The Ghost of Joseph McCarthy

by Michael Stearns Suskind
June 18, 2006

Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party? 

This is the question that I heard as a litany in my childhood.  One by one I watched people of great integrity being nailed on this and other questions.  They were given a choice, to out their friends, or lose their ability to live and work in the United States.

Lindsey Beyerstein of Majikthise agrees with Steven Spruiell of Nat.Review.Online that outing a prominent anonymous blogger was newsworthy.  She says, "I'm sorry that Armando of Daily Kos got outed, but there was a real story there: Wal-Mart lawyer front pager at major liberal blog." However, Beyerstein notes that malicious outing is not cool:  "Some bloggers, like T of M-C, have been outed for purely frivolous malicious reasons. Piss off the wrong person and put your career in jeopardy."

Ms. Beyerstein cannot see that the outing of a prominent anonymous blogger who also happens to be a partner in a law firm was a malicious smear against a person in the attempt to undermine the Yearly Kos convention and the netroots movement, and to cause divisiveness and infighting in the progressive Democratic party.

Ms. Beyerstein, a writer from New York, received her degree in Philosophy from Tufts University in 2003.

Her bio at The Heretik March 08, 2005 reads:
Who are you?

    A: My name is Lindsay Beyerstein. I hold an MA in philosophy from Tufts and I am applying to philosophy PhD programs for fall 2005.

    Currently, I'm collaborating on a moral psychology experiment about ordinary speakers' use of the term "intentionally." I'm also working on a paper about Quine, analyticity and gay marriage, a philosophical analysis of "media bias" arguments, and some other more traditional projects.

    I support my contemplative lifestyle as a freelance pharmaceutical writer.
    Interests Analytic philosophy, liberal politics, science.

Well and good.  And here's a quote from Ms. Beyerstein on the confidentiality of patient's records:

"I don't think that a doctor's prescribing records should be available to drug companies unless the doctor specifically authorizes the use of this valuable information. The A.M.A. is selling out its membership"

Ms. Beyerstein, would you care to disclose a full list of the pharmaceutical companies for whom you have written, and between the three parties: the corporations, the doctors, and the patient's rights to confidentiality of records, just where do your loyalties lie? Are you a liberal journalist? In whose interest are you working?

Ms. Beyerstein on occasion both does and does not claim to be a journalist, but she enjoys hanging out with them talking shop. At the Yearly Kos Convention she gave them her ear while they complained about bloggers who write anonymously and gain a significant readership. The journalists work for very little money, they said, and have to bear up under the scrutiny and criticism of the public. Journalists get the shit, bloggers get the glory

So Beyerstein's identification with Spruiell goes further than the right to out anonymous bloggers; it extends to that class of professionals who are underpaid,  overworked and under-read.

It was Spruiell who outed the front page blogger on June 8th to coincide with the Yearly Kos convention.  Spruiell says when an anoymous blogger is revealed to be a corporate attorney who has litigated in behalf of clients like Wal-Mart, the progressive democratic left is owed that information.  Furthermore, Spruiell claims that all bloggers are journalists, and that those who write on major news sites like Daily Kos should fully disclose their identities, profession, and client lists.

There are 400,000 members of the American Bar Association.  Following Beyerstein and Spruiell's rationale all attorneys should be outed if they write anonymously for the liberal blogging community.  Beyerstein and Spruiell, an odd combination, seem to believe that any and all lawyers before writing anonymously on any subject first be required to disclose their name, law firm and client list.  Would they require as well that all blogging attorneys declare their party affiliation, their voting record and any and all contributions to political and/or non-governmental organizations?

The ABA as a body has petitioned the Bush administration for redress of grievances on the issues of torture, NSA spying, and the abuse of presidential signing statements.  I am going to include here the full text of the letter that the President of the American Bar Association sent to George Bush on February 1, 2005.

    February 1, 2005
    The President George W. Bush
    The White House
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear Mr. President:

    I write to renew the expressions of concern about the treatment of persons held in U.S. military custody which we expressed in a letter of September 27, 2004. Recent media reports drawn from the files of Army investigations describe hundreds of alleged incidents of torture, even including murder, practiced against Iraqi civilians in U.S. military custody. The reports are alarming to us all, particularly in that it appears many of the Army personnel involved either have not been charged with criminal conduct or their cases were closed with no action at all.

    If the allegations are indeed without merit, an inquiry by an independent, bipartisan commission with subpoena power would be the most practical way to set the record straight. It would send a message to the world of what Army spokespersons maintain: "the Army has aggressively investigated all credible allegations of detainees abuse and held soldiers accountable for their actions." And if, as some have charged, the Army has not pursued these investigations appropriately, that inquiry will permit us to thoroughly and fairly bring to justice those who are responsible, and clear the good names of our military personnel who are not.

