Those desperate to minimize the significance of the exposure of the Swift program have repeatedly advanced three spurious arguments. I have already addressed these arguments, and would like to collect the links in one convenient post.
1. The minimizers insist that the articles didn’t really tell the terrorists anything they didn’t already know; therefore it cannot have harmed our counterterror effort. Andrew Sullivan speaks for many misguided lefties when he says:
I can’t believe that key terrorists were unaware their finances might be watched and frozen until the NYT and WSJ told them . . .
This is not the point, as I explained here. The issue is not that the stories told the terrorists we were watching financial transactions, but that the stories told them how.
Drug dealers know that police watch their transactions and sometimes send in undercover cops to buy from them. But I think the cops might still object, and the dealers might be very pleased indeed, if we pointed out the secret locations from which the cops conduct their surveillance, or if we gave them the names and full physical descriptions of all undercover officers working in their area.
Additionally, if the terrorists already knew all this, how did we catch so many of them with the program?
Terrorists are not supermen. They don’t know everything, and many of them clearly did not know about Swift. Now they do.
2. The minimizers squeal that the program is symptomatic of an Administration that is out of control, determined to invade our privacy with absolutely no oversight.
I debunk that claim here. The program was legal. Members of key Congressional committees were kept apprised. And the program had an astonishing number of safeguards, which appear to have been very effective.
3. Finally, the minimizers insist that this is all a cover for an attack on the liberal press. Why no anger against the Wall Street Journal?! they demand to know.
I address that claim here. It is not at all clear that the Journal was investigating the story for weeks, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that it was. Nevertheless, the government did not ask the Wall Street Journal not to publish. It did make that impassioned request of the New York Times and L.A. Times.
Further, editors of the West Coast Timeses have issued numerouspublicstatements making it very clear that they had done an independent balancing of what they perceived as the competing interests — and the balance, in their (flawed and necessarily uninformed) judgment, weighed in favor of publication. The editors of the Wall Street Journal have issued no such statement.
For these reasons, the Wall Street Journal stands in a very different position — not because of the makeup of its editorial board, but because of its behavior, which was not provably irresponsible, as was that of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
In the future, when the unhinged left makes any of the three above arguments, I will simply refer them to this post. Feel free to do the same.
Regular readers know that I am utterly outraged by the recent publication by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times of classified details of a successful anti-terror operation.
One of the main reasons that I am so angry at the evisceration of this program is because there is abundant evidence that the program has been quite effective. Unlike the NSA program, the government has pointed to several specific successes of the program. It has helped capture major terrorists and terror facilitators.
Yet if you get your news exclusively from the L.A. Times, you wouldn’t know this. In fact, you’d think the opposite.
Editor Dean Baquet has published an open letter to readers explaining the paper’s decision to publish classified details about the legal and effective Swift counterterror program.
Baquet fails to offer any compelling justification for eviscerating this legal and successful counterterrorism program. And Baquet fails to recognize that his decision was made on the basis of woefully inadequate information.
There is little I can say that I haven’t already said in several other posts, but let me point out some of the more glaring problems. Baquet says:
The decision to publish this article was not one we took lightly. We considered very seriously the government’s assertion that these disclosures could cause difficulties for counterterrorism programs. And we weighed that assertion against the fact that there is an intense and ongoing public debate about whether surveillance programs like these pose a serious threat to civil liberties.
We sometimes withhold information when we believe that reporting it would threaten a life. In this case, we believed, based on our talks with many people in the government and on our own reporting, that the information on the Treasury Department’s program did not pose that threat. Nor did the government give us any strong evidence that the information would thwart true terrorism inquiries. In fact, a close read of the article shows that some in the government believe that the program is ineffective in fighting terrorism.
In the end, we felt that the legitimate public interest in this program outweighed the potential cost to counterterrorism efforts.
I remain stunned that Mr. Baquet believes his newspaper was in a position to have “weighed” the effect that disclosure would have on counterterrorism efforts. The program’s chief success has been the capture of Hambali, the mastermind of the Bali bombing. Yet Baquet’s own Washington Bureau Chief, Doyle McManus, has admitted: “The first I knew of that was when I read it in the New York Times.”
