(originally published by CNJ in February 2013)
“It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth.” ― Milan Kundera
According a 2009 account given in the Star-Ledger, Julie O’Connor spent her formative years in that bastion of establishment liberalism, Montclair, New Jersey and now lives in one New Jersey’s Abbott Districts – Jersey City. Like similar members of the establishment, Ms. O’Connor has had the benefit of most of the state’s income tax payers working hard to subsidize the property taxes paid by the affluent households in her community. Isn’t it nice to live in one of the wealthy colonies dependent on the largesse of the state’s Democrat Party?
Isn’t it nice to see your property tax bill subsidized by everyone else – including the 49 percent of the state’s economically deprived children living outside the Abbott Districts? And this number comes from the state Supreme Court’s own Doin Report. Even Governor Jim McGreevey’s Education Commissioner said that the state should stop subsidizing rich gentrified urban communities at the expense poor rural ones.
Before joining the Star-Ledger’s editorial board, Ms. O’Connor was active in the Peace Corps – in the vacation paradise known as Costa Rica. The Ledger’s promotional piece on her notes: “In her spare time, she enjoys running, drinking chai tea and watching reruns of ‘I Love Lucy.’” Get the picture?
Somewhere along the way, this hothouse orchid developed quite a mouth on her and an intolerance to civil debate. If she happens to disagree with your opinion, that makes you “nuts”, and she’ll call you that, in print.
And it doesn’t matter that her own newspaper, in editorial after editorial, once expressed the same concerns about the same issue – if you disagree with Julie O’Connor, you’re “nuts”.
In a February 14, 2013, editorial penned by Julie O’Connor on behalf of the entire Editorial Board and management of the Star-Ledger, Ms. O’Connor put forward the argument that anyone concerned about the unwieldy size, composition, or process that has gone into concocting the Bush-Obama “Terrorism Watch List” and the effects this might have on due process and the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights, was – in Ms. O’Connor’s word – “nuts”.
Apparently she hadn’t read the concerns put forward by the Star-Ledger itself, in earlier editorials:
“Terror list cries out for reform” screams one editorial. Criticizing the million name list it notes: “The number of names on the terror list, many as common as ‘Gary Smith’ or ‘Teddy Kennedy,’ guarantees thousands of innocent travelers regularly get pulled aside for questioning at airports and borders. Besides being a pain for ordinary people, it wastes valuable law enforcement time with no real security benefit.”
The Star-Ledger advises the FBI to “shelve” plans to use “profiling” to enhance its “terrorist” watch list. The Ledger editorial warns: “Comparing untold numbers of Americans to a terrorist profile would endanger civil liberties and wouldn't be a very effective way of ferreting out those who threaten the nation.”
In another editorial headline, the Star-Ledger concludes that “the watch list is dangerous”, and makes the following observations: “The flaws in the FBI's handling of names on the nation's terrorist watch list are troubling enough. Inaccurate, outdated or incomplete data are passed along by agents without being reviewed for reliability. The result is a list with many names that shouldn't be there. Here's something more troubling: The FBI is probably doing the best job in government in processing names to be added to the list, according to a recent Justice Department inspector general's report. Other agencies don't share information reliably, don't all follow the same reporting protocols and don't even always define ‘terrorism’ the same way. Information isn't updated. Names aren't removed when people are cleared of any connection to terrorism.”
Those are from just three of the many editorials written before the management and editors of the Star-Ledger executed an about face on the question of due process and the Bill of Rights. The list is flawed and should not be used as the basis of whether or not we are afforded our constitutionally protected civil rights. In the following clip, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert shreds the ridiculousness of the so-called “Terrorist Watch List”, noting that Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela was on the list for many years:
Look, we all know why this editorial was written like a piece of attack mail from the New Jersey Democrat State Committee. The day before the editorial’s publication, PolitickerNJ.com reported that state Democrat Party leaders had held a strategy session by conference call that day and were “mobilizing” for a “public relations assault” against Republicans on exactly the issue on which Ms. O’Connor labeled Republicans as “nuts”. Maybe she was on the call?
In the past, Star-Ledger editors and management, through their editorials, have lectured the newspaper’s readers on the importance of “civility” in public discourse. They have lectured against name-calling and bullying and on the need for a greater understanding of mental health issues and a greater sensitivity to those who suffer from mental health problems. The Ledger praised then Acting Governor, Senator Dick Codey, for his good service in this area and noted the difficulties braved by the state’s then First Lady. It is a good thing Julie O’Connor wasn’t selecting the words for that editorial.
Of course, the management of the Star-Ledger is in hock to the state’s Democrat Party and there is little the editorial board can do about it. Like Julie O’Connor, the Star-Ledger is located in one of the state’s Abbott Districts and the corporation’s property tax bill would rise astronomically if New Jersey were to adopt Fair School Funding. And the Ledger is only a tiny part of a much larger corporate enterprise with significant holdings that benefit from the largesse of state Democrats.
Remember how the state’s newspaper industry panicked when they thought they would lose their corporate welfare? When there was a bill up that would have allowed county and local governments to post notices on-line instead of forcing them to spend the money from property taxes to publish newspaper notices that nobody reads. That’s right, in the age of digital technology your property tax dollars are being used to prop up a failing business model that depends on deforestation and flushing effluence into waterways.
But there is a larger question here and it is a really BIG and IMPORTANT question: The management of New Jersey’s largest newspaper, through its editorial board, appear to believe that due process and the Bill of Rights have no place in our current situation. That in the twelfth year of the “War on Terror”, with no formal Declaration of War and no end in sight, we as a nation must accept that ideas such as due process, the rule of law, and justice no longer have a place in our society. They appear to want to convince us that “if we can save just one life. . . for the children” then we should shove the whole Bill of Rights into the shit bin.
Tom Moran, the man entrusted by the management to run the Star-Ledger’s editorial board, has labeled the Constitution as a “source of our woes” and as much as said that we need to scrap the American Constitution in favor of a strong-man executive style of government, similar to what they have in Egypt or Russia. One idea that Moran floated was to allow newly elected presidents to appoint 10 senators and 50 congressmen to serve “at large”.
Let’s put President Obama aside for the moment. Here’s the question for Tommy Moran: “Would you really want a President Nixon, George W. Bush or even a President Christie with this kind of power?”
What Tom Moran advocates is neo-Fascism disguised as an attempt to break the slow, deliberative process inherent in every democracy. It is no wonder then that the management and editors of the Star-Ledger want to dump due process and the Bill of Rights in favor of a secret list, with a secret process, developed by an unaccountable bureaucracy answerable only to the executive.
What happened to Blackstone's formulation that it is "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"? Too old-fashioned? Not chai tea enough for our contemporary “lifestyle”? With thousands of drones set to take to the skies and some in the government arguing that Americans can be killed extra-judicially – is neo-Fascism our future?
Maybe we will get some answers. CNJ’s editor has been reaching out to people concerned about due process and the Bill of Rights, regardless of party or ideology, because that doesn’t matter. Without due process and the Bill of Rights, all of us are susceptible to being terrorized by the government of the day. Who gets terrorized will just depend on the regime. And who “wins” in a game with no rules?
In the next week or so, the editor will be contacting the management and editors of the Star-Ledger, to ask them to be part of a cross-party, cross-ideology, cross-community discussion about due process and the Bill of Rights in a time of endless, undeclared “war”. We will all be watching to see if the Ledger’s apparatchiks have the courage to come out of their well-guarded building to sit down with other Americans to discuss the position put forward in their name, by Julie O’Connor.