Tag Archives: Jazz Shaw

The Continued Case Of Bradley Manning

Charlie Savage at NYT:

The Army announced 22 additional charges on Wednesday against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the military intelligence analyst who is accused of leaking a trove of government files to WikiLeaks a year ago.

The new charges included “aiding the enemy”; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it was accessible to the enemy; multiple counts of theft of public records, transmitting defense information and computer fraud. If he is convicted, Private Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.

“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private First Class Manning is accused of committing,” said Capt. John Haberland, an Army spokesman.

The charges provide new details about when prosecutors believe that Private Manning downloaded copies of particular files from a classified computer system in Iraq. For example, the charges say he copied a database of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables between March 28 and May 4, 2010.

Glenn Greenwald:

Most of the charges add little to the ones already filed, but the most serious new charge is for “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Although military prosecutors stated that they intend to seek life imprisonment rather than the death penalty for this alleged crime, the military tribunal is still empowered to sentence Manning to death if convicted.

Article 104 — which, like all provisions of the UCMJ, applies only to members of the military — is incredibly broad. Under 104(b) — almost certainly the provision to be applied — a person is guilty if he “gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly” (emphasis added), and, if convicted, “shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.” The charge sheet filed by the Army is quite vague and neither indicates what specifically Manning did to violate this provision nor the identity of the “enemy” to whom he is alleged to have given intelligence. There are, as international law professor Kevin Jon Heller notes, only two possibilities, and both are disturbing in their own way.

In light of the implicit allegation that Manning transmitted this material to WikiLeaks, it is quite possible that WikiLeaks is the “enemy” referenced by Article 104, i.e., that the U.S. military now openly decrees (as opposed to secretly declaring) that the whistle-blowing group is an “enemy” of the U.S. More likely, the Army will contend that by transmitting classified documents to WikiLeaks for intended publication, Manning “indirectly” furnished those documents to Al Qaeda and the Taliban by enabling those groups to learn their contents. That would mean that it is a capital offense not only to furnish intelligence specifically and intentionally to actual enemies — the way that, say, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen were convicted of passing intelligence to the Soviet Union — but also to act as a whistle-blower by leaking classified information to a newspaper with the intent that it be published to the world. Logically, if one can “aid the enemy” even by leaking to WikiLeaks, then one can also be guilty of this crime by leaking to The New York Times.

The dangers of such a theory are obvious. Indeed, even the military itself recognizes those dangers, as the Military Judges’ Handbook specifically requires that if this theory is used — that one has “aided the enemy” through “indirect” transmission via leaks to a newspaper — then it must be proven that the “communication was intended to reach the enemy.” None of the other ways of violating this provision contain an intent element; recognizing how extreme it is to prosecute someone for “aiding the enemy” who does nothing more than leak to a media outlet, this is the only means of violating Article 104 that imposes an intent requirement.

But does anyone actually believe that Manning’s intent was to ensure receipt of this material by the Taliban, as opposed to exposing for the public what he believed to be serious American wrongdoing and to trigger reforms?

Jazz Shaw:

The “aiding the enemy” charge should come as no surprise to anyone, and in fact we had predicted it would come down to treason last winter. Despite the poo-pooing and endless protestations of some of Manning’s most vocal and frequently comical defenders, there is one object lesson here which can not be repeated often enough: the U.S. Military has zero sense of humor when it comes to things like this.

Assuming for the moment that this winds up in a conviction – and the Army is certainly acting like they’re playing a pretty solid hand at this point – the situation only becomes more explosive and holds the potential to be a huge thorn in the side of the Obama administration for months or years to come. Aiding the enemy during a time of war is generally considered one of the surest paths to a firing squad for obvious reasons, but it will leave the President in a sticky position.

If the military decides to drag Manning out back and shoot him – a distinct possibility – a significant portion of Barack Obama’s base will be in an uproar. They tend to be opposed to the death penalty in general, for starters. But Manning has also become something of a folk hero on the Left, allegedly helping – albeit indirectly – Julian Assange to “stick it to the man” and expose the various perceived evils of the American government. Allowing him to be executed would be a huge black eye for Obama with his base.

But if he steps in and commutes the sentence – assuming there is a legal mechanism for him to do so – then he will be seen as undercutting his own military establishment and substituting his judgment for their established practices and discipline. (Not to mention earning the tag of “going soft on traitors,” always a sure winner in an election year.)

Of course, the Army could let Obama off the hook and simply send Manning to Leavenworth for the rest of his natural life, but that’s not a great option either in terms of the political optics. Manning’s cheerleaders are already complaining about the “horrific” conditions he’s being held under and it’s only going to get worse after his conviction. (He might even lose his cable TV, library and newspaper privileges and private exercise yard.)

If convicted on the Big Count, Manning will never, ever be able to be transferred into the general military prison population and will, in all likelihood, spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Of all the scoundrels in legal history, traitors are probably the most unpopular with the enlisted rank and file. Dumped into a large crowd, Manning’s safety would be virtually impossible to assure. And that would leave the President with a “folk hero” of the Left locked up under the same – or worse – conditions than he’s in now for the rest of his time in office. This would be a burr under Obama’s saddle which would never go away.

It’s been a long and winding road, but it looks like we may be coming to the end of it. The Army moves at their own pace, as they should, but if they’ve filed charges now they probably feel like their case is just about ripe for presentation. Look for a court martial date to be announced in the coming weeks or months.

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

While we can’t be sure, I suspect the reference in Charge II, Specification 3 is to this information about the surveillance of Assange.

If I’m right about that, then it means the government is charging Manning with providing WikiLeaks with information about the surveillance being conducted, in real time, on WikiLeaks. And it would make it easy to prove both that “the enemy” got the information and that Manning intended the “enemy” to get it.

So if the government maintains that, by virtue of being an intelligence target, WikLeaks qualifies as an “enemy,” then they can also argue that Manning intentionally gave WikiLeaks information about how the government was targeting the organization. Which would make their aiding the enemy charge easy to prove.

But I also think that opens up the government to charges that it is criminalizing democracy.

As I noted above, the government’s own report on WikiLeaks describes its purpose to be increasing the accountability of democratic or corrupt governments. The government, by its own acknowledgment, knows that WikiLeaks’ intent is to support democracy. Furthermore, while the intelligence report reviews the debate about whether WikiLeaks constitutes protected free speech or criminal behavior (without taking a side in that debate), in a discussion of WikiLeaks’ efforts to verify an NGIC report on the battle of Fallujah, the report acknowledges that WikiLeaks did the kind of thing journalists do.

Wikileaks.org and some other news organizations did attempt to contact the NGIC personnel by e-mail or telephone to verify the information.

[snip]

Given the high visibility and publicity associated with publishing this classified report by Wikileaks.org, however, attempts to verify the information were prudent and show journalist responsibility to the newsworthiness or fair use of the classified document if they are investigated or challenged in court.

So while the military, according to its own report, describes WikiLeaks as a threat to the armed forces, it also acknowledges that WikiLeaks has behaved, at times, as a journalistic organization.