Indeed, a close read of the L.A. Times article does suggest that the program has been ineffective. But a close read of the articles published by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal shows something quite different. Not only did the government capture Hambali, but it also confirmed the identity of a major Iraqi terror facilitator, and learned information regarding the 2005 London terror bombings.
The bottom line, Mr. Baquet, is that you are not in a position to weigh anything if you don’t know all the facts. And your paper clearly didn’t.
We are not out to get the president. This newspaper has done much hard-hitting reporting on terrorism, from around the world, often at substantial risk to our reporters. We have exposed terrorist cells and led the way in exposing the work of terrorists. We devoted a reporter to covering Al Qaeda’s role in world terrorism in the months before 9/11. I know, because I made the assignment.
But we also have an obligation to cover the government, with its tremendous power, and to offer information about its activities so citizens can make their own decisions. That’s the role of the press in our democracy.
The founders of the nation actually gave us that role, and instructed us to follow it, no matter the cost or how much we are criticized. Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” That’s the edict we followed.
I’m not going to follow the lead of many of my conservative brethren and accuse you of being out to get the President. I think people can make up their own minds on that issue. But I do accuse you of having blown this decision, and you can’t hide behind Thomas Jefferson now.
This was a tough call for me, as I’m sure it was for the editors of other papers that chose to publish articles on the subject. But history tells us over and over that the nation’s founders were right in pushing the press into this role. President Kennedy persuaded the press not to report the Bay of Pigs planning. He later said he regretted this, that he might have called it off had someone exposed it.
History has taught us that the government is not always being honest when it cites secrecy as a reason not to publish. No one believes, in retrospect, that there was any true reason to withhold the Pentagon Papers, although the government fought vigorously to keep them from being published by the New York Times and the Washington Post. As Justice Hugo Black put it in that case: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.”
I don’t expect all of our readers to agree with my call. But understand that it was one taken with serious reflection and supported by much history.
And inadequate facts.
Notably missing from your piece, Mr. Baquet, is any true justification for printing the article. We learn that you supposedly agonized over the decision, and that the Founding Fathers loved a free press, and that you really, really aren’t out to get Bush.
But what is the affirmative argument for publication? Surely you see that publishing such sensitive details requires one. But I don’t see it.
Your Washington Bureau Chief has said that the key factors he looked at in making the decision to publish were: “Is this legal? Are there safeguards?”
Yet, as I have demonstrated, the evidence in all the articles suggests that the program is legal, that it does have adequate safeguards, and that key Congressional committees were briefed.
Given these facts, where is the compelling public interest in revealing classified details of a legal and effective anti-terror program?
If this is the best you have to offer as a justification, Mr. Baquet, then you have made a terrible mistake, that may have tragic consequences for our country.
UPDATE: Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the link. He has much more on the Baquet piece, here.
One of the arguments made by people desperate to undermine the significance of the bank tracking program disclosures is the claim that the terrorists must have known about this already. Even some who aren’t determined minimizers have fallen for this argument. For example, Roger L. Simon recently said: “Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I assumed that such things were monitored in the post 9-11 era.”
Well, I don’t know about Roger L. Simon, but I never heard of the Swift consortium until June 22, when the stories first broke online. I bet the same is true of you. I think Roger and I assumed that financial transactions were monitored. But we didn’t know how.
Is there a difference between knowing, Doyle McManus, that, say, a city is looking for speeders, and knowing that they’ve installed a camera at a particular intersection?
Yes. Yes, there is. When you know where the traffic cameras are located, you just might drive down a different street. Especially when the stakes are high.
Similarly, there’s a difference between knowing that a government is trying to monitor financial transactions, and knowing how they’re doing it.
Many financial institutions participate in the Swift consortium. But not all do. The wise terrorist, opening his terrorism handbook (i.e. the home page of the New York Times), will carefully note which financial institutions participate, and use other ones.
Or perhaps the terrorist will find it useful to know exactly what information is available through Swift records — or that (as the New York Times carefully explained) “the information is not provided in real time – Swift generally turns it over several weeks later.”
“Mohammed, make sure the attack is carried out within two weeks of receipt of the funds. Yes, I know we originally planned it for later. Plans have changed. Don’t you read the New York Times?”
