Entries from July 2010

Sherrod to sue Breitbart

July 29th, 2010 at 4:04 pm 26 Comments

Shirley Sherrd has announced that she intends to sue Andrew Breitbart:

SAN DIEGO — Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she will sue a conservative blogger who posted a video edited in a way that made her appear racist.

Sherrod was forced to resign last week as director of rural development in Georgia after Andrew Breitbart posted the edited video online. In the full video, Sherrod, who is black, spoke to a local NAACP group about racial reconciliation and overcoming her initial reluctance to help a white farmer.

Speaking Thursday at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, Sherrod said she would definitely sue over the video that took her remarks out of context. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has since offered Sherrod a new job in the department. She has not decided whether to accept.

Sherrod said she had not received an apology from Breitbart and no longer wanted one. “He had to know that he was targeting me,” she said.

Breitbart did not immediately respond to a call or e-mails seeking comment. He has said he posted the portion of the speech where she expresses reservations about helping the white farmer to prove that racism exists in the NAACP, which had just demanded that the tea party movement renounce any bigoted elements. Some members of the NAACP audience appeared to approve when Sherrod described her reluctance to help the farmer.

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Rangel Accused of 13 Violations

July 29th, 2010 at 3:40 pm 7 Comments

The official list of Rep. Charles Rangel’s alleged ethics violations has been released:

WASHINGTON — House investigators on Thursday alleged 13 violations of congressional ethics and federal law by veteran New York Rep. Charles Rangel.

The charges include failure to report rental income from vacation property in the Dominican Republic and failing to report more than $600,000 income on his congressional financial disclosure statements.

The charges were read in a public session of the House ethics committee after lawyers for Rangel, 80, failed to nail down a last-minute deal to avoid a public congressional trial.

Rangel did not attend the session at which the allegations were read. They set the stage for a trial expected to be held in September. Democrats had hoped to avoid such a public confrontation as November midterm elections approach.

The alleged violations include using congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a center for public service to bear his name on the New York campus of the City College of New York.

He was also accused of accepting a rent-stabilized property in Manhattan for his campaign office and initially not paying federal taxes on the Dominican Republic property.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on a panel that will try Rangel, said that the Democrat had been “given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement during the investigation phase.”

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How Steve Walt Plays with Fire

July 29th, 2010 at 2:30 pm 13 Comments

In Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith writes about the ways that Steve Walt and other writers seem to be playing fire with terms in their writing that support an anti-Semitic world view:

Jew-baiting is simply one way that the new old media and old new media are trying to find their collective footing in a changing press environment and a bad economy. So, in the interests of sharing my understanding of this successful recipe with my colleagues in the opinion press, these are some notes on how to increase traffic to your struggling website.

The Jew-baiter’s Lexicon

Here are some of the euphemistic catchphrases that will cover your ass with your queasier colleagues in the press corps while announcing to those in the know that your cesspool is open for business, with examples drawn from top anti-Israel blogs:

1. “The Israel lobby”

A conspiracy theory by any other name, the “Israel lobby” has long been invoked to explain unconditional U.S. support for the Jewish state. This conceit hit the mainstream in 2007 with publication of the Walt-Mearsheimer book explaining that a broadly inclusive coalition of U.S. citizens of Jewish descent ranging from the far left to the far right are subverting U.S. foreign policy on behalf of Israel. Walt and Mearsheimer deny that what sounds, looks, and smells like a conspiracy theory about Jewish power is in fact one. Why? Because conspiracies about Jewish power are for anti-Semites, and they, by contrast, are tenured professors at two of the most esteemed universities in the United States, men who are simply trying to explain the mysterious forces that have poisoned the U.S. public so much that it overwhelmingly supports the Jewish state in poll after poll, subverting rational U.S. interests in the Middle East through a uniquely irrational process that is applicable to the behavior of no other state on the planet. That’s why.

Here, for instance, Stephen Walt finds the proof vindicating his claim that it was indeed the Israel lobby that drove the United States to make war on Iraq—Tony Blair says so! The problem however is that Tony Blair said no such thing. Walt not only wrenches Blair’s quote out of context, he also wildly twists the evidence surrounding the run-up to the Iraq war to fit his theory. In Walt’s account, the fact that Israel was vocal in its opposition to the Iraq war, until it eventually fell in line behind the George W. Bush Administration’s democracy-promotion crusade like a good ally, was a feat of astonishing misdirection, which appears to have fooled even Stephen Walt himself (as well as Mearsheimer). By the end, it appears, the United States was taken to war not by the Bush Administration but by a remarkably complete list of nearly every Israeli and American Jewish politician, journalist, activist, and thinker, liberal and conservative alike, including Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, “Every Israeli politician who Bill Clinton knows … and he knows a lot,” Howard Kohr of AIPAC, Nathan Guttman of The Forward, Michelle Goldberg of Salon.com, John B. Judis of The New Republic, Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker, the Brookings Institution, Martin Indyk, the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Mortimer Zuckerman, Matthew Berger of the Jewish Telegraph Agency; Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, executive vice president of the Orthodox Religious Zionists of America; Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee; Gary Rosenblatt, the editor of The Jewish Week; and Rabbi David Saperstein Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

So how does Jew-baiting work in practice? Let’s look at the comments on this particular post.