    The American Bar Association would welcome the opportunity to join you in urging the appointment of such a commission to prepare and make public a full account of detention and interrogation practices carried out by the United States in pursuit of the war on terror in Iraq. It is incumbent on our nation to preserve the rule of law as the touchstone of our government and of our national honor, both at home and in the conduct of our policy abroad. It would fulfill the mandate and the destiny that you described in your inaugural address, that of spreading democracy throughout the world, if you were to make the establishment of such a commission a priority for your Administration and the Nation.

    Respectfully,

    Robert J. Grey, Jr.
    President American Bar Association

Now do you, Mr. Spruiell or do you, Ms Beyerstein want to ask Robert J. Grey, Jr. for the list of clients he has represented over the last 40 years to see if he passes your test for political correctness?  Do either or both of you want to go digging into his background and test his integrity, or search for conflict of interest?

If the ABA is considered a conservative and stodgy professional association, there is the National Lawyers Guild with a membership of 90,000 who, as a body, called for the prosecution of George Bush on the charge of war crimes in 2003 not on the basis of the famous 16 words, but on the basis of the scarcely heard 40 words:

National Lawyers Guild Calls for
Prosecution of President Bush for Role in Torture
2003 State of the Union Address Contained Implicit Admission

The National Lawyers Guild calls for the prosecution of President George W. Bush with a "command responsibility" theory of liability under the War Crimes Act. Bush can be prosecuted under the War Crimes Act or the Torture Statute, if he knew or should have known about the U.S. military's use of torture and failed to stop or prevent it. A comment in the President's January 2003 State of the Union Address contained an implicit admission by Bush that he had sanctioned the summary execution of many when he said: "All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries, and many others have met a different fate.""Let's put it this way," he continued, "they are no longer a problem for the United States and our friends and allies."

Lawyers who use best practice of the law in the interest of their clients are known as good lawyers, not corporate shills, There is only one overabiding ethical rule involved with lawyers who write or speak:  do not discuss your clients and do not discuss your cases.  

The target of Spruiell's smear campaign amassed a large body of work over the years.  For the thousands of posts, diaries and articles he wrote never did his writing compromise his professional ethics.  He never misrepresented himself.  His blogging life did not conflict with his professional life, and there has been shown no evidence at all, nor can there be shown, for what Spruiell calls conflict-of-interest.  He never wrote about issues that affected his clients.  Only once, when he was writing about the Judith Miller story did he disclose that he had a special interest in the case, which he disclosed at the time.

His writing reveals only a prejudice in favor of the law, and harsh criticism of the corruption in the legislative branch. i.e. Scalia.  Likewise his critiques of Yoo, Gonzales and the concept of the Unitary Executive reveal nothing more about him than an adherence to fundamental core issues of Constitutional law.  He wrote at length about Branzberg v. Hayes, a crucial decision that narrowly defined the shield laws for journalists.  And he wrote about Youngstown Steel the benchmark decision that has critical importance for us today when we consider the abuse of presidential signing statements, the Constitutional Crisis, and the encroachment of an imperial presidency.

*    Lawyers who use best practice of the law in the interest of their clients are known as good lawyers, not corporate shills.

*    Surgeons who use best practice of medicine to operate on patients earn their reputation by their skills, not by the political persuasion of their patients.

How far do these proposed full-disclosure outing practices intend to go?  Where is the line going to be drawn (see Wikipedia edit-wars) and who is entitled to draw that line?  Are Spruiell and Beyerstein suggesting that doctors who have used best practice of medicine in the interest of patients we do not politically endorse should be outed too?  Garbage men who pick up the garbage of republicans we detest, should be outed too?  Almost all federal employees should be outed because we do not support this administration?

Our liberties are not best protected by people like Spruiell and Beyerstein.  We can all thank our lucky stars that people who understand the law and revere the Constitutional provisions in the First and Fourth Amendments are working and writing and advocating in our behalf.  We can thank the integrity of the community that honors the right of these people to post anonymously, as in the tradition of the Federalist Papers.  Anything that would serve to silence these people, to curtail their freedoms of access, the freedom to write, or to reduce their ability to bring these issues to the public's attention to invite discourse... anything that would silence people like these I consider poisonous to our system of government and a dishonor to our history.

For more on this topic, please read Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger; by Al Gore, June, 2004

Tags: Beyerstein, constitution, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, journalism, McCarthyism, Spruiell (all tags)

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