Mind you, all of this is simply a wildarsed guess about what the government may mean with its invocation of the “enemy.” But if I’m right, it would mean the government was threatening Manning with life in prison because he leaked information about the government’s surveillance of what it admits is an entity that engages in journalistic behavior.

Doug Mataconis:

Personally, though, I don’t think it would be that difficult a position for the President. The number of people complaining about Manning’s treatment can basically be whittled down to the Glenn Greenwald segment of the President’s progressive base, and many of them don’t seem to understand that Manning’s rights as a military prisoner being prosecuted under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice are distinctly different from the rights he would be entitled to as a civilian defendant in a civilian court. Additionally, many of them don’t seem to think that he did anything wrong even if the charges against him are true. I dare to say that they do not represent a majority of the Democratic Party, and certainly not a majority of the country. If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, then I doubt many Americans are going to care what happens to him.

There’s one fact buried in the new charges that I’ve only seen reported in the MSNBC story on them, though:

Pentagon and military officials also report that investigators have made no direct link between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

This has been the case for months, despite digging by federal investigators in all directions, and it makes the probability that any charges will ever be sustained against Wikileaks, Julian Assange, or any related individuals, seem very remote indeed.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Bradley Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, writes about the true reason Bradley Manning is being stripped each night and forced to report naked each morning in the same way prisoners were tortured at Abu Graib:

On Wednesday March 2, 2011, PFC Manning was told that his Article 138 complaint requesting that he be removed from Maximum custody and Prevention of Injury (POI) Watch had been denied by the Quantico commander, Colonel Daniel J. Choike.  Understandably frustrated by this decision after enduring over seven months of unduly harsh confinement conditions, PFC Manning inquired of the Brig operations officer what he needed to do in order to be downgraded from Maximum custody and POI.  As even Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell has stated, PFC Manning has been nothing short of “exemplary” as a detainee.  Additionally, Brig forensic psychiatrists have consistently maintained that there is no mental health justification for the POI Watch imposed on PFC Manning.  In response to PFC Manning’s question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm.  PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.

Without consulting any Brig mental health provider, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes used PFC’s Manning’s sarcastic quip as justification to increase the restrictions imposed upon him under the guise of being concerned that PFC Manning was a suicide risk.  PFC Manning was not, however, placed under the designation of Suicide Risk Watch.  This is because Suicide Risk Watch would have required a Brig mental health provider’s recommendation, which the Brig commander did not have.  In response to this specific incident, the Brig psychiatrist assessed PFC Manning as “low risk and requiring only routine outpatient followup [with] no need for … closer clinical observation.”  In particular, he indicated that PFC Manning’s statement about the waist band of his underwear was in no way prompted by “a psychiatric condition.”

While the commander needed the Brig psychiatrist’s recommendation to place PFC Manning on Suicide Risk Watch, no such recommendation was needed in order to increase his restrictions under POI Watch.  The conditions of POI Watch require only psychiatric input, but ultimately remain the decision of the commander.

Given these circumstances, the decision to strip PFC Manning of his clothing every night for an indefinite period of time is clearly punitive in nature.  There is no mental health justification for the decision. There is no basis in logic for this decision.  PFC Manning is under 24 hour surveillance, with guards never being more than a few feet away from his cell.  PFC Manning is permitted to have his underwear and clothing during the day, with no apparent concern that he will harm himself during this time period.  Moreover, if Brig officials were genuinely concerned about PFC Manning using either his underwear or flip-flops to harm himself (despite the recommendation of the Brig’s psychiatrist) they could undoubtedly provide him with clothing that would not, in their view, present a risk of self-harm.  Indeed, Brig officials have provided him other items such as tear-resistant blankets and a mattress with a built-in pillow due to their purported concerns.

This is just vile.  The former brig commander, James Averhart, violated military rules by putting Manning on suicide watch as punishment, and was subsequently replaced by Denise Barnes.  Now she’s stripping him naked to punish him for a sarcastic quip. Who is she, Nurse Ratched? Abusing someone’s mental health classification in order to subject them to torture “for their own good” is sick and sadistic, reminiscent of Soviet gulags.

Maybe she wants to become his “god.”

Alana Goodman at Commentary:

First, Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, confirmed that Manning’s clothes were taken from him, though he didn’t give many details of the incident, except to say that it wasn’t done for punitive reasons.

“It would be inappropriate for me to explain it,” Villiard told the New York Times. “I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”

This isn’t the first time that Manning’s lawyer has asserted that the private suffered abuse in prison, and it likely won’t be the last. It’s typical of attorneys to claim that their clients are mistreated in prison, and in a case like Manning’s, these types of allegations will be eaten up by his supporters.

But based on Villiard’s statement, and the timeline of the incident, it sounds like Manning’s clothes may have been taken from him owing to suicide concerns. The Army private was previously put on suicide watch in prison. His reaction to the new charges against him could have military officials apprehensive about his mental state.

Doug Mataconis:

As Glenn Greenwald notes, there really only seems to be one purpose behind what Manning is being subjected to:

Let’s review Manning’s detention over the last nine straight months: 23-hour/day solitary confinement; barred even from exercising in his cell; one hour total outside his cell per day where he’s allowed to walk around in circles in a room alone while shackled, and is returned to his cell the minute he stops walking; forced to respond to guards’ inquiries literally every 5 minutes, all day, everyday; and awakened at night each time he is curled up in the corner of his bed or otherwise outside the guards’ full view.  Is there anyone who doubts that these measures — and especially this prolonged forced nudity — are punitive and designed to further erode his mental health, physical health and will?  As The Guardian reported last year, forced nudity is almost certainly a breach of the Geneva Conventions; the Conventions do not technically apply to Manning, as he is not a prisoner of war, but they certainly establish the minimal protections to which all detainees — let alone citizens convicted of nothing — are entitled.

Moreover, Greenwald points out, correctly I think, the media seems to be giving the Obama Administration a pass here:

I’ll say this again:  just fathom the contrived, shrieking uproar from opportunistic Democratic politicians and their loyalists if it had been George Bush and Dick Cheney — on U.S. soil — subjecting a whistle-blowing member of the U.S. military to these repressive conditions without being convicted of anything, charging him with a capital offense that statutorily carries the death penalty, and then forcing him to remain nude every night and stand naked for inspection outside his cell.  Feigning concern over detainee abuse for partisan gain is only slightly less repellent than the treatment to which Manning is being subjected.

Indeed. It’s understandable, to be honest, why the right wouldn’t care all that much about how Private Manning is being treated. If this were happening under a Republican, though, the left would be united in outrage. Now, their silence is telling

Make no mistake about it. I do not consider Bradley Manning a hero in any sense of the word. Even if it were the case that much of the material that Manning stole from military computers should not have been classified, or really wasn’t all that important (and much of it wasn’t in the end), that isn’t a decision that a Private in the Army has a right to make. If the charges against him are true, he violated orders, accessed systems he had no right to access, and stole information that he had no right to take off base. If he’s convicted of these charges, he deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. While he’s awaiting trial, though, and even after he’s convicted, he still must be treated humanely and, at present, Manning is receiving worse treatment than a Prisoner Of War would, and the only purpose behind it seems to be to break him psychologically. That’s simply unacceptable.

