accountability for these activities, and OPSEC is often in conflict with democratic discoverability. There should be more discussion on the "how" of that, because as it stands such information sharing is not magnanimous or virtuous - it's exploited for personal gain.


Guy I went to school with in the late 80's had an internship at Lockheed working on the video recorders used in fighters to record bombing runs. They were designing a new system because the old system had some defects that the Soviets found out about. The reason they found out about them was the Reagan Administration released the full bombing run tapes to the press after Operation El Dorado Canyon. Which then made it onto national TV and was copied as well.

Air force was livid but wasn't going to publicly go after the Reagan Administration officials responsible. If you did that you'd get 25-life.

Lockheed probably wasn't unhappy though.


I think it's fair to say the majority of the US "Mainstream Media" is overwhelmingly pro-interventalist and by extension pro-military. MSNBC had a clear conflict of interest in the run-up to the Iraq war, with its parent company being a defense contractor, yet ran overwhelmingly pro-invasion stories. A more modern example was the run-up to our involvement with Syria, where you had major network personalities like Jake Tapper deliver almost nightly pearl-clutching lectures about how we must do something. The efforts to appear balanced and to "both sides" an issue end when it involves interventionist campaigns. All of a sudden those who suggest caution and restraint become problematic and need iron-clad arguments.

One one think committing American "blood and treasure" to these engagements would demand careful reasoning but often it's those pushing for restraint that are tasked with the intellectual heavy-lifting.


> MSNBC had a clear conflict of interest in the run-up to the Iraq war, with its parent company being a defense contractor

I'd be grateful if you could elaborate - I'm having trouble following the ownership chain, since there was a merger with Comcast I think after the Iraq War.


General Electric owned what ultimately became NBCUniversal between 1986-2009, after which Comcast bought 51% of NBCUniversal and finally fully acquired it in 2013.


Thank you.


Read this outstanding article by John Hockenberry to understand how the dynamic works: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/409217/you-dont-understan...



Historically, NBC's parent company was General Electric.


This aspect of the Yugoslav civil war is usually missing from the mainstream narratives.

During one interview, a source was droning on about a minor bureaucratic battle inside the CIA when he briefly referred to how then-President Bill Clinton had secretly given the green light to Iran to covertly ship arms to Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan wars. The man had already resumed talking about his bureaucratic turf war when I realized what he had just said and interrupted him, demanding that he go back to Iran. That led me to write a series of stories that prompted the House of Representatives to create a special select committee to investigate the covert Iran-Bosnia arms pipeline.

https://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/15/world/us-looks-away-as-ir...

https://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/19/opinion/l-iran-to-bosnia-...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1996/05/12/u...


Given what I remember what we knew at the time, having Iran arm the Muslims in a civil war to defend themselves against ethnic cleansing was the best option short of what continuing what had been done before - intercede with NATO to broker a ceasefire. This was pretty well documented in the daily news versus the manufactured testimony to justify Gulf War 1/2.


I found the following passage remarkable:

In another recent incident that gave me chilling insight into the power of government surveillance, I met with a sensitive and well-placed source through an intermediary. After the meeting, which occurred a few years ago in Europe, I began to do research on the source. About an hour later, I got a call from the intermediary, who said, “Stop Googling his name.”


I think the implication is clearly that there existed a government survalence dragnet and that the source was well placed enough to have unfettered access to it.

However, it strikes me that there are a number of other possibilities: perhaps his own computer had been specifically compromised; maybe they targeted his hotel room or WiFi network; or, one which I find really compelling, it was simply a well timed ruse intended to bolster the legitimacy of whatever information the source was sharing.


[edit] Ok, so I actually read the whole article now. I still have a small amount of skepticism but two things sway me towards thinking this is real: 1) the author got called to the White House to sit down with the CIA director and Condoleezza Rice to shut down an earlier story, so clearly there are high-up people watching him and trying to shut him up at all costs. 2) there are a surprising amount of people in the CIA doing idiotic and more career-risky things here.

