Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cue Gollum, stage left

But the climate of those years was so grim that half the Washington press corps spent more time worrying about having their telephones tapped than they did about risking the wrath of Haldeman, Erlichman and Colson by poking at the weak seams of a Mafia-style administration that began cannibalizing the whole government just as soon as it came into power. Nixon's capos were never subtle; they swaggered into Washington like a conquering army, and the climate of fear they engendered apparently neutralized The New York Times along with all the other pockets of potential resistance. Nixon had to do everything but fall on his own sword before anybody in the Washington socio-political establishment was willing to take him on.
--Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt

When I first read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings at 11 I found the climax a bit odd. "Aren't the good guys supposed to defeat the bad guys?," I thought to myself, "this ending has the bad guys, who should win, losing by their own actions." Later in life I came to understand and agree with Tolkein's worldview, evil destroys itself, eventually, which is why we call it evil.

Consider the case of Jack Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon, which is apparently making quite a few public officials nervous. Was this case cracked by a virtuous detective like on TV? No. It appears that the real break came not from the efforts of law enforcement but by virtue of the actions of the players themselves. According to this article, the case broke open when Mr. Scanlon's jilted fiancee called the F.B.I. What a surprise, someone who was willing to defraud people out of millions of $ wasn't faithful to his fiancee. Free will, what a drag. It always seems to screw up the best laid plans.

Yet the Scanlon snafu may not be the "gollum" moment. Yesterday, NBC's Andrea Mitchell asked James Risen, who broke the NSA spying story in the NYTimes if the NSA was taping journalists and then specifically asked if the NSA had eavesdropped upon Christianne Amanpour.

David Hume once opined; The soldan of Egypt, or the emperor of Rome, might drive his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and inclination: But he must, at least, have led his mamalukes,° or prætorian bands, like men, by their opinion. That is, you can drive the unwashed masses at whim but you must be careful with the nobles-you must get them on your side. If the press corps in Washington, and their significant others, like James Rubin (Amanpour's husband) or Alan Greenspan (Andrea Mitchell's husband) begin to worry about being taped, things could get really interesting.

Cue Gollum, stage left.