Jazz Shaw:

But can this treatment really be justified? There are two points to address on this front.

First and most simply put, Manning made the comment about being able to kill himself with his underwear, sarcastic or not. Can you imagine what would be said if the brig commander did nothing and then he actually did turn up dead in his cell by his own waistband? It would be a movable feast for the media and several careers would come to an abrupt end. How does the commander ignore something like that?

The second point is a bit more complicated and far less clear, and one that we’ve touched on here in the past. It boils down to some of the fundamental differences between civilian society and the military community. Just as civilians, used to all their freedoms of free speech, etc. don’t understand the restrictions on military personnel, those familiar with the civilian justice system are frequently shocked by many of the “unofficial” aspects of the U.C.M.J. Lots of things like this go on all the time in the military, or at least they used to back in the day. But normally you don’t have the civilian press watching and reporting on it.

Does that make it right? I leave that to the judgment of the reader.

Also, life in the military in general is just a bit more physical and harsh than in the civilian world. A lot of things happen which would probably shock many of you who have never served. In the Navy, for example, there is an old tradition of an initiation rite of passage the first time a sailor crosses the equator on a war ship. It is the time when you graduate from being a “pollywog” (or just “wog” for short) to being a “shellback.” Trust me, it’s an ordeal, usually lasting 24 hours or more.

The third time I made the passage, two enlisted men wound up in sick bay with broken arms. Everyone got to experience the joys of crawling through plastic chutes filled with garbage, rotting food and bilge water, all the while being “herded” by shellbacks wielding foot long lengths of fire hose, loving called, “shillelaghs.” (During my own initiation it took more than a week before the bruises finally faded.) And this is all for your friends who have done nothing wrong.

I’ll leave it for one of the veteran submarine sailors to tell you about the grand old tradition of having your dolphins “tacked on” if they wish to do so in comments.

So I suppose our final question is, does any of this make it acceptable for Manning to be treated in this fashion, either to cover the brig commander’s butt or for the sake of teaching a lesson to somebody mouthing off to their superiors? I really don’t know. Maybe we do need to shine a light on this and review military procedures, both official and “under the covers.” But I do know that life in the military community is a lot different than in the civilian world, and having lived it for a number of years myself, this story honestly didn’t shock me at all.

Andrew Sullivan:

There is only one word to describe the treatment of this model prisoner: sadism. Glenn Greenwald has been following the case closely and has two disturbing must-reads here and here. We all hoped that under Obama, brutal treatment of military prisoners and lies about it would end. In this case, they haven’t.

Megan McArdle:

I understand that Bradley Manning has probably done something very wrong, for which, if guilty, he deserves a hefty jail sentence and the contempt of his fellow citizens.  But this is not what a decent country does to its citizens.

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Fun With Jane And David

Michael Whitney at Firedoglake:

Jane Hamsher is with David House who is trying to visit Pvt. Bradley Manning at Quantico today while carrying a petition with 42,000 signatures requesting humane treatment for Manning. The military isn’t making it easy at all and detained Jane and David for two hours. We’re publishing her tweets as well as David House’s tweets here as a post in case you haven’t been able to follow them on Twitter (@JaneHamsher and @DavidMHouse

UPDATE: At 2:50pm the military released Jane and David, and told David he could go off base and come back on to visit Bradley. But visiting hours end at 3pm, so Bradley won’t get a visit. We’ll have more soon.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

I just wanted to say a quick thank-you to everyone today for your support when David House and I were being detained at Quantico.

I don’t think any of this had anything to do with me, or frankly the 42,000 petition signatures. The only thing I did was provide housing and transportation to David House, because he’s just out of college and Glenn Greenwald told him he could stay with me when he comes to visit Manning.

Everyone but David has stopped coming to see Bradley, and it takes a lot of courage to do what David is doing. It’s a very intimidating situation. So I try to support him by giving him a place to stay and driving him to the base when he comes to town. That’s really my only involvement.

There is no doubt in my mind that the primary objective of everything that happened today was to keep Bradley Manning from having the company of his only remaining visitor. The MPs told us they were ordered to do this, the brass showed up to make sure that they did, and they held us until 2:50 by repeatedly asking for information they already had whenever we asked to leave.

Visiting hours at the brig end at 3pm, and don’t begin again until the next weekend. It’s a half hour walk from the front gate to the brig, and although they have allowed David to walk before, they wouldn’t let him do it this time. They said he’d have to catch a cab and come back on the base, but they wouldn’t release him to do that until 2:50.

This was all about detaining David, not me. I would not be surprised to learn they were also punishing him for speaking out about Manning’s conditions. The State Department, the FBI and just about every three-letter government agency has been investigating David and the other Boston hackers since they began organizing support for Bradley Manning last summer, with one witch hunt after another attempting to implicate them in one of Adrian Lamo’s fabulist tales of a physical disk hand-off from Manning to Wikileaks.  The New York Times keeps printing that one, over and over again, with the Justice Department whispering in their ear and nothing but the word of the inconsistent Lamo for evidence.

David has been detained at the airport, his computer seized and held for months with no explanation. The McCarthy-esque actions of the security agencies has terrified all of these idealistic young people.  It is exceptionally admirable that David and others persist in supporting Bradley Manning despite it all.

The net effect of the MP’s actions today was to escalate the climate of threats and intimidation around David, a 23 year-old who just graduated from college, and cut Manning off from any personal contact with the one person who is still showing up to visit him after the government consciously scared everyone else off.

I am very happy that I went, and could be there to support David, because one of the first things the MPs said to us when we arrived — long before they asked for driver’s license, social security numbers,  registration, phone numbers, quizzed us about the addresses on our licenses, etc, etc, was that they had orders to do all of this. Which means they were planning to detain us long before we got there. They were going to use any excuse to keep David from visiting Manning, and try to intimidate him from coming back.

Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo:

A spokesman for the base told the AP that the two were never detained. He said Hamsher’s car was towed after she failed to show proof of insurance, and after MPs determined her car’s license plates were expired.

Manning, who is 23, has been charged with eight crimes related to illegally leaking classified information. Manning is accused of leaking 250,000 diplomatic cables, tens of thousands of military dispatches from the war in Afghanistan and a video that shows U.S. forces opening fire on civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.

Kevin Drum:

This doesn’t appear to be a shining moment for either our government or our military forces.

Jazz Shaw:

Here’s a free tip for those who are obviously not terribly familiar with the military. You don’t give the military a courtesy call to tell them you are coming. You ask their permission. It’s a military base, not a theme park. And when you tell them in advance that you’re coming to their turf to pull off a media stunt intended to make them look bad and challenge their authority, they’re going to mess with you. Further, even if one of you is on the approved visitor list, (Hamsher is not) when you arrive at a United States Military facility, you are there as their guest. They may choose to suffer your presence, but from the moment you pass through those gates you’re playing by their rules.