The minimizers say: ah, but the precise methods were already public! They point to this post from the Counterterrorism Blog, which says:
[R]eports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002. The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group, on which I served as the terrorism financing expert, learned of the practice during the course of our monitoring inquiries. The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website.
But there is a significant difference between information being “out there,” as in “available in a single bureaucratically worded paragraph in an obscure U.N. report,” and between being “out there,” as in splashed all over the front pages of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
But ultimately, the key issue isn’t whether I knew about Swift, or whether Roger L. Simon knew about Swift, or even whether you knew about Swift. The question is whether the terrorists knew about Swift.
And we don’t have to speculate about this. The undeniable fact is that they didn’t all know.
I hate to keep getting back to the facts, but sometimes it seems necessary. So, let’s reprise. The program’s most salient success was the capture of Hambali, the mastermind of the deadly 2002 Bali bombing. Counterterrorism Blog says the Swift information was “out there” in an obscure U.N. report in December 2002. So Hambali must have been captured before then, right?
But surely the program’s successes end there, correct?
Again, back to the pesky facts. The Wall Street Journal article (no link available) tells us another success story resulting from the program:
People familiar with the program said, for example, that it yielded useful information on the bombings last July 7 in London.
Last July 7? As in July 7, 2005?
Impossible! The terrorists must have known about Swift by then! How could they have failed to scrutinize paragraph 31 of the UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group’s report to the UN Security Council in December 2002?
The bottom line, folks, is that terrorists are not all supermen. Yes, many of them are quite sophisticated. Many are adept at using the Internet. I am willing to wager that plenty of Al Qaeda terrorists actively scour the Web for scraps of information relating to our government’s efforts to track and monitor them.
But you know what? Evidently they didn’t all get the message.
You have defended your decision to compromise this program by asserting that “terror financiers know” our methods for tracking their funds and have already moved to other methods to send money. The fact that your editors believe themselves to be qualified to assess how terrorists are moving money betrays a breathtaking arrogance and a deep misunderstanding of this program and how it works. While terrorists are relying more heavily than before on cumbersome methods to move money, such as cash couriers, we have continued to see them using the formal financial system, which has made this particular program incredibly valuable.
But forget you read that. After all, Bill Keller knows far more about how the terrorists move their money than do John Snow and the President of the United States! He’s Bill Freaking Keller! He goes to cocktail parties in the Hamptons! He’s the editor of the freaking New York Times! It’s the closest thing to God himself on the planet! The power that has been given him is not something to be taken lightly!
Kids need fairy tales to sleep, and I imagine that these days, Bill Keller, Dean Baquet, and their defenders probably sleep better thinking that this program wasn’t effective anyway. The facts say otherwise — but since when do facts matter when you’re determined to believe in a fairy tale?
Want to hear more about the L.A. Times‘s rationale for publishing classified information about a successful anti-terror program? L.A. Times columnist Pattt* Morrison has a radio program on local radio station KPCC, and interviewed Times Washington Bureau Chief Doyle McManus about how the story started, and why the paper felt justified printing the story. (Hat tip to Armed Liberal.)
The bottom line is, of course, that McManus and his colleagues took it upon themselves to decide what classified information the public (and our enemies) should know about. Bizarrely, he claims that the critical factors in his decision were whether the program was legal and had adequate safeguards — even though, as I document in a related post, it was indeed legal and had extensive safeguards in place. Thus, his excuses are an apparent cover for some other motivation, as yet unrevealed.
I personally find the paper’s decision to publish these details to be appalling and reprehensible, but I applaud McManus’s willingness to discuss it publicly.
You can reach the broadcast at this page, or, more directly, you can launch the broadcast by clicking on this link. I have a partial transcript in the extended entry. I concentrate only on excerpting McManus’s statements; Morrison also interviews an “expert” whose remarks do little to illuminate the paper’s decisionmaking process, and whose remarks I have accordingly omitted from the transcript.
My remarks are interspersed throughout the transcript below. I have sent this post to Mr. McManus for his reaction, and I’ll be sure to let you know what he says, if anything.
