The Air Ship Pennington 1891- Conservative Confidence Men Are the Zombies of Foreign Policy

Antique Illustration (wood engraving) of an Air Ship, “The Pennington”., 1891

Edward Joel Pennington (1858 in Moores Hill, Indiana – 1911 in Springfield, Massachusetts) was an inventor and promoter. He did invent  or draw up a plan, then patent a motorcycle design, but no working cycles were produced based on that patent. At one point he claimed to be running the biggest motor car company in the U.S. though he produced very few working motor cars. He also promoted airships and airship travel. He drew up plans and announced that he would produce an airship which would carry forty passengers and the craft would fly at 250 mph. Ultimately the only airship he ever produced was a model that was electrically powered and while large for a model at 10 yards (which he ordered from a model company). That model fell a little short in terms of speed as well, reaching a blistering  6 mph.An interesting article on Pennington from the NYT archives March 10, 1911 “End of Pennington, Erratic Promoter,” (pdf). Some more here, Edward Joel Pennington (1858 – 1911) The World’s First Automotive Charlatan.


Charlatans are a going concern and have been a part of U.S. history for years. They never completely go away because there is always someone to buy into what they’re selling. As much as the U.S. has a proud history of skepticism we also have a history of buying into easy answers, unfounded claims and being exploited by “confidence” men. Conservatism has no shortage of them. Listening to these conservative con artists helps explain the people who open those e-mails that promise easy weight loss, no money down mansions and making six figures a year working from your computer at home. They do not fade into the sunset because they have no shame themselves and like many people who buy into the claims of confidence men, people are loath to admit they are suckers. Conservatives even seem to take some perverse pride in believing and doubling down on the dubious claims. So it is no surprise that the neocons are back. Featured on Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ editorial page, Santorum Was Right About Iran—When It Was Unpopular  .

His opposition to tyranny abroad has been a constant in his political career. Even in the final days of his losing 2006 re-election campaign, Mr. Santorum never stopped calling for action against Iran and Syria.

[  ]…He foresaw that we would eventually have to confront the Iranian and Syrian regimes…

[  ]…Mr. Santorum believes things would be different if we were committed to defeating those enemies, and he is convinced that the region and the world would be far safer if there were regime change in Damascus and Tehran.

That’s why he has long called for support for the Iranian opposition and favors arming and training the Free Syrian Army to bring down the Assad regime. He advocates zeroing in on the foreign scientists—from Russia, for instance—who work on the mullahs’ nuclear-bomb program and declaring them enemy combatants.

Mr. Santorum hopes that American financial and moral support for the Iranian opposition will catalyze the simmering democratic revolution there, which in turn would likely tilt the balance of power in Syria once the regime in Tehran was no longer there to support Damascus. If that strategy fails, he said in Florida in January, he would go with the military option against Iran’s nuclear weapons project, in close cooperation with Israel.

Ledeen repeats a popular myth on conservative web sites that Iran is building missile silos in Venezuela with missiles capable of hitting the U.S. There have never been any intelligence reports confirming that rumor. A German newspaper ran that story and the Right – believing foreign media whenever it suits their agenda – has repeated it as though it were solid evidence. There is plenty of reason no tot believe anything Ledeen says. Like all the good little neocons and the conservative bloggers and pundits who repeated them ( no apologies to date to America and the families who suffered because of those lies,Ledeen promoted the invasion of Iraq in a National Review column,

It’s always reassuring to hear Brent Scowcroft attack one’s cherished convictions; it makes one cherish them all the more. . . .

So it’s good news when Scowcroft comes out against the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters. As usual, Scowcroft has it backwards: He’s still pushing Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdullah’s line that you’ve just got to deal with the Palestinian question. Blessedly, President Bush knows by now that the Palestinian question can only be addressed effectively once the war against Saddam and his ilk has been won. And then Scowcroft says “Saddam is a problem, but he’s not a problem because of terrorism.”