Perhaps even more amazing than the other complaints and accusations was this puzzling, cryptic statement.

Nobody knows why Marines are holding Bradley Manning who is in the Army anyway. Manning attorney unable to get an answer.

If there’s any truth to that, Manning needs to fire his attorney. The Marines handle security duty at numerous military facilities around the world, including the brigs on larger Navy ships. Quantico’s brig, which is staffed by both Marine and Navy personnel, is famous as a secure destination for suspects and convicts in transition, particularly in high profile cases. It has housed a variety of notorious figures ranging from wannabe presidential assassin John Hinkley to convicted traitor and spy Clayton J. Lonetree. There is absolutely nothing unusual about a suspect like Manning winding up there.

In the end, this stunt was just the next phase in Hamsher’s relentless campaign to lionize both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as some sort of heroes. It’s an effort which has been regularly abetted by Glenn Greenwald, who jumped into the brewing Twitter storm almost immediately. At one point I asked him if he thought Manning might actually be guilty of releasing all those documents and if that made him some sort of hero in Glenn’s eyes. His response was refreshingly honest.

I have no idea – we wait until what’s called a “verdict” before imposing punishment on people. And yeah, I think it’s heroic.

I’m sure we’re all anxious to find out where this story goes next. Will more visitors take on the U.S. Marines? Will Private Manning have his cable TV access reduced to even more barbaric levels less than six hours per day? Will Jane get her car back and find her insurance card? Tune in next time on, As the World of Manning Turns.

Glenn Greenwald:

The claim is that Hamsher has only electronic rather than printed proof of car insurance — the same proof she’s had every other time she brought House there, though without a petition — and they have thus impounded her car.  They also, though, are refusing — without any explanation — to let House visit Manning despite his being on the approved visitor list.  So much for Manning’s once-a-week reprieve from solitary confinement.

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Worst. List. Ever.

John Hawkins:

Out of all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks in all of American history — have you ever wondered who the worst of the worst was? Well, we here at RWN wondered about that, too, and that’s why we decided to email more than a hundred bloggers to get their opinions. Representatives from the following 43 blogs responded…

101 Dead Armadillos, Argghhhh!, Basil’s Blog, Cold Fury, Conservative Compendium, The Dana Show, DANEgerus Weblog, Dodgeblogium, Cara Ellison, Exurban League, Fausta’s Blog, Freeman Hunt, GraniteGrok, House of Eratosthenes, Infidels Are Cool, IMAO, Jordan Woodward, Moe Lane, Mean Ol’ Meany, The Liberal Heretics, Midnight Blue, Pirate’s Cove, Nice Deb, Pundit Boy, Professor Bainbridge, Pursuing Holiness.com, Liz Mair, Moonbattery, mountaineer musings, No Oil For Pacifists, No Runny Eggs, Right View from the Left Coast, Russ. Just Russ, Say Anything, Don Singleton, The TrogloPundit, The Underground Conservative, This Ain’t Hell, The Virtuous Republic, Vox Popoli, WILLisms, Wintery knight, YidwithLid

All bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-20 selections. Rank was determined simply by the number of votes received. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a fairly conservative group of bloggers and their selections reflected that. Also, I made a decision to combine the votes given to the Rosenbergs and Julius Rosenberg into one group since most people associate the two of them together. Some people may disagree with that decision, but I thought it was the best way to go.

Well, that’s enough about the rules — without further ado, the worst figures in American history are as follows (with the number of votes following each selection)…

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

Jim Geraghty at National Review:

I’m no fan of most of the Democrats on the list, and there are some good picks. But most of the modern political figures look ridiculous when we compare their actions to some of America’s most really notorious figures.

No Al Capone? No Machine Gun Kelly or the Lindbergh baby kidnappers?

No Jefferson Davis or anyone else associated with the Confederacy beyond John Wilkes Booth? Speaking of presidential assassins, no Lee Harvey Oswald? (Oh, I know, I know, he was the fall guy for the big conspiracy.) Aaron Burr gets a pass for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel?

Isn’t Johnny Walker Lindh or Robert Hanssen a more clear-cut case than Jane Fonda or either of the Clintons?

No Charles Manson? Come on. You’re really telling me Al Sharpton and Michael Moore outrank somebody like Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate people? Race-baiting and rabble-rousing outrank cannibalism?

No Jim Jones (cult leader, not national security adviser) or David Koresh?

Not one villain from America’s business world? No ruthless layoff king like “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap? No Ken Lay? Bernie Madoff couldn’t reach the top 20?

Matt Lewis at Politics Daily:

Certainly, one could make the case that political leaders — because of their reach and immense importance — actually have much greater impact over our society as a whole than any serial killer ever could (though I would argue the Manson murders actually had a major impact on American culture, and essentially ended the ’60s).

But this, of course, is sophistry. Hawkins’ list was not titled “the worst political leaders,” but rather “the worst figures” in American history, and thus, the results seem to betray what we already know to be true: Too many political bloggers view their political opponents as being worse than serial killers.

Of course, this is not merely a reflection of conservative bloggers, but rather, of the current state of political discourse. I have no doubt that members of (as Robert Gibbs has called them) “the professional left” might rank Ann Coulter as being more harmful than, say, Al Capone.

Steven Bainbridge:

John Hawkins asked a bunch of right of center bloggers to list the “20 Worst Americans of all time,” from which he compiled the following list. The comments are mine. Personally, I find the collated list pretty much of a joke. It reflects the partisan passions of the moment, not anything resembling a serious verdict of history.

23) Saul Alinsky (7)–a bad guy, to be sure, but top 20?
23) Bill Clinton (7)–GOPers still mad because he beat the crap out of them; sour grapes
23) Hillary Clinton (7)–I don’t like her, but I think she’s making a good Secretary of State
19) Michael Moore (7)–agree
19) George Soros (8)–maybe top 40
19) Alger Hiss (8)–the traitors are way to low on this list
19) Al Sharpton (8)–eh
13) Al Gore (9)–depends on whether global warming is as bad as he thinks it is
13) Noam Chomsky (9)–annoying to be sure, but not in top 20
13) Richard Nixon (9)–fair enough
13) Jane Fonda (9)–has been much less annoying in recent years
13) Harry Reid (9)–he’s effective and wrong but not evil
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)–annoying? yes. one of the worst? no.
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)–finally somebody I wholeheartedly agree with, but should be higher
11) Margaret Sanger (10)–nope
9) Aldrich Ames (11)–yes, but should be higher
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)–yes, but should be higher
7) Ted Kennedy (14)–higher than the worst domestic terrorist? no
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)–ditto
5) Benedict Arnold (17)–too low
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)–huh?
4) The Rosenbergs (19)–good
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)–give him some credit for managing the winning coalition in WW II
2) Barack Obama (23)–way too high, even if socialized medicine ends up being his legacy
1) Jimmy Carter (25)– being feckless and sanctimonious doesn’t make him a bad guy
All in all, I have to agree with Jim Geraghty that:

I’m no fan of most of the Democrats on the list, and there are some good picks. But most of the modern political figures look ridiculous when we compare their actions to some of America’s most really notorious figures.