In another post published today, I print a partial transcript of an interview of Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, discussing the newspaper’s decision to expose classified details about an effective anti-terror program. Among the editors’ primary concerns in deciding whether to publish the story, McManus says, is whether the program was legal, whether it had adequate safeguards and controls, and whether it was subject to sufficient oversight.
The odd thing is that the articles published by the Los Angeles Times and New York Times indicate that the probable answers to all these questions was “yes” — yet the newspapers decided to publish anyway. The program was indeed determined by government lawyers to be legal, and the papers can’t find an expert to definitively contradict that position. The articles indicate that the program had extensive and effective controls in place. And the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress were fully apprised of the program.
So the program was legal, restrained, and subject to oversight.
Which brings me back to the question: what really was the purported justification for publishing these stories?
Since I’m not sure that everyone has really read the New York Times and Los Angeles Times stories, I’d like to summarize the articles’ content concerning the issues of legality, controls, and oversight.
Some commenters and bloggers have suggested that the Wall Street Journal is equally culpable as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times for leaking classified information about a successful anti-terror program. Now that I have had a chance to read the full Wall Street Journal piece, I disagree.
Based on my reading of the relevant articles, the responsible parties here are only the New York Times and the L.A. Times. The Wall Street Journal simply printed a story using on-the-record interviews with named government officials who knew the East and West Coast Timeses were going to print the story anyway.
The key questions are: 1) which papers were conducting an investigation by speaking with anonymous officials about classified information? and 2) which papers were asked by the government not to print the stories? The answer to both questions, based upon reading the stories, is: the New York Times and the L.A. Times — not the Wall Street Journal.
Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. Some of those officials expressed reservations about the program, saying that what they viewed as an urgent, temporary measure had become permanent nearly five years later without specific Congressional approval or formal authorization.
More than a dozen current and former U.S. officials discussed the program with The Times on condition of anonymity, citing its sensitive nature.
The Wall Street Journal article, which I can’t link because it is behind a paid subscription wall, contains no similar passage. John Snow and Stuart Levey are quoted by name. The words “anonymous” and “anonymity” do not appear in the article. The article contains no clear indication that any information was provided to the paper by anonymous officials concerned about the classified nature of the program. Instead, the article says:
U.S. officials agreed to discuss the program after concluding that knowledge of its existence was emerging and public disclosure was inevitable.
This is a clear reference to the imminent publication of articles by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
As to question #2, the New York Times reported a statement from its editor, discussing the pleas that government officials had made for the paper not to print the article:
The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.
Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, said: “We have listened closely to the administration’s arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration’s extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest.”
And the L.A. Times similarly reported a statement from its editor:
Bush administration officials asked The Times not to publish information about the program, contending that disclosure could damage its effectiveness and that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect the public.
Dean Baquet, editor of The Times, said: “We weighed the government’s arguments carefully, but in the end we determined that it was in the public interest to publish information about the extraordinary reach of this program. It is part of the continuing national debate over the aggressive measures employed by the government.”
The Wall Street Journal received no request to withhold the story, said Daniel Hertzberg, a senior deputy managing editor. He declined to comment further.
It sounds to me like the Wall Street Journal, like the Washington Post, printed on-the-record reactions from government officials who knew that the N.Y. Times and L.A. Times were going to publish articles anyway — because these officials had pleaded with the editors of those papers not to print the stories, to no avail.
Direct your anger at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Leave the Wall Street Journal alone.
Among the [program’s] successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. . . .
In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.
The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said.
Note that, in the New York Times article, these many successes were touted by “several officials.”
By contrast, the authors of the L.A. Times article apparently couldn’t seem to find a single official willing to give evidence of the program’s successes:
Current and former U.S. officials familiar with the SWIFT program described it as one of the most valuable weapons in the financial war on terrorism, but declined to provide even anecdotal evidence of its successes.
Indeed, they found someone to suggest that there have been no such successes:
Lee Hamilton, a former congressman and co-chairman of the commission who said he has been briefed on the SWIFT program, said U.S. intelligence agencies have made significant progress in recent years, but are still falling short. “I still cannot point to specific successes of our efforts here on terrorist financing,” he said.
How is it that the New York Times was able to find “several officials” who gave numerous examples of the program’s successes — but the L.A. Times couldn’t find even one?
