Saturday, June 24, 2006

Relax, Put Your Feet Up, And Watch The Left Melting Down

It is not without some glee that I report on the meltdown of the left. Alright, to be fair, it's just confluence of controversies that will eventually dissipate. But having suffered the smug arrogance of leftists who think anyone to the right of Jesse Jackson requires a biohazard suit, I'm planning to sit back, pour a cocktail, and enjoy watching them tear at one another like roosters in a cockfight.

What seems to get overlooked is the first of these controversies, discussed at NRO's Media Blog and at Outside The Beltway here and here. One of the featured speakers at YearlyKos 2006, Armando Llorens-Sar, had written a number of articles on anti-trust law from a pro-corporate perspective without once disclosing he was an anti-trust attorney representing Walmart in an anti-trust case at the time. Many seem to think that Llorens-Sar's request for privacy should have been respected for it's own sake, but I think that is selfish and self-serving: it's not he who must be protected from the public he writes for, but the public that must be protected from those who pose as unbiased authorities.

In my opinion protecting his own privacy and respecting the right of the reader would not have required much, just a simple acknowledgement that he has represented corporations in anti-trust cases in the past. It is in fact what I do here when I discuss education. This is sufficient to warn the reader about potential bias without divulging personal details, but it was apparently more than he was willing to do. Llorens-Sar cancelled his appearance at YearlyKos and has claimed that he will no longer blog, though it appears he is still blogging at his personal site, Swords Crossed.

[UPDATE 4: A couple of commenters have suggested I got my facts wrong and should make a correction and even though the comments were pretty inarticulate, the accusation bothered me enough that I reread Joyner's peices at Outside The Beltway and will say this: I make it sound like Llorens-Sars committed some horrible transgression, and really he didn't. Of course, my judgment about the transgression is not the point. My point is that it could have all been easily avoided. A person who claims some authorty on a subject, in my opinion, has an obligation to disclose how that authority is acquired. It's simply good manners, and it doesn't require names and dates. Llorens-Sars could have had his cake and eaten it too, because a small disclosure like the one I describe above would have taken the sting out of any charge of conflict of interest. But as James Joyner notes at Outside The Beltway, the fact that not even a small disclosure was made indictaes something very negative about Daily Kos readers: "The reason Spruiell might have thought Armando would be 'embarrassed,' however, is hardly 'unknown.' Indeed, Armando notes it in the first of many posts on the subject at Swords Crossed: Big corporations generally and Wal-Mart and the pharmaceutical industry in particular are hated by many in the Netroots."]

After YearlyKos it was revealed that Sen. Mark Warner, a featured speaker despite his affiliation to the Democratic Leadership Council, had a business relationship with Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas' consulting partner Jerome Armstrong. Further investigation, by TKS and Right Wing News, revealed that there are many more such relationships, indicating at least the appearance that access to the Kossacks is for sale. It is unclear how effective that access will be -- the Kossacks seem distrustful. Additionally, it was revealed that Jerome Armstrong had reached a settlement of some kind with the SEC in 2003 over a problem from 2000, suggesting I suppose that Armstrong lacks trustworthiness.

Whether or not there is merit to the Kosola charge or meaning to the SEC settlement I neither know nor care: I'm too busy enjoying all the bickering.

Jason Zengerle, writing for TNR's blog the Plank, seems to have launched the whole affair with a post entitled The Blogosphere's Smoke-Filled Back Room. The details are too labyrinthine to repeat here, but in essence it begins with Kos, through a private Google group for lefty bloggers, urging his fellow left-wingers to ignore the Armstong/SEC story. Zengerle puts a few additional facts together and makes the not-unreasonable claim that Kos can make demands of other bloggers because he controls the Advertising Liberally BlogAd network. The email on which this claim was based was obnoxious and paranoid, but personally I read it as a plea and not a "diktat".