I agree with a lot of his alternatives too.

Anyway, I was one of the bloggers Hawkins polled, but as you’ll see my list differs in a number of respects from the norm. Mine’s in alphabetical order, BTW.

  1. Aldrich Ames–traitor
  2. Benedict Arnold–traitor
  3. John Wilkes Booth–killed our greatest President, contender for #1 on my list if rank ordered
  4. James Buchanan–feckless President whose inaction allowed the Southern rebellion to get off the ground
  5. Aaron Burr–traitor and murderer of Hamilton
  6. Robert Byrd–KKK member and the worst pork politician in history, plus an insufferable prig
  7. Jefferson Davis–leader of the traitorous Southern rebels
  8. Louis Farrakhan–race hate monger
  9. Nathan Bedford Forrest–treasonous Rebel general, caused or condoned the mass murder of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, founder of the KKK, contender for # 1
  10. Rutherford B. Hayes–President who threw Reconstruction under the bus to steal election
  11. Paris Hilton–personification of the celebrity obsessed culture
  12. Alger Hiss–traitor with really annoying apologists
  13. Jim Jones–mass murderer and race hate monger
  14. Ted Kennedy–Chappaquiddick, probable rapist, almost certainly a rape abettor, and progenitor of what might become socialized medicine
  15. Bernie Madoff–worst financial swindler
  16. Timothy McVeigh–worst domestic terrorist, probably # 1 on my list if rank ordered
  17. Michael Moore–he just oozes evil
  18. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg–atomic bomb traitors
  19. Roger Taney–Chief Justice who decided Dred Scott and Ex Parte Merryman
  20. Morrison Waite–Chief Justice whose decision in United States v. Cruikshank effectively disabled the federal government from protecting the freed blacks from white southern terrorists during Reconstruction

As you see, I focused mainly on traitors, since it is in some ways the worst of social crimes. Few crimes affect all of society in the way that treason does. Since I believe the Southern rebellion was the worst act of collective treason in our history, I gave it high priority. Since I believe the failure of Reconstruction is one of the great tragedies of our history, it deserved recognition too.

And then there’s just a couple of folks who really annoy the crap out of me. But I tried to keep them to a minimum. And I really think you can make a case for Byrd and Kennedy deserving to be at least in the top 100. In their own ways, they each personify and symbolize some of the worst aspects of our political life. So I’d argue that only Hilton and Moore are real reaches on my part.

The one person who slipped my mind, but whom I probably would have found room for if I had thought of him in time is L. Ron Hubbard as our worst religious false prophet.

Tyler Cowen:

It’s bizarre that Jimmy Carter comes out as the all-time worst from the right-wing bloggers and I don’t have to tell you who is number two.  It’s also hard for me to see how Bainbridge ends up with Paris Hilton and Michael Moore in his list of the worst and he seems to acknowledge this oddity toward the end of his post.

The most plausible picks are, I think, any number of political figures behind slavery and its continuation (it’s debatable who is truly focal here), Woodrow Wilson, the Rosenbergs, and any number of assassins, domestic terrorists, and serial killers.

Who am I forgetting?  Are there focal figures who held back public health advances?  Led slaughters against Native Americans?  What else?

Who is the worst Canadian of all time?

Rick Moran:

Absolutely astonishing. One mass murderer (McVeigh) and one assassin (Booth) made the list. No gangsters. No old west gunmen. Both Woodrow Wilson and FDR in the top 5 worst? If you’re going to penalize presidents so severely for having wrongheaded ideas about economic policy, why not include George Bush? Or the modern Republican party who never met a deficit they didn’t embrace as long is it was caused by tax cuts.

Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

No Aaron Burr? His descendant, Gore Vidal, might have made honorable mention on the list, but Burr was a genuine bad guy. He not only murdered Alexander Hamilton in a duel, Burr hatched a plot to take over large swaths of land in the west, set himself up as king, and secede from the US.

I guess making idiotic, dishonest documentaries about America (Michael Moore) is a bigger crime than killing one of the Founders and anointing oneself a monarch.

Here’s my list of “The Top 5 Worst Americans Missed by Idiotic Conservative Bloggers:

5. Ted Bundy. Might have killed more than 50 women.

4. William Randolph Hearst – the inventor of modern liberal journalism who singlehandedly whipped up war fever against Spain in his 30 newspapers while dominating the media – to the detriment of democracy – like no one before or since.

3. John C. Calhoun – his constant threats to take South Carolina out of the Union if the institution of slavery was touched were bad enough. But his embrace of the doctrine of nullification and his being an inspiration to the secessionists was a direct cause of the Civil War.

2. William Walker – one of the most unlovely Americans who ever lived. His attempts on behalf of the south to bring parts of Mexico and central America into an “Empire of Slavery” – setting up colonies that would then be annexed by the US – was not only a cockamamie scheme but thousands died because of it.

1. Bloody Bill Anderson – speaking of thousands being killed, how about the terrorist Bill Anderson? Not only did he ride through Missouri and Kanas during the Civil War, killing wantonly and with great glee, (200 massacred in Lawrence Kanas in 1863) some of his men ended up carrying on the “fight” for years afterward, including the James brothers and the Younger boys.

Doug Mataconis:

Obviously, this poll isn’t to be taken all that seriously but it has raised some interesting questions. Matt Lewis cites it as proof that American politics is broken, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher notes the blatant political bias reflected in the list, and Ed Morrissey notes that this question came up in the political blogosphere before, about five years ago:

Just for disclosure’s sake, John usually invites me to participate in his polls, but I’m usually too busy to put much time into them (sorry, John).  This time, I passed for a couple of other reasons.  First, I had already done this exercise five years ago at Captain’s Quarters, about which more in a moment.

After reading through Ed’s list, which is very interesting to say the least, and following a few links, I realized that I had done the same thing five years ago as well. That list was made when I was still a relatively new blogger, so I’m going to take this opportunity to revise it. Like Stephen Bainbridge, I will list my choices alphabetically rather than by order of “worseness.” And, like Ed, I’m going to so with this definition of what “Worst American” means to me:

For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their “crimes”. In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you’ll read on this list, doesn’t have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we’d just be looking at body counts.

I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don’t expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.

So, with that in mind, here we go:

1. Benedict Arnold

Not just because he betrayed his country in it’s infancy, although that is certainly contemptible, but also because of what he did after he became a British General.

2. John Wilkes Booth

Of all the Presidential assassins throughout American history, Booth’s motives were the most venal and his impact on history was the greatest. But for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the post-war history of the United States, and the entire Reconstruction Era, would have been much different and, arguably, much better.

3. James Buchanan

What I said in 2005 still applies, “the bachelor President who bungled his way through four years in office and left America on the verge of destruction.”