Are the New York Times reporters just that much better? Or are the L.A. Times reporters just not trying?
The New York Times has a lengthy article revealing classified details about an anti-terrorist program that has, among other things, caught the mastermind of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing. The publication of the article may spell the end of the program. (H/t Allah.)
I am biting down on my rage right now. I’ll resist the temptation to say Ann Coulter was right about where Timothy McVeigh should have gone with his truck bomb. I’ll say only this: it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the people at the New York Times are not just biased media folks whose antics can be laughed off. They are actually dangerous.
[UPDATE: I have learned (again from Allah) that the L.A. Times has published basically the exact same article. See UPDATE below.]
WELCOME MESSAGE: Welcome to Patterico’s Pontifications. This is destined to be the hottest blog since that one put out by that guy. You know who I mean.
Since then, I have had a run of luck beyond my wildest dreams. This blog has broken national stories, which have been cited in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, among other Big Media rags. Stories published here have been featured on national TV news networks and discussed by late-night comedians. I have published op-eds in the Los Angeles Times. The blog has broken a story that contributed to the downfall of a Congressman, published another national story that got a Big Media journalist reassigned, defended a federal judge against misleading accusations, and appeared on radio programs all across the country.
Most of these stories, I hasten to add, were based on tips from readers. Meaning it wasn’t really me who was responsible. It was you guys.
I’ve gotten to meet wonderful people through the blog — including guest bloggers, readers and commenters, other bloggers, and writers and other personalities I never thought I would be lucky enough to meet. Thanks to the blog, I met and became acquainted with Andrew Breitbart and many of his friends. I have gotten to hang out with people who have written or starred in some of my favorite movies; learned the identity of (and hung out with) talented undercover cop writers; met fearless journalists and talented novelists; and just had a fabulous time.
Over the years, I have amassed 723,852 comments, made on 16,566 posts, and 33,267,955 page views.
I’ve also experienced harassment of my wife and children; publication of my home address and pictures of my home; threats of violence and death; State Bar complaints; Google bombing of my name and job title coupled with scurrilous accusations; numerous lawsuit threats; one lawsuit filing, numerous workplace complaints . . . and I have been SWATted — all for expressing my views.
Hey, nobody said life was all peaches and cream. (Which is fine, because I don’t particularly care for peaches and cream.)
But on this 10th anniversary of the blog, I wanted to highlight some favorite posts of mine from the last ten years. I’m hoping that many of these posts are going to be new to recent readers. My favorite posts tend to give the reader something unique, whether it’s original journalism breaking national stories, exposing of tendentious media bias, or just some personal observations about my family and life in general.
This post can’t possibly be comprehensive, or it would be too long. This is just a collection of a few of my favorite posts from the last ten years.
I hope you enjoy them.
THE DOG TRAINER YEAR IN REVIEW
I probably became best known for my scathing year-end reviews of the Los Angeles Times, which I used to call the “Los Angeles Dog Trainer” — a term stolen from Harry Shearer. I stopped doing this review after 2009, in part because the paper seemed less relevant, and in part because in 2009 I was transferred to a new and very demanding unit in my office, and I soon found that I could no longer muster the time and energy to do a Year in Review.
Nevertheless, I have toyed with the idea of doing a 2010-2013 roundup, and possibly a round-up of the top stories from ten years of L.A. Times bashing.
(By the way, if you have trouble getting links in older posts to work, go here for tips on how to deal with that problem.)
THE GINSBURG CONTROVERSY (MARCH 2004)
I believe the first national story I broke on this blog was about Justice Ginsburg giving a speech to the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, days after ruling on a case in which that organization had filed an amicus brief. Justice Scalia had come under fire for supposedly speaking to a group that had a case pending before the Supreme Court, and I believed that the news media should give equal time to a liberal Justice doing the same thing.
In some ways arguably the most epic post I have ever written, my post exposing Glenn Greenwald’s sock puppetry relied heavily on the Wuzzadem sock puppets to carry the narrative. It is still cited constantly and I’m often told it is among my readers’ favorite posts.