Zengerle's claim drew a heated response from Steve Gilliard, who compared The New Republic to Tom Delay (an cruel insult in Gilliard's mind, I think it's safe to say, though as a conservative my first thought was "if only"). "I wasn't going to mention it," he writes, "frankly, because the readers here don't care. They just don't give a shit. They care about the real world, their kids in Iraq, their jobs. But given TNR's history of inaccurate reporting, even fictional and plagerized [sic] reporting, it's important to get some accuracy on the record." Meow.

Zengerle makes a substantive response, which quite reasonably repudiates some of Gilliard's factual claims without necessarily proving that Kos' email plea constituted a financial threat, but does not refer to Gilliard's rip on TNR's journalistic standards.

It might have been impossible for him to do so, because blogger Glenn Greenwald shows reason to believe that some of the source material Zengerle used in his reporting had been fabricated. The email coresspondence that Zengerle uses to make his case against Kos comes from emails sent between members of the private Google group mentioned above, called "Townhouse" (how blue America to call it that). Zengerle claims that the emails were sent to him by members of the group, but Greenwald, a member of the group, believes the emails are fabrications:

That e-mail is completely fictitious. Gilliard never sent any such thing to the Townhouse list, nor did anyone else do so. Nor, according to Gilliard, did he ever write any such e-mail at all, to Townhouse or anyone else. Zengerle caused The New Republic to print a completely fabricated e-mail and then falsely attribute it as one Gilliard sent to the Townhouse list.

(Greenwald makes additional points to support his contention in the comments to his post.) [UPDATE: Tom Maguire points to something I missed in the comments: that two of "three email sources" Zengerle cites are genuine, and in fact Greenwald is one of them! But that still leaves an email, claimed by Zengerle to be from Steve Gilliard, as a fabrication. Maguire also has links to Armstrong/SEC documents.]

[UPDATE 2: Now it's looking like Greenwald radically overstated his case. The Politburo Diktat quotes from Gilliard blog post in which Gilliard states that he never denied sending the email, just that he doesn't have a record of an email on the date given by Zengerle. The Politburo Diktat even has a comment from another blog post in which Gilliard claims that someone had "violated" his confidences, but not that no email existed.]

New Republic owner Marty Peretz responds to the fury the Kossacks have unleashed against his magazine, but does not address Greenwald's allegations:
And his rant against us [NOTE: rant located here], well, borders on a nut case's. When a high- minded or, rather, high-strung moralist is accused by The New York Times of journalistic hanky-panky and then by TNR of running an ideological censorship bureau, reminiscent of the old Catholic Legion of Decency, he will go off the rails. And he did.

This could get very, very fun. Tapped is vehemently siding with Kos, while some lefties are already blaming Hillary.

Finally, we learned this week that Jerome Armstrong has a very special skill. Of all the things that should concern Democrats thinking of hiring Kos and Armstrong's consulting firm -- the paranoia, the electoral failure, the allegations of corruption -- it is this that would most concern me: Jerome Armstrong takes astrology seriously. Really seriously. Really, really seriously. Rhiel World View links to an archived post of an interview with Armstrong:

Astrologer Jerome Armstrong notes that Ixion and Quaoar are following close in Pluto's wake in early Sagittarius, and connects the rise of the political version of religious fundamentalism with the astronomical exploration of the Kuiper Belt in 1992. He cites incidences as disparate as the rise of Osama bin Laden onto the world stage and the Republican Revolution of 1994, fueled by Christian fundamentalist voters and culminating now with all three branches of government in Republican control. In addition, he cites the ascendance of political Hinduism in India in 1996 with the election of the BJP. One might add to this list the emergence of Conservative majorities in Israel and the UK. [The author wishes to acknowledge the help and inspiration provided by astrologer and author Jerome Armstrong of for information and links regarding Varuna and Trans-Neptunians which have been vital to the preparation of this article.]

Yikes. In his post, Rhiel cites additional material about Kos' buddy that suggests Armstrong's grasp on reality is somewhat less than firm. And proving I am not the only one who recognizes that nuttiness so refined might threaten the credibility of Armstrong, a coverup has already begun.