4. Aaron Burr

In addition to murdering Alexander Hamilton, Burr also engaged in a conspiracy to foment a rebellion against the United States in the territory covered by the Louisiana Purchase.

5. Jefferson Davis

President of the traitorous Confederate State of America, defender of the slavocracy. Some will object to my putting Davis in the list because he was, admittedly, hardly alone in rebelling against the United States, but he was the leader so he deserved to be deserves to be singled out by name, and he stands in for everyone else.

6. Nathan Bedford Forrest

A Lieutenant General in the CSA Army, part of the mass murder of black Union soldiers during the Battle of Fort Pillow, one of the Founders of the Ku Klux Klan

7. Alger Hiss

A traitor to his country and a spy for a regime dedicated to eradicating freedom.

8. J. Edgar Hoover

For the reasons Ed Morrissey listed five years ago:

He didn’t last 47 years as America’s top cop by playing fair. He used his influence and abused his power to accrue files on almost every political player, friend or foe, to use as blackmail to increase his personal power or as leverage for legislative and executive action. He became the closest thing America has ever known to an emperor and managed to die before his empire came crashing down around him. The tragedy of his life can be seen in his contradictions: a gay man who persecuted homosexuals; his undeniable love of country getting consumed by his thirst for power; his desire to enforce the law giving way to his paranoid domestic-espionage activities designed to derail political opponents, such as Martin Luther King and others he deemed dangerous. Hoover did good work as well in creating a first-class law enforcement agency, but his ego forced it to miss the rise of the Italian Mafia and his racism kept it lily-white far past his death.

9. Andrew Jackson

For the Indian Removal Act, the forced re-location of Native Americans that followed, and the horrible precedent it set for future Americans dealings with native tribes

10. Lyndon Baines Johnson

As if lying to the American people about Vietnam weren’t bad enough, he also set in motion the tax and spend philosophy that lives with us to this day.

11. Joseph McCarthy

A man who did more damage to the anti-Communist cause, and the reputations of countless innocent Americans, than any Communist ever did.

12. Timothy McViegh

Because of this.

13. Richard Nixon

Watergate, Cointelpro, the Pentagon Papers case, Daniel Elsberg, wage and price controls, and the largest expansion of federal bureaucracy since his predecessor.

14. Roger Taney

Fifth Chief Justice of the United States and author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford

15. Woodrow Wilson

The man who ushered Progressivism through the American political system, involved America in a war in which she had no vital national interests and stake, and took it upon himself to remake the map of Europe in such a way that made a Second World War virtually inevitable.

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice several changes from the 2005 version. Why no Jimmy Carter this time, for example ? Because I consider Carter incompetent, not evil. Anyway, criticize away !

Jazz Shaw:

At one end of the spectrum we have Ed Morrissey’s contention that we should discount serial killers, mass murderers and their ilk, since they boil down to nothing more than “a body count.” While I can see how Ed’s explanation of being misled by John’s rather vague invitation into thinking we should primarily include political figures, I disagree that “worst Americans” would leave out the real monsters. They did far more damage than the raw number of corpses they stacked up. Every mass murderer who terrorizes entire cities like Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammad and every serial rapist ruining the lives of dozens of women steals something important away from everyone. They take away our faith in a civilized system to protect us. They make us look at strangers with wary glances rather than welcoming smiles. They continue to kill our innocence, not just the bodies of those they defile. They are clearly some of the worst Americans.

But does the wrong-doing in question have to be intentional? Doug Mataconis – to take one example – rightly (in my opinion) leaves Jimmy Carter off of his revised list because he considers the Georgia peanut farmer to be “incompetent, not evil.” Where does the line from incompetence to criminal stupidity get crossed? Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic, was clearly not out madly dashing across the Atlantic looking for icebergs to crash into in the hopes of killing all of his passengers. (Not to mention himself.) He was, by all accounts, an experienced seaman with decades at the helm under his belt. But he made one massive, terminal mistake which took hundreds of lives. Was he evil and malicious? No. Should he land on this sort of list? It’s an interesting question.

But that brings us back to the question of politicians in general. If you approach this as nothing more than an exercise in partisan rock throwing, it’s easy enough to compile a list of politicians from “the other team” that you don’t like and lump them in here. This has little or no value. People who aspire to a life of public service, including high elected office, should be considered to be trying to serve and improve the country, even if some of us completely disagree with their philosophy and how they go about it. (If you’re looking for an excuse to really hate me, those of you I see on Twitter every day talking about Obama’s secret plans to destroy America because he’s some sort of Manchurian Candidate simply put me to sleep.)

But again, at what point does a bad plan cross the line to a criminally bad plan which, given your experience and position, you should have known better than to implement? Going back once again to the choices by the other entrants, almost everyone selected Jimmy Carter. (Except Doug, who had him on his original list from five years ago.) Look, I served in the military under Carter. His economic policies were a disaster and his tentative stance on the use of military force damaged our international standing, in my opinion. He was awful. But was he a “worst American?” Did he have malicious plans for the nation he duped into electing him?

No. As I see is, he honestly – if misguidedly – thought his fiscal plans would help. On the national security front I saw him as a God fearing man who honestly believed that he could both speak softly and hold off using the big stick, preferring a path of peace and diplomacy. It was unproductive and, in the end, largely damaging. But I still believe he meant well and I would not today put him on a list of villains.

I have a few bones to pick with some of the common choices on several of these lists as well. Why is anyone selecting Aaron Burr? Doug and Ed are unhappy because he shot Alexander Hamilton. It was a duel! Nobody made Hamilton show up and he had a gun as well. Reports of his “intentionally missing Burr” have been widely disputed. He is also accused of trying to set up some sort of Western Empire and leave the union. He was eventually cleared of those charges by the Supreme Court and many analysts of the period believe it was a plot by his political rivals. The man served his nation for a lifetime, was a Vice President got beaten up for it. Give him a break.

[…]

I won’t even waste space on those who select currently elected Democrats with whom they disagree for such a list. Rick Moran already took care of that.

Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

Everyone who opposed the Iraq war could just as easily assemble their own list and put George W. Bush somewhere on there. It’s pointless.

But enough of that. This has already gone on far too long. Let’s get to my list of some of the worst actors in American history. I’ll follow Doug’s example and go in alphabetical order, since it’s hard to say here who is the worst of the worst. Here are the dirty dozen.

1.) John Wilkes Booth – See Oswald, below

2.) Nathan Bedford Forest – If you don’t know who or what he was, head for Google.

3.) John Wayne Gacy – Anyone who rapes and kills that many children deserves a special place in hell. And on our list.

4.) Alger Hiss – Enough said

5.) Jim Jones – He didn’t just poison a ton of people. He did it under the pretense of speaking for God and upset the applecart of faith for many.

6.)Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Madoff – All three come in at a tie. Not unlike religious examples robbing us of our faith in God, they robbed thousands of their cash, hopes, dreams, and faith in an honest marketplace where people could realize the American dream.

