Thursday, July 25, 2013

In These Times sinks even lower

You keep thinking In These Times can't get any worse but repeatedly they do.  Earlier this month, they hit an all time low with an attack on NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden which insisted that to criticize Barack for the illegal spying was to help the Tea Party.  Long forgotten is the brave Socialist magazine that James Weinstein and others started. Weinstein is dead and gone and, more and more, it appears Joel Bleifuss is working to ensure that In These Times follows suit.

As circulation continues to drop for the magazine, the fund raising efforts get a little more desperate but was anyone prepared for this:

"Packer's gifts are Steinbeckian in the best sense of that term … [He has] written something close to a nonfiction masterpiece."—Dwight Garner, New York Times
New Yorker staff writer George Packer's new book about the crisis facing U.S. democracy, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, has received an outpouring of critical praise. Bookforum enthuses: "A brilliant and innovative book that transcends journalism to become literature."
So we are extremely excited to announce that we are offering The Unwinding in return for donations of $25 or more to In These Times.

George Packer?

The Iraq War cheerleader?  Having heard James Weinstein's opinion of Packer multiple times, it really is shocking that In These Times today would attempt to wash the blood of dead Iraqis off Packer.

Packer is a hideous creature.  This is the man who applauded counter-insurgency in Iraq.  This is the man who applauded the abuse of the social sciences.  What he found 'wonderful' is exactly what gets a social scientist kicked out of a professional organization.  It was unethical and it was disgusting.  (If you're late to the party, start with 2006's "When Dumb Ass Met Dumb Ass" about Packer and Montgomery McFate.)

Some will ignore the support for counter-insurgency (in fact, many ethical cowards -- such as the writers for The Nation magazine -- run from the topic) and some will insist that Packer learned a lesson regarding the Iraq War.

The last claim is a lie.

Packer egged on the Iraq War and attacked those opposed to it.

And his 'change' or 'conversion' was no such thing.

In late 2005, as he was attempting to sell a book on Iraq to a public solidly turned against the Iraq War, Packer began to be billed as someone recanting their previous position, portrayed as The War Hawk Turned Dove.  Packer was no such animal.  A typical report of the time was Steven Winn's piece for the San Francisco Chronicle.  The main headline promised so much: "An author's confession -- he got the war wrong."

The article, an interview, delivered so damn little.

Q: Would you say that about Iraq?

A: The single most doubtful line in the book, and one that I have quoted back to me all the time, is: "The Iraq war was always winnable. It still is." I wrote that in April of this year. We were coming off the success of the January elections. The violence had subsided quite a bit. It seemed to me that Iraq was becoming a country in which the majority of people wanted to live together under a representative government.

"The Iraq war was always winnable.  It still is."

That's not the statement from someone who's realized they were wrong about an illegal war.

That's a statement from a War Hawk who's bitter about the tactics used and convinced that if their own strategies had been followed the Iraq War would have been a success.

And this is an author In These Times promotes?

When your paid monthly circulation has allegedly dropped to 9,000, maybe you get a little desperate?  Possibly.  But moves like embracing a War Hawk do not bring back the ones who've fled and those looking for conservative options already have a host of publications to choose from.  How sad that, even on the left, when presented with the need to bring in new support, the instinct is to move to the right, forever to the right.  When a Socialist magazine can't maintain its standing, let alone move to the left, that says more than Joel will ever know.

Also saying a great deal is the fact that Barack will continue his illegal spying.  BBC News reports:

In a 205-217 vote, lawmakers rejected an effort to restrict the National Security Agency's (NSA) ability to collect electronic information.
The NSA's chief had lobbied strongly against the proposed measure.
The vote saw an unusual coalition of conservatives and liberal Democrats join forces against the programme.

Shaun Waterman (Washington Times) also notes the vote:

Top intelligence officials from the Obama and Bush administrations, along with senior House lawmakers from both parties, succeeded Wednesday in heading off the first legislative challenge to the domestic snooping program exposed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Arrayed against them was an equally odd cross-section of the political spectrum. Tea party libertarian Republicans and Democratic civil rights advocates — generally at odds — were united behind an amendment to a must-pass defense spending bill that would defund the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records.

Of the vote, Jason Ditz ( offers:

The amendment failed, unfortunately, but the 205-217 vote showed that many in the House were willing to buck party leadership in favor of the American public’s demands to see the NSA powers curbed.
Public [opinion] is overwhelmingly against the NSA’s surveillance, but it takes a long time for it to trickle into the halls of Congress, and even longer to find its way into the Senate. That the Amash Amendment managed not only to get a hearing but to come within a hair’s breadth of passing is an encouraging sign that public sentiment is starting to get noticed on this issue.

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