“Bush and Cheney only had to walk down the hall to consult with Israel, considering how many in their cabinet and appointees have dual citizenships with Israel and were already actively involved with the Israeli government… All roads lead to PNAC, AIPAC, JINSA, ZOA, AEI, etc.” says one commenter, leaving out only ZOG in his paranoid alphabet soup. Another writes: “Everybody knows that many (not all) Jewish Americans care more about the security and preservation of the Israeli state than they do about the safety of American citizens.”

A commenter named Jacob, whom the other commenters appear to believe is Jewish, remarks that among other troubling issues with Walt’s argument is that his list of Jews responsible for the war seems to include virtually every public figure in the American Jewish community. Once baited, the mob zeroes in: “Calm down Jacob.” “Stop whining and make your point.” “Stick to the point and ease up on the histrionics.” “[Y]ou are, unfortunately, indicative of the sickness called Zionism that has perverted the Jewish community. It’s time to start to take RESPONSIBILITY for the actions of YOUR community. Get some help, Jacob.”

2. “Neocons”

This is a synonym often used to designate the kind of American Jew who has forced Washington officials to sacrifice U.S. interests, as well as U.S. blood and money, in order to make war on behalf of Israel’s desire to gobble up Muslim and Arab lands. First, the neocons slipped something into the well that Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and other policymakers drank from before they made war on Iraq; now the neocons are eager to push the U.S. into a conflict with Iran. If Weiss is to be believed, Washington Times reporter Eli Lake and a bunch of other Jewish journalists with no evident influence on the decision-making process are in fact setting the agenda for the entire Barack Obama Administration. To the Mondoweiss audience, it appears to make perfect sense that the decision on how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program will not be shaped by administration principals like Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden but rather by Sen. Joe Lieberman’s op-ed in the Jerusalem Post. “[W]ith the neocons and aipac’s plugs in congress/media calling openly for war,” writes one commenter, “and with zionist liberals and fake leftists/progressives demonizing Iran more subtly to pave the way, how much longer before zionism, inc. gets their way on this?”

3. “Good Jews” vs. “Bad Jews”

If you give evidence that you have a problem with all Jews, you’re identifying yourself as an anti-Semite. It’s important then to make a distinction between two kinds of Jews—the “good Jews,” who agree with your conspiratorial views, and the “bad Jews,” who are often referred to with the shorthand term “Likudnik.” John Mearsheimer makes the distinction a bit more baldly, calling the bad Jews the “New Afrikaaners” and the good ones, “righteous Jews,” a cleverly nasty twist on the Jewish concept of the righteous gentile.

“Most American Jews,” writes Andrew Sullivan, “retain a respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities. But the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing—that celebrates and believes in government torture, endorses the pulverization of Gazans with glee, and wants to attack Iran—is something else. Something much darker.” In other words, the “Krauthammer/Goldfarb wing” represents the bad Jewish thoughts of U.S. Jewry. As Leon Wieseltier put it in The New Republic, “[Sullivan’s] assumption, in his outburst about ‘the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing,’ that every thought that a Jew thinks is a Jewish thought is an anti-Semitic assumption, and a rather classical one.”

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Obama Pushes Against Teachers Unions

July 29th, 2010 at 1:42 pm 2 Comments

President Obama has come out vocally in favor of policies that are usually opposed by the Teachers’ Unions, most notably the issue of merit pay:

WASHINGTON — Challenging civil rights organizations and teacher’s unions that have criticized his education policies, President Barack Obama said Thursday that minority students have the most to gain from overhauling the nation’s schools.

“We have an obligation to lift up every child in every school in this country, especially those who are starting out furthest behind,” Obama told the centennial convention of the National Urban League.

The Urban League has been a vocal critic of Obama’s education policies, most notably the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” program that awards grants to states based on their plans for innovative education reforms. A report released earlier this week by eight civil rights groups, including the Urban League, says federal data shows that just 3 percent of the nation’s black students and less than 1 percent of Latino students are affected by the first round of the administration’s “Race to the Top” competition.

Obama pushed back Thursday, arguing that minority students are the ones who have been hurt the most by the status quo.

Obama’s reforms have also drawn criticism from education advocates, including prominent teachers’ unions like the American Federation of Teachers, who have argued that the reforms set unfair standards for teacher performance.