9.) Timothy McViegh – Patriots… please.

10.) Lee Harvey Oswald – I don’t care what you thought of J.F.K. or the fact that he led to Johnson, the guy shot the president and sent shock waves through the nation.

11.) D.C. Stephenson – Grand Dragon in the Klan and friend of one of the most corrupt politicians in Indiana history, his crimes against the nation and his fellow man are legendary.

12.) John Anthony Walker – You want to talk about intentionally doing things to destroy your own country? His picture is by the term in the encyclopedia.

There you have it. Some of the worst we have to offer. Sleep well.

UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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Michael Yon And Joan Rivers: First And Last Time In A News Story Together

Michael Yon on Facebook:

Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not “arrested”, but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eve…ntually came — they were professionals — and rescued me from the border bullies.

Michelle Malkin:

I’ve met Michael and have blogged about his enterprising war coverage as an embed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. The idea of him being treated as a national security threat and handcuffed is as ridiculous as anything we’ve seen from Janet Clown-itano and her cadre.

Speaking of ridiculous airline security episodes:Joan Rivers is many things: Funny lady. Jewelry mogul. Red carpet mercenary. But a terrorist?

Can we talk?

Rivers, 76, was deemed a danger to national security and booted from a Newark-bound flight in Costa Rica on Sunday by a jittery Continental Airlines gate agent who found the two names on her passport fishy.

Her passport reads: Joan Rosenberg AKA Joan Rivers. Rosenberg was her late husband’s last name.

Jazz Shaw at Moderate Voice:

Very strange. Even if you’re into profiling, Yon would hardly fit one you’d be interested in. Of course, his passport, by now, doubtless has a list of countries stamped into it which could give an inspector pause, but that’s no excuse. Very, very strange. I expect this one will be high profile enough that you’ll see an apology coming from the government.

The Jawa Report

Ed Morrissey:

Unless there is more to this story, an apology would be the least owed to Yon.  When an American citizen with a valid passport presents himself for travel, there should be some reasonable screening to verify identity and to determine whether there is a physical risk, ie, weapons and the like.  Why should border security be interested in Yon’s annual income?  How does that relate to national security and border protection?  Unless this is an arm of the Internal Revenue Service, it doesn’t, and Yon was right to refuse to answer the question.

James Joyner (who used the same photo as us):

We’ve got only Yon’s side of the story thus far and it honestly doesn’t make much sense.   While I’ve never flown in and out of Seattle, I’ve flow in and out of the country several times post-9/11 and have never been asked, coming or going, how much I made or anything more personal than “What’s the purpose for your visit?”   If, however, they are asking these sort of insipid questions — let alone handcuffing people who refuse to answer them — our airline security system has even more problems than I thought.

Yon’s got some interesting stamps on his passport.  But it’s an American passport.  Yon doesn’t exactly have the markings of an al Qaeda operative about him.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan

Jules Crittenden

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Close Encounters Of The Russian Kind

Jazz Shaw at Moderate Voice:

Over the skies of Norway, something was happening besides the President’s arrival to pick up his Nobel prize. A truly strange light show took place which absolutely does not look like any permutation of the Northern Lights that I’ve ever seen. It went on for at least ten minutes, twisting in outward moving spirals with some sort of strange blue-green beam coming out of the center. I have to agree with Allahpundit… in terms of “freaky” this may be the “freaky deakyest” to come round in my lifetime.

Allah Pundit:

That blue spiral seems awfully tight for a missile gone awry, but Pop Sci’s also leaning towards that explanation and notes that a similar spiral was seen over China earlier this year. Hmmmm. Other possibilities: (1) test run for a new Norwegian death ray; (2) divine sign heralding the Messiah’s arrival in Oslo; (3) mini-black hole caused by Hadron collider misfire; (4) aliens, aliens, aliens. All theories welcome!

Phil Plait at Discover:

My first reaction when I saw that was, “What the FRAK is THAT?!” My second thought was, “Photoshop”. But then I saw lots of pictures of this on a bunch of different Norwegian media, so I don’t think it’s a digital hoax. Then videos started surfacing, like this one, which clearly show the spiral spinning. It’s not just a static picture, whatever this thing was; it was really in the sky.

However, after a moment, I realized this must be a rocket, most likely spiraling out of control. I don’t understand all the details — I don’t have all the info yet — but a rocket fits what we’re seeing here. First, this was seen all over Norway, so it must have been at a high altitude to be so visible. Second, the blue spiral angling down to the right is clearly due to perspective. A rocket spiraling around, and coming up from the lower right, would appear to make tight spirals when it was far away and bigger ones as it got closer.

Third, you can actually see the bright white spiral spinning in the videos. That threw me for a second, to be honest, but after a moment I figured that it makes sense if the rocket is headed more or less straight toward the camera. Whatever it is being lit up (exhaust, or a leaking payload?) would appear to expand in a spiral like water from a spinning sprinklerhead. The spiral itself is not spinning any more than water from the sprinkler is; that’s an illusion of motion.

Fourth, after a few moments, a black disk appears to expand in the center of the white spiral, as seen in this picture (it’s a little fuzzy; you can see the person taking it must have used a long exposure because foreground lights are jittery, but you get the idea). That’s exactly what I would expect if whatever is being ejected by the rocket ran out; the arms of the spiral would expand away from the center, leaving black emptiness in the middle.

So that’s my hypothesis. A rocket got out of control, perhaps losing a stabilizer, and started to spiral. The two spirals, different in shape, size, and color, indicate something happened in the middle of all this (the rocket second stage fired while still spinning, or something else started leaking out), changing the rocket’s direction. Then, when the fuel or whatever ran out, the white spiral began to disappear from the inside out as the material expanded in space.

Jillian Rayfield at TPM:

Turns out they’re not “out there” after all. Those UFO sighting in Norway this morning weren’t actually UFOs — just a Russian missile test gone wrong.

The Russian Defense Ministry admitted today that its Bulava intercontinental missile failed a test launch, following reports of unusual lights in Norway that caused an influx of UFO sightings.

Russia’s submarine-based Bulava (Mace), which is designed to carry multiple warheads up to 5,000 miles, failed its 13th test launch, something Alexander Khramchikhin, chief analyst at the Institute of Military and Political Analysis in Moscow, called “a catastrophe.”

“Billions of dollars have been flushed down the drain,” he reportedly said.

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Tune In, Replace Eliot Spitzer As Governor Of New York, Drop Out

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Amy Sullivan at Swampland in Time:

Has Obama asked beleaguered and unpopular NY Governor David Paterson to drop out of the race to keep his seat? That’s what the New York Times is reporting. If true, this is fairly extraordinary. It’s highly unusual for a president to step in and tell a governor who is not facing something like a crippling scandal or imminent indictment that his time is up. And when it’s the first black president telling one of only two black governors to clear the way for someone else…that definitely falls into the category of Stories You Never Expected To Read.