MY INTERVIEW WITH STASHIU (OCTOBER 2006)
One of my favorite sets of blog posts was an interview I did with Stashiu, a Gitmo psych nurse who regularly spoke with some of the worst terrorists in the world. Stashiu talked to me for hours about Guantanamo, and the piece has held up over the years — and Stashiu has been a reliable friend of the blog ever since. My interview with Stashiu was published in five parts:
Part One: Introduction. Stashiu tells us about a terrorist who threatened to a) have Zarqawi (who was then still alive) cut off the heads of Stashiu’s family while he watched — and then b) cut off Stashiu’s head.
Part Two: Stashiu arrives at GTMO, and tells us what the terrorists are like.
Part Three: Hunger strikes, suicides and suicide attempts, and mental illness. Stashiu opines that the suicides were a political act.
Part Four: Treatment of the detainees, and the detainees’ treatment of guards. Also, desecration of the Koran — but by whom?
Part Five: Stashiu reacts to Big Media pieces about GTMO.
THE KOZINSKI MATERIALS (JUNE 2008)
In June 2008 the L.A. Times revealed that Judge Alex Kozinski had placed bawdy material on a web server accessible by the public. I obtained the material and published it in multiple posts. I revealed that it was generally humorous material, and that one of the most inflammatory accusations, that he had a video of “bestiality,” was nothing of the sort. I also published a letter from his wife which was cited in the Associated Press and other publications, and was widely credited for helping reverse the tide of opinion against him.
An admission that Cyrus Sanai made to me that his complaint against Kozinski was part of a “litigation strategy” was cited by the Ninth Circuit — with a citation to the URL of my post and everything! (Incidentally, that decision represented the second time that this blog affected the contents of a Ninth Circuit opinion. The first occurred in May 2004, and was described here.)
FAKE DOCTOR ROXANA MAYER (AUGUST 2009)
Thanks to a tip from a reader, this blog uncovered evidence that there was a phony pro-Obama operative at a 2009 town hall meeting on health care reform. A “Dr. Roxana Mayer” in a white physician’s coat claimed to be a pediatrician, and spoke up in favor of health care reform — but this blog revealed evidence that she was a fake. I wrote her and confronted her with the evidence and she admitted it.
In 2010, a campaign of blatant Astroturfing appeared in publications around the country, with the same pro-Obama letters appearing in countless publications under different names. I added to the evidence here, here, here, and here.
SWATTING AND BRETT KIMBERLIN CONTROVERSY (MAY 2012)
One of the oddest things that has happened to me is undergoing a pattern of harassment from a set of crazed trolls surrounding Brett Kimberlin. As I was experiencing this harassment, I was SWATted — something I can’t prove is connected, but which seemed to be. Enjoy the short version of the story — and then bookmark the long version, which is very dense and truly repays repeated readings.
In February 2005, less than two years after I started the blog, I published an op-ed in the L.A. Times that savaged the L.A. Times for the way they bury corrections of significant errors. The piece was called The Correct Way to Fix Mistakes. I wrote another op-ed in August 2005, about the way the paper had lionized Cindy Sheehan while papering over her omissions, contradictions, and disturbing radicalism.
In 2007 I was invited to participate in an online debate with liberal Marc Cooper about the future of the paper, at the L.A. Times web site. The feature was called a “Dust-Up” and the five entries are collected here.
My radio appearances started with Clint Taylor, who was doing a show at a student-run station out of Stanford.
Once, in February 2008, my father-in-law was driving to work in Kentucky, and was taken aback to hear me on NPR, talking about how I was likely to vote for John McCain even though I thought he was a horrible candidate. (When you listen to that clip and hear that I was pulling for Romney, please remember that he was running against McCain, whom I have always, always hated.)
I talked SWATting on local station KABC with my pal John Phillips in November 2012. I was on KFI during drive time in June 2006, talking about the SWIFT terror financing program, on a day when Michelle Malkin filled in for John and Ken.
I appeared on the local public radio show “Which Way, L.A.?” with Warren Olney twice. The second time was in July 2008, to discuss my L.A. Times “Dust-Ups” with Marc Cooper. The first was in June 2008, when Eugene Volokh and I tore L.A. Times reporter Scott Glover to shreds for his misleading coverage of the contents of Judge Alex Kozinski’s web server.