Obama said the goal isn’t to fire or admonish teachers, but to create a culture of accountability. He pinned some of the criticism on a resistance to change.

“We get comfortable with the status quo even when the status quo isn’t good,” he said. “When you try to shake things up, sometimes people aren’t happy.”

Obama laid the groundwork for what he called “an honest conversation” about education with comments on several recent developments that were designed as sweeteners for his mostly minority audience.

For instance, he said his goal with his domestic agenda, including the economy, health care and other priorities, is to create “an economy that lifts all Americans – not just some, but all.” That comment earned him significant applause and pleased murmurs in the room.

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What Kind of a Socialist is Barack Obama? No Kind

July 29th, 2010 at 1:17 pm 97 Comments

Stanley Kurtz has decided that Barack Obama is a socialist — a case he makes in his forthcoming book: Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. But what does socialism mean?  Many Europeans call themselves socialist, but mean only that they support the mixed economies which every advanced country has, including the United States.  Sweden, often thought of as either a socialist utopia or nightmare, depending upon your perspective, actually has a robust private economy — indeed, almost all production is in the hands of privately held companies, just like in the United States.  Taxes are much higher than in our country — certainly on the wealthy — and are used to fund a far greater array of public goods and services.  But that is only a difference of degree, not kind, from the policies of every developed country from Canada to Australia, and including all of Western Europe.  Indeed, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and even Mitt Romney might be said to be socialist by this standard because they support government augmented programs to provide universal health insurance.  And what about George W. Bush?  After all, it was Bush who signed into law the Medicare Part D bill, the largest extension of the welfare state in American history.  And Medicare is, in fact, a single payer system for the elderly.

Kurtz has decided that Obama is a socialist because, according to Kurtz, Obama favors a secret, incremental path to full nationalization of the economy. This is a difficult argument for Kurtz to sustain, because nothing Obama has ever written or proposed as a politician supports the allegation. Instead, in a recent post on National Review Online, Kurtz fastens on Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson as a kind of ideological doppelganger for Obama.  Kurtz notes that, in his most recent column, Meyerson proposes various policies that are pretty much standard parts of the Democratic party program–including, wait for it… criticism of big business. As a clinching detail, Kurtz observes that Meyerson (we’ve lost Obama altogether in this analysis, but, no matter, Kurtz seems to think that Meyerson and Obama are co-conspirators) is the vice-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.

According to Kurtz, “Meyerson’s support for these Democratic initiatives could be taken as a sign that some socialists agree with conservatives. That is, sophisticated socialists and conservatives alike believe that America can be pushed into socialism by degrees. Actual existing American socialists (of the sophisticated “non-sectarian” variety typified by the DSA) don’t go around demanding full nationalization of the economy at a blow. On the contrary, they offer support to those Democratic Party initiatives most likely to bring about a socialist transformation in the long term.”

Yes, that’s sounds brilliantly plausible–why would these DSA types actually announce their nefarious intentions? But the key words from Kurtz’s remarks above are these: “could be taken….” Those three words do a lot of work in Kurtz’s analysis. Yes, it “could be taken” that mainstream liberals and Democrats like Meyerson and Obama are biding their time, waiting for the moment when, over the outraged protests of Congress, the Courts, the media, and the American people they impose a massive nationalization of the American economy (I guess Kurtz thinks this will happen by executive order — or maybe he thinks that Congress, etc. will go along with the nationalization — in which case it would be a catastrophe, but a fully democratically enacted catastrophe.  He doesn’t say).  And it also “could be taken” that Barack Obama is a giraffe if he had four legs, was very very tall, and covered with spots.  But Obama doesn’t have any of those characteristics, so he’s not a giraffe. Similarly, Obama, Meyerson, and American liberals at large “could be taken” to fervently believe in the insane and disastrous fantasy that the United States should have a fully nationalized economy.  But they don’t — and Kurtz would be hard pressed to find 1,000 Americans (and no influential ones at any level of society) who believe this nuttery — not now, and not in the avowedly to be hoped for future.   Kurtz claims that “sophisticated” socialists “don’t go around demanding full nationalization of the economy at a blow….”  But if nobody ever makes such a proposal, how can Kurtz prove his point?

What Kurtz doesn’t explain to his readers — perhaps because he doesn’t know himself — is that the DSA is not only without any influence whatsoever, a letterhead masquerading as an organization, but was also created out of a merger between a group called the New American Movement, composed of advocates of early New Left decentralization and “participatory democracy” (the exact opposite of nationalization tout court), and Michael Harrington’s group, the Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee.  Harrington, a  friend of Bill Buckley’s and  his foil in numerous televised debates, was a basic Social Democrat of the kind that frequently run the governments of almost every Western European country (I know, I know—“it could be taken” that these European social democrats want to fully nationalize their economies too).  Harrington spent his life fighting Stalinism and the Soviet Union generally, both because it was a moral monstrosity, and because of its absurd, dysfunctional economic model.  DSA, whatever it may be, is as opposed to full nationalization of the economy as much as Stanley Kurtz is.