My original idea of how it went down was that some mid-level Joe Schmoe looks him up and calls him to spook him, which I didn't believe for a number of reasons. But if, say, Condoleezza Rice was personally watching this guy (which she was) and ordered someone to go intimidate him, then I would not be surprised.

[original comment] Yeah... I'm a little skeptical. I completely believe that there's horrifyingly extensive dragnet surveillance out there and something like this is _possible_. But if you've got access, why would you risk it with some stupid comment like this, to a reporter of all people? Seems a little fishy.


I think it would be a frequent occurence that ordinary people approached for whatever reason by members of intelligence community are suspected by these ordinary people to have a different role than their cover. When these ordinary people or sometimes targets proceed to google either the True Name or cover identity, it would seem like standard procedure to have an automated system immediately notify the agent that somebody is googling them, so they can make lessons about their poor tradecraft/cover/...

It would be pretty negligent toward both the individual agent and the organizational mission as a whole not to detect these events.

Since they are supposedly relatively frequent however (the web of lies gets ever more complicated, and different people pay attention to different details) those red flags would usually be ignored by other agents or datasharing allies, but as the person in question you would still prefer your journalist not to generate these red flags nonetheless..


Hypothesizing how this could be done... The simplest method may be to plant a web page that has high ranking for the sources name that phones home details about all requests the the site.

If the site normally only receives standard webcrawler traffic any human traffic after such a meeting would serve as a canary of sorts.

I mean, presuming that they don't have an inside line with google.


Is there any 'wall' between the owners and editors of a newspaper?

Does someone like Bezos now have access to similar information that the Times was hiding from the public shown here?

That information would appear to be worth a lot more than the 250 million he paid for the Post.


The author, James Risen, has had a long trajectory as a reporter. The OP (which I admit I have not read all of yet) touches on Risen's reporting on the Wen Ho Lee case while at the NYT. Risen and Gerth's story, and their later follow-up story, was based on "leaks" from "senior intelligence officials" that were either false or slanted.

It was a disgrace. The case was eventually thrown out of court, and a mealy-mouthed NYT recantation was issued (linked in OP - it's a typical NYT non-retraction retraction).

There was other reporting at the time, from Robert Scheer of the LA Times, that contradicted the Risen/Gerth story. But the combination of the endorsement of the NYT, and the mesmeric hold of "national security" on peoples' minds, led to an establishment take that Lee had committed serious crimes. Scheer tells the story here: https://www.thenation.com/article/no-defense/

The whole affair serves as a warning about the dangers of taking selected "senior intelligence officials" at their word. We seem to need these warnings.


James Risen has a checkered reporting background, to be sure. [1] There are all kinds of attacks on the press these days, and we are told to be afraid of attacks on the press. But the devaluation of the press is owed more to its own behavior than to that of its enemies. (In the U.S. Less so in Saudi, China, Russia)

[1] https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/10/is-james-rise...


Here we seem to disagree. I think it's clear that this "devaluation of the press" is being pushed far beyond reason by people who have their own reasons to cloud the notion of an objective truth.

My caveat was more circumscribed - just that one needs to be careful of thinly sourced NYT stories, even when they are said to be from reliable sources, especially when they mirror administration talking points. I say this as a longtime subscriber to the NYT.


I think people would do well to read about the propaganda model.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_model


Or watching Manufacturing Consent.


It's also still a great read and has held up well, imho.


Propaganda by Ed Bernays and Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann are two great books on the subject, as well.


thank you for post this article here - it's easily one of the best articles I've ever had the pleasure of reading through


Still an important story. But the title should read (January 2018) or something to indicate that it is not breaking news.


The title intentionally implies it is still ongoing.


If you don't think the government and the press are in bed, I have a bridge to sell you.


Before I buy that bridge, I'd want to you to be a lot more explicit about which parts of government, which parts of the media and on which issues. I haven't seen most of the media notably pro-Trump for example, to which I've no doubt you will say "ah yes, well Trump isn't the true government", or some-such.


