State of the Union

The Real Anti-Americans

As Democrats, after a Sunday rally on the Capitol grounds, marched to the House hand-in-hand to vote health care reform, Tea Partiers reportedly shouted the “n-word” at John Lewis and another black congressman. A third was allegedly spat upon. And Barney Frank was called a nasty name.

Tea Partiers deny it all. And neither audio nor video of this alleged incident has been produced, though TV cameras and voice recorders were everywhere on the Hill.

Other Democrats say their offices were vandalized and they’ve been threatened. A few received, and eagerly played for cable TV, obscene phone calls they got.

If true, this is crude and inexcusable behavior. And any threat should be investigated. But Democrats are also exploiting these real, imaginary or hoked-up slurs to portray themselves as political martyrs and to smear opponents as racists and bigots.

This is the politics of desperation.

Majority Whip James Clyburn accuses Republicans of “aiding and abetting … terrorism.” New York Times columnist Frank Rich compared the Tea Party treatment of Democrats to Nazi treatment of the Jews during Kristallnacht: Read More…

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The Pope and the Pedophiles

The Daily Telegraph‘s Andrew Brown provides a necessary corrective to the sensationalist reporting of the New York Times, which last Thursday splashed on A1 claims that the “Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Deaf Boys” — a headline, and a story, that was slanted in such a way as to make Pope Benedict XVI sound more responsible for the pedophile in question than the depraved priest’s own archbishop, Rembert Weakland. Referring to India Knight, a British journalist who recycled the Times story in even more tendentious terms, Brown writes,

She claims that [Lawrence] Murphy, an abusing priest in Milwaukee, “avoided justice after an intervention by Cardinal Ratzinger, now the Pope”. In the next breath, she writes: “Murphy was moved to another parish in 1974 and spent his final two decades working with children. ” She also says Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee “twice wrote to Ratzinger requesting that Murphy be defrocked”.

But surely this juxtaposition of facts could be a bit misleading. Ratzinger could not have done anything about Murphy’s crimes in the 1970s because he didn’t know about them. Knight does not mention when Archbishop Weakland got around to writing to Ratzinger. Murphy’s crimes were first reported in 1974 and Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee didn’t write to Ratzinger until 1996 – 20 years later, when Murphy was on the point of death and beyond harming anybody. That’s relevant, is it not? So why does Knight not mention it?

Not only has the secular press been exaggerating the role Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, played in all of this, but Archbishop Weakland’s culpability has been systematically downplayed. Weakland is hardly free from sexual scandal: he is a homosexual who payed $450,000 of diocesan funds to stave off a lawsuit from a former graduate student with whom he had an affair. Also, as Brown points out but the Times did not, Weakland “admitted routinely shredding copies of reports about ‘problem priests’ in his diocese” and “in 1988 he said the following about sex abuse victims: ‘Not all adolescent victims are so innocent. Some can be sexually very active and aggressive and often quite streetwise. We frequently try such adolescents for crimes as adults at that age.’”

To focus on Weakland and his politics and personal proclivities would, of course, change the narrative the media has been constructing — that is, a series of scandals we are supposed to attribute to a secretive, authoritarian, hypocritical, right-wing Church would suddenly be connected to liberals within the hierarchy who may have had personal as well as ideological reasons for shielding abusers. A large part of the context of these Church scandals has been dropped because it’s too politically incorrect to be dealt with, but here it is: in the decades when most of this priestly abuse was taking place, rather few people drew a sharp distinction between homosexuality per se and homosexuals inclined to target adolescents. Studies today suggest there really is a distinction, but before that became conventional wisdom, turning a blind eye to homosexuality in the priesthood almost necessarily meant turning a blind eye toward homosexual abusers. It may be true now that a homosexual priest would not feel any obligation to cover up for an abuser of pubescent boys, but was it true in decades past, when the two orientations were frequently conflated? Read More…

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The Real Secret Stuff, Sort Of

Antipathy between CIA and FBI runs deep.  There was a news item tonight about someone in northern Virginia pretending to be an FBI special agent.  I immediately, and reflexively, thought “Oh yeah, all he needed was a bad haircut and a cheap suit.”  Apologies to at least some of those who might be offended. 

It reminded me of a samizdat manuscript that circulated some years ago, pre-9/11, a humorous version of what pretended to be a  joint employment application for the FBI and CIA.  A multiple choice on the FBI side of the form identified the greatest security threat in America as effete east coast snobs, ranked higher than folk singers and Beelzebub.  In word association CIA was linked to alcoholic and turncoat and a fill in the blank asked the applicant to “Name the last successful CIA project (if any).”  Another fill in the blank read “Any FBI agent who drives a foreign import should be _________.”   Another multiple choice concluded that the wisest use of FBI resources would be to “bug the community of Langley, Va.”