James Joyner:

A sitting president has long been considered the nominal “head” of his party. Obama seems to be taking that to its logical conclusion.  There’s not really any reason he shouldn’t use his influence behind the scenes in this manner, although it’s yet another step down the rather depressing road of presidents thinking they actually “run the country” rather than just heading up one of three branches of the central government in a federal system.

Jazz Shaw at Moderate Voice:

The Paper of Record refers to this as “an extraordinary intervention into a state political race by the president,” and it certainly caught me by surprise, but I’m not sure it’s entirely out of line. After all, the moment a person takes a seat in the Oval Office, they become, in effect, the titular head of their party, and the Democrats may have plenty to worry about in New York next year. Absent a major sea change, a Giuliani – Paterson matchup would be a bloodbath with the GOP taking back the governor’s mansion. And this is a state full of people who are some of the most heavily taxed in the nation, largely unemployed and watching the state budget slowly bleed out while our stimulus money was almost entirely wasted. If they suddenly took it into their heads to go out and vote for Rudy, might they start pulling a few other levers in the “R” column, particularly when Kirsten Gillibrand will be in hard scrabble fight to hang on to Hillary’s Senate seat for two more years? Plus, the Dems’ newly found hold on the state senate has a paper thin margin and a change of two seats next year would flip the chamber back to the GOP, who held it for decades.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a cake walk, even under the most optimistic Republican dream conditions. As I pointed out in a recent column at PMJ, Siena pollsters found that New Yorkers are down on the Democrats, but they’re not particularly in love with the GOP yet either. And there’s still Andrew Cuomo out there, waiting to land like a fly in the soup.

Obama is definitely using his top dog Democrat status to intrude on a state race, and a delicate minefield of a race to be sure. But given the unrest across the land over his fiscal and health care initiatives, the Democrats really need to avoid as many black eyes as possible. Losing traditionally blue New York to the Republicans would be an ominous sign, and one Obama would like his party to avoid.

Ed Morrissey:

Clearly, the Democratic leadership would rather see Cuomo in the election against Giuliani than Paterson, and for very good reason.  Paterson has no support in New York and would lose a general election against anyone but Donald Trump — and I wouldn’t count The Donald out entirely.  Paterson would likely lose handily in a primary against Cuomo, but it would force Cuomo to spend money early and split the party when it is already in enough trouble.

Under those circumstances, it’s not unusual for a President to ask a governor of his own party to step aside.  Usually, a President would find an appointment for the governor as a face-saving inducement, rather than send his minions to the press in a campaign of humiliation to make his point.  Either Paterson didn’t respond to earlier nudges from the Oval Office, or the White House just decided to make themselves look incompetent and completely self-absorbed.  In fact, those two options are not mutually exclusive.

Doug Mataconis:

Of course, if he resists long enough, the other half of the President’s message is emphatically clear — if Patterson does run for re-election, not only will he have a challenger for the nomination, most likely Andrew Cuomo, but that challenger will have the support of the national party.

Whether he likes it or not, Paterson is out.

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We’ll Just Put It On Our AmEx Card And Pay It Off Around 2130

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Projections on the deficit going up. The ten year projection is up from $7.108 trillion to $9 trillion.

Hugh Hewitt at Townhall:

President Obama was off by 2 trillion dollars in his first 10-year deficit projection.

Given this enormous error with its staggering implications, why would anyone believe any of his assurances about the costs of Obamacare?

Allah Pundit:

This would be the same CBO that’s been warning us for months that ObamaCare will be a massive boondoggle. (And even CBO might be lowballing it.) I wonder: How many economic projections has Team Barry utterly cocked up so far? Is anyone keeping a list? Off the top of my head, there’s this one, the infamous guesstimate that the stimulus would keep unemployment under eight percent, and the Cash for Clunkers funding that was supposed to last three months and ran out in a week. In these capable hands does the financial viability of universal health care rest. Exit question: Is this the stake in the heart of ObamaCare? One of the main reasons The One’s polling is deteriorating is public skittishness about deficits. Suddenly, in one fell swoop, the problem’s fully 30% worse than the White House thought, which all but destroys the credibility of their health-care projections going forward. (Not that they had much credibility to begin with.) It’s time to walk away, Blue Dogs.

John Hinderaker at Powerline

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

They will be raised next week, while the prez kicks back on the Vineyard, from an unimaginable $7.1 trillion to an incomprehensible $9 trillion.  As The Hill and John point out, this brings the administration’s numbers into line with the CBO forecast.  You may recall, since it was less than a month ago, that the Obama administration ripped the CBO for “exaggerating costs and underestimating savings.”  (I’m betting they probably underestimated costs and exaggerated savings — and still came up with $2 trillion more in red ink than The One.)

Hey, a little $2 trillion mistake — no bit whup, right?  No reason not to let this well-oil machine take over heathcare, one-sixth of the private economy.  After all, look how well planned cash-for-clunkers was!

Gateway Pundit

Don Suber

Jazz Shaw at Moderate Voice:

You’ll keep hearing more and more claims about how the Democrats’ proposed health care legislation will actually wind up saving money through the miracles of cutting waste, fraud, and abuse. (Oh yes, and eliminating the evil insurance companies.) But the CBO keeps on shooting those ideas down, saying that the Dem plan will not result in any savings and putting the price tag at close to one trillion. Not to mention that some analysts are convinced that the CBO is using an outdated model and the real cost of ObamaCare will come in at closer to two trillion.

And yet some supporters still protest loudly here, saying, “Oh, Jazz. Don’t you call us tax and spend Democrats. That’s an old myth and you can’t prove it.”

You’re right about one thing. So far all we’re really seeing is the spend side of that characterization, aside from some early hits on tobacco, alcohol and “luxury” items. The real taxes haven’t started yet. But don’t worry … you can trust Congress. They wouldn’t lie to you, would they? Hisssssssssssssssssssssss.

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Manu Raju at Politico on the yearly estimates:

Sure the national debt stands at $11.6 trillion, and the annual budget deficit will be higher than any on record.

But the White House plans to project next week that the annual shortfall will be $1.58 trillion, about $262 billion less than previously estimated largely because the White House doesn’t think it’ll need to dip into $250 billion it budgeted to save Wall Street, the AP reports.

We probably won’t be seeing victory laps out of the White House for this, but Democratic leaders in Congress will breathe a sigh of relief since it’s another sign that the Obama administration may not push for additional bailout money anytime soon.

Megan McArdle:

Well, I was wrong that the news on the budget would be worse than projected, but right that the Obama administration wasn’t delaying its first mid-session budget review in order to hide the bad news in the August doldrums.  The budget deficit is going to be $1.6 trillion, instead of $1.8 trillion.

The good news is, we’ve spent considerably less on bailouts than we expected to, and slightly less on other programs.  The bad news is, revenue was $83 billion less than expected.  The revenue declines tend to lag the recession, so we’ll be in that boat for a while.    The bailout money, on the other hand, is a one-year savings.

Still, it’s hard to be unhappy about a $200 billion decline in the government.  $1.6 trillion to go . . .

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