This is the head of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Commission? Doesn’t he read the newspapers? He doesn’t seem to realize that Saddam is actively supporting al Qaeda, and Abu Nidal, and Hezbollah.

However, nobody is perfect, and Scowcroft has managed to get one thing half right, even though he misdescribes it. He fears that if we attack Iraq “I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a caldron and destroy the War on Terror.”

One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.


Yet in 2006 Ledeen acted as though he never said anything that encouraged an unnecessary and costly war,

I do not feel “remorseful,” since I had and have no involvement with our Iraq policy. I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place and I advocated—as I still do—support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters.

Yet today in the WSJ he is putting another war on the table if Iran does not do what a president Santorum tells them to do. President Obama has placed the same plus additional sanctions on Iran as the Bush administration.

Where does Ledeen get his informed opinions from. let’s just say that a Democrat that made the same screwy mistakes, made the same bogus claims and who used the sources Ledeen does, would be drummed out of Washington. It is the nature of conservatism to reward incompetence and malfeasance, Michael Ledeen’s “Wilderness of Mirrors”

Summary: In this post, I look at a series of columns Michael Ledeen has written using former Counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton (JJA) as a literary foil. In the earliest of these JJA columns, Ledeen basically uses the character of the noted paranoid JJA as an excuse to formulate his own baseless conspiracy theories. But of late, Ledeen has been using the device to excuse intelligence breaches he–or his very close allies–have been involved in. In this new formulation, Ledeen seems to be alluding to JJA as a way to boast of his own conspiracies to those in the know, while setting up straw man arguments to otherwise deny the conspiracy.

Michael Ledeen is regularly haunted by a crazy old ghost. Not just any ghost. He’s visited by the longtime head of US Counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton (JJA), conjured up through an old ouija board he bought in New Orleans. Or at least that’s what Ledeen contrives in a series of columns.

He first used this device, I think, to give himself cover for exploiting current events to make great paranoid claims. Want to turn the Chandra Levy murder into a case of international espionage? Conjure JJA to tell you that Gary Condit was a double agent–blackmailed into trading intelligence in exchange for silence about his multiple affairs. When Levy threatened to expose her affair, she threatened to ruin the double agent arrangement. Want to use the DC Sniper case to drum up fear about Islamic terrorists? Have JJA explain to you that Mohammed’s attacks were done at the behest of an Islamic terrorist group who was actually probing US defenses. Want to exploit the anthrax attacks in your attempts to launch a war against Iraq? Make JJA explain how, contrary to all the evidence, the attacks were obviously a plot of Saddam’s.

As briefly as possible; Gary Condit was a congressman who was guilty of being an adulterer – and shame on him, but that is a very long way from being a murderer or spy. The DC sniper was never found to be tied to any terror groups. The anthrax attacks have also never been tied to any terrorist group, though they were acts of terror. One could call Ledeen and the legends of lesser conservative charlatans just another crazy uncle. I have relatives and friends who fit that description, they might be eccentric, stubborn and have some off the wall theories, but in no way are they dangerous loons like Michael Ledeen. Remember the infamous Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) that said Bin laden was planning to attack before 9-11 and Bush ignored. According to the guy who gets his insights from a ghostly CIA analyst, that was just some vague intell and Bush did not act because Richard Armitage discouraged him. Ledeen was firmly in the Bush Cult. Dear leader could do no wrong. In 2006 Ledeen made this claim, The NeoCon Motto: Never Lose Faith In Someone Who Tells You What You Want To Hear

In January, prominent neo-conservative Michael Ledeen (Karl Rove’s point man on foreign policy), writing for the National Review, reported that Osama Bin Laden had died last December:

And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Ledeen does not explain why the Iranians – who are Persians and overwhelming Shiite Muslim, were gracious enough to bury an Arab Sunni Muslim who they hated. Ledeen seems to like some Iranians. The cleric class who are in power now did not seem to be too offensive to Ledeen when he worked to transfer arms to Iran during the Iran-Contra scandal. Ledeen was also the instigator of the conservative effort to implicate President Carter’s brother Billy in some crazy plot involving  Yasser Arafat and the PLO. here again one might be tempted to think Ledeen is crazy. The other option – with a lifetime of plots, scandals and shenanigans – is that Ledeen subscribes to being a loathsome human being who hates the Jeffersonian ideals that America stands for.

Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Michael Ledeen.

With his history and connections with other neocons, the National Review and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), ledeen is clearly a member of the right-wing conservative establishment. Another blogger – sorry lost the link – brought up the plausible idea that Ledeen was covering the bases for the neocon establishment. They seem to lean Romney, but just in case Ledeen believes that little Ricky will do us he is told. It is true that one should not be distracted by Ledeen or Santorum in regards to the neocons hopes for a comeback. The Romney team is neck deep in the same old foreign policy cluster screw-ups –  Romney Gives Bush Neocons Another Chance

Apparently Mitt Romney thinks it’s a good idea to make all that’s old new again with bringing in a bunch of neoconservative war mongers to advise him on matters of national security. If Mitt Romney thinks running as George W. Bush 2.0 on national security issues with the mood of the country being what it is right now after all the money and lives that have been wasted with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, I’ve got to wonder what bubble this man is living in.

From The Washington Post — Mitt Romney taps foreign policy, national security advisers — here’s some of the list of those Romney has tapped to join his team:

Cofer Black, Vice President of Blackbird Technologies; Director of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center (1999-2002); United States Department of State Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism (2002-2004)

Christopher Burnham, Vice Chairman of Deutsche Bank Asset Management; United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Management (2005-2006); United States Under Secretary of State for Management (2001-2005)

Michael Chertoff, Chairman of the Chertoff Group; United States Secretary of Homeland Security (2005-2009); Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (2003-2005)

Eliot Cohen, Director of the Strategic Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; Counselor to the United States Department of State (2007-2009); Defense Policy Advisory Board Member (2001-2009)

Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Board, American Action Network; Adviser to the Republican Jewish Coalition; United States Senator (R-MN) (2003-2009)

John Danilovich, Member of the Trilantic European Advisory Council; CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation (2005-2009); Ambassador to Brazil (2004-2005); Ambassador to Costa Rica (2001-2004)

Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs (2001-2009)

Eric Edelman, Visiting Scholar at School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2005-2009); Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs (2001-2003)

Michael Hayden, Principal of the Chertoff Group; Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009); Director of the National Security Agency (1999-2005)

[  ]…MADDOW: With the greatest American failure in American policy hung around their necks. With the Project for a New American Century, neocon, fantasy a punchline now, Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate has decided to embrace them.

Conservatives gave the U.S. the economic shaft – spending trillions, weakening regulations, not enforcing the ones we had, cutting taxes instead of paying for the trillions they spent on Iraq and Afghanistan so that billionaires could have even more unearned income – the economic zombies. Why is it outrageous to think they have learned nothing from Iraq. Core conservatives are foreign policy zombies as well. Perhaps not the Ron Paul conservaterians, but that still leaves a lot of conservatives who think that if we started a war with Iran we could get it right this time.

Santorum is feeling cocky these days, Santorum Unloads On “Occupier” Romney

Sen. Rick Santorum struck a sharper tone on the campaign trail today, criticizing Mitt Romney for questioning his conservative values and calling him an “Occupy Wall Street adherent.”

“It’s absolutely laughable to have a liberal governor of Massachusetts say that I am not a conservative,” Santorum said, attacking Romney’s tax plan. “We have a candidate for president who is campaigning as an Occupy Wall Street adherent.”

“He doesn’t understand how America works any more than Barack Obama understands how America works,” Santorum said, about Romney’s plan to cap wealthy individuals’ ability to deduct charitable contributions. ( this link is from a conservative slated media site, so judge the slant accordingly)

His holiness the former pope of K-Street Corruption, he and only he, in his magnificence understands how the USA works. Noting that while arrogance is rampant in politics, Santorum might be part of the mother lode of swelled head spores.