I had the honor of appearing on the Stage Right Show with Larry O’Connor, including this March 2010 show where I mocked Brett Kimberlin’s business partner Brad Friedman, and got to talk to my commenter and pal daleyrocks. Larry O’Connor pretended to be Friedman on that show, which was a riot. I was on the Stage Right Show a month earlier, in February 2010, also on the same show as Friedman. That one was great because Andrew Breitbart called in to help me yell at Brad.
I have made several appearances on Pundit Review Radio, which was broadcast on WRKO in Boston. In a July 2006 appearance I discussed the SWIFT program targeting terrorist financing. In a November 2006 appearance I discussed a story where I proved that the L.A. Times had misreported details about an alleged airstrike in Ramadi. And in an October 2005 appearance I discussed my opposition to the Harriet Miers nomination, in which I played a fairly active role.
In March 2009 I was on the Northern Alliance Radio Network with Captain Ed and Mitch Berg.
I even went on a show called “Hoist the Black Flag” with Ace and Jeff Goldstein — in April 2006 and July 2006, to discuss the Hiltzik story.
I have also had radio personalities read my stuff on the air. Before he got into an insane feud with me for calling him out on some misstatements he had made, Mark Levin read my stuff. Rush Limbaugh read from my Cindy Sheehan L.A. Times op-ed in October 2005, and from a DRJ post on Obama’s tax plan in October 2008.
I have some favorite quotes about me from people over the years, but the one I will never forget is from Tony Snow, who once commented:
Thanks for the wonderful write-up. It’s always fun visiting the belly of the beast. Meanwhile, keep up the great work. Love the blog.
“Love the blog.” Tony Snow said he loved the blog! Awesome. Of course, the post about his appearance on Bill Maher is probably the only entry he ever read, but still. Pretty cool. (He actually left a second comment about an hour later, responding to a Bill Maher sock puppet. But the Tony Snow comments were for real.)
My dad died in 2005. He used to read my blog every day. I remembered him here. After he left, I dreamed about him, and this post about one particularly vivid dream remains one of my favorites. I have wished him a happy birthday every March 17 since the blog started. It’s hard to imagine that he was reading the blog for fewer than three of the last ten years.
But possibly my favorite post from this blog is one about not taking things for granted. It’s a post I wrote as the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death was coming up, and I guess it made me reflect. Anyway, that post is the only one I’ll quote at length here.
In the post, I talked about a night that we took our infant daughter to an acoustic concert, hoping she would sleep through it. If she cried, the plan was for me to take her to the car, where I would watch her for half the concert, and then call my wife out to sit for the second half. I never called her, but spent the whole concert in the car watching my daughter sleep. I wrote:
The night it happened, I didn’t mind being in the car with my daughter. But if I could go back now, there’s no question that I would want to be there.
Not only would I stay in the car with her — I would make the most of the experience, realizing that I had a precious chance to see her at that age again. I would try to commit every moment to memory.
And then I realized: some day, years in the future, I might be asking the same question about my life today — this very minute. If you could have this moment back to live over again, what would you do?
The rest of that evening, I pictured myself as having been sent into my body from the future, to relive the moments I was experiencing. And I saw everything differently. I sat on the couch and watched television with my arm around my wife — all the while imagining myself as an old man, transported back in time to relive that moment. And all of a sudden, what otherwise might have seemed like a mundane moment seemed like a privilege. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world, just sitting there with my wife.
I’ve tried the trick all weekend, and it really changes your outlook. Just sitting around with a sleepy child in your arms is great any way you look at it. But if you picture yourself as someone whose child has grown up — if you imagine yourself as an older man, who would give the world to be back in that chair with that child in his arms — it makes you realize how important the moment is. And you appreciate it more.
Even when times are tough — or seem tough — keeping this perspective in mind can help change the way you look at your life.
Thanks for spending part of the last ten years with me. I hope you keep reading.
UPDATE: A special thanks to all the guest bloggers who have helped me during the years, including DRJ, Karl, Jack Dunphy, JD, Aaron Walker, Morgen Richmond, WLS, Justin Levine, Dafydd ab Hugh, See Dubya, The Angry Clam, Xrlq, Teflon Don, Charlie (Colorado), and several others. You kept things going when I couldn’t, and contributed many worthwhile posts.