The CIA side of the form asked the applicant to define “boola boola” and a hypothetical scenario for the handling of a terrorist plot in the Hindu Kush involving the help of an FBI agent recommends that either his shoelaces be tied together or he be given some comic books to read.  The first fill in the blank asks the candidate “What FBI project was the biggest flop?”  The word association section links Clodhopper to FBI to cheeseburgers.  The correct answer on the multiple choice asking what to do when paired with an FBI agent on a top priority assignment is to lock the car’s passenger door so he or she cannot get in.  Finally, the CIA applicant had to confirm that he was either Skull and Bones or Hasty Pudding or possibly a security risk.  If all three, welcome to the Agency.

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Dept. of Corrections

The New York Times published an intriguing apology a few days ago. It reads in part:

In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit.

What the apology did not mention, but what was noted in a separate piece, is that this “correction” came as part of a settlement in which the New York Times Company also paid these two men (and a third leader) a total of $114,000, plus legal costs. It’s the second time that Bowring has been threatened with legal action by these three men; the first also involved a piece he wrote for the International Herald Tribune, owned by the Times Company.

It sounds like Bowring might have merely stated a fact: that there is a political dynasty in Singapore, with members of the same family rising to positions of leadership in the country. I’d like to go back and see just what Bowring wrote, but I can’t—the paper removed his piece from the website. What is most concerning here isn’t that the Times Company paid off some Asian leaders after the threat of a lawsuit. It’s the note at the beginning of the apology that Bowring had some sort of “undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore.” Does this simply mean that after the first settlement, he agreed not to use the words “political dynasty” in reference to Singapore? Or is it something more involved? An “undertaking” certainly sounds like more than just an agreement not to use two words. Neither story addresses this issue. But it’s troubling to think that a regular contributor to the country’s top newspaper (or its global affiliate, the Herald Tribune) might be tainting his work by making deals beforehand about what he can and cannot write.

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Intern for The American Conservative

TAC is beginning its search for a summer intern.  The position entails getting at least a little experience with almost everything that goes into the editorial side of the magazine, including writing short items for our “Front Lines” department, blogging, proofreading, editing, and contributing headline ideas. TAC editorial assistants are also expected to produce at least one article under their own byline during their time with us. Helping out with clerical duties — answering phones, taking mail to the post office, etc. — is also part of the gig. There is a small stipend, about enough to cover rent in the D.C. area.

College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should send a resume and writing sample to me, Daniel McCarthy, at letters@amconmag.com. The duration of the internship is negotiable; we’d ideally like someone who can start sometime in May and work through mid- or late August.

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Being Michael Steele

The Daily Caller gets is first big scoop with a report on how RNC chairman Michael Steele spends the party’s money on himself. Among his receipts: $1,946.25 spent “at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.” The Huffington Post provides some possibly not-safe-for-work background.

Maybe Steele was just confused — he didn’t realize the bondage in question didn’t mean waterboarding. If it had, it might have been work-appropriate.

Update: In related news, Steele is appealing a court ruling Friday that upheld limits on “soft money” contributions to political parties. The AP reports, “The RNC argues it should be able to raise soft money for state elections, congressional redistricting after the 2010 census, legal costs, mobilizing voters around political issues and to cover other expenses it says have nothing to do with federal elections.” Steele has an airtight case for that.

Update 2: The RNC says it wasn’t Steel who was enjoying himself at Voyeur West Hollywood on the donor’s dime, “This was a reimbursement made to a noncommittee staffer.” David Freddoso and Tim Carney have more.

Update 3: The story reaches its denouement as RNC contractor Erik Brown gets fired for an expense the organization previously treated as reimbursable.

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Will the Medical Marijuana Movement Survive Wal-Mart?

The medical marijuana movement has hit the wall of resistance.It is in the form of one Joseph Casias, a 29-year-old father of two with a brain tumor and sinus cancer who was fired by Wal-Mart for testing positive for marijuana in his system. The State of Michigan says he is allowed to smoke marijuana to ease his chronic pain. Wal-Mart says too bad. It is now Casias’ turn to bring it to court.

To think about it, it probably makes sense that any major progress in the movement — and towards ultimately ending the War on Drugs –  would involve winning a titular battle against Wal-Mart, the socially conservative bastion of globalization’s crudest but most cardinal rewards (cheap stuff, cheap labor and ever-expanding commercial hegemony), which has become synonymous with American culture, industry and even politics. It also employs 1.4 million Americans and runs some 4,300 stores (including Sam’s Clubs) world-wide.

In other words, if the prevailing medical marijuana movement can win its first high profile employee discrimination case – one that involves Wal-Mart Inc. — then it is well on its way to winning the war.