Every single bit of government, with different parts of the press. No, Trump's not in bed with NPR... but it's hard to argue he's not closely involved with Fox personalities. Hannity showed up at Trump rallies and often chats to Trump via phone.

Every Congress member will have a variety of sympathetic press sources that match their politics. Every department has a press corps that depends pretty heavily on access to do their jobs. etc. etc.


Right, but IMO that's meaningfully different from "the government and the press are in bed", which implies a wholesale conspiracy.

The fact that individuals within government can find favourable coverage from one of dozens (hundreds?) of independent media outlets, each with its own perspective and bias, isn't really all that surprising or scandalous.


Trump asking the NYT to squash a corruption story about one of his Cabinet secretaries would likely fall flat, for sure.

Obama's CIA asking Fox to suppress a story about the impeding attack on Bin Laden would probably have been honored, regardless of Fox's generally negative opinions on Obama.

Stuff with the "national security" label, or stuff that requires fairly specialized access to sources, is where the close relationship between press and subject can cause issues like the article here is highlighting.


Hannity also isn't "the press" meaning he is not a hard news journalist. He's an opinion/news analysis personality.


The longer-term sources/institutions have more bargaining power with the press.


That's true, the government isn't actually made up of the people you vote for and are replaced every few years.

Now, replace "The longer-term sources/institutions" here or on Reddit with another colloquial term for the same and watch the violent reaction.


That may be the case but it's a HN feature/expectation that news that's not recent be disclosed as such in the title.


The story itself is from 2018, title included. Whether things have changed or not in the meantime is a rather different question.


A story from 4 days ago is also from 2018. If this story had been posted to HN 4 days ago, would the situation be different? If so, why?


TLDR. Judging from the comments, it's basically the same as Chinese government and state media?


We use the Carrot first.


And they said alex jones was crazy.`


Not mutually exclusive


I like that the thing people make fun of Alex Jones for the most is that "chemicals were turning the frogs gay!" ... and then that turned out to be effectively true.

EDIT: Sorry if you don't like this, but it's true. This isn't a defense of Jones's tactics or character, just that people make fun of him for an outlandish claim he was more or less right about.


The paper is interesting, though I think "turned the frogs gay" is probably less clear than "common pesticide causes male frogs to develop female morphology and reproductive function".

https://news.berkeley.edu/2010/03/01/frogs/

Seems like atrazine should probably be taken off the market. Scary for both humans and animals that we are dumping so much endocrine disruptor into our water table.

"[m]aternal exposure to atrazine in drinking water has been associated with low fetal weight and heart, urinary, and limb defects in humans". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrazine


The context is important, Alex Jones was using that study to say that the government was turning people gay intentionally.


Probably so, but nobody else with his reach was covering this. Seems kind of important to me!



Humor me for a minute here:

1) Google Atrazine (I get 1.7m hits)

2) Google "making frogs gay" (I get 4.9m hits)

I'm pretty sure this means Alex Jones did a better job of informing humanity that atrazine might be a problem than the NYT or any other news organization. I'm assuming Alex Jones is the source, or at least the main popularizer of the meme "making frogs gay." I could be wrong about that, and maybe it was someone else! Or maybe everything Alex Jones does is bad. But it looks like he raised an important issue and effectively put it into people's brains.


That's a major goalpost move.

Let's evaluate it for a moment, though. You posit Jones helped inform humanity about atrazine... but your tallies indicate that at least 3.2M of the 4.9M (65%) "making frogs gay" search results don't mention the chemical (as they'd show up in both queries if they did).

edit: https://www.google.com/search?"making+frogs+gay"+atrazine


Quality matters a lot in raising awareness of facts. You can't just say comicbooks are better at raising for showing everyone the dangers of radiation when basement levels of radon is depicted as causing people to melt into goo because lung cancer is also dangerous.


You have to communicate with Alex Jones fans somehow if you believe in Democracy. I mean, what are the other options? Not telling them anything? Sending them LaTeX formatted papers?


source ?




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