Eventually this will all blow over, though Daily Kos may lose some of it's already overinflated reputation. But until it does I plan to relax and enjoy the show. Vague accusations of corruption, claims based on fabricated evidence, and viscious personal attacks have been made against conservatives for years: now the lefties get to taste some of this medicine themselves.

UPDATE 3: The Politburo Diktat has excerpts from Jerome Armstong's astrological musings about the 2001 Virginia Governor's race. Not to be missed is this line: "This is one of those aspects where you have the strong note natally (Mercury/Jupiter conjunct), and the transits of both planets are activating the picture, in this case with the strongest of aspects, a square and conjunction." I finally understand politics! Thanks, Jerome!

UPDATE 5: I had thought these scandals would eventually dissipate, and it appears as though they have. Via Just One Minute, Jason Zengerle has resolved the mystery of the email. Steve Gilliard has never denied the sentiment, and now most of the scandal about the source of Zengerle's report is defused.

UPDATE 6: Or perhaps not. Now I think this could be going on for a very long time. The substance of the originally controversy -- that there were emails having to do with a request by Kos not to talk about any controversies surrounding Daily Kos -- seems to have been resolved. Now the controversy is about Zengerle's journalistic standards and whether he should name his sources. The latter controversy seems to have no satisfactory point of resolution in sight.

It's just as well. Tomorrow is Monday, and the real world calls. Time to leave the land of Kos.

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heldmyw said...

If you were to come and pitch this whole scenario as a part in a movie, I would (not-too-politely, even), show you the door, and ask that you not waste my time with such surreal goofiness and improbable characters.

It's just got a "Da Vinci Code Lite", smell all over it.

McKreck said...


Yet it's all true, even the bizarre claims about the influence of "Ixion"

Anonymous said...

Reading is fundamental. James Joyner, who you link to wrote:

"Following my email exchange with Armando, I actually read the “this post” link in detail with the benefit of a full night’s sleep. I have to agree with him that there is no reason he needed to disclose his Wal-Mart relationship here. The post is a lucid but very dry, academic recitation of the evolution of judicial application of the Sherman Anti-Trust law. That the courts’ view of the law is arguably “pro-corporate” when compared with the language of the law is undeniable, but the post is hardly an advocacy piece. Indeed, it could well have been a Slate “Explainer” article."

Any corrections in your repertoire?

McKreck said...

Sure, they are, but I'm not trying to parrot Joyner, I'm reciting the basis of the controversy. He was supposed to speak at YearlyKos, his identity and relationship to Walmart was exposed, his speech and his blogging at DailyKos was cancelled, he admitted himself he protected his identity because he thought the netroots might resent a lawyer who worked for Walmart. Are you saying that didn't happen?

My point was that it all could have been avoided by a simple disclaimer, one that didn't need to mention the names of the companies he represented. Then there would have been a case against NRO's Spruiell that Armando was hiding something. Disclose, just a little, and most sins like this are forgiven. Are you saying I need to correct that?

And I did read Joyner and the post and I agree it was basically informative and not argumentative, but because a real conflict was not disclosed, the stance that it was the work of an unbiased party was, in fact, a "pose".

It's not the writer who gets protection, but the reader -- not to the point that a blogger has to give up their whole identity, but just enough to let the reader know you have some interests in the outcome of a controversy.

Anonymous said...

The real conflict was? The factual errors in your piece are numerous.

You wrote there were a number of article on antitrust law. Were there? Were there any actually? Was the one article even about antitrust law?

When was that article written? Was their an existing relationship then that created a conflict? which one?

What disclosure did occur? Was it known that he was a corporate lawyer who did antitrust work? And since it was, aren't you wrong again?

But the bottom line is what conflict? And what facts?

I think the policy is clear - no correction of errors, gross or minor at this site.


McKreck said...

Anonymous 2,

Your comments are idiodic, and that you would suggest that a handful of sneering rehtorical questions proves that I have a policy of not making corrections at this site tells me you probably ought to remain anonymous. I will make corrections when warranted. No corrections to my comments about Llorens-Sar's have been shown to be warranted.