If not, it could be a fatal blow. Because no matter how far the politics and the law has come regarding the ability for sick people to access medical marijuana in their state without prosecution, if the nation’s largest private employer isn’t on board, their medical cards won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.

Let’s face it, the days of “Stop the Wal” are already in the rearview. Politically well-connected and at least partly responsible for the 10-year $186 billion trade deficit with China, Wal-Mart has positioned itself artfully as the savior of modest households strapped by the current recession. In fact they’ve profited from it. Families can buy more, for less (emphasis on more), including food and cheap prescription drugs, at Wal-Mart – and 64 percent of Americans in the last three months have, according to statistics.

And with so many Americans on the payroll, Wal-Mart has its big old thumb on a lot of (struggling) communities nationwide. One big happy family.

Except of course for Casias, who lives in Battle Creek, Michigan. Reflecting the unreconstructed tone of the Republican establishment it has long identified with, Wal-Mart has in effect taken a stand against Michigan’s new medical marijuana law and has unceremoniously tossed Casias — one of its vaunted salt-of-the-earth American “associates” — into the street like so much rubbish.

Now Casias finds himself in a formidable, but probably an unenviable position, having to decide whether to test one of the country’s most comprehensive medical marijuana laws against one of the only places still employing his friends and neighbors in Battle Creek. Read More…

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WaPo’s Military-Industrial-Consulting Complex

Former director of national intelligence Mike McConnell has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post hyping the threat of “cyber-war.” We’ve been hearing about a “digital Pearl Harbor” since the day after 9/11, and we haven’t heard the end of it yet — we won’t so long as former spymasters like McConnell can turn abundant profits as “executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, which consults on cybersecurity for the private and public sector.” Glenn Greewald tweets an apposite question: “How much $ would Mike McConnell’s Booz Allen make from the massive ‘cyber-war’ policies he advocates in his WP Op-Ed?”

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Tex Ed

The New York Times continues to be worried that right-wing Texans are now doing what left-wing educrats throughout the country have long done — selectively mangling U.S. history to fit an ideological agenda. The new standards adopted by the Republican-dominated Texas Board of Education are a mixed bag: adding Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek to the economics curriculum makes sense quite apart from whatever one thinks of their theories. If they haven’t had the influence of Keynes or Adam Smith, they’ve nonetheless had plenty enough. On the other hand, teaching about “the individual right to keep and bear arms; and an individual’s protection of private property from government takings” requires a degree of nuance that I wouldn’t expect of any high-school curriculum board, let alone one as politically charged as this. And while one might be able to draw an intelligible distinction between “capitalism” and a “free-market system,” the economic form that prevails in the United States cannot honestly be called the latter. Not that fine distinctions are what’s at stake here — “free-market system” is evidently intended as an old-fashioned euphemism. ““Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,” the NYT quoted board member Terri Leo saying, “You know, ‘capitalist pig!’”

Sam Tanenhaus’s “Week in Review” essay attempts to put the dispute in some context, and partly succeeds. I’m tempted to snark about the propensity of other ideologically changed regimes to rewrite their history books with every new batch of commissars — it seems in the Lone Start State the “revolutionary” Jefferson is about to go the way of the “counter-revolutionary” Yezhov in Stalin’s USSR. But then it occurred to me that Jefferson himself set a terrific precedent for this nonsense: he wanted the University of Virginia to bowdlerize or suppress David Hume’s History of England, as Donald Livingston notes:

Thomas Jefferson considered Hume’s History such a formidable force that he banned it from the University of Virginia. Of the work he wrote to William Duane on August 12, 1810, that it “has spread universal toryism over the land.” Six years later, on November 25, 1816, Jefferson wrote of Hume’s work to John Adams that, “This single book has done more to sap the free principles of the English Constitution than the largest standing army. . . .” Jefferson preferred John Baxter’s A New and Impartial History of England (1796), which was a reworking of Hume’s History from the Whig perspective and which Jefferson called “Hume’s history republicanized.”

This was one of many instances in which Jefferson wanted to make sure the politically correct small-r republican line would be taught at the university he founded. Hume, of course, is a good corrective to the spirit of partisanship displayed by Jefferson and today’s education apparatchiks alike.

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The Line of Pure Nastiness . . .

Last week, Glenn Reynolds gave a lecture at the Howard Baker Center on political civility. According to the student newspaper Reynolds pontificated about the “need to find a balance of disagreement and argument while not crossing the line of pure nastiness. . .”

Imagine my surprise to see Reynolds speculating that, “Possibly Obama just hates Israel and hates Jews. That’s plausible — certainly nothing in his actions suggests otherwise, really.” Obama’s crime is that he supposedly neglected to have a photo-op with Bibi Netanyahu, or something like that. I’m not sure what to say in response to that other than to note that Reynolds is apparently insane, which is to say that he is a rightwinger in the age of Obama.

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