Meyerson’s politics, similar to Harrington’s but with a particular interest in the support of the labor movement, have nothing to do with the fantasy that Kurtz has imputed to him, and if you don’t believe me, you can review his voluminous writings for yourself. If you’re a conservative, what you will find is the kind of political and economic program you will oppose, but nothing that remotely has anything to do with “the full nationalization of the economy.” Needless to say, Obama — somebody who has published a good deal for a politician and with his own pen — has never advocated such a program either.  Or one can examine his time in the Illinois and U.S. Senate to investigate whether he ever proposed the nationalization of the American economy.

There’s a good essay to be written about the almost demented anxiety, verging on paranoia, that a mainstream American liberal named Barack Obama has evoked among American conservatives.  Stanley Kurtz seems to be in a good position to write that essay — beginning perhaps with a long conversation with the face he sees in the mirror every morning.

FF Summer Contest: Musical Theater Edition

David Frum July 29th, 2010 at 11:33 am 30 Comments

My own (ineligible) entries into the summer contest seem all to involve musical theater:

South Poughkeepsie

Appalachia!

Cellist on the Roof

What Was Cameron Thinking?

David Frum July 29th, 2010 at 10:25 am 33 Comments

A cynical French friend suggests that I overlooked the likeliest motive for David Cameron’s flattering speech in Ankara:

British enthusiasm for Turkish entry into the EU is not a serious proposal, but a cunning wrecking mechanism.

Turkey will never be admitted to the EU, for at least 3 reasons:

1) Germany will not accept being demoted to the second-biggest block of delegates in the EU Parliament;

2) France and the poorer Central European countries will not accept ultra-low-wage competition from Turkish migrant workers;

3) Security services across the continent will not accept the risk of millions of Middle Eastern travelers crossing borders into Europe visa-free.

So why advocate what’s never going to happen? Because it offers a mode by which a Euroskeptic Conservative like Cameron can represent himself as ultra-pro-Europe to his LibDem coalition partners in Westminster and Britain’s Europhile media.

Sir Humphrey Appleby explained it all 25 years ago.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZUOkGxGUVs

“Only Israel”

David Frum July 29th, 2010 at 8:43 am 3 Comments

I’m late to this touching video, “Only Israel” by a gifted young pianist.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaGHUZ-8DWw

Conrad Black – Another Testimonial

David Frum July 29th, 2010 at 8:35 am 8 Comments

This arrived from a reader in Canada. Edited to protect the writer’s privacy.

I met Conrad Black once, in 1974, when I was seeking an opportunity in journalism. He was kind and gracious, and offered a job, but I ended by taking a different path.

Thirty years later, 2006, I was enmeshed in a legal case. I desperately needed money to appeal my case to a higher court. Out of the blue I wrote to Black for a loan to help. He remembered me – and gave me the money as a gift.

I am hoping that everything positive possible about Conrad makes its’ way into the press. He was shafted and every shaft of light, however faint, must fall onto his reputation.

A grateful person from Canada.

Obamacare’s Stealth Assault on Small Business

David Frum July 29th, 2010 at 7:43 am 28 Comments

My latest column for The Week looks at an obscure provision in the Obama healthcare bill which will place a serious new burden on small business owners.

Small business owners face a world of troubles these days: a weak economy, impending healthcare mandates, the prospect of higher taxes.

But one concern you hear about more and more is a huge new expansion in their IRS reporting requirements — a paperwork nightmare that will commence in 2012.

I got an earful on the subject after a recent speech to a group of employers in a small vacation town. They owned shops, a garage, restaurants. They did all their own bookkeeping at nights and on weekends. They did not enjoy it, but they were used to it. But now, they feared their lives were about to be consumed by a new bureaucracy.

They have reason to be afraid. Right now, business owners file two forms when they employ people: a W-2 for employees and a 1099 for freelance contractors. A typical small business files 10 such forms, at a cost of 3-5 hours of time per year.

Embedded in the new healthcare law, however, is a staggering requirement: using a new form — the 1099k — small businesses will have to start reporting all their purchases of goods from other businesses. (You can see a draft version of the 1099K form on the IRS website.)

Did you rent a car or stay in a hotel? 1099K.

Buy ink and paper from Staples? 1099K.

Lease space in a local mall? 1099K.

Collect revenue from PayPal, eBay or Amazon merchants? 1099K.

And don’t forget to collect each company’s taxpayer ID